How do I fight writer’s block?

Same as any other kind of artist, writers also suffer from this condition. The causes differ and depend on each person, just like the ways to overcome it. Every person should find their own way to deal with it, so if you’re looking for a solution to this very problem… I’m sorry, but I can only speak for myself. My answer to this question may not be able to help you in particular, but I wish it did. I hope you find your way back, and please let me know if I can help in any way.

In my case, writer’s block was not a lack of inspiration. I had ideas, and sometimes I wrote them down, but I didn’t do anything else with them (for years) because of my insecurity. Still, I was struggling at the time, so it wasn’t a complete block. In a way, I’m used to dealing with anxiety and my lack of self-confidence, so I can get things done most of the time. Yes, these are problem I should deal with, but things got worse.

When my anxiety got so bad it reached the stages of burnout and depression, I stopped writing. I had to. Whenever I had to use my computer, I wanted to throw it out of the window. I had panic attacks sometimes.

So I did what I had to do and stopped writing. I changed my habits, reduced my workload and spent one year focusing on work (because I couldn’t stop working) and taking care of myself.

I took walks, played videogames, avoided my computer and didn’t write anything new. Not even on my notebooks. I even stopped reading for a while.

It was hard because I’ve spent all my life working (even school and extracurricular activities are work) and stopping to rest made me feel useless, but I persevered. And then, one day, I started feeling better. I wanted to read again, but I couldn’t trust new books yet, so I started rereading some of my favourite books. Little by little, I started to enjoy it again. And then I started therapy, and it all went even better after that.

I took some holidays and I just went to the beach and relaxed for the first time in many years. That couple of weeks helped a lot and I started writing in my notebooks again, and also transcribing my old notebooks. I even created this blog. And I started writing a fanfic because I thought it would be fun.

It’s been over a year and I’m still fighting, but I think the way to overcome writer’s block is… basically patience and perseverance. I know that isn’t very helpful, but that’s how you learn to take your time and do what you need in order to get better. The solution depends on the reason why you suffer this condition, and it may involve not writing at all. So if taking relaxing baths and walking in a forest is what helps, don’t think of it as Not Writing. Resting doesn’t have to be the opposite of work. Relaxing is hard work and, more importantly, it’s necessary if you want to keep working (and living), so I now consider it a very important part of my day. Try doing something that makes you happy (or that used to make you happy if you have depression), and remember that the mind needs time to heal.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Masterlist for new writers

I received some comments saying my post with tips for prospective writers and its accompanying masterlist were helpful for some people, so I decided to write a new post about what I’m doing after that. Here are some links that I found useful when I decided I wanted to try and write professionally. (Wow, that still sounds weird to me.)

  1. How to do your research:
    The British Newspaper Archive.
    -“Things Almost Every Author Needs to Research“.
    -“Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions” by SFWA.
    Research Resources for Writers by dailywritingtips.
    The Ultimate Novel Writing Resource Masterlist by The writers’ archive
  2. How to write your first draft:
    -“How to slay self-doubt and write that novel” by Lee Welch.
    -“Writers: Stop Doing This!” by KJ Charles.
    -“The Theory of Shitty First Drafts” by Wrex.
  3. How to edit:
    Self-editing tips Part I and Self-editing tips Part II by KJ Charles. And another post in her new blog you may find useful as well.
    -“Sensitivity Reads and You” by KJ Charles.
  4. How to publish:
    -“The Author’s Biggest Mistake” by KJ Charles.
    -“Writing Query Letters” by KJ Charles.
    -“Being Edited, or How to take Criticism” by KJ Charles.
    -“What a year of self-publishing taught me” by Talia Hibbert.
    -“Ten Point Author’s Guide on How to Survive in Publishing” by Jackie Ashenden.
  5. How to sell your book:
    -“Marketing unmasked: A ‘how to’ for the reluctant writer” by Lee Welch.
    -“eBook Piracy: What to do if someone steals your book” by Kindlepreneur.

