10 Steps to Unblock Your Writer's Block

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
1. Read a good book.

2. Listen to soundtracks or other music that gets you in a creative mood without distracting you(Josh Groban does it for me) .

3. Turn off your internal editor . Repeat after me: The first draft is crap. And that's okay.

4. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise. A strong body makes for a strong mind.

5. Don't argue with your characters. If they refuse to do a scene a certain way, change it. Even if that means rewriting the story.

6. Discuss the problem with someone. I've found that when I'm stuck, if I talk it out, it allows me to see it from a different angle and I can usually fix it--even if the other person doesn't say a word.

7. Reevaluate the project. Drop it if necessary. That's only happened to me once. 100 pages in I realized it wasn't working. I needed to completely rework the story. I put it away and started a newer, stronger story. Since then, I've been playing with plot ideas for the older one. I'm going to start it soon. It's going to be much stronger.

8. Take a break from writing. Instead, read a dozen novels. By the end, the creative side of your brain will be tingling.

9. Don't overextend yourself. I can't create the depth necessary if I'm trying to move between two projects. Nor can I switch back and forth between editing and creating. Creative writing and editing do not play well with one another. When I'm writing, I DO NOT EDIT. They're two different mindsets. It takes weeks to completely engross myself in one or the other.

10. Write, edit, read. Do one of these daily.

Q4U: What do you do to overcome writer's block?


Where Did I Put Those Notes!

Saturday, November 14, 2009
I've tried many different methods for taking notes on my MS. A notebook--the kind with sections. In each section, I'd try to keep my notes for a particular MS. Things like maps (I write fantasy), names, locations, descriptions, character sketches, common phrases, etc.

Problem with this method is my kids. More than once, I 'lost' a notebook, only to find it later with colorful sketches all over the pages. (Of course, I never lose a notebook).

I switched to the post it note method. It was a disaster. Not only was my work space cluttered, so where the notes. I'd look through dozens of them trying to find the right one. They ended up disappearing even more frequently than the notebooks.

After years of frustration, I finally figured it out. I now keep my notes in a word document. It's a lot harder for my kids to steal my tower, and I back it up on my thumb drive. I also copy and paste pictures--pictures of locations, people, even random things like tattoos.

Q4U: What methods have you used to keep notes? What's worked best for you?

What I've Learned from my Divorce

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
1. My agent and I have Priestess (my MS) together. That means he has rights to any deal that arises from contact he initiated. IE--he's my agent for this book whether I drop him or not. Which is fine. I'm sure he'll do a good job with it.

2. If I try to get another agent for Priestess, I'll have to pay commission twice, one for my first agent, once for my second. IE--Don't try to find a new agent for Priestess.

3. Mentioning my past agent in a query is both good and bad, and therefore cancels each other out. Rachelle Gardner advised me NOT to mention it until after the agent had expressed serious interest.


So I'm basically starting over. Very frustrating. I feel like I've wasted a year.

On a positive note, my baby is crawling. It's so stinkin' cute. Although, it's hard to baby proof when you have two older kids with small-parts toys.

My Divorce

Friday, November 6, 2009
No, not from my husband. From my agent.

It's been a very difficult decision. One of the hardest I've ever had to make. But I actually feel good about it. I'm hoping that feeling lasts.

Now I'm in new territory. I have a million questions. Do I contact the publishing houses that still have my MS? What do I say?

In my query, do I meantion that I recently parted with my agent? Do I query a new book (as I have two more ready to send out)? Do I try to get someone to take over the old one?

I'm so lost about what I'm supposed to do.

And now I get to go through the fun fun process of finding a new agent. Yippie!

On Synop...si...siss? Summaries

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
First of all, you finished a book! Take a day to celebrate. As an unpublished writer, you're going to have to reward yourself for all your hard work. No one else has recognized your brilliance . . . yet.

Now go back and rewrite/edit/murder your MS. If this is your first book, you're going to be doing this A LOT. Take a hard look at it. Is it worth all those rewrites? If not, start a new story. My first MS, I bet I rewrote/edited 80 times (I'm much better/faster now). At one time, I had the whole first page memorized.

At some point in this process, you need to start thinking about writing a query letter and a synopsis. I suggest that you write your synopsis first, as it's actually a good editing tool, helping you spot plot holes like sagging plot, etc.

"But Amber, how do I write a synopsis?"

Well, let me tell you.

To write a synopsis, Condense your entire novel into two single spaced pages (with a hard return in between paragraphs).

I'll cringe in the corner while you scream in horror.


Alrighty then.

Capitalize the names the first time you use them. DO NOT leave out the ending of the story. This is not a hook. This is a plot summary. That includes the ending.


Synopsis of Daughter of Winter
Fantasy in 75,000 words
By Amber Argyle Smith

Seventeen-year old ILYENNA and her family find a neighboring ARGON near death on their border. They discover that his clan had been attacked. And theirs could be next. After mustering their warriors, the men leave the village. They return days later with what remains of the sacked Argon clan.

Ilyenna goes about caring for sick and injured Argons. While on a trip to gather supplies at a isolated home, she hears a band of Argons coming. She hides, but DARRIEN and his brother find her. While trying to take her captive, Ilyenna kills Darrien’s brother. In retribution, Darrien wounds her and leaves her for dead.

I don't claim to be an expert at writing a synopsis. In fact, I'm probably pretty bad at it, but you can get a general idea from my draft above. Don't be too hard on yourself about this. I've never read a synopsis that didn't make the story sound contrived. It sounds contrived because it is.

If you're really struggling, write a synopsis for each chapter and then weave those together. In order to keep it under two pages (some will want it shorter, some longer, but I've found that 2 pages is the norm), leave out minor characters and all but the most important subplots . In my synopsis, I only named eight characters/clans.

I know this sounds overwhelming. That's because it is. Taking ~80,000 word story and condensing it to 1,000 is HARD. I've been working on it for years, and I still struggle.

Q4U: Does anyone have any other synopsis tips they'd like to share?
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