Writer’s Block? Get Help!

I kept a diary ever since I could write. I wrote down my private thoughts regardless of any literature merit or storytelling technique. I was the only person who read what I wrote and that suited me just fine!

At some point, I started wanting to share what I wrote because I felt that I had something to say. I had a purpose. I spent many hours in front of my laptop typing away my thoughts. I read many books on writing to learn from best of the best. I did this for years. After I wrote everything, absolutely everything, that I could think of, I was stuck. What do I do next?

Writing Classes. I wrote for pleasure but never for a purpose. Now that I had a purpose, I was not so sure I was doing it right. My first thought was to take a writing class at GrubStreet in Boston. Guess what we did in the class? We wrote! The classes I took with other new writers demystified writing a book for me. I actually just needed to sit down and write. That’s step one. I am not one of those writers who knows what she wants to write at the beginning. I needed to let the creative process take over my mind. Sometimes, it took many cups of coffee to get a few words out of me. That was just my process. A few words each day. Slowly and steadily.

Sharing With Friends and Posting on Facebook. In my early writing days, I was excited to post a couple of paragraphs at a time to share with my friends. Supportive friends sent their Likes. In a way, publicly (privately) posting to close friends made me accountable for writing regularly and consistently. I wrote a few chunks of my story this way for a few years.

Manuscript Evaluation. When a writer is shaping her story, she can get someone professional to read the manuscript and write an evaluation after reading it. I got someone to look at my writing critically at the overall story level for the first time. K pointed out to me the natural story arc of beginning, middle, and end, which my story lacked. She also said that I was the only character fully flushed out in my story. She was dying to know more about others in my life. I was repetitive at time. I went on tangents at other time. Encouragingly, she said that what I experienced and put down on paper was not something she had ever read. With her input, I worked on my memoir for a few more years.

Structural Editing. When I felt done again, I found Ben to work with me as an editor. I wanted to tune my writing and have someone to work with. Ben gave me specific comments to each chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word. Often, Ben would ask me, “Why are you telling me this? How is this relevant to what you are saying here?” I cut a lot of my precious writing with Ben. Initially, it felt painful. But I always saw his point. Ben and I worked together until we both felt done.

My second evaluation by Lisa focused on the story flow and she identified gaps in my memoir. I now have a beginning, middle, and end but there were missing pieces and disconnects from chapters to chapters. At this point, I finally had sort of an ending. Lisa also told me what she took away from the memoir – what this story meant to her. That was enormously helpful. She got some of my why’s. I got another positive push from this and her report sent me writing for a few more months.

Ghost Writing. After being rejected by 31 agents, I thought that my writing was bad. Perhaps, I should have someone write my story for me. The important part was to get the story out there, right? I said to myself. After someone did a sample writing for me, I decided that I want to use my own words. No deal!

Memoir Incubator. GrubStreet in Boston has a program that accepts ten people yearly. It’s a mini-MFA like program. I applied and was not accepted. It would have been quite an investment with lots of professional and peer help. Oh well, not in my cards!

Detail Editing. I thought, Well, let me try to iterate on my story more. I can always make it better! Back to the drawing board, as they say. Beth and I really clicked on paper. With Beth’s help, we went through my manuscript a couple of times. She was able to point out places where I was not clear. She was challenging me on word choices, sentence structures, and plots. Most importantly, I felt that Beth heard my voice and helped make me to be as clear as possible.

Reader Report. Before I pulled the trigger on self publishing, Tracy was my first official unbiased reader who evaluated my readiness to publish. She read through my manuscript and scored me in the following areas (out of 10): Characters, Setting, Plot/Story, Writing, Voice/Tone/Point of View, Dialogue, Market Viability, and Author’s Platform.

So, even though writing is a solo journey for the most part, when I was stuck, I reached out for support and help. I definitely did not get to publishing by myself. If you are ever stuck, try these ideas!

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