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Old January 15th, 2014 (07:16 PM). Edited January 27th, 2014 by Crux.
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Authors, script writers, mangaka and cartoonists, story tellers, lyricists, journalists, no matter what type of writing you do, we all have something in common.
As writers, it's not just our job to put pen to paper, or finger to key, and write something. We strive to not only express ourselves, and be heard, but to also write something that people would enjoy. Something that would serve as that trusty warm bit of home that people would read, over and over. A joke to lighten the mood, a tragedy to soften the soul, a romance to bring fire and adventure to the heart.
And still, the timeless question that has badgered our minds since perhaps the beginning of existence lasts on. How do we become better? How can we describe the picture in our mind with the finesse of an artist? How can we convey the feeling we know as a piece of our being with the elegance of a poet? How can we sway the most sturdy of convictions with the adroit writing of a masterful journalist?

How do we get better?

I like to think that we temper it, like one would do with a blade.
That we must heat it, and shape it, in fires and scrutiny that we and our fellow writers light. That we must polish, and sharpen it, by giving it care and attention. Thus, I have created this thread! Where every week a new topic on writing will be started, and advice can be shared. And questions asked! Hopefully everyone could get something out of it to help temper their skills.

Hey guys, we're back! We were AWOL, but not dead, so don't forget about us yet! That's right, The Writer's Advice and FAQs Thread is live again, so come in, bring a notepad, a tell us your two cents!

This week's topic:

Writer's Block

We've all had it. Chances are, we'll all have it again at some, probably close, point in the future. That's right, the dreaded, the hated, writer's block.
How do you cure writer's block? Is there a way? Is there a way to avoid getting it? Have anything else to say about it?

Want to give advice? Any other questions? Want to pick next week's topic? Post away!


Archives:
Spoiler:


Character Creation
Spoiler:


Slayr231:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Slayr231:
Hmm... What do I know about creating characters?

I guess I just tend to base them off of people in real life. Just like changing my friends' (or enemies') names and guessing how they would react in the story.

It's really weird, but I hardly even think about what my characters are going to say or do. I decide on their personality and the story almost writes itself. I can easily switch between different personalities in my head and I don't let my emotions get in the way. I guess my tip on writing out your characters is that you have to keep an open mind. You have to let yourself see the world from other people's perspective and see their morals and values without seeing them as wrong. Even if they conflict with your values in real life, you can't let that prejudice slide in the story.

The obvious types of characters to avoid are the Gary/Mary Sues where everything goes impossibly right almost all the time. the most common type of Sue that I see is the beginning trainer that happens to encounter a hurt legendary, has the medical skills of a doctor, and then they become best friends and defeat all other foes without breaking a sweat.

However, defining a Sue can be very challenging and if it's one thing somebody will mess up on while reviewing, it's calling a character out. I've called a character a Gary Sue when it wasn't appropriate (sorry Ray) and it's something you better be dang sure about if you're going to call one out.

As far as backgrounds go, I really don't have much to say about them. It really depends on the story. The one thing I will say, however, is that the back-story has to make sense. I've seen it so many times where a writer wants to make one of their character edgy and cool, so they give them an impossibly rough background. One that has absolutely no happy moments whatsoever and it's nothing but pain and misery. There has to be a balance. I don't really know how to boil my thoughts down on this subject into a couple statements, but hopefully an idea or two emerged somewhere in there.

I'll probably post more complete thoughts later on when I read some other responses and can bounce my ideas off of them, since that's just how my brain works.



Astinus:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Astinus:
Found an essay called "Moments When the Protagonist Awes Other Characters, Curing the Addiction To, which is about how to write characters that are impressive, but how to make them more believable. There's a whole list of essays by the same person about how to characterize your protagonist. They might prove useful to someone.

It's different for every writer on how to get into the character's mindset. Some swear up and down by those character questionnaires, the ones that ask "What's your full name? How many parents do you have? What are your dreams and ambitions?" and all sorts of things. Other writers prefer taking the bare minimum of a character and throwing them into the story, learning more about the character as the plot moves along. I'm one that falls into the latter. When I need a character, I get the very basic amount of information about them (age, name, sex, gender identity) and send them out into the world. Any more information about them like their personality or back story I learn when it comes up in the story or what comes to mind while thinking them over in my head. Then I rewrite the story with that information a little clearer or a little more defined.

