The cure for writer's block: more words

So I mentioned in a recent post how I'm trying out this new thing where I get up early in the morning to write 1,500 words before I go to work. And it had been going great. I was writing pages and pages every morning, the story was flying out of my fingertips at great speed, I was starting to feel good about this. My Mom's a Killer was coming along nicely. I was confident. It was going to be an instant bestseller, I just knew it. How could people not love it? I mean, sarcastic, funny Keira; feisty, sassy Jo; hot hot hot Derek; an attempted murder, a cover-up and an early release from prison. It was great.

Until it wasn't.

This week has been a little rough. It's been hard to wake up, hard to consume my daily dose of the front page of The New York Times and most importantly, hard to write. And the longer I spent away from my precious novel, the harder it got.

Last night I finally forced myself to sit down and start writing again. It was like dream-running: impossible. (Side note: does anyone else have that problem? I cannot get my legs to move quick in a dream. It makes running from the bad guys a real issue). Anyway. To use a cadre of cliches, it was like pulling teeth, like slogging through mud, like running uphill. I couldn't do it.

I mean, I did. I forced out 1,800 words, but the whole time I was telling myself, This sucks, this sucks, this whole book sucks. This is not a good book. 180 pages, 52,000 words, and you've got nothing. A waste of time. They say we're our own worst critics, and it's so true. I can tear myself down in one second when it took 100 compliments to get me moderately pleased with my work.

But I pushed through. I kept writing. I forced the words out, because I've learned at least one thing after more than 15 years of being a writer (yes, I started around the time I was seven. I might have been terrible, but I was still a writer. I'll claim that): I've learned that writer's block is just that — a block.

It's a temporary obstacle on the path to literary greatness. It's a large boulder, a towering gate, a fallen tree. It is possible to get through it. Sometimes, the only way to do that is to just — keep — hitting — it.

You've gotta bust that obstacle down. You have to write your way through that. The beauty of writing can be contained in one word: drafts. Heck yeah, revisions and multiple drafts are the only thing that keeps me going sometime.

When I'm struggling through a tough scene or wondering how on earth I'm going to save my book, I tell myself one thing: push through it. Write through it. Get to the other end of the scene, where the road is clear, and forge ahead. When it comes time to review, to reevaluate your work, you can decide whether or not to keep the troublesome scene.

Perhaps you'll end up scrapping it. Some scenes exist for the sole purpose of helping us get from one point to another. That's totally okay. Everybody, literally everybody has some of those scenes.

Perhaps you'll majorly revise it and keep it. That's great! In your darkest, weakest moment of writing, you still created something salvageable. You rock, dude.

Perhaps you'll keep it was is. That's even better than the above! It means you're a freaking superstar of the writing world. If this is what you create in the darkest moments, what must you have done when you were feeling good? You can do anything.

And there is is, in 700 words or less: the cure for writer's block is to write more. I mean, think about it. It's the best revenge! Here's this monster trying to keep you from writing, and you defeat it by doing just that. Writer's block ain't got nothing on you. You, my friend, are a writing superhero. All hail the next bestselling author, [insert your name here]!

"My Mom's a Killer," a.k.a the title of my new book

My actual mother is not a killer. She has never killed anyone, and in fact, I'm certain even if she ever tried it wouldn't work: she has back problems, you see. Keira Mendez's mom, on the other hand, is a totally different story. And what happens when she gets let out of jail and moves back home with her daughter, well...that's a whole book. And you'll have to read it if you want to know what happens ;)

The inspiration came from this article that I read, compounded with the fact I took a Creative Writing for Young Readers class this semester and needed material for a workshop. It begins,

"My mom tried to kill me when I was a baby."

We talked about great openings, and while you'll never catch me saying that something I've done is "great," at the very least it's arresting and will, hopefully, get people to read even further to see where the story is going to go.

Frankly, I'm excited to see how the story ends. I've worked on several different outcomes, and as much as I've plotted, I've reached the conclusion that I'm just going to have to write until the story unfolds itself. There are two potential endings and one of them is very me and the other is very...Carrie...

Creepy, I know.

So I'm still trying to decide whether I'm going to dip my toes into the lake of crazy or stay in my own, safe, happy little world :P (If you've never read a book I've written, which of course all except for like three of you haven't, that's a joke. For...reasons).

Whichever way it goes, though, I'm sure the writing will be a blast and I can't wait to keep going on it. The plan is to finish writing it over the summer (when I'm not writing articles and doing other things for the paper) and then for the fun part: revise!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get an agent for "Red Rain Boots," the first novel I completed. It hasn't been going too successfully, but you know what? I'm just gonna keep trying. Because someday I want you to read my books. It'll be fun, you know? Like seeing a glimpse into my soul. So exciting ;)

In other random news, I graduate one week from today. It's time to put the books and the blog aside and buckle down for three days of finals. Hurrah!

'Tis the season for giving...away your heart and soul

If your heart and soul is a book. Which, let's be honest, mine totally is. Over the past year, I've been laboring over my first novel, "Red Rain Boots," (for now) and I finally put the--for now--finishing touches on it this past Monday. I made my final revisions, closed the document, and immediately began sending query letters to agents. But that's not what this post is about.

About a month and a half ago, I had the brilliant idea of giving my book to my mom as a Christmas present. This might not seem like a big move, but for the past, oh, my entire life, I've been telling her she's not allowed to read my work until it's published. Occasionally I'll send her a short story or a handful of poems (in fact, one Christmas a few years ago I gave her a stack of poems), but for the most part I've stuck to my promise: she can't read it until it's published.

I'm still not 100 percent sure why I do this; it's a combination of privateness, insecurity and the fear of becoming one of those people who writes novels that only their mother reads. That's not the plan. Not at all.

Nonetheless, I made up my mind and set about on my brilliant plan to completely surprise and overwhelm her on Christmas day. I'd like to think I succeeded.

Post by Karis Rogerson. (Click to see a video of her reaction).

The copy of my manuscript I gave my mom for Christmas.  Photo by Becky Rogerson

I spent a lot of time scheming. My father and I locked ourselves in his office and printed off all 142 1.15-spaced pages onto parchment paper, hole-punched them, tied it up with ribbon, curled the ends of the ribbon, wrapped it up. Then my father wrote: "To: Becky, Love: Santa Clause," so my unsuspecting mother would assume it was a gift from my father. The surprise was assured. Now to make sure she was completely convinced she wouldn't get my book as a present, I had several conversations with her in which I promised, time and time again, that it wasn't going to happen. And after opening a pair of sweaters from me, she was sure: her Christmas wish of getting my book wasn't going to happen.

If you've ever written a book (or a short story, or a poem, or a nonfiction essay...) you know how much you get attached to it. The characters, products of your brain, seem to jump onto the page and assume a life of their own, living, breathing and wreaking havoc with your carefully plotted out story. The whole thing becomes a part of you. It's an outpouring of your soul, and when you're done you see it there, translated into dashes and curves on a white page, and wow...it's kind of breathtaking.
It's hard to give that away. It's hard to send it to publishers and agents, and somehow even harder to give to family. Because if your own family doesn't fall in love with what you've written, well...that's a problem.
But I did it. And boy, was it worth it.