There are more links I can’t share because they’re from patreon and won’t work unless you’re patrons of the author, but I promise I’ll do another masterlist post in the future with more points, and I’ll also share some of the books/eBooks I’ve read about writing.

And please share any good posts here so we can all read them as well!

 

Hands typing on typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

About Romance

It’s about time I wrote a post about the genre I want to explore, isn’t it? You may remember that, when I talked about the books that changed my life, I mentioned that one of them made me rediscover a genre I thought was too homogeneous for me: Romance.

Twenty years ago, I was an avid reader of Science-Fiction. Ten years ago, I read nothing but Fantasy. Now I find it hard to read anything that’s not Romance. I have to confess that, before that book changed my life, I’d tried reading some books and comics with romance elements, my favourite being Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. However, after a while I started thinking that they were all similar; I didn’t feel represented by any of them (in my defense, I mostly read physical books in Spanish, and there was not an ounce of diversity to be found back then). I thought it would always be the same. Never have I been so glad to be proved wrong.

Once I stepped out of my comfort zone and started reading new books, I realized that Romance had actually become the most open and complete literary genre. There’s variety (fantasy, paranormal, historical, sci-fi, contemporary…), diversity (characters who are POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, depressed…) and hope (happy endings are the norm). Romance readers and authors have been leading a loud revolution that you may not have noticed (if you don’t know anyone who’s part of the community), but —I believe— it’s making the world a better place. Of course I’d want to do anything in my power to help! The problem is… that a little is never enough for me, so now I’ve turned to writing.

To be honest, I never thought I’d end up this way. As a person with anxiety, zero self-confidence and a different mother tongue, I know it’s gonna be hard. But hard is not impossible, so I had to try. And who knows, maybe my weaknesses can help me write something that will help people like me. Even if it’s just one person, that would make all hardships worth enduring.

 

Old book with pages bent inwards forming a heart.
Photo shared by congerdesign. Creative Commons.

 

Fourth notebook

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After the last notebook of 2015, I had a bit of trouble choosing which notebook to transcribe next. I found myself with 4 notebooks I’d filled in 2016… but I didn’t know the order. I already said I’m rather chaotic, but I didn’t want to make things worse by starting with the wrong one. In the end, I realized I had two notebooks I must have used at the same time… more or less.

One was big, so I must have used it at home, and the other one was small, so I must have taken it everywhere. I probably finished the smaller one before, at least, so I decided to start with it.

You may have noticed this notebook and the previous one have the same format, but I already said they’re my favourite ones, so you should just know that I bought this one after reading “A Seditious Affair” by KJ Charles. I couldn’t not buy a notebook inspired by William Blake’s poems after reading that wonderful book.

This notebook had many snippets that never became a story and a lot of information for a fanfic I never wrote. Other than that, I continued working on rewriting my old fantasy story, now with new main characters. I also started to collect names for all the characters and places. And there’s even a story a cab driver told me, about one of his ancestors who’d been a bandit in Southern Spain.

Spoiler alert: I was surprised to find out that it was in January 2016 when I decided that two of the characters in the fantasy romance would know each other, but only one of them would remember having met before. I thought that had been much later and now I wonder where that came from. Anyway, that made a lot of sense and it became an important plot point.

Why do I write in English?

Someone recently asked me if I was going to write in English or Spanish. And the truth is… I don’t know.

Well, I know what I want, but my feelings are complicated. I want to write in English, but English is not my First Language, so I wonder if I should and if my writing would be any good.

Writing in Spanish is weird for me, though. I’ve read and studied Literature in English for decades, so Spanish sounds weird to me sometimes (Especially explicit language, which sounds too technical or too cheesy). Still, I would be able to tell if my writing is crap in Spanish, right? Maybe.

For me, the main reason to write in Spanish is that… I want to write Romance with  LGBTQ+ characters, and it’s something one can’t easily find in Spanish. I love helping and I want to help Spanish speakers find stories that will make them happy (which is why I became a translator, but that’s another story).

