Break Out of a Writer’s Funk

breaking-ice-1-1407046-mEarlier this year, I wrote about Eleven Reasons to Love Writer’s Block. In this post, I was mainly talking about the situation where we get blocked on a particular project and can’t seem to move forward. But a writer’s “funk” is different. When you’re in a funk, you can’t seem to work on anything writing-related. It all seems too difficult, too big, too overwhelming, and your creativity and inspiration have frozen over like ice on a winter lake.

Now, some of the advice from that earlier post holds true for a funk as well as a block; do something else productive or creative, walk away for a while, exercise, read. Sometimes those things work. But sometimes they lead you into an even deeper rut. The longer you spend away from the writing, the harder it is to return to it.

Breaking out of a writer’s funk usually means getting your brain back into writer mode. And to do that, you often have to prime it with writerly stuff.

1. Read a book about writing. This could be a new title or one of your favourites from your own resource shelf. Reading about writing can shift your thinking back into the familiar writing grooves.

2. Listen to a podcast about writing. Again, either something new or a favourite source of advice. The bonus of a podcast or audiobook is that you can pair it with one of the other block-busters like exercise or housecleaning.

3. Make a list. I’m a great believer in lists and schedules. Write down all the writing-related projects you can’t seem to make yourself tackle. Then choose one that you can finish reasonably quickly and easily and resolve to concentrate only on that one until it’s done. Sometimes a funk comes down to having taken on too much and feeling paralyzed. Being able to finish just one thing might make you better able to tackle the rest.

4. Start small. Write a blog post, Facebook note, or journal entry about how you’re feeling about your writing and what you’re doing to get back on track. Setting down words–any words–can break the ice.

5. Talk it out. Take your problem to your local or online writer friends and ask their advice. Have they ever been in a writer’s funk? How did they break out of it? And do they have advice on solving a particular problem that’s got you stumped?

It takes willpower and desire to break out of a writer’s funk, but I hope some of these ideas will help you get back to that keyboard. Have you experienced a writer’s funk yourself? How did you break out of it?

Photo credit: ivanmarn

Review: The Monogram Murders

The Monogram Murders
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d actually give this book 3.5 stars, so for me it falls between “liked it” and “really liked it”. I was excited to see a revisitation of Hercule Poirot–excited and nervous. I’ve always been a Christie fan, having read all of her works years ago, so I was interested to see if Poirot could be convincingly resurrected.

Upon finishing the book, my answer to this question was “close, but not quite.” Poirot, in my opinion, was well-portrayed, in the way that a very good tribute band can be very close to the original performers, just missing that ineffable “something” that distinguishes the originals. So Hannah’s Poirot seemed to me.

Then I read some reviews that seemed unduly harsh against her portrayal of Poirot, so I questioned myself–was I simply remembering wrong?

I had listened to the audiobook version of The Monogram Murders, so, as a test, I checked out two vintage Christie-Poirot audio titles from my library: Five Little Pigs and The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Having listened to them, I stand by my original impression; Hannah’s Poirot is close to Christie’s, if not quite there. Which, I think, is probably good enough when writing a character who “belongs” to someone else.

I found that the mystery in The Monogram Murders didn’t stand up as well. Where Christie’s Hastings misses clues and fails to make extrapolations because he is a mere mortal compared to the power of Poirot’s “little grey cells,” Hannah’s Catchpool appears simply dim-witted and rather weak and annoying. The tale was a little too long and twisted, and I couldn’t quite buy into all aspects of the plot. That said, Christie’s Mysterious Affair at Styles might also be thought to be a bit long and rambling in places, so I don’t think Hannah should be criticized too strongly on this point. Hannah, I think, has made a good attempt to capture the elegance and intricacy of a Christie plot.

At any rate, I’d read another Poirot penned by Hannah, for the same reason people go to listen to tribute bands–to rekindle fond memories and to come close to the spark that makes you love things in the first place. No, it’s not an exact replica, but in some cases, it’s close enough.

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5 Questions and 6 Sentences


A rough sketch is better than nothing.

With the beginning of NaNoWriMo less than a week away, many of us are still floundering around with bits and pieces of story ideas, wondering how we’re going to arrange them into something coherent for our novels. Today I bring you a brief exercise which might help you to put some of your thoughts in order. All you have to do is answer 5 questions and write 6 sentences.

Sound simple? Then let’s go. Here are the questions. You may answer them with a word or a sentence.

1. Who is your main character? (If you don’t have a name, now is the time to come up with one.)
1b. (optional) Who is his or her sidekick? (Companion, mentor, friend, frenemy, family member, etc.)
2. What does your main character want? (His or her overriding goal, quest, desire.)
3. Why can’t he or she have it? (The main obstacle thwarting that goal.)
4. What will help him or her achieve it? (A personal attribute, an item, a person or persons, etc.)
5. What will it cost? (Nothing comes without a cost. What will your MC have to sacrifice?)

Bonus Question: What is your working title?

Okay, now that you have those things sorted (and don’t move on to the next section until you do!), write a sentence describing each of the following:

1. Your main character’s situation when the story opens–what’s ‘normal’ for him/her and the world of the story.
2. What goes wrong–what changes–why ‘normal’ can’t or doesn’t continue.
3. What your main character will do to fight back or respond to what happens.
4. How that response doesn’t work, things only get worse, and defeat for the main character seems certain.
5. How the main character rallies and wins in the end (or doesn’t, I suppose).
6. Your main character’s situation when the story ends.*

If you can go into NaNoWriMo with even these few notes in hand, you’ve got–well, not a road map, but at least some sketchily drawn directions to get through your story.

*The idea for the second part of the exercise came from here:

Review: Death’s Daughter

Death's Daughter
Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book–the audiobook was read by the author, who did a nice job with the narration. It was cute and sometimes funny, although the main character was occasionally annoying and a bit mercurial–although most of us probably are, from time to time. ;) I liked the idea–Death is kidnapped and his daughter must reluctantly take up the job. Other characters were interesting and fun. The plot was convoluted (not in a bad way) but sometimes seemed to wander off-track. Very much a mixed-bag for me. If you like light urban fantasy and quippy dialogue, give it a try!

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Review: Variant

Variant by Robison Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book; it kept me listening and wondering what was going to happen, so I’ve given it three stars (liked it) and I could probably be persuaded to make that 3.5. It does require a bit of heavy lifting to suspend one’s disbelief at the beginning, and the end is abrupt–really abrupt. I mention this so future readers will be prepared. All that said, it’s well-paced and interesting, and I do wonder what the explanation for everything will turn out to be (I hope there’s a good one!). I liked the main character. So I’m likely to read the next book when I have a chance.

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