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24 Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writer’s BLOCK. Two frightening words that are worse than they sound. Call it a writing pause instead. Pause is such a pleasant-sounding and friendly word, one suggesting merely a brief cessation of creativity. Stalled plot? Awkward  transition?  Plotting flaw?  Pacing issues? Pausing is a good  thing! It allows for reflection and mulling, for analysis and evaluation. Does that sound like writer’s block to you?  Anyway,  there are PLENTY of tasks to be done while on pause.

Instead of throwing up your hands and stomping from the computer, here’s a few suggestions  for maximizing your writer’s pause. 

1. Revise and edit earlier chapters. Be vigilant. Often new ideas will come.

2. Write a blog or 2 or 3. 

3. Write tweets for future use, then when you are back in the writing saddle those tweets are ready to go.

4. Find and read information about a subject in your story. The internet has information about everything. There must be some subject or object or place or history or event in your story you can learn more about. Research inspires ideas. It really really does. This, more than anything else, generates tons of ideas.

5. Revisit your original research notes for inspiration, plot twists, details, etc.

6. Google photos of something you’ve written about. Is there a detail that might advance the plot, add detail, and/or be be used symbolically?

7. Create a pinterest board for your work-in-progress. Pictures are worth a 1000 words, right?

8. Write engaging captions under the pinterest pins.

9. Curate your Instagram. Give it a ‘look.’ Mine for followers.

10. Revisit your outline. Add to it. Flesh it out. What? You don’t have one? Might that be the source of your writing pause? Knowing where your novel is going helps alleviate the “what next” conundrum.

11. Do NOT commiserate with others experiencing writer’s block. Misery loves company—soon not helpful. Talk to a writer who is on fire! Read their blogs! Let their sparks ignite your own.

12. Take a walk. Walk the dog. Clean the fridge. Perform a mindless task, but think about the plot, characters, next chapter, climax, and ending while you’re doing it. Something is sure to emerge. ( I imagine an entire chapter in my head before writing it.)

13. Write a synopsis for the novel.

14. Craft a query.

15. Write a one-line pitch.

16.  Write a riveting back cover.

17. Re-write the bio on your Amazon author page and  website.

18. Re-write one of your first blogs. Add to it—give it new zing! Notice how much better you write now? Give yourself a pat on the back.

19. Re-tag your blog posts. Use better key words.

20. Re-write your twitter and instagram bio. You only have so many spaces, make them count.

21. Write a poem or journal entry in the voice of one of your characters.

22. Read one of Shakespeare’s plays. The Bard was brilliant, his characters riveting, his understanding of humans’ proclivities profound. Ideas are sure to follow.

23. Take a drive. The Driving Muse loves to visit when you’re behind the wheel.

24. Identify the reason for the temporary pause. Are you tired, angry, frustrated, grieving? An emotion that overwhelms your creativity isn’t a “block.” Use the emotion to writerly advantage. Note how your body feels during times of intense emotion. Embrace it! You will need to call upon that emotion when you write about a character experiencing the same one. Is the plot line frustrating? Identify why. Is it a plot flaw or a matter of getting from scene A to scene C with a connecting scene B that makes sense? That’s not a block that’s intelligent plotting.

Did you notice that most of these solutions require writing and/or reading? You don’t have writers block if you are writing. And reading, my friends, is research, an important part of the writing life.

May the Muse be ever with you.

Author Social Media Tips 101

By no means am I the guru of Twitter or Instagram, but I did learn a few things over the years. Here’s  a few tips for managing  social media.

Twitter:

  1. Make sure your Twitter name is the same as your author name. For example: I’m @lzmarieauthor ( lzmarie was already taken ) on one and @azlynrichards on the other.
  2. Write a great bio.  Tweak as needed. Include relevant hashtags. These are mine. Include website link.

