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As many authors know, writer's block is no day at the beach. Karen Wiesner gives us some practical tips on how to conquer that little demon called writer's block.

Angel VS. Devil: How To Vanquish Writer's Block
Karen Wiesner

I imagine inspiration as an angelic muse on one shoulder while writer's block is the devilish muse weighing down the other shoulder. Following are some of the excuses the devil-muse will give you to deceive yourself:

- I just can't write (and I don't know why).
- I have no inspiration/encouragement/ideas.
- The blank page/screen intimidates me.
- Everything I write is drivel. I'd rather write nothing at all than write drivel.
- I have no time, and when I have time I have no energy.
- I'm dry/stuck/burned out. (Sounds like a Thanksgiving turkey, Winnie the Pooh, and a race car.)
- My characters just aren't cooperating. (Having a scapegoat is good!)
- I've painted myself into a corner.
- I'm not in the mood.

What is it that sets the devil-muse on a rampage to discourage?

Pressure to be brilliant on the first try. Harold Robbins is probably the only writer to ever claim he never gets writer's block. Maybe his muse performs cruel and unusual torture on him if he doesn't create. Maybe he knows or has something the rest of us don't. What does Robbins have that "we of the hundred excuses" don't? Probably discipline.

Every word you write doesn't have to be brilliant. That's one of the first hurdles a new writer has to jump. The most talented, successful writers have written works they're so embarrassed of that crumpling the work and tossing it does little to erase the humiliation. Only a bonfire will do to thoroughly destroy it! Yet that poor example is exactly what gets us "over the hurdles." It's a shining example of discipline.

The pressure we put on ourselves to be brilliant the first time out is enough to render anyone impotent. Lifting that pressure frees creativity. Unless a harbinger of doom lurks nearby, there's no reason to let the pressure squelch your creativity. Every word doesn't have to be a polished gem.

Now I'm not encouraging anyone to submit anything less than the best it can be. We're talking first draft here. A first draft is where the plot is established from beginning to end. That's the most important part. Your work might be perfectly worded, but no one wants to read 400 pages of brilliant words with no direction. Once the first draft is finished and all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, you'll know what's right and what's wrong.

Now is the time to polish those gems. Remember, discipline got you this far; talent will bring out the luster.

Pressure to get it done. One day you say to yourself "I'm going to write a 100,000 word book in two months" -- never mind that the last book of the same size took you a year. Well, that's all the incentive the devil-muse needs to move in and start disheartening. Nothing smothers the joy of writing as much as thinking "I have to finish this book!" A more encouraging approach is to tell yourself "I'll finish this page, one word at a time, in the realistic time frame I've set."

It's good to set goals and challenge yourself. But don't sacrifice quality for speed. Unless you're working on a tight deadline, write at your own pace and push yourself a little beyond what you think you can do. When your manuscript is finished, when you're sure this is your best work ever, when your confidence is bursting at the seams send it out.

Pressure to keep up with the Joneses. All your friends are winning contests, getting published, selling 2+ books on proposal, getting rave reviews. Be happy for them. Emulate their discipline and dedication. But don't -- DO NOT! -- compete with them. Maybe they've been writing longer than you; maybe they were in the right place at the right time; maybe they're better writers than you (this is when your angel-muse enters and insists that it's not true.) But you are not your friends and your friends are not you. Every dog has her day, you tell yourself. Mine's just taking a little longer.

Concentrate on yourself. Published/multi-published authors didn't get that way by looking over someone else's shoulder and mourning "Why are they more successful than me? What's wrong with me?" Nothing is wrong with you. Just keep focused on your own work and strive for personal success.

