On the writer’s block – Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Happy New Year! It’s been a few months since the last Author Toolbox Blog Hop, what with NaNoWriMo and the festive break, but we’re back with the first hop of 2019. (I’m a little late as I’ve been away for a couple of days!)

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Whether you’ve been writing for years, or you’re new to the craft, you’ll almost certainly have heard of writer’s block. You’ve probably even suffered from it, to some extent. And if not, then you most likely will at some point in your writing career. (Sorry!)

Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and the Strange the Dreamer duology, just posted a great thread on Twitter about one dangerous misconception about writer’s block. Click below to read the full thread.

In the thread, Laini opens up about how challenging she finds the writing process, and how rarely the words just flow out of her without resistance. So, if you’re battling writer’s block or find writing really hard work, even though you love it, you’re not alone. Even the greats like Laini Taylor (I mean, have you read Strange the Dreamer? Perfection.) hit a wall with their writing at times.

Writer’s block can manifest in a number of ways: you might struggle to find the right words, or it might feel more like performance anxiety – the fear of not being good enough may stop you before you’ve even started. It can hit you at any time in your writing career, whether you’re sending your first draft off to beta readers – finger hovering over Send, paralysed with fear – or you’re publishing your twentieth novel and worry it won’t be as well received as your previous works.

The important thing to remember is that it will pass. You will write again, you’ll find the words, become inspired and have moments of flow. But only if you KEEP WRITING! Push through the blockage, persevere and write even when it’s slow and painstaking. Even if you cut half (or more) of what you wrote while blocked during editing, it’s a necessary process that will help you break through the blockage, and ultimately become a better writer.

We won’t always feel inspired, sometimes writing will feel like pulling teeth, but the key is to keep at it, keep working on your story. Writing, like any job,
is hard work, and whether it’s your career, your side hustle, your passion or your hobby it won’t always be easy and fun. You’ll stumble sometimes, hit a wall and struggle to climb over it, but the only way you’ll finish your novel, type those two little all-important words, and ultimately publish your book, is if you don’t give up.

Laini shared a book on her Instagram called Around the Writer’s Block: Using brain science to solve writer’s resistance, which discusses all the various obstacles writers may face that could cause us to struggle with our writing. It focuses on the scientific reasons for writer’s block, and habit-building to help us make it a thing of the past. It worked for Laini, maybe it will work for you?

One of the methods that lots of writers champion is free writing, opening your notebook and filling a page or two each day with whatever comes to mind. You can use a prompt if it helps you to get the pen moving, but there’s absolutely no pressure for the words you write to turn into a story, or ever even be seen by another human being. You don’t even have to read it back yourself if you don’t want to!

Whatever you find helps you to break through the block, just remember you’re not alone, there are probably a thousand other writers going through the exact same thing at the same time. Why not reach out to the writing community online for some friendly encouragement? Twitter and Instagram are great places to start, just use the hashtag #amwriting and you’re sure to get a fair few responses from your fellow wordsmiths! And don’t forget to share your tips for what helps you when you’re blocked, we all need a little advice sometimes so add your voice to the conversation, you never know who you might help.

Lyndsey

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Finding your tribe – Author toolbox blog hop

It’s time for another Author Toolbox Blog Hop! Huge thanks to Raimey Gallant for hosting this fantastic link up between writers at every step of the publishing journey, and those who just do it for fun!

Being a writer can be a lonely existence at times, especially if it’s your full-time job, so this month I thought I’d give you some tips on finding your tribe – those like-minded individuals who share your love of writing and will celebrate and commiserate with you, whatever the writing milestone.

Whilst many writers are introverts, needing time alone to recharge their batteries, there are also many extroverted writers out there who need social interaction to refill their cups, so I’ve included some suggestions that will appeal to both types.

Not sure whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? Take the Myers-Briggs test and find out!

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Blogging and blog hops

First things first, blog hops like this one are excellent for getting to know other writers and bloggers! Not only do they help you build a list of brilliant blogs to follow, they encourage you to interact with as many of your fellow bloggers as possible, building a real sense of community. You’ll make internet friends that might even become IRL friends! And you’ll learn a lot in the process, so you can’t really lose.