3.  Upload a cute pic of YOU. No dogs, cats, wedding pics, or cartoons. Readers want to see YOUR face.

4. Upload a great header. It can be your upcoming or latest release, or a photo of all your books. If you’re not published yet, use the header image from your website. Folks recognize images so keep social media images/headers/colors/font consistent. I plan on running a contest soon so I’ve even designed the contest photo to have the same thematic look as my website.

Twitter basics:

  1. In the beginning, you’ll have to mine/excavate/dig for followers. That’s easy.
  2. Go to the search bar and type in a key word, for example your genre, ( use # ) and follow anyone ( well, use your discretion ) who used it. This is done best on the computer, not your phone, because you can read their bio.
  3. Find authors in your genre, click their followers list, and follow their followers.
  4. Follow back people who follow you! Unless their spammers or people with a zillion followers who follow only a few.
  5. Follow book bloggers. Search #blogging or #blogger. I’ve found the more followers I had the more likely a book blogger would follow me back.
  6. Mine regularly.
  7. Building followers takes time. Mine for followers while standing in line at grocery store, watching TV, or waiting for the pasta to cook.
  8. Tweet times. There are stats on best tweeting times. I do best with morning and evening.
  9. Answer back—engage.
  10. See what and how authors in your genre are tweeting. Do what they do if they have a lot of engagement, RT’s, and likes. Remember, anything JK Rollins or James Patterson says will be popular, so don’t use them as a model.
  11. Don’t use an auto message. Nobody likes those. They’re annoying. When a new follower tweets that they followed me, I tweet back *waves hello*
  12. Use one or two hashtags More is obnoxious. #amwriting #amreading or your genre ( #romance) are good to use.
  13. Use photos or GIFS. People like pics.

The truth: The more followers the more likely what you tweet is retweeted or your blog read. Use #mondayblogs on Mondays.  It’s a numbers game ( isn’t it ALL a numbers game? ) And yes, I have sold books and found book bloggers because I engaged on twitter and instagram.

Instagram

It’s a medium eschewed by the older crowd, which is a shame because there are TONS of book bloggers on Instagram with HUGE followings.

  1. Make sure your Instagram name is the same as your author name. Name recognition is important. I have a good friend who has a funky and forgettable Instagram name so I can never find her. Not good.
  2. Write a great bio. Include your website.
  3. If you’re amazing and have oodles of time on your hands curate your pics. ( Mine isn’t. ) That means giving it a stylized look by using common colors and specific filters.
  4. There’s not a character limit in the comment section so you can write lots.
  5. Hashtags are KING on Instagram. Use the search bar, tap TAGS, and and begin typing. Use as many as apply. For #historicalfiction there are 29,561 posts. There are 7,640,310 for “romance.” Yowza! Aim for about 10 hashtags. Look what comes up when I type in #book.img_4255

6. Create a hashtags list and keep it in your NOTES section on your phone so all you need to do is a quick cut & paste when uploading a photo/video.

Managing social media

I use twitter and Instagram during my non-writing hours. Some folks like creating tweets and pics for the week but my brain doesn’t work that way. Real time tweets and posts are better for me.

Aim for a least a tweet a day and 3 posts a week on instagram. Sometimes that’s challenging. I much prefer thinking about my WIP than about a pithy witty tweet or instragram pic. But once you embrace it, you look at everything you do and see as a way to engage with followers. That’s the key. That empty coffee cup? Can you snap a pic and make a witty comment about it—relate it to your WIP or upcoming novel? See how I hash tagged a bar of soap?

Below are a few tips for making the most of your ‘free’ time, especially for those with a full-time job. LOL!!!

Prioritize the few hours of available writing time.

Maximize your creative brain power during that time.

So….before or after work?

Whether you work morning or evening, many of us deal with brain drain… you know, that I’m-so-tired-I-can’t-think brain. Some days are worse than others. It’s absolutely critical to know what you are capable of creatively ( or not ) so you can determine the best task. That way, whether you are brain dead or on creative fire you will make some kind of progress.

Here’ a 100% unscientific look at the creative mind.

