Saturday, November 7, 2009

Writer's Block

Dear Mrs. Ditter,
I really love to write and I think I'm pretty good at it, too. But I have a couple problems: I have a hard time thinking up ideas for stories, and then, once I start, I lose interest! I don't know what to do! -- A Cute Little Kittycat

Ah, Cute Little Kittycat, you have come to the right place. Mrs. Ditter has years of experience in dealing with just this sort of thing, and here are a few suggestions.
For Story Ideas:
1. Rewrite a family story that you've heard 983 times. You know, the one old Uncle Ralph tells every year at Thanksgiving. Give it a different middle and a different ending and see if you like it better than the way he tells it. Do NOT feel compelled to share your version with him.
2. Write the story of your own first birthday. Yeah, make it up, unless you remember it extremely clearly.
3. Write the story of the day of your parent's wedding. Yes, make this up, too!
4. Flip through a magazine or newspaper, choose a picture, and write the story that goes with it. 

5. Start with a line of dialogue that you've overheard or read or made up. Here's one I'm giving away free today (just for you): "Daisy is displeased," said Farmer Jones, glaring at his innocent-looking herd of cows. Go! Write the story!
6. Try writing as soon as you wake up in the morning...before you read the paper, before you check your email, before you have a cup of tea. Well, maybe not before the tea.
For when you get stuck:
1. Write where the energy is. You don't have to write a story straight through from beginning to end. You can start with the first sentence, skip to the middle, write the end, and then go back and connect the dots.
2. Start at the end, and write your way backwards.
3. Set a timer for five minutes and keep your pencil (or keyboard) moving. After five minutes, go for five more minutes. And then five more.

4. If you're stuck in the story, take a time out. Go shoot some hoops, or run up and down your driveway, or dig in your garden, or fold some laundry. Ten minutes, tops. Then go back to your writing and see if anything has shaken loose.
5. Take whatever you've written with you to bed at night and read it right before you fall asleep. You could even sleep with it under your pillow. Who knows? Inspiration could strike!
6. Just. Keep. Writing. Even if you hate what's coming out on the page, even if you think it's boring, even if you can shoot a cow through the holes in the plot.
7. Get a fresh piece of paper, and have a chat with one of your characters. Ask her a question and see how she answers it. What's her favorite color? What would she tell you about her first day of school in fourth grade? Does she have any siblings? Who's the last person she had a fight with, and what was it about?
Good luck, and let me know how it goes.
As always: If you want Mrs. Ditter to answer a question, just leave it in the comments section below.

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