Suitable for both introverts and extroverts, as there’s a lot of interaction involved but it’s all from the safety of behind your computer screen, plus you can pick and choose when and who you interact with.

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Social media

The main places you’ll find a big writing community are Twitter and Instagram, and there are about a million hashtags that you can start by searching, e.g. #amwriting and #writerlife. You can also find most of your fellow bloggers’ social accounts listed on their blogs, so you’ve got a ready made list of people to follow and connect with right there.

There are loads of Twitter chats you could join in on, some generic and some specific to genre or demographic, e.g. #storysocial, #storycrafter, #RWchat for romance writers or #FemalesInFantasy for women SFF writers.

Again, there’s no pressure for introverts on social media – getting overwhelmed? Log off for a few hours. Don’t enjoy a particular chat? You don’t have to join in next week. Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with, and don’t forget the gifs!

Lyndsey's Book Blog

Writer groups

This one’s for the extroverted writers out there. If you’re happy to read your work out loud in front of a room of relative strangers and receive criticism to your face, then writer groups could be for you. You can search online for your nearest group, or head down to your local library where many writer groups meet, or post flyers on the notice board. Most groups invite published authors to speak about their work, their writing process and publishing journey, so you’ll learn something as well as getting valuable feedback from your fellow writers.

In my experience (from that one time I attended a group… #introvertsunite), there’s often a weekly (or monthly, depending on the group) theme on which you’re expected to write a piece, so it’s not all about your passion project, but that in itself can be a great way to broaden your range and practice using different styles. Plus, you’ll be meeting writers who live near you, so if you become firm friends with someone you could even ditch the group and start your own little writers meetup at your favourite coffee shop!

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic way to connect with other writers, and there’s a good mix of activities to suit both introverts and extroverts. You can register on the website and track your writing progress, adding your writing buddies from social media and the real world. You can join your regional group and chat with local writers in the forum, sharing tips and advice. You can even attend write-ins and meet your regional group in person, if being surrounded by other writers tapping away at their keyboards gets your creative juices flowing.

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo (have you been living under a rock?) it’s a month long challenge that takes place every November, where writers aim to clock up 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s also Camp Nano every April and July, when you get to choose your own target, whether it’s a word count, page count, or hours spent writing. You can join a “cabin” with other fellow writers, making it an even more interactive experience. And now you can use the Nano website to track your writing goals all year round!

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Pitch competitions

If you’ve been around here for a while, you might know I entered Pitch Wars back in 2017 with my manuscript The Fair Queen. I didn’t get in, but that almost didn’t even matter, because I discovered a community of writers at a similar point on their publishing journeys who share their experiences and advice, boost each other up when they get knocked down, and celebrate each other’s wins on a daily basis. There’s such a sense of kinship and friendly support when you take part in pitch competitions – despite the fact you’re all competing, there’s no bad blood whatsoever. Everyone cheers everyone else on, there’s room for all of our books out there in the world, after all!

There are lots of pitch competitions on Twitter throughout the year, Pitch Wars even has their own pitch party on Twitter for those who didn’t get into the main mentoring competition, called #PitMad. iWriterly has compiled them into a handy calendar so you can plan your entire year around pitch competitions!

Getting into the competition is honestly just a bonus – OK, OK it’s a bit more than a bonus – but the greatest thing about these competitions is, you guessed it, the community! Take the opportunity to find some beta readers and critique partners, and build a support network of like-minded writer types who’ll be there for you on every step of your journey to publication.

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I hope these tips help you to find your tribe like I have, I really recommend taking advantage of some of these brilliant opportunities to meet other writers and start building your own writer community.

Do you have any other suggestions for great places to make writer friends?

 

Lyndsey

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Speculation, speculation, speculation – Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Good morning (or evening depending on which hemisphere you’re in), and welcome back to the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by the fabulous Raimey Gallant. For those of you who’ve never come across this blog hop before, it’s where a group of brilliant writers and bloggers (and me) get together each month to share advice, tips and experiences from our writing lives. You can click here to check out the other bloggers taking part and read their posts.

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Today I thought I’d delve into my favourite genre of fiction, and one many people don’t fully understand or perhaps haven’t even heard of – speculative fiction.

