Avoiding Writer's Block: Flash-Write a Portion of Your Book

Author:
Publish date:

Feeling blocked? Often writer’s block just means you don’t know where to start. Use the procrastination-busting tips in this chapter to create a work environment that helps your creativity flow.

This guest post is by Jody Rein and Michael Larsen.

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Jody Rein, former executive editor with divisions of HarperCollins Publishers and Penguin Random House, is the founder of boutique literary agency Jody Rein Books, Inc., and respected publishing consulting and coaching firm Author Planet Consulting. Jody has represented, published and coached hundreds of authors through successful publication in every form, from e-books to international bestsellers to major motion pictures.

Michael Larsen, co-director of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference, is the author or co-author of eleven books. He is an author coach and a former agent, having co-founded the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency, which sold books to more than 100 publishers and imprints.

Commit Your Calendar

Begin by giving yourself the gift of time. Schedule writing time in your calendar for the next six months: Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., for example, or Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. It doesn’t matter if you can commit to only thirty minutes a week at first; any regular commitment will move your project forward.

Whether you write, research, or just review the chapters in this book, consistently devote the time you’ve set aside to something that relates to your proposal or manuscript. Make the time pleasant, not painful. Brew some tea. Get comfortable.

Forgive yourself when you must make changes to your schedule. Don’t use a missed session as a reason to give up or panic; simply treat it as an objective fact (“whoops, missed a writing session”), and reschedule.

You may wonder if you should also schedule specific writing goals, like “I’ll finish my platform section on July 7.” You can do this, but commit to just one piece at a time. If you try to schedule out the entire proposal—“I’ll finish platform July 7; author August 10; and outline September 3”—one missed deadline can screw up your whole plan. It’s disheartening, not to mention annoying, to change the subsequent completion dates. On the other hand, finishing that one section you’ve penciled into your calendar, and then setting a flexible due date for the next one, will motivate you.

How to Write a Book Proposal, 5th Edition: Order now!

Image placeholder title

Flash-Write a Portion of Your Book

Write with your mind wide open.

You think you want to write a book. How do you know for sure? Before taking any other proposal-planning steps, use your scheduled time to flash-write a portion of the manuscript. Don’t worry about writing beautifully; don’t worry about researching thoroughly. Jot down xxx in the manuscript to mark places where you need to add more information. You’ll be redrafting and reconfiguring this material much later in the proposal-writing process.

Don’t move on to the next step until you’ve written thirty double-spaced pages from anywhere in the book. Be self-aware as you write. Let this flash-writing exercise help you answer the following crucial questions:

  • Do you truly want to write this book? Did it hold your interest for thirty pages?
  • Is there enough material to sustain a book? After thirty pages, you’ll know whether your idea is broad enough for a book or if it’s better suited for a blog or an article.
  • Do you enjoy writing? Books can take years to write. If you hated the process of writing thirty pages, it’s time to find a ghostwriter or invest your energy elsewhere.
  • How do you want to write your book? Until we do, we can’t know. Only writing will answer questions about style, tone, and organization.

As you flash-write, ideas will occur to you. You’ll come up with potential titles, form questions you want to research, and think about structure. Keep a separate idea sheet handy, and jot down thoughts as they pop up. If you don’t, you’ll feel distracted as you write. If you do, you’ll have the ideas ready when you need them for your file buckets, which we describe in the next chapter.

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

In this post, Dinty W. Moore shares what inspired his most recent book To Hell With It, what lesson it taught him, why writers should have fun with their writing, and more!

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

In this post, Arisa White shares how she was able to piece together her past with her present, how some works freed her to write, and more!

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use adapt vs. adept vs. adopt with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.