Cold Brain: The least creative thinking. Use this time to tweet, take pics for instagram, scroll through Facebook, read blogs and email, research and take notes.

Warm Brain: Dribs and drabs of creativity. Use this time to work on plot or marketing ideas. Some writers are able to revise,  line edit, and fine-tune sentences.

Hot Brain: Creativitus  Maximus. Use this time to plot, outline, and write first and second drafts. Dinner isn’t happening! Neither is laundry nor any other household task.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • Do learn your own brain’s rhythms. For example, it’s tough for me to think creatively after our 7pm dinner on the weekdays. Once I’m home, I throw down my book bag, grab the computer, and start writing.
  • Do honor your own writing pace. For example, 1st drafts required my most creative brain, and I get the most work done on a weekend.
  • Do stick to a schedule. Make writing a habit not an afterthought. I say it’s my second job and treat it as such.
  • Don’t beat yourself up trying to write 2000-words a day if you’re mentally exhausted. Just choose a cold brain task.
  • Don’t try to solve a plot problem when you’re brain dead.
  • Don’t waste valuable HOT Brain time on actions or interactions that steal your best creative time.
  • A word about weekends and days off: Work ’em for all they’re worth.

 

Symbols, Context & Complexity

how to give your words depth, understanding metaphor and symbolism, literary writing, When you have a B.A. in English Literature and teach literary analysis you read literature differently than the average for-fun reader. You read analytically. So, if the author wrote “blood-red velvet drapes concealed the dirt-encrusted window,” and I’m reading literature—as opposed to a light beach romance—I’m going to focus on the words blood, velvet, concealed, and dirt-encrusted because I figure the author is giving us thematic, foreshadowing, contextual, plot, and character clues beyond the superficial.

For more on this subject, I suggest reading How to Read Like a Literature Professor by Thomas C. Foster

Does this mean you have to write that way? NO, of course not! ( Although, as a literature geek, I love playing with  layers of meaning.)

Whatever you do, do not get hung up the “this means that” school of thought. The magic of writing is the way the writer creates an image or idea with words.

Attached is a 35-page booklet of symbols and contexts to help you discover all the way you can  paint depth and complexity  with words!

Little Book of Symbols by Azlyn Richards

Research Tips

Azlyn Richards research tips,, researching novelsHow are YOUR research skills? Rusty? Disorganized?

Writers can spend a LOT of time  researching information for their novels. Be it mystery, action-adventure, sci-fi, historical, urban fantasy, crime, or horror—writers are forever looking up facts to mix with the fiction.

Lucky me, writing a million ( a small exaggeration ) college essays and a masters thesis taught  helped me discover the best  ways  to catalogue and manage the plethora of research. I teach these same tips  ( learned the hard way ) to my students.

Here’s a few down and dirty research tips. Be forewarned: The more thorough the prep in the beginning, the easier your novel writing—the insert fact portion here part—is at the end.

1.Make a timeline for historical events. A 2-column chart works nicely, one column for the historical events and one for the corresponding scenes in your novel. For one historical novel I have 2 POV’s and so I made a 3-column timeline. One for each POV character and one for general historical events. Warning: This may take days to create. I used 3 different reference books and it was invaluable for creating a timeline from a mixed bag of random dates. Remember to include year, location, month, date, and hour if possible.

2. Keep a binder of articles you’ve printed from the internet. I’ve printed a doctoral thesis, PDFs of 200-yr-old diary entries, ancient maps, magazine articles, and scholarly journal articles. Highlight and annotate the information you think you will use in your novel.

3. Save websites or photos on Pinterest. It’s a great organizational tool. I make a Pinterest board for every novel. You can even have a secret board. Storing all the websites on Pinterest allows for easy accessability  and prevents you from scrolling down that never-ending Favorite list.

4. Embed a website’s URL into your drafts. Doing this allows quick access during revisions. Delete the URLs ( but save them on a word doc in chronological order of your ms) before sending to a beta reader or agent.