Broadly speaking, speculative fiction deals with what might be, or what could have been, and encompasses a wide range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural and dystopian, as well as alternate histories.

Speculative fiction has been around for centuries, but it’s still often dismissed as ‘genre fiction’. Genre fiction is also known as ‘popular fiction’, and tends to refer to plot-driven books written to fit a particular genre and attract readers who are already familiar with and fans of that specific genre. It’s most common in crime, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, horror and westerns.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with genre fiction, it serves to provide readers with content they want to read, entertainment and escapism, and that’s no bad thing. It’s more or less the opposite of literary fiction, which tends to be less easy to pigeonhole as one genre or another, and provides a means to better understand the real world via direct references, rather than using metaphors and allegories. Some high-brow literary fiction fans turn their nose up at genre fiction, but it boasts just as many brilliant authors (think Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin) and just as many, if not more sales.

But, not all speculative fiction falls into the category of genre fiction.

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Let’s have a look at a few examples of speculative fiction novels and how they fit into the genre:

Science Fiction

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for decades, you’ve definitely heard of Jurassic Park, whether that’s due to the blockbuster movies or Michael Crichton’s original novel. The basic premise is “what if dinosaurs could be scientifically engineered today?” and the results are, well, catastrophic to say the least. But the science is credible, Crichton has really put some thought into his story, and that makes the books even scarier and more gripping.

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Fantasy

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone JK Rowling Lyndsey's Book Blog

Another one you’ve undoubtedly come across, again possibly because of the movies, but the source material is much deeper and more detailed than the on-screen version. Rowling started with the question “what if magic was real?” and really ran with it, imagining every possible creature, spell and magical object and combining them in an elegant allegory about good and evil.

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Horror

MARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

MARY The Summoning

We’ve all heard some version of the Blood Mary story, you might even have played the game as a teenager, saying her name into the mirror, scaring yourselves silly for a good laugh. Monahan’s dark YA novel asks “what if the legend of Bloody Mary was real?”. Who was Mary, and why is she out for revenge against teenage girls?

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Dystopian

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Dystopian novels often look at a potential, but far-fetched future, focusing on the current day issues we face and asking, ‘what’s the absolute worst case scenario if we continue down this road?’. Atwood’s popular novel has recently been adapted into a brilliantly close-to-the-bone TV series, updated to reflect today’s reality (the original novel was published almost thirty years ago in 1985). The question Atwood focused on is “what if religious fundamentalists took control of the country?”, and her conclusion is equally credible and horrifying.


Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1984

Written in 1948, Orwell’s novel speculated about a communist future for Britain, setting the story in 1984 (he literally just swapped the digits round to get his time period) and getting so many things scarily right. Whilst he might be partly to blame for Big Brother, his vision of a future dominated by television and surveillance/visibility is shockingly prescient.

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Alternate History

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken

White’s YA historical fantasy novel asks the question, “what if Vlad the Impaler had been female?”, and how would the gender swap impact on the legend we all know? The story highlights the inequalities between men and women in the Ottoman Empire, and imagines what would have happened if a bold, empowered woman like Lada had been the daughter of the Wallachian king.


Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf

Probably one of the most interesting ‘what ifs’ possible: “what if the Nazis had won World War Two?”. Graudin’s novel has Hitler surviving and the combined powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan winning the war. With some fantastical elements thrown in, this is a fascinating glimpse of what might have been if the Allies had lost and Nazism survived.

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Supernatural

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones

If you haven’t read the books or seen the 2013 movie with Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, you might have seen the TV series Shadowhunters with Katherine McNamara and Dominic Sherwood. With the sheer number of supernatural creatures involved, and the vastness of Clare’s fictional world, spanning both space and time over the three series so far (with a fourth in the pipeline I believe), the question The Mortal Instruments centres around is, “what if all the myths and legends were true?”. Mixing urban fantasy with classic supernatural elements, Clare looks at the possibilities in a world where demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks, and everything in between, exist.

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Speculative fiction isn’t reserved for these genres, if your story looks at what could be, what might have been, or what would happen if, then it might just be a piece of speculative fiction.

 

Lyndsey

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