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Managing Writer’s Block

by Mandy NM

It happened. It happens to all of us who live to write and write to live. It’s still rather dreadful. The feared writer’s block, enemy of progress, killer of page count, destroyer of dreams.

Short Stories and Writer’s Block

Okay, okay, that’s dramatic. As you can see, I am not currently experiencing a lack of words or theatrics. However, this has certainly happened to me and is bound to happen again. This is especially so since lately I’ve been focusing on short stories, either publishing them myself as freebies, giving them away on my blog, or entering them into anthologies. This means every few days I start a story, then am right in the middle of one, or am wrapping one up. They can go pretty quickly.

Eliminating Writer’s Block by Building on Other Stories

I had a story published this year in Circuits and Slippers, a fairytale anthology in which I turned Rapunzel into a dystopian captured soldier. I had another one picked up by The Once and Future King Project, meant to bring Arthurian legend to middle grade readers. That story is about a young girl who suddenly finds herself being raised by the strangest of stepfathers, one who claims to be the King of Camelot and who is horrified at her pants wearing ways. I’ve recently released Dragon’s Daughter, a short story in which an orphan discovers her father is a fire-wielding circus performer.

I love short stories because they are a peek into someone’s, a fictional someone’s, life. They’re not the whole story, just the hook. The hook is the part I love to write. It’s the mystery, the excitement, the glimpse that tells you something is amiss. Short stories are meant to whet a reader’s appetite, to pique interest, and to end in a way that leaves them wanting more but not angrily searching for missing pages. For me they’re fun to write.

However, they are just the spark of an idea. They’re not novels that can consume a writer for years and years. They’re not characters with whom it’s justifiable to have notebooks worth of backstory. They’re ideas meant to be fleshed out quickly. In doing so, it’s easy to suddenly realize that after many short stories, many characters who came and went so rapidly, there doesn’t seem to be anything left to write about.

Strategies for Dealing with Writer’s Block

My strategy for dealing with this is very simple. If I can’t write I read. I immerse myself in a book and then plunge myself into thinking about the book. What did I like about it? What would I have done differently? How would the end have been altered if the writer pulled this or that string? What about the world did I like, didn’t I like, felt unreal? So many times an exercise into how would I change it becomes its own story.

Think of something like this - what if that werewolf story I just read had two moons instead of one? What if the subjects were beholden to not one but two skyward cycles? Could that happen on earth? What event would precipitate it? Could it happen on another planet? Then how did humans get there? Could the second moon have been engineered, a way to better regulate the werewolves’ uncontainable strength? That seems like quite the bad guy thing to do, unless something had happened, something that would make the government want to or need to better control the weres. Sounds like there’s an interesting story there.

Conclusion

My advice to you if you’re out there battling writer’s block or searching the dark corners of the internet for writing prompts (again, there’s my theatrical bent and I’ve very seriously done this before when the block had been near concrete) is to stop searching for material and start reading. It’ll come to you. Curl up with the next thing on your to-read list and let your mind go. You’ll find something worth talking about.

Written by Mandy Nachampassack-Maloney, author of Asha in Time and An Uncertain Proposal. Visit Mandy online at her blog where she details the pitfalls of trying to write while raising a tribe of amazon daughters in a place so cold it hurts your face. Mnmaloney.wordpress.com

Books

Dragon's Daughter

Mandy NM

free

I've only ever wanted one thing. I've always known only the circus would bring that thing to me and, with it, bring the answers that I desperately need.
My mother doesn't understand my yearning, just as she can't really understand the powers that curl like sulfurous smoke within me. I will save her, however. I will save myself.

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Autumnal Dancer

Mandy NM

$0.99

Evenarri has escaped a terrible past and is finally safe at college.
She does not know that a modern day king is looking for her, drawn to the magical abilities she isn't aware she possesses.
Is the love he offers a safe haven or a door into a mystical, dangerous world that could consume her very being?

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An Uncertain Proposal

Mandy NM

$0.99

River feels like he has it all. He has found good work, is leading his people confidently, and has romanced his dream girl. As he goes to put the icing on the cake and propose, he quickly learns everything is not as perfect as it seems. His plans soon become a comedy of errors as the sales lady at the jewelry store snubs him, his first attempt at proposing is shot down, and he loses the ring.

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When We Named You, Baby Girl

Mandy NM

$2.99

It is the joy of every parent, picking out the name of that new baby. But what is she going to be? Maybe she will be an athlete, a politician, or, for at least a few years, a fairy princess.
This book details the road that each parent takes as they consider all the things in the world that go into a name. It is written in fun, rhyming prose meant for little ears.

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