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Author Topic: writers block.... and how to deal with it.
Andromoidus
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well, the title seems self explanatory... Ive recently takent to my RPGs for story ideas.

any pointers?


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sholar
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Check out writing excuse for converting rpgs to stories:

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/02/07/writing-excuses-4-5-roleplaying-games-as-a-tool-for-story-telling/

As far as writer's block, sometimes I just push through- force words down. I go to write or die and hope something comes out. I also like to let ideas grow in my head. Sometimes I will start with a simple core idea and ask and then what goes wrong? I might spend several weeks thinking about a new plot, trying to complicate things before writing a word. Of course, I have a novel I am editing so I have plenty to work on. I have a notebook where I am tracking ideas, so things are saved until the right time.


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satate
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I like to chew on things and ponder the story in the shower and at night, or driving. I often get my best ideas then. But, if that doesn't work or I have a deadline then I like lists. I list every possibility and I try to make the list longer than fifteen. There's usually one on the list that just feels right and I know it's perfect for the story. Sometimes it's number three and sometimes it's number nineteen. I also like to list what ifs. It helps me break free from any preconcieved idea about how the story should go.
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babooher
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My uncle had a radical idea for stopping writer's block. Find 3 charities you abhor. Next, figure out an ammount of money that would be painful to lose. Divide the ammount by 3 and write each of the charities a check based on that ammount. Finally, set a due date for your work. If you don't make the due date, you mail the checks.
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Teraen
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I hereby announce the opening of the world's most hateful charity.

We stand for whatever it is you hate! If you like something, we are lobbying the other guys!

However, our operating expenses are quite high. We appeal to funds from whatever source we can. Please email me with donations, include a major credit card number or bank account and routing information in the subject line of an email...


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babooher
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Teraen, you made me laugh.
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shimiqua
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Brilliant.
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sholar
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My charity, ah, let us say, recently acquired Teraen's charity and so all donations should be sent here instead. Rumors of torture, murder and puppy killing during this acquisition are entirely exaggerated and should be ignored.
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Robert Nowall
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When I've got writer's block, I usually have to trick myself into doing something. My favorite trick---picked up from Theodore Sturgeon, who was science fiction's leading expert on breaking writer's block---was to take a story to the typewriter---typewriter, not word processor, it's important---then sit down and write one page, and one page only. If you're in the middle of a sentence, end there. The next day, do the same thing with the next page. Usually by the time you get anywhere in the story, you're interested enough to carry on.

On Teraen's charity...there are these Nigerian bankers who write me, who might be interested in giving...


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Teraen
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On a serious note, writer's block is to me a sign I have planned something wrong.

In contrast to some other writers, I'm not one of those writers who can "discover" a story as I go. I need to have all major events and plot points (and most minor ones for that matter!) planned out. I need transitions in my mind and even a few good one liners. Maybe its some undiagnosed neurotic condition, but I pretty much have to have the story in my mind before I ever start... sort of the way you can watch a movie in your mind if you've seen it a dozen times: you know the plot. You know the scenes. You know the camera angles and the witty lines, costumes, lighting techniques, and probably even some of the names in the ending credits...

...my point in all of this is that when I have "writer's block" it means I need to plan some more. Sometimes, that means going back and figuring out where I made a mistake (is one of my characters lacking realistic motivation? Backstory? Am I relying on deus ex machina?) Sometimes, that means figuring out more interesting events and plots. Usually, however, it means deepening the characters.

To fix it, sometimes I have to table the idea and work on another project until my subconscious figures it out. Coming back to a project with fresh eyes is useful.

Also, I often suspect my problem involves not being a good enough writer, and I have to improve my skills in some manner or another before I attempt the project I have taken on my shoulders.

The flip side of all of this, is that when I DO have it all planned out, I can write alot of (what I consider) quality material very fast. My record is still about 17,000 in one week.

That is how I plan on finishing my novel over the summer: I'm done with school, I've got 95% of it planned, and I'll be able to crank out pages like its going out of style...

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited March 09, 2010).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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Roll for initiative then do something completely unexpected, like jump on top of one of your teammates for leverage. Here I'll just give you the secret web site, XDM will give you all the RPG help you need.

http://www.xtremedungeonmastery.com/

OH! You meant help with writer's block. Well I say why should there be a difference between a writer's block and a sculptor's block? I ascribe to the Butt in Chair method(BIC) set a writing time (say from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm) and keep your butt in your writing chair for that hour. If you can do it at the same time each day then your mind will know it's writing time and prepare.

I'll also echo, if you're getting it in the middle of the story it probably means there is something wrong and your subconcious knows it and is screaming at you.


