Friday, February 15, 2019

Writer's Round Table: Pros Give Advice on Writer's Block II

Writer Bobbie Bolig writes poignantly about what it's like to be blocked. I asked some pro writer friends for words of encouragement.

This is from a well-known, NYTimes-best-selling author:


I am sitting here looking at a fic I have not touched since 2007.  I have 135K done, including the last scene...or, about 2/3 of the total fic.  I am ALSO sitting here looking at a novel that was due three years ago, for which I have something similar to an outline and the first 50K written (only 100K to go, right?) 

I've been writing fanfic and profic since the 80s, and dealing with blocked, derailed, and MIA stories for most of that time.  Here are some of the strategies that have worked for me.  (NOTE: some of these ideas are mutually-exclusive, because every writer writes differently.)

1. WELCOME TO THE GULAG: Block out a specific time and place where you do the same thing every day: sit in front of the screen and make words come.  Doesn't matter what you write, or even if you don't write.  Just be there doing nothing else (no shopping, no reading AO3, no social media) for that one or two hours (no more) each and every day (same Bat-time, same Bat-channel).  Eventually your brain gives up and you get to write what you want to write.

1A. If absolutely nothing else will come to your fingers, choose a favorite book (or longfic) and retype it. 

2. FACE THE MUSIC: Between day job and commute (long) I was really bushed when Writing Time arrived in the evening.  I just didn't have the energy—but I did have a deadline.  Solution?  ROCK'N'ROLL BAY-BEE!!!  I wrote two novels to "Bad To The Bone".  Just that one track.  On infinite repeat.  Loud.  So pick a piece of music, declare it your writing music, and hit "Repeat" on iTunes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lace and Blade 5 Author Interview: Julia H. West

From lands distant or nearby, familiar or utterly strange, historical or imaginary, from ancient times to the Belle Époque comes a treasury of luscious, elegant, romantic fantasy. Come with us on a journey through time and across boundaries, inspired by the longings of the heart and the courage residing in even the meekest person.

The release date is Valentine's Day 2019, but you can pre-order it now:


I've known Julia H. West since the days of the GEnie science fiction community and have long wanted to edit a story of hers. "Water Bound" was originally submitted to a different anthology that I was co-editing, but Julia very graciously agreed to let me have it for Lace and Blade 5.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Julia H. West: I started writing stories influenced by my reading when I was in grade school (the only one I remember was “Martin the Mountain Lion” which was supposed to be rather Ernest Thompson Seton-esque). I started reading science fiction when I was about six years old, aided by my Dad, who read A Princess of Mars to me at bedtime.

By the time I was a teenager I had systematically read almost every science fiction and fantasy novel in the local library. I distinctly remember one day when I put down the novel I was reading and said, “I could write something better than this.” So when I was a senior in high school I wrote my first novel. I still have that manuscript--handwritten with pencil on lined notebook paper.

Back then there weren’t the plethora of writing resources available to young writers now, so I sat in the library and read the articles in The Writer’s Market and flipped through its pages looking for markets for science fiction and fantasy stories.

I wrote stories, submitted them to markets, and finally started selling stories. I always carry a notebook with me so I can jot down ideas, brainstorm, or write the next scene when I’m in a waiting room or somewhere else where I just have to sit.

DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 5?
JHW: I participate in a writing challenge called “Story a Day in May,” wherein one tries to brainstorm and write a story every day in May.  (For the record, the most stories I’ve ever written in one May is fifteen, but I have, over the years, sold several of the stories
written during the challenge.) The prompt for “Water Bound” was ‘Your story is a romance between a caring mentor and a short person who kicks tremendous ass. The lovers experience isolation. One of them is motivated by already being damned.’ I brainstormed this idea for about half an hour, then started writing. The story strayed a fair amount from this original prompt, and got very long, but I liked it enough to keep writing.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Writer's Round Table: Pros Give Advice on Writer's Block I

Not long ago, writer Bobbie Bolig told me about her anguish in being unable to write. I've been there, too, although for different reasons, and I'm grateful to those who encouraged me and were patient with me (even when what I finally managed to produce was melodramatic drek). Bobbie's predicament touched me deeply, so I asked professional writers if they could share their experiences and hope with her. Those essays will follow in subsequent weeks.

To get started, though, here's Bobbie's story:

Writers' Block. The Gap That's Hard to Cross

By Bobbie Bolig

I stare at an empty page.
The ideas are flying around in my head, I just can't get them onto a page.
Suddenly there's a great chasm in front of me and I continue to just stare at the space where words should be.
I'm in the gap of writing.
I contemplate this very matter as I myself stare at a blank page I've been in a two year block myself.. How do you find the good with the bad of a writers' block? Some blocks can last only a short time, while others can last years.  What's the good and bad to that?


·         You get a chance to run ALL the scenes through your mind.
·         You can get other work done.
·         You can cook a healthy meal.
·         You can catch up on much needed sleep.
Running through all the scenes in your head yet not able to get them down on a page: frustrating yet it can be productive. You can plot different paths you want your story to take.  Take notes and write them down, even if it's just a sticky note.
Face it your housework probably needs to be done. Concentrating on writing can take our minds off a lot of the outside world of our own brain. The dust might be piling up and now you can get rid of it. Also may help clear the dust and clutter out of your mind.
Again, once we get into writing mode we tend to be in our own little world and just don't eat well. Eating well can give you brain power Go out to eat with friends. Give your poor overworked brain a break.
Sleep! Sweet, sweet sleep. Unless you set yourself a set time limit on how long you write, we tend to write till we drop. Catch up on that sleep, you probably need it.


·         You have all those wonderful stories that are just running through your head.
·         Too much time on your hands. Without writing you have to find something else to do.
·         You get frustrated easily. The blank page is your enemy.  
·         Eating the wrong things.
·         Oversleep because of depression. Feeling sorry for your self.

Oh those stories... They're in there, You know keenly well just what stories are up there. Please write down notations on these stories. You might not be able to write then at the moment but you can try in the future and now you have notes to go by.
You are now confused as to what to do with your time. Do you want to hang out with friends, do you want to go to the park. Hey take that puppy or kitty for a walk. They need your time.
Frustration is the easiest emotion right now. You want to pull your hair out, scream, key-mash the keyboard. But right now you stare at the blank page. It's suddenly become your mortal enemy, the keyboard is an unwilling accomplice.
Eating has also become an enemy. We tend to want comfort food, junk food, easy food. You need to take care of yourself by eating right. Eating right gives you brain food. Energy for your brain.
You need sleep but sometimes, when facing a daunting task we go into a hibernation  like mode. All we want to do is sleep. The  bed is suddenly the most comfortable place we've ever been. Yes sleep is good, too much sleep can be harmful mentally.

The writers block/gap is not a fun place to be. It's depressing and void like, sucking the very writing soul out of you,
Finally I've found that being prompted by outside sources can get the creative juices flowing. Look for prompts online. Something is sure to hit just that right story-line.  I've been sitting here feeling sorry for myself and all it actually took was an invitation and prompt from a wise lady.
This is the most I've written in over two years. It feels good to write something again.

Bobbie Bolig describes herself as “a 59 year old single mother of a disabled adult son. I live in the suburbs of Grand Rapids MI.  I do mostly fanfiction writing and blogging. I enjoy writing, crocheting, beadwork, scrapbooking and origami.”

If you'd like to contribute to the discussion, email me at mail@deborahjross dot com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Today's Moment of Art

Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm (1836/37),
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)