However, I love writing and reading in English, and if I was confident about both my English and my writing, I wouldn’t hesitate: I’d write in English first, and then see if I want to publish anything in Spanish as well.

Maybe that’s what I should do. Just follow the Fake-it-till-you-make-it philosophy. After all, there are proofreaders, editors and beta-readers out there. I wouldn’t be alone.

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Launch of English fireships against the Spanish Armada. Taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Masterlist for prospective writers

I love masterlists and writing reference posts, so I thought I could make a short one to go with my “Tips for prospective writers” post. These are some links I found helpful as I followed these steps, so I hope they’ll be useful for you too.

  1. Read a lot
    Sometimes it’s difficult to find what you’re looking for, and sometimes you find it and it’s too expensive. For those times, I recommend doing this:
    -Find your favourite books on Goodreads. They probably belong to a list of similar books. See what other readers have added to the list and increase your Want-to-Read bookshelf. You can also check the most popular lists (and all the rest) here, but there are too many, so proceed with caution.
    Here is another masterlist where you can find many sites where you can legally download books for free.
    -Do everything in this tumblr post: How to legally get cheap or free ebooks instead of pirating like a garbage person. If you’re an ebook-hater, some books won’t be available in this day and age, but authors and goodreads still organize giveaways for paperbacks; and bookdepository, already mentioned in that post, will always be your friend.
  2. Join the community
    You will have done it if you’ve followed the tips to legally get cheap or free books, but you can get more out of this experience if you’re a prospective writer, so:
    -Follow your favourite writers and publishers on goodreads, twitter, facebook, their blogs… Join their newsletters and read what they have to say. It’s always interesting!
  3. Don’t be shy
    Yeah, you people should be the ones telling me how to do it. I just try to reply whenever I have something to say and keep my fingers crossed, but if you’re following your favourite authors, maybe telling them why you love their books would be a good way to break the ice. You’d like that if you were in their place, right? And they’re human after all. Amazing human beings, for sure, but still human.
    -I don’t have links for this one, but please remember that being polite is always necessary when you talk to other people.
  4. Practice
    How you want to practice is very personal, so you may want to go look around the Internet and check what works for you. Here are some things that did the trick for me:
    -Lee Welch shared a post On ignoring writing advice that I found extremely useful. I have problems with anxiety and self-doubt, but now I’ve embraced the thought that my first book won’t be perfect and it doesn’t have to be. I’m also thinking about writing some short stories before I write a novel. It’s all an experiment, right? We’ll see how it goes.
    -Anyway, in order to ignore the advice, you have to read it first. And there are lots of places for that. I think I may make another masterlist about writing advice, but if you want to do some reading now, there’s a very complete list in thewritepractice.
    -You’ll also find lots of sites that will share prompts daily, like the popular Writing Prompts account on tumblr.
    -And, again, a good way to practice and receive feedback from readers is writing fan fiction. There are many places, but my favourite is Archive of Our Own.
  5. Beta-read
    There are many websites and books about finding beta-readers and learning how to beta-read. There are courses and a lot of information online, but a quick Google search gave me these ones that seem helpful enough if you’re not going to go professional:
    -“How to Beta Read” by Corrine Jackson.
    -“Five Commandments of Beta-readers” on Author Accelerator.
    -“How to Be a Good Beta Reader” on BookBaby.
    -“How Being a Beta Reader Has Made Me a Better Writer” by Jo Ullah.

That’s all for now, but please let me know if you have any favourite sites, or if you’ve written some posts yourselves on these topics. I want to read them as well!

 

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Writing Prompts’ Avatar

Tips for prospective writers

As you know, I am a prospective writer myself (I also like the term unpublished writer),  so I don’t have much experience… but I’ve been at this stage for a long time and everyone’s journey is different. Sometimes it’s better to share your experience before too much time has passed, I think, so this is what I’m doing hoping it will help other people out.