I'm going to have to pull out my trusted character/viewpoint guide book, aren't I?



Yours Truly:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Ardent:
Thanks, guys, for the participation!
Sorry I couldn't get to this thread sooner, I've had a lot on my plate!

Okay, as for my advice!
In the field of acting, there is a certain group of people who could be known as 'becomers'. Such a motley of people, these in particular do share the common trait of being able to squeeze out their own personality, and absorb the role of the character as themself. Whilst as I know that writers are most certainly not actors, I do indeed encourage the acquisition of this method. Being of the mindset to be capable of asking "What would I do in this situation?" for each of your characters, I find to be much more effective than asking "What would they do?"
If however, you find difficulties in the pursuit of emulation of character, then merely thinking rather pertinently on their course of action would be optimal. For, as we all know, different people tend to have varying perspectives. You may well enjoy eating yogurt, but would ×character? That's perhaps an overly simplistic analogy, but it conveys my point effectively, I believe.

In the case of character types, I wouldn't necessarily say that there are any clichés to avoid. However, if you truly, and unavoidably needto have a "brooder", for example, in your story, then at least make the best attempts to breathe some new originality into them. Unless a concept that's been portrayed several dozens of times has been masterfully executed, then readers will very quickly tire of it without anything new to snag their interest.

Now, to bring up a topic that was featured especially in the article that Astinus linked, and that Slayr mentioned. . .
Please, please, please, do not create a Gary/Mary Sue character; or try to express overawe in the other characters in your story because of something the hero/ine did. Too much enthusiasm in featuring how great your main protagonist is, or too little failure on their part, can honestly wreck your story. All of us, or most all, are human. And humans are failible creatures. We make mistakes, we lose sometimes, and perhaps worst of all, some of us accept defeat. But, that's what makes us human. A lacking of flaws in anyone in any sort of writing can effortlessly cause a disconnet between the readers, and what they're reading. This means bad news for the writer.
Of course, that's not entirerly a given, since I have on occasion read very well thought-out and gripping tales where the main character was meant to be perfect. Though, I'll assume you understand what I mean.

And lastly, to address character backgrounds. . . think them through!
Even if your character/s and their background/s are cool as ****, you will do a substantial amount of damage to your writing if background conflicts with character type, or background conflicts with the story itself. This should be one of the most elegantly, and cautiously considered aspects you include!

Okay, sorry this post was so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter.



Somniac:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Somniac:
I intended to participate in this thread before now and sadly got distracted. [Sorry Rococo, and thanks for the invitation.]
Hopefully, I'll remember to swing by more often.

My advice for character creation, and indeed any aspect of writing would be the same piece of advice that was given to me by my English-Lit' teacher.

If you find yourself stuck or struggling in any way to advance, then you must take the part [of your story, your character, etc] which you most value, the piece of writing which you are most proud of and throw it away.

It is brutal and it hurts, but it will entirely change the direction of your writing and afterwards you will look back and wonder why you were stuck in the first place.


It works for me.



PhantomX0990:
Spoiler:
Quote originally posted by PhantomX0990:

How to make a good and dynamic character?

Just remember:

NO ONE IS PERFECT

Reviewers and writers throw around the titles 'Mary Sue/Gary Stu', for a reason. These are characters that are so perfect and wishy-washy that they literally cannot do anything wrong.

A real character has both flaws and weakness'.

What's the difference between a flaw and a weakness?

A flaw is something that makes a character less perfect. It can be anything from personality issue, appearance, lack of cleverness, anything.

A weakness is something that makes a character less powerful. Maybe they have a bad leg, or are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree; a sort of kryptonite if you will. In fact, that's the where Superman vs kryptonite thing came from. Superman was too perfect, so they made him have an extreme weakness to that element, which effectively removes his perfection.

See where it's going? A weakness is something that be used against you, a flaw is something that someone can judge you on.

To put in perspective, a flaw can be a weakness in some cases.

