If you are having trouble finishing a writing project—or getting one started—the May 2012 issue of The Writer magazine, on newsstands now, is an issue you won’t want to miss. In it, you’ll find articles that provide practical tips to help you get the book in your head onto the page. For example:
J.T. Bushnell, a fiction writer, teacher and contributing editor at Fiction Writers Review, discusses an alternative to the typical writing critiques that too often focus on problems in a piece. He and a fellow writer decided to provide only positive feedback to help each other get through the first drafts of their novels. “That doesn’t mean we lie to each other,” he explains. “It doesn’t mean we compliment flaws or inconsistencies or overwrought descriptions. It means that, for now, we ignore those things, instead searching for elements that perk our interest, elicit pangs of sympathy, provide sharp sensory experiences, make us laugh. We describe the developments we see in the characters, the conflicts, the themes. And every week we conclude by assuring each other we’re dying to find out what comes next, to which the writer usually responds, ‘So am I.’ ” You can find out more about their “positive workshops” in “Hitting his stride.”
Another strategy you may want to try is joining a “writing marathon,” such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November or the summer version, Camp NaNoWriMo. In “Cross the finish line with a writing marathon,” Rochelle Melander, author of Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It), shares how creating a time frame for your project can help you reach your writing goal and offers specific advice for sticking with the challenge. Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants) and Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) wrote their novels marathon-style. Maybe this tactic will work for you, too.
Finally, with his usual flair for words, Arthur Plotnik, author of The Elements of Expression, delivers meaty suggestions for overcoming writer’s block, as well as (dare we say) entertaining stories of famous writers who struggled themselves. “Sometimes when you finally hit bottom a survival resource kicks in—dramatically,” he writes. “For Carson McCullers, blocking on A Member of the Wedding at the Yaddo writer’s retreat, it was lying stomach-down on the ground and beating her fists on the manuscript and calling ‘Mother! Mother!’ Use no polite method,” he advises. Or, for a more dignified approach to getting out of a creative mess, read the rest of Arthur’s strategies in “You can conquer writer’s block.”
—Sarah C. Lange, associate editor