  1. Read a lot.
    Especially in the genres you want to write. There’s no better way to know what the tropes are, what has been done before, and what the readers are going to expect and demand.
    You may realize that your original ideas have been done many times before, but don’t get discouraged. As a reader, you’ll know that every work is different and you’ll always want to read more of what you love.
    However, you may also notice that something is missing in your favourite genre and find a way to contribute by making it more diverse.
    Some people avoid reading in their genre while they’re writing, so as not to be influenced by other works. That’s fine, and reading other genres may help during those long periods of time, but I think it’s important to note that those writers have been avid readers before they started writing. Better not skip this step.
  2. Join the community.
    Thanks to new technologies and social media, now we have the opportunity to follow authors, editors, publishers and readers across all platforms. Take it!
    Your favourite writers are all over Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads… and some of them can even be found on tumblr!
    You can also follow their blogs if you prefer that, of course.
    Readers of your favourite genre will also have interesting things to say, and they’ll share a lot of helpful information. They also share reviews and related news… even more often than authors, who are usually busy writing and panicking about deadlines.
    I’ve learnt a lot this way, and I’ll share some useful links I’ve found if you’re interested.
  3. Don’t be shy.
    I know I should follow my own advice, since I’m terribly shy and have no self-confidence… but if someone like me can ask questions when in doubt, you can too!
    And the first thing I learnt talking to writers is that many of them are glad to talk to readers, help people and answer questions.
    Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be polite. Please don’t send authors your work out of the blue and demand their opinion. It doesn’t work like that (sometimes editors and agents have free time and will read some first chapters and give their advice, in case you were wondering). I can’t fathom how some people think demanding things from authors is the best approach, but it’s apparently very common.
  4. Practice.
    If you’ve already read enough (it’s never enough, I know), remember that practice makes perfect.
    Well, nothing will actually be 100% perfect, so don’t become obsessed with perfection… but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
    Fanfics are the most common practice nowadays, and with good reason.
    Some people prefer writing short stories and sending them to contests, but I am a fanfic advocate. You get lots of practice making short and long stories, get quick feedback, learn how to deal with critique and how to work with beta-readers… (And if you prefer contests because you have a chance to publish your story, remember that some fanfics have shared the same fate.)
  5. Beta-read.
    This is also related to the previous point. Good fanfics need a good beta-reader… and that could be you! Reading allows you to devise a goal, practice allows you to realize which are your most obvious mistakes… but all works need a second pair of eyes (at the very least!) and you can learn a lot from other writers. It’s easier to beta-read fan fiction, since there are lots of fanfics being written every day and you don’t need a resumé to apply. Seeing other people’s strong points and weaknesses will help you discover your own. It is an incredible chance you shouldn’t miss.

That is all I have for now, but I am open to suggestions! Which steps worked for you? Do you agree with any of these? Tell me what you think!

 

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The Archive of Our Own (aka AO3) logo. This is my favourite site for fan fiction.

Third Notebook

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Another notebook that’s now part of the digital world! This one I bought after my trip to Switzerland, where I’d visited an art exhibition and seen Monet’s Water Lilies. As you can see, the cover of the notebook mixes one of Monet’s manuscripts with a background based on the Water Lilies, while the magnetic clasp displays Monet’s signature.

The small notebooks by paperblanks are my favourite because they’re beautiful, solid, and the most durable I’ve found so far. They’re not heavy, either. I prefer the ones from the Embellished Manuscripts collection, like this one. Not only because I love seeing manuscripts of artists I like, but also because the magnetic clasp is very useful, saving the pages from (very) possible encounters with spilled liquids and sharp objects found inside a bag.

Anyway, there were lots of ideas for different stories in this one, including a few ones set in the city where I was born: Madrid. I think I have mentioned them in my previous post.

The fantasy story I was rewriting also appears in several pages, and it looks like I changed the names of the main characters along the way. I didn’t even remember they had placeholder names before!

I also wrote down some weird dreams I’d had and more tips for amateur writers I found around the internet. Maybe I could share some links in the future if anyone is interested.

By the way, this is the last notebook I filled in 2015. I wonder what I’ll find in my next notebook…