Take an example from a classic character from history, Achilles. Ever heard of an Achilles' heel? Achilles was the perfect warrior. Tale simply goes that Achilles was submerged in the River Styx as a child by his mother, however, she did not entirely submerge him, instead she held onto him by his heel. The water made him invincible, but only where it touched him, meaning his heel was his only weak spot. One shot to the heel and he's down and out for the count. But that's not what ended him. Instead it was his own hubris (pride) that got the better of him. His heel was a weakness, his pride was his flaw. See how that works? This is also a case where a flaw is a weakness.





Settings
Spoiler:


Slayr231:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Slayr231:
This topic will be good for me, since settings and actually describing what the world looks like is my biggest weakness right now. Even though I'm still learning, I think I can provide some information.

I know it's a good idea to draw out your main map. The city where the setting takes place, or something. It' helps you flesh out your idea of where the story is and helps keeps things consistent. It also helps with keeping track of how long a trip might take from point A to point B. All in all, I think drawing a map is pretty beneficial and while drawing it out, you might get an idea for a location and come up with something else for your story.

Answering the question on describing the scene, it's best to describe the general stuff such as objects within a room, or the people within it. For the smaller detail, such as the mouse hole in the corner, I think it's better to introduce those things once they become relevant, such as our hero being shrunk down by Dr. Shrinkray and using the mouse hole to get away. To sum up my thoughts in a couple sentences, describe enough for the reader to get a general picture of where the characters are at, but leave the finer details for when they become relevant.

Since this is my weakest point, I do have a question. What is the best way to describe a scene? Obviously you can't just list through what the room looks like, but you can't describe nothing. Where would you put the balance between the two?



Fernbutter:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Fernbutter:
This should be good. I do great with surroundings if I really need to be descriptive about it in my story, but most of the time even good writers completely forget about the extra details in settings, I mean I know reading needs imagination to make it more interesting, but even small inputs can make reading very cool.

Hmm, setting for me is kind of important, but for you to be able to make it more realistic you need to imagine it for yourself, and include everything, the sound, the smell?, how it looks, feels.



solovino:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by solovino:
Settings... there's a lot to say about them.

Talking on a microscale, about local settings and particular scenes, and here pointing to Slayr's question, I think to make a good description of a scene one needs to describe in general three things:

1.- describe those minimal elements which define the setting: if you're in an alameda, point out that the trees are all planted orderly, and that there's an ample space between them.
2.- describe that which your characters will interact with: if you intend for your character to secure a room by handling a trapdoor or a hatch, you'll probably at least want to point out if it is open or closed.
3.- describe that which helps moving to the next scene: if the villain will exit through a door to the airfield's hangar, the door has to "be there" in the first place.

Not all of those are needed every time (after all the villain's exit is probably hidden, as a matter of plot and custom) and you don't need to follow that specific order, but I find those three categories of elements are those that define the mental image a reader has of a small-scale location. Of course, implementing active description (describe things as they happen or as your characters interact with them) means you don't need to infodump the whole description of the room to the reader, as well.

Talking on a macroscale, about cities, regions, small planets where the action takes place, etc..., and on a more general perspective, the culture your story takes place in, the two biggest helps I've found out are drawing some sort of map, as has been pointed above, and taking a real life macroscale as a model and start building up differences from the literal bottom up - if the soil is different or if there is a higher ratio of water to landmass, then edifications and transportation models will also be (fundamentally?) different, perhaps that changes the city skyline enough that other things such as the location of touristic hotspots are altered, etc. From there work laterally - subjects like economy, religion or national defense, depending on what is relevant to your story.

"Hmm, setting for me is kind of important, but for you to be able to make it more realistic you need to imagine it for yourself, and include everything, the sound, the smell?, how it looks, feels." - Fernbutter

Probably not - it'd be a very hard thing to do unless you're working with a setting that is very close to real life elements you know. But always have more than one (ideally more than two) senses at hand to describe the setting. In a city, sounds are an important concept and they provide some useful insight; smell is usually a device to deliver information about specific details or events to come that function only locally (such as being reminded that there was a bakery across the street of the crime scene, remember scent is a powerful memory and info(dump) motivator). In a jungle, on the other hand, smell becomes a primary element - it tells you what food can be eaten or if there is even food nearby, etc.



