Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Challenge Yourself (A Guest Post by DES Richard)

While I'm out of town, toiling away at Odyssey Writing Workshop, I've decided to open up the blog to guest posts. Today's entry comes from author DES Richard. I'd like to send a big thanks his way for stopping by and sharing some wisdom. If you like what you read, be sure to stop by his neck of the web and say hello. Better yet, buy his book!

~  J.W.

Challenge Yourself

by DES Richard

One of the best writer-ly quotes out there is from William Faulkner, when he said "I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning". It’s a great piece of advice, highlighting the need for routine in writing effectively. The downside is that the writing itself can fall into a routine - and no one likes a formulaic story. If you find yourself falling into that trap and thinking haven’t I written this story before, how can you shake yourself out of it?

Try Something New

Try another genre, another character, something. Given that you’re reading this blog, you probably write mostly spec fiction, but stretching your legs in another field (even if it never sees the light of day) can help you to break out of a rut and look at your main works in a new light.

My personal goal along these lines is to write one thing per month that makes me uncomfortable. Most of what I come up with is probably terrible, but like ‘being inspired at nine o’ clock’, forcing myself down that road helps me stay fresh and nimble. Chuck Wendig has some excellent generators on his blog, and I find playing with those are tons of fun when I get locked into spec-fic cliché.

Make Your Characters Hurt

It’s been said by the guy who usually writes this blog, but sometimes your characters need to be hurt, and they need to be hurt badly. Why should you suffer because your writing is in a rut? Make them pay for it. Take your outline and pick the moment where it all comes together, where he gets the girl, saves the world, whatever and cross it out and write everything goes to hell. The girl dies, the world burns and it all falls apart.

Then fix it.

My story already has that, you say. That conflict is central to the whole thing, you dork. Great! Now it has two! Write a sequelinstant cliffhanger! You’re welcome.

Or maybe it’s not that extreme. But do something unexpected. Not what your audience doesn’t expect, but what you don’t expect. What your character doesn’t expect. Make them cry in the shower and eat cookies.

Clear Your Head

On the list of phrases I use to often “get out of my own head” is No. 4 (note: not a real list). This ties back to the first part a little bit, but sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Don’t wreck your actual routine, but set a timer and go play a video game, build something out of Legos (yes, I know, but no one says LEGO, ok?), go for a walk, whatever your relaxing activity is. Just don’t think about writing for a while, even just 15 minutes.

This is probably news to no one, that getting out of your own head (see?) for a bit is something you should do, but we so often forget to do it. We sit there (or, I do, anyway), staring at our outline or the flashing cursor thinking I have to write when a walk around the block will rejuvenate us and give us all the inspiration we need to be productive.

Write it Anyway

So maybe it’s a little cliché, or it’s been done before. Write it anyway, and write it better than anyone else. Sometimes it’s better to just press on and have faith in yourself than change it because it’s been done before.

DES Richard is the author of 3024AD: Short Series One among other mostly-sci-fi works. He blogs on writing, bookselling & publishing on his blog and tweets a lot


  1. I'm definitely a big fan of these points. Especially the last two!

  2. Everything goes to hell twice! Funny.
    Even if it has been written before, it wasn't by us, therefore we'll put our own spin on it.

  3. Make your characters hurt......absolutely!!!!!

  4. A routine is the best way to get the juices going.


Thanks for reading!