5. Use in-text citations in your drafts. For example, I’m currently using 6 different books for background information, so my in-text citation will look something like this: blah blah plot, blah, fact, blah ( Chinese Myth 49). The fact is from a book on Chinese mythology on page 49.
If you purchased a book for research highlight and annotate the facts you think you might need. If you can’t bear to mar a book then use little sticky notes.

6. Create charts for easy fact access. eg, I currently have a large chart with various aspects of Chinese culture ( food, vessels, gods, holidays, professions, garb, weapons, punishments, etc) Mmmm, can you you guess what my WIP is about? Warning: Making this chart took a looooong time but saved countless hours of ‘where was that info about weaponry?’

7. Use the primary source. For example, after reading 3 books that all quoted the same book, I hunted down and purchased the no-longer-in-print book. This primary source was a goldmine, the footnotes alone providing me with more information than all the other research books put together.

8. Send URLs to your email. Often I find the perfect site while web surfing, but––yikes—am no where near my home computer.

9. Wiki wisdom. Wiki is a great place to start––a spring board for diving down to the bottom of the page where the Reference section provides sources sure to provide more in-depth information.

Do you have any research tips ?

Commonly Confused Words

Microsoft Word doesn’t catch them, but a careful writer will!  Or should.

Here’s an 8-page list for the editing- inspired. The PDF version →.Commonly-confused-2-2

Which words are your nemesis? ( Mine are counsel and council. )

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commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

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commonly confused word list

commonly confused word list

Double Whammy!

Pulling double duty requires a cappuccino with a double shot of espresso

Pulling double duty requires a cappuccino with a double shot of espresso

Pulling double duty! Whoot !Whoot!

This is the 1st post on my new website but NOT my first blog. I’ve been blogging for 3  years under a different name and website.

So why start a new website and get a new nom de plume? Well, when your new agent tells you it would be a good idea  to separate the 2 genres,  you do it!!

Double the Fun! I’ll also be managing 2 Twitter and Instagram accounts. Haven’t made a Facebook or Pinterest page yet for the new-genre me. Yet.

Double Down! A lot of work? Yes.  Can I do it? Sure, with a bit of savvy time management. But that’s not what’s causing me angst. What is?

Double Trouble! I’ll be both teacher and student for the next 2 years! Ack!

As a high school language arts teacher,  I’m used to assigning books, lecturing, grading papers, and getting sucked up to. But  as soon as my MFA classes begin the table will be turned, and I’ll be the one having to read books, write papers, and suck up to professors.

I begin my MFA ( Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing this year. Yup, that means I’ll be teaching full-time, revising an MS, and doing homework for the MFA program. ( Oh, and there will also be multiple phone calls and dress shopping for my daughter’s wedding. ) Don’t know how I’m going to pull all this off, but hey, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do. And I gotta do. ♥

Lots of folks and family ask me why I want to get my MFA. You don’t need one, they insist. You can already write. True. But I want to write better! And how amazing will it be to have  a cadre of writing professionals offer advice and criticism! Not to mention,  having a writing community to share all the successes, failures, woes, joys, and WTF’s with.  I’m looking forward to learning and writing with the best.

I was lucky to have found a low residency* MFA program with a marvelous staff that fits my teaching schedule. Can’t wait to begin. Can’t wait to figure out just how organized I’ll need to be to do it all without losing my mind.

I’m thinking’ somebody—not me—needs to do the grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry. I’ll let you know how that goes!

**For the Hey, I’d Like To Get My MFA questioners, here’s a quick how-to.

Low-residency means you, the student, take on-line classes throughout the year and also meet with writers, big-time famous authors, industry professionals, and classmates for week-long stretches a few times a year. Great for us folks who have to work to pay the mortgage.

My MFA program required a statement of purpose, letter of intent, 3 letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and transcripts.

While I was pulling all that together, I applied for a FAFSA loan, because, really, who can pay for college these days?

So, here’s to not seeing double for the next few years! Cheers!