Yours Truly:
Spoiler:

Quote originally posted by Ardent:
Settings, to me, seem to be of more relative importance.
For example, if you're writing an action or thriller story, then you want bare minimum details. Going on a two paragraph spew about the room that your protagonist is about to be attacked in can, and generally will, dispel any suspense that you might have built up. Leaving few details also forces the reader to visualize it themselves, main point here? Immersion.

However, on the flip side if you're story is a mystery then you need a mass amount of clearly descriptive writing. A mystery should always be able to be solved from the details you give, and those details should always be cleverly hidden amongst countless others.

In other words, a story should tell you how much you should describe the settings, by what type of story it is. The plot denotes the settings, your writing style denotes the mood, and the mood denotes the descriptions.

Think of it like this:
Mystery: Missing Person >> Scene of Crime: Locked Room>> Natural Inclination: No Foul Play, 'Curious' Mood >> Excerpt: "It was a small room, barely any larger then a broom closet. It's only furniture was a single bed, tucked into the corner. The walls, plain spackle, gave way only to a rectangular window, eight feet up the wall. Walking inside, the detective began to look around. Banging on the cracked concrete floor, scratching at the white walls, tapping the solid mahogany door, he flitted around almost comically in the little room. He examined every detail, the inside lock on the door, the mattress and even the wooden bars on it's frame. Finally, plunging onto the ground, he laid flat, his head turned to stare under the bed.
After five minutes of still silence, the inspector began to protest."

As you can see, the plot will give you all that you need. Here's an example of the same story with foul play, which gives it a darker atmosphere:
"With a sharp kick, and a crack, the mahogany door flew open, wood from where the deadbolt was latched flying across the tiny room. Stepping inside, the detective inhaled deeply through his nose, a dank smell pervading the air. After a moments pause he began to examine the room. Nothing escaped his grasp of sight, the wooden bed frame, the broken concrete floor, the chips on the wall. Looking between the ceiling and wall, he stared at a single rectangular window. Locked from the outside, it was covered in a thick layer of grime. And, turning on his heel, he spoke to the inspector. "I've seen all I need to" "

With any writing there's a mood. Whether you're looking at the conceded rhymes of a rapper, or the obscurity of an episode of The Twilight Zone.
The mood gives you all you need. Writing a romance? Be poetic! Instead of saying "the setting sun" say "the ill-fated bleeding sun hung low in the sky, dutifully accepting it's fate of a thousand deaths."
Readers will notice when a story's writing works well with it's theme!




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Old January 16th, 2014 (12:57 AM).
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This topic will be good for me, since settings and actually describing what the world looks like is my biggest weakness right now. Even though I'm still learning, I think I can provide some information.

I know it's a good idea to draw out your main map. The city where the setting takes place, or something. It' helps you flesh out your idea of where the story is and helps keeps things consistent. It also helps with keeping track of how long a trip might take from point A to point B. All in all, I think drawing a map is pretty beneficial and while drawing it out, you might get an idea for a location and come up with something else for your story.

Answering the question on describing the scene, it's best to describe the general stuff such as objects within a room, or the people within it. For the smaller detail, such as the mouse hole in the corner, I think it's better to introduce those things once they become relevant, such as our hero being shrunk down by Dr. Shrinkray and using the mouse hole to get away. To sum up my thoughts in a couple sentences, describe enough for the reader to get a general picture of where the characters are at, but leave the finer details for when they become relevant.

Since this is my weakest point, I do have a question. What is the best way to describe a scene? Obviously you can't just list through what the room looks like, but you can't describe nothing. Where would you put the balance between the two?
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Old January 16th, 2014 (01:27 AM).
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This should be good. I do great with surroundings if I really need to be descriptive about it in my story, but most of the time even good writers completely forget about the extra details in settings, I mean I know reading needs imagination to make it more interesting, but even small inputs can make reading very cool.

Hmm, setting for me is kind of important, but for you to be able to make it more realistic you need to imagine it for yourself, and include everything, the sound, the smell?, how it looks, feels.
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Old January 16th, 2014 (05:15 AM).
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Settings... there's a lot to say about them.