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sholar
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One time I have writer's block is when I am a scene away from the good scene. I am a little OCD and I like to write in order. If the scene coming up immediately is not the exciting one, I keep dreaming of writing the exciting scene and to heck with the setup. I have usually considered doing a time switch, but there is something important to the setup that really needs to be included (like group fights the dragon and three people have joined including the eventual traitor). Ok, I don't actually have dragons in my story, but you get the idea. I can't simply switch to the good scene, so I have to plug through the less interesting scene.
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TrishaH24
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I wish I had better advice than this because it seems so counterproductive. I do basically what you are doing: I play video games. Sometimes when I'm sitting in front of my computer for eight hours a day and I have a rough idea what I need to write but I just can't take it any more, I snap my laptop closed and turn on the tv. Then I veg out for however many hours I need to relax. My latest hump was writing the "tying up" scene at the end of my book. I had already gone through the exciting "final battle" and didn't want to go through the motions of wrapping things up. So I played Dragon Age for three days (and a few hours of Modern Warfare 2, though I basically suck at it so I get frustrated pretty quickly). And while I played, I had a chance to let my subconscious mull over the problem of the ending. And something crazy happened. When I sat down to write again, I'd come up with a fantastic scene to finish things off. Much better than if I had just sat and plugged away until the book was done.

However, if you are having issues coming up with new ideas for new books/stories, I find I usually come up with the best stuff when I'm laying in bed at night trying to fall asleep. I keep a notebook nearby and if I get a really good idea, I write it down for later. Yes, sometimes I go back and read what I've written only to find it isn't an idea worth exploring, but at least I didn't forget it and then kick myself later trying to remember what the idea was.

Good luck with whatever you end up doing! If you come up with a good way of killing off writer's block, I hope you'll let us know!


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BenM
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I had this vision of an opening scene lately, and I knew there was a story there, but the usual methods I'd used to plot and outline a story (which consist of bullet-pointing the key crises, character interactions etc) just weren't coming alive for me. I found it really frustrating this last couple of weeks.

And then on the train last night I thought Whatever, I have a beginning and an ending: I'll just write a synopsis without trying to structure it. And voila, pretty soon I had three pages of synopsis that also, I think, bear a decent plot.

So for me, maybe what I need is to keep a flexibility of approach. Because what worked last time might not guarantee success this time, and if I keep pressing the issue I only get frustrated.


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RationalDelirium
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For me, if it's in the middle of a scene that I've planned improperly, I'll open a new document or scroll down the page and start re-writing it from different perspectives, or with different events. At least until I figure out what the heck is wrong with the thing. I usually have a vague plan of where I want to go, plot-wise, so I'm pretty flexible with making minor changes (even if it means killing off/saving characters). Sure, it's extra work, but at least I'm still doing my daily time.

If I'm looking for story ideas, I find music prompts work best for me. Just put the mp3 player on shuffle, close your eyes and let the images flow. That's where my current novel came from, at two in the morning while trying to lull myself to sleep in a crowded van somewhere on the Arkansas/Missouri border.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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sholar, you could just summarize the boring in-between scene (tell yourself you'll rewrite it next go-round), and then get to the scene you really want to write.

One thing that can always get me writing is reading a how-to-write book. As I read one (doesn't much matter which one, by the way), I begin to have ideas of how I could use whatever I'm reading in a story I'm working on (whether first draft or in rewrites). I haven't finished a how-to-write book in years.


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johnbrown
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My take on writer's block:

http://johndbrown.com/writers/spiderman-peter-parker-and-the-gift-of-writers-block/

http://johndbrown.com/writers/the-writers-trance-the-four-trance-breakers/

Dan Well's:

http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net/?p=414


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Robert Nowall
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On writing the interesting stuff first...I've always been afraid that if I skip the boring stuff to get to the interesting stuff, I'll never get 'round to writing the boring stuff.

I think I'll throw another block-breaker on the table...if you have trouble starting something, look for some other point later in the story---then start there. Usually when you have trouble starting, you're starting at the wrong place.

(I just had a terrific idea for a plot device when I saw a title on Fragments and Feedback---not the story itself but the title. But, for all I know, that could be the idea being used there---I couldn't tell from the First Thirteen. I'd be devastated if I swiped somebody else's idea to keep my own stuff going...)


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babooher
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Stephen King has written that he believes in butt in seat time coupled with loud music. The loud music is there to help awaken the creative mind. I've begun creating sound tracks for stories to help me.

I also believe in small goals. 100 words at a sitting if nothing else. It keeps things moving and anyone can write 100 words.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
I'd be devastated if I swiped somebody else's idea to keep my own stuff going...

You can't really "steal" ideas per se. You can steal written words (which is the most basic definition of plagiarism) and you can, maybe, steal characters (especially if they have the same names), but ideas are there for the taking.

It has often (almost the point of cliche, even?) been said that if you give the same idea to a room full of people, each one will come up with a different story.

I figure that's partly because every story needs more than one idea, and each person will add a different idea to the one you give them when they come up with their own stories.

Which is another possible answer to the topic question: maybe you just need to add another idea. I had a story I wanted to write, but just couldn't seem to get it going. Then someone told me about a fantasy anthology of stories about music and magic. So I added music to the story idea, and it almost wrote itself in a day and a half (and it turned out to be a novelette).


