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Tips, Inspiration, & Resources

The cure for writer's block: Embracing the "I don't know"

Not knowing is supposed to be a bad thing. With storytelling, not knowing can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

 

Because if you surrender to the "I don't know," then anything can happen.

 

Suddenly, you're in a magical world of endless possibilities.

 

You are a kid in a playground. A park. A candy shop. A toy store. You're in a place where you can have anything you want, be anything you want, go anywhere you want, travel to any time you want. It's one big game of pretend. No limitations.

 

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

 

Rule number one: Don't freak out.

It'll just waste your time and make you feel worse.

 

Rule number two: Step away from the vehicle.

Stop trying to turn over that engine in your head. It's flooded with too much analytical, know-it-all thinking.

 

Rule number three: Decide that you are in the wonderful land of "I don't know," where magical answers appear without any effort.

If you're saying to yourself, "yeah, right," with a big dose of sarcasm, tell that naysayer voice inside to take a hike. Tell yourself that it costs you nothing to believe in the magic of "I don't know." Go ahead, just give it a try. Allow for the possibility. Suspend disbelief. You don't have to tell anyone. And what do you have to lose?

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The Seven Elements of a Compelling Story: A Checklist

THE SEVEN ELEMENTS OF A COMPELLING  STORY

 

1. WHAT DOES YOUR CHARACTER WANT? (a/k/a, THE GOAL)

 

Some examples of goals:

  • Love, appreciation
  • recognition
  • the need to be understood
  • defeat of an enemy
  • basic human survival
  • recovery from trauma
  • closure after tragedy
  • finding a reason to live
  • finding a purpose
  • making peace with the past
  • triumph over adversity of any kind.

 

2. WHAT'S STOPPING HIM/HER FROM GETTING IT? (a/k/a CONFLICT):

  • Conflict takes many forms: Oneself (we are our own worst enemy), other people, situations. 
  • Infuse conflict into every scene.

3. WHY SHOULD YOUR READERS CARE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER'S STRUGGLE? (a/k/a SYMPATHY)

  • Reveal the truth about your hero, even if he doesn't know it himself.
  • Give your characters layers and dimension—even villains are human beings; even heroes have flaws. 
  • Go easy on the self-pity, even infuse humor if possible. 

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How NOT to hate writing a book proposal

I know what you might be thinking. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't hate the idea of writing a book proposal. I'LL GIVE YOU THREE GOOD REASONS.

 

1.   A good proposal serves as a blueprint for a compelling and coherent book that is unique in the marketplace and serves the needs of your target readers. Isn't it better to have that blueprint before you start than risk the chance of having to tear down what you've built and start from scratch because you didn't research the market or refine your idea?

 

2.   The process of researching and writing your proposal can get you all fired up about how great your book is. If it's having  the opposite effect, then it can inspire you to re-think your concept and come up with an idea that really keeps you fired up for the long haul.

 

3.   It serves as the foundation from which you will eventually publicize your book when it gets published. By the time you've perfected your proposal, you've become such an expert on how this book touches a chord with the public that you are able to succinctly and brilliantly express your conviction to other people.

 

Many writers of nonfiction books who are experts in their fields are not necessarily experts in explaining why people should want to read their book. Often we are so close to the work that we can't express ourselves clearly in terms that the sales department of the publishing house can repeat to the bookstores.

 

But after having worked on a good book proposal, you the author will be an expert in explaining why the public should buy your book and what they will gain from it.

        

So, now you know why it's good for you. But let's say you still feel less than enthusiastic, or intimidated, or overwhelmed. I'm going to show you how to break through those blocks with a powerful exercise.

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