Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When the well runs dry...

A dear reader approached me Sunday with the following question: I really want to write fiction, but don't have any ideas. What can I do? I'm frozen & it bums me out, when I have an idea to pursue I LOVE writing. But when my well dries up I get frustrated!

I emailed her back personally but wanted to share my response with the rest of you and add a little to it.

Here's the thing, that I've said often in some form or another here at Scribble Chicks - Writing is easiest when its about something you really care about or are into.

It doesn't even have to be a "cause", it can just be something you personally really enjoy or know about.

For example, if you're into scrapbooking, you could write a novel about a scrapbooking club of girls. Or if you enjoy cooking, spin something off of a female or male chef. Maybe one of them falls for someone on his staff. Or mix it up and add conflict, and pair two completely opposite people. One who loves cooking, the other who is fighting a food disorder and can't stand to eat. (Anyone read Rachel Hauck's story "Dining with Joy?" It was abou a TV show chef who couldn't cook! Fantastic!)

Think about hobbies and pick something that stands out to you. Scrapbooking, cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, crafts, music, reading. You could even write a book about a book club :) Or horse back riding, or animals, or government. etc. etc. etc. The options are limitless.

If hobbies doesn't flip a switch for you, what about causes? Children? Poverty? The hungry? You could create a story that centered around a good cause or charity. Pregnant teens? The homeless? What stirs your heart? What articles on CNN or MSN or the local news pulls your heartstrings and makes you think "MAN that is so unfair" or riles your interest/drive?

Think about what you care about, pick something that really interests you, and then dive in! We all experience that writers block time and again, but the best way to get past it is just to keep writing writing writing regardless...even if its awful and you end up deleting it later. ;)

I attended and taught at a writer's conference this past weekend and something one sweet lady said just cracked me up. She was telling me about when she got stuck writing, and she called it "constipated". Then she switched some things around, changed up the voice and the point of the view, and voila - steady flow! (a semi-gross analogy but hey it definitely is true! lol) Sometimes you just need to get unstopped!

There are truly ideas all around you. I'm a big fan of people watching/eavesdropping. (ssssh). Go sit at the mall or at a Barnes & Noble or at a Starbucks and just watch and listen. Make up a story in your head about the people you see and keep asking "what if" and "why" until it gets interesting.

For example: Say a woman walks in wearing a business suit, juggling her briefcase, her purse, her keys, a laptop bag, etc. Maybe she's flustered. Why is she so off kilter? Is she running late for a meeting? Who is she meeting? What kind of coffee is she ordering? What if she's meeting the guy in the corner table that's wearing saggy jeans and a sideways cap and is her complete opposite? What if they're working together? What if he's into her but know he never has a chance at someone so classy when he's so plain? What if SHE's into HIM instead? Or what if he's actually the rich guy and she's a lower class citizen trying to up her status for him by dressing fancy with that suit she waited 6 months to save for off the Macy's super-clearance rack...

You see how fun this can be!! :)

There are ideas everywhere if we stop to look. I think sometimes as writers we pressure ourselves into thinking "my next idea has to be the next Great American novel" and that pressure dries up our creativity. Don't think your plot has to be amazing. Pick something that works for you and interests you and holds YOUR attention and chances are, the passion you then put into the story will be contagious to editors/agents and readers. (unless you have some strong obsession with, say navel lint. That's probably not going to be a winner...) =P

The other side of this I'd like to comment on is the ultimate Well in our lives. As Christian writers, sometimes what we need in order to refill is to go back to the Living Water Himself and dive in. When you get stuck writing, analyze your spiritual life - maybe you've subconsciously drifted a little from Jesus in the hustle and bustle of the everyday. Maybe you stopped praying before you sat down at your laptop. Maybe you need to let HIM tell you what to write. If your heart truly desires to write for the Lord, He will help you. Read His Word, the Bible. Let Him speak. (And for writers, that's hard because that means we have to hush and listen) =)

Dip into the Living Water today and see if maybe that's what you need to get the well of creativity back up and running!


  1. Wow, this is perfect timing. I needed some motivation/advice!

  2. Hey, Scribble Chicks! I'm thirteen and I've been writing since forever, but lately it seems like nothing I write is good enough. At what age did you guys start writing decent stuff?
    Thanks so much!

  3. Aww, Ciera, I'm sure you're not as bad as you think. In my opinion, the fact that you're 13 and realizing you want to write better is a HUGE step. That's amazing, girl!

    I wanted to be a published author since I was about 7, but it always seemed like this out there dream. When I turned 18 I became serious and started attending conferences and joining writing groups like the ACFW and really trying to improve myself and learn. Made a huge difference! And here I am now, 6 published novels under my belt and a contract for one next year.

    The best way to learn and grow in your writing craft is to read what you want to write (historical fiction, romances, young adult novels, whatever) and try to figure out why you think that writing is good. Evaluate the style. Use highlighters and mark sentences you love (if you have an extra copy of the book) Pay attention to the grammar and sentence structures. Then try to write your own story with what you learned! Don't be afraid to experiment! And read outloud to yourself what you wrote to see how the flow sounds :)

    There are a lot of books on how to write out there as well. Reading those will help! Also letting adults read your writing and help show you what's not working.

    You're on the right path, girl. Keep at it!

    Thanks for stopping by our site, ask us questions anytime :) We're here to help!!

  4. Did you feel self concious telling others you were going to conferences and stuff not being publshed?

  5. Thanks for this post! My well has been running dry lately. I've decided to take time off in prayer with lots of reading & gather every thread of an idea that pops into my head. When I feel ready I'll probably go through them & see if I can put any of the pieces together for a story. Does that sound like a good strategy? I like to have plans for everything so something as ambiguous as coming up with ideas can be frustrating for me when it isn't flowing

  6. Tonya, that sounds smart :) And Savannah, yes, it can be intimidating, even AT the conferences where so many are published. Sometimes you feel like you have to prove yourself, etc. But that's all in your head. :) Especially at Christian conferences, everyone tends to root for each other.

    But you know what? It's all part of the stepping stone progress. :) At my first conference, I knew JACK SQUAT. lol I was SUCH a newbie. And now, several years later, I'm teaching at the same conferences. Stepping stones.

  7. Hey Scribble Chicks!
    First of all, just wanted to say that your site has inspired me a lot, keep up the good work!
    Anywho, I started on a fiction story a year ago, and although I have about twenty-so scenes, I don't have any connection points where the story keeps going. A lot of my friends are already hooked on it and are begging for more of the story, but I don't know where to go with it. Basically, I've hit a dead end. Any ideas on how I can get over this and keep my story going?