Talking on a microscale, about local settings and particular scenes, and here pointing to Slayr's question, I think to make a good description of a scene one needs to describe in general three things:

1.- describe those minimal elements which define the setting: if you're in an alameda, point out that the trees are all planted orderly, and that there's an ample space between them.
2.- describe that which your characters will interact with: if you intend for your character to secure a room by handling a trapdoor or a hatch, you'll probably at least want to point out if it is open or closed.
3.- describe that which helps moving to the next scene: if the villain will exit through a door to the airfield's hangar, the door has to "be there" in the first place.

Not all of those are needed every time (after all the villain's exit is probably hidden, as a matter of plot and custom) and you don't need to follow that specific order, but I find those three categories of elements are those that define the mental image a reader has of a small-scale location. Of course, implementing active description (describe things as they happen or as your characters interact with them) means you don't need to infodump the whole description of the room to the reader, as well.

Talking on a macroscale, about cities, regions, small planets where the action takes place, etc..., and on a more general perspective, the culture your story takes place in, the two biggest helps I've found out are drawing some sort of map, as has been pointed above, and taking a real life macroscale as a model and start building up differences from the literal bottom up - if the soil is different or if there is a higher ratio of water to landmass, then edifications and transportation models will also be (fundamentally?) different, perhaps that changes the city skyline enough that other things such as the location of touristic hotspots are altered, etc. From there work laterally - subjects like economy, religion or national defense, depending on what is relevant to your story.

Quote:
Hmm, setting for me is kind of important, but for you to be able to make it more realistic you need to imagine it for yourself, and include everything, the sound, the smell?, how it looks, feels.
Probably not - it'd be a very hard thing to do unless you're working with a setting that is very close to real life elements you know. But always have more than one (ideally more than two) senses at hand to describe the setting. In a city, sounds are an important concept and they provide some useful insight; smell is usually a device to deliver information about specific details or events to come that function only locally (such as being reminded that there was a bakery across the street of the crime scene, remember scent is a powerful memory and info(dump) motivator). In a jungle, on the other hand, smell becomes a primary element - it tells you what food can be eaten or if there is even food nearby, etc.
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Old January 18th, 2014 (09:30 AM).
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Settings, to me, seem to be of more relative importance.
For example, if you're writing an action or thriller story, then you want bare minimum details. Going on a two paragraph spew about the room that your protagonist is about to be attacked in can, and generally will, dispel any suspense that you might have built up. Leaving few details also forces the reader to visualize it themselves, main point here? Immersion.

However, on the flip side if you're story is a mystery then you need a mass amount of clearly descriptive writing. A mystery should always be able to be solved from the details you give, and those details should always be cleverly hidden amongst countless others.

In other words, a story should tell you how much you should describe the settings, by what type of story it is. The plot denotes the settings, your writing style denotes the mood, and the mood denotes the descriptions.

Think of it like this:
Mystery: Missing Person >> Scene of Crime: Locked Room>> Natural Inclination: No Foul Play, 'Curious' Mood >> Excerpt: "It was a small room, barely any larger then a broom closet. It's only furniture was a single bed, tucked into the corner. The walls, plain spackle, gave way only to a rectangular window, eight feet up the wall. Walking inside, the detective began to look around. Banging on the cracked concrete floor, scratching at the white walls, tapping the solid mahogany door, he flitted around almost comically in the little room. He examined every detail, the inside lock on the door, the mattress and even the wooden bars on it's frame. Finally, plunging onto the ground, he laid flat, his head turned to stare under the bed.
After five minutes of still silence, the inspector began to protest."

As you can see, the plot will give you all that you need. Here's an example of the same story with foul play, which gives it a darker atmosphere:
"With a sharp kick, and a crack, the mahogany door flew open, wood from where the deadbolt was latched flying across the tiny room. Stepping inside, the detective inhaled deeply through his nose, a dank smell pervading the air. After a moments pause he began to examine the room. Nothing escaped his grasp of sight, the wooden bed frame, the broken concrete floor, the chips on the wall. Looking between the ceiling and wall, he stared at a single rectangular window. Locked from the outside, it was covered in a thick layer of grime. And, turning on his heel, he spoke to the inspector. "I've seen all I need to" "

With any writing there's a mood. Whether you're looking at the conceded rhymes of a rapper, or the