If the above pressures have your devil-muse convincing you that you shouldn't be writing, discipline and realistic expectations should convince your angel-muse to fight back with these cheers:

- You can write because there's no pressure or unrealistic expectations.
- You need discipline more than inspiration. Once you sit down and plow ahead,
encouragement and ideas will come to you.
- That blank page/screen can be vanquished with words. The words don't have to be perfect -- this is a first draft.
- So you're writing drivel? At least you're writing and getting down the plot. Once the manuscript is polished, you can throw that first draft into the bonfire with smug satisfaction.
- You have no time? Nice try! What about that hour you spend "unwinding" in front of the TV? No energy? You don't need to bounce off the wall to get a few pages down.
- You're dry/stuck/burned out? Re-think the plot. Is it strong enough? Work on a different segment of the story. Take a break. Give yourself a few days to recover. Then do it! No more excuses.
- Who's writing this, you or your characters? If the characters are rebelling because they've forgotten who's the boss, take back control and do whatever's best for the direction of the story.
- Painted yourself into a corner? So walk out it! What's the worst that can happen? You get purple feet and have to start over? At least this time you'll know which direction leads to a dead end.
- Some very pleasurable experiences can occur when you do something you think you're not in the mood to do.

Remember, I'm your angel-muse. I'm stronger than that other one. And you believe in me. Otherwise you'd have bailed out long ago.

Remember that one hand washes the other. I can't help you if you don't work with me. Remember that you're talented. You have to believe in yourself if anyone else is going to.

Most of all, remember that it'll be worth it in the end. You'll have fulfilled your dream. You'll have written a book. You'll have created your very own work of art!

. . . . . . . .

Karen Wiesner, named a "leading romance writer" by The Writer Magazine, is the best-selling author of the Gypsy Road Series, the Angelfire Trilogy, Dare to Love Series as well as upcoming Wounded Warriors Series (coming 2002) from Hard Shell Word Factory http://www.hardshell.com. Her fiction novels from Hard Shell have been nominated for Romantic Times' 1999 E-Book of the Year, the Frankfurt Award and multiple Eppie's. In Fall 2001, Hard Shell Word Factory published ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING Q&A, the compilation of Karen's now-defunct Inkspot column. The book includes bonus columns never previously released.

Karen is also the author of ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING The Definitive Guide {The Most Complete Reference to Non-Subsidy E-Publishing}, a bestselling, Frankfurt nominated writer's reference. The Guide was a finalist in the 1999 EPPIE and won the 2000 EPPIE for Best Non-fiction. The 2001 Edition is published by Avid Press, LLC http://www.avidpress.com, is excerpted in the 2001 Writers Digest Novel & Short Story Market and made the Inscriptions Books of the Year list http://www.inscriptionsmagazine.com/BOTY.html. A FREE preview (zipped HTML format) of the Guide is available by sending an e-mail to kwiesner@cuttingedge.net with "EPTDG Preview" in the subject line.

Avid Press is the publisher of Karen's first paranormal romance, SWEET DREAMS, which was a Reviewers' Top Pick for 2000 http://www.ebookconnections.com/Eclectic%20Reader/reviewers'_2000_picks.htm, received a coveted 4 1/2 star Top Pick review from Romantic Times Magazine and is a finalist in the prestigious 2001 Daphne du Maurier Award http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org.

Karen won the 2000 Inscriptions Engraver Award http://www.inscriptionsmagazine.com/Engravers.html for best online columnist, the Year 2000 for eXcellence in E-publishing Award: E-author from ebookadvisor and was a recipient of The Simply Charming Award for outstanding promotion of e-books. She was also nominated for the 2000 EPIC Florence Moyer Service Award.

Upcoming releases for Karen include: a book of poetry, titled Soul Bleeds The Dark Poetry and Other Wanderings of K.S. Wiesner (Atlantic Bridge Publishing http://www.atlanticbridge.net, July 2001), the 2001 edition of the Guide (Avid Press, July 2001), another non-fiction/writer's reference titled THE PRODUCTIVE WRITER {or how to avoid carpal tunnel with all those revisions} (Avid Press, LLC, Late 2001), a children's story written with Linda Jablonicky, called THE CODY KNOWS CHRONICLES (CrossroadsPub.com, Late 2002), as well as the first book of the Wounded Warriors Series, RELUCTANT HEARTS (Hard Shell Word Factory, Early 2002.)

Projects in the works for Karen: a mainstream romantic suspense called NO ORDINARY LOVE, the second book of the Wounded Warriors Series-WAITING FOR AN ECLIPSE, as well as a psychological thriller written with author Christine Spindler http://www.christinespindler.com titled DEGREES OF SEPARATION.


For more information about Karen and her work, visit her web site at http://karenwiesner.hypermart.net.

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'How To Vanquish Writer's Block' by Karen Wiesner