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Write and publish with love and fury.

TOP 10: Get your writing motivation back & finish your book

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Sometimes you lose the thread. You burn through the first 40 or 50 pages and then…now what?  Augusten Burroughs doesn’t believe in writer’s block. He says that if you think you have writer’s block, write about the block and you’ll find your way out. Frankly, that hasn’t worked for me. This is what I do to churn the letter butter and make it thick:

1. Reread the last ten pages before you got stuck. There’s probably something there to riff from.

2. Reread the first ten pages and get back to where you were headed to begin with so you can find the trail you lost.

3. If you’ve got an outline, go write an easy scene. If the book is a ball small enough that you can hold it in one hand–and you make it small by using an outline–you can skip forward to a scene you are sure of.

4. When you’re stuck, go back to the characters. What’s the special need and want of the character (often not the same thing in a layered, complex text)? Find the truth of that character. What does the character do next?

5. Search for the emotional truth between and among your characters. Write that.

6. Search the conflict between and among your characters. Maybe you’re stuck because your characters are too agreeable.

7. Change the setting. Too many characters stand around in living rooms talking at each other instead of engaging the world. It’s not a stage play. A novel has as large a canvas as you can imagine. Get your characters up and out in the world where things happen.

8. Think visually. What would the movie of your book look like? What are people doing? Do they have special skills? Draw on your own experience or do a little research to get you through a scene. (Do as little research as possible on the front end, though. I wrote a story in which a character got pulled into a saw at a lumber mill. First I wrote the scene. Then I consulted an expert who said it shouldn’t be a saw but a machine called an edger.)

9. Still stuck? My trick is to get out a book (usually a dictionary) and choose three words at random. Work those words into your next chapter. (Clicking random in Wikipedia works great for this strategy, too.) This will take you places you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

10. Take a break. Change your setting. Trying to tough it out so you produce typing but no worthwhile writing is not working smart. Do something totally different. Go get chased by a bear, move, run, go watch people, have an espresso or nap. Refresh your writing mind by demanding nothing of it. The world will have to wait until you’re back where you need to be.

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