As the infamous second week slump for NaNoWriMo comes to an end, I figure there’s no better time to introduce a post that will hopefully inspire me–um, writers everywhere–to head back to their keyboards, type like the wind, and refuse to let Writer’s Block get the better of them. To help with that goal, Feliza Casano has graciously agreed to guest post, sharing valuable tips she’s learned as a writer that when put together become:
The Ultimate Writer’s Block Slayer
Throughout the time I’ve been writing – which has been since age 11, so a good nine years – I’ve experienced writer’s block more than a few times.
That’s kind of an understatement. I have had many an encounter with the bane of all writers’ existence over these past nine years.
But since I started college in 2009, I’ve discovered something I’ve found to be the ultimate slayer of writer’s block. It’s helped me through countless forms of writer’s block, from this year’s NaNoWriMo project to the Honors Thesis I did last year.
The name of this magical sword? Journalism.
Now, that may seem counterintuitive. I can just hear the upset readers now: “But wait! Journalism is so boring! How can something like journalism help writer’s block?”
Accusations of boringness aside – journalism is actually pretty exciting – what I say is that journalism is one of the most demanding types of writing. When working at a journalism job, writers must complete stories by deadlines. I’ve written five to six stories in a week based on deadlines, and managing all of those are quite a chore.
Deadlines aren’t the only things I’ve learned from journalism. Since many of you will not be pursuing journalism degrees, though, I’ll be perfectly happy to share my knowledge with you.
- Active verbs and sentences. News style requires snappy copy – no extra words if they’re not necessary. This means eliminating phrases like “She was sitting in the way of the storm” and replacing them with phrases like “She sat in the storm’s path.” Much shorter – but much simpler to read and understand.
- Accessible language. A news story should be written so someone with the reading level of a sixth grader could understand it – and believe it or not, most of the people who need newspapers are only reading at a sixth grade level or a bit higher. Use simple language that allows your readers to understand what you want.
- Sticking to deadlines. If you don’t meet deadline, your editor will kill you. Plus, you’ll eventually get fired, and your reputation really takes a hit. In the competitive world of journalism – even during college – missing a deadline can be a disaster. Now apply this line of thought to your writer’s block, and BAM! Instant kill.
- Piecing things together. When you work in journalism, you can’t just sit and write the story from start to finish: you gather notes, conduct interviews, and end up with a ton of pieces you put together like a puzzle. Think of your novel this way. You don’t have to write that book from start to finish. Feel like writing that epic battle scene at the end? Go ahead – you can do that. Just make sure you tie things together when you’re done.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from journalism. I’m betting a lot of you can apply these things when you’re stuck – or maybe you already do.
Are any of these lessons helpful? What writer’s block slayers do you use when the bane strikes?
Feliza Casano majors in communication with a concentration in journalism at the University of Toledo. She has worked as a beat writer, copy editor and public relations writer in the news industry, published a novel through her publishing company Glass Tower Press, and blogs about writing and regional news. She plans to pursue a job in the publishing industry as an editor or copywriter.