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philocinemas
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I'm not sure how it works with literature, but one can "steal an idea" in film. Ask Eddie Murphy. His 1988 Coming to America had been previously pitched (presented the idea) by another, but later Paramount gave Murphy sole credit. This injustice was later rectified by the courts.

Ironically, within the movie, one of the characters was embroiled in a similar lawsuit with McDonald's over the use of the letter "M" and red and yellow color schemes.


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billawaboy
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I thought in film, you can't sue for someone takng your idea and writing their own script. But if you sent in a treatment and can show they lifted specific elements like dialogue, events, plot, character, etc then you can take them to court. But you won't get paid until a few years later - by which time the production studio can go into bankruptcy - and you get only a portion of whatever assets they have.

If one registers the script, i think with both LOC and WGA...not sure...then one getting money might be easier. Not sure though.


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sholar
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With Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, they had already bought the original idea, tried to develop it and showed it to Eddie Murphy. That seems like a little more than just the idea, or seeing a title and being inspired. From the writing prompt contests, most of those could be titles and no one had duplicate stories or even close to duplicating ideas.
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billawaboy
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Reminds me of the whole Harlan ellison/James Cameron fiasco about the terminator story source. Ellison rightfully won though...
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I think it probably is a little different with movies because sometimes all it takes to get a movie going is a pitch or a treatment (and those aren't much more than ideas).

I think in the cases that have been mentioned, though, it was more like a specific combination of ideas that was stolen, not just one idea.


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rich
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Re: Coming to America...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buchwald_v._Paramount

It's not that the idea was stolen, but that the treatment/scripts were used without due credit. The actual case consisted not of stealing the idea, but breach of contract since Art Buchwald wasn't paid for the treatment which eventually became a movie.

Ideas can't legally be stolen, no matter what Ellison may think. It's the execution of the idea, and how it differs/resembles the original work which is the crux of the matter.

Again, Cameron got in trouble because he said in print that Ellison's work influenced The Terminator. Ellison, being the savvy guy he is, sued, and it was settled out of court. If it went to trial, he probably would not have won.

Having said all that, though, I will not use an idea that someone in my writing group came up with. It's not the right thing to do to someone you know and work with. Besides, I've got enough ideas of my own I can't complete, let alone someone else's.


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rich
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Sorry, KDW. Looks like I was typing while you were posting. But...what KDW said.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Hey, rich, cross-posting happens.

I agree with what you said, in return.


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babooher
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Another trick I use is to watch movie trailers online. Those snippets offer so much without bogging me down for 90 minutes. I diggit.
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Meredith
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quote:
Another trick I use is to watch movie trailers online. Those snippets offer so much without bogging me down for 90 minutes. I diggit.

If you like movie trailers, you have to check out Pub Rants today.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited March 12, 2010).]


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babooher
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Meredith, that was great. Reminded me of a little song called "Title of the Song"
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Andromoidus
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Robert, if its Liberty Blade your talking about, e-mail me your idea at ahren.bonnell@yahoo.com, and Ill tell you if its the same. I doubt it, though, so your probably good.


correct me if im being arrogant in assuming its my title that is inspiring you, though. I try to be humble, but its so hard.

Ive tried writing from a later point, but I reach the afforementioned problem: the boring parts are, sadly, essential parts. the problem Im having, and thus my writers block, comes from making the boring parts exciting.


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Meredith
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quote:
Ive tried writing from a later point, but I reach the afforementioned problem: the boring parts are, sadly, essential parts. the problem Im having, and thus my writers block, comes from making the boring parts exciting.

Well, what makes them "boring", then? Are they just less exciting than what's coming up? Or are they actually boring?

If the latter, try to find some conflict or emotion to make them more interesting. Or, alternatively, try making them slightly humorous. Not witty, necessarily, unless that fits your story. Let the protagonist be a little clumsy about something. Or have a misunderstanding that almost leads to real trouble. Shake it up a bit. Especially if what's coming up is the low point for the protagonist, a little humor can be just the thing.


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MrsBrown
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Don't know if this'll work for anyone else: Take a really long shower, or go for a long walk, or in some other way get away from any and all writing tools for time to just think. Direct your mind toward your WIP and then let it drift. What if...

That's always when I get my best ideas, and then I go slightly nuts trying to remember them and get to my computer before they're gone. That's great motivation.


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Teraen
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Mrs. Brown made me think I should post this.

When I am stuck sometimes, I go for a jog and start reviewing the scene in my mind while I go. Maybe its extra blood getting pumped to my brain, or maybe its getting less since blood is getting shunted to the muscles, but something about the execerise and concentration seems to help pieces fall into place for me. Its like a non-diversion diversion, a way to focus on something without focusing on it.

Also works well for academic essays, by the way.

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited March 13, 2010).]


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sholar
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I have figured out the perfect way to make a troublesome scene work very frequently when driving my daughter to play dates. I am not intensely thinking about the scene at that time and am usually in a good mood (since I am seeing a friend and then getting several baby free hours after that). And then instead of doing the chores I had planned (shopping, cleaning, etc) I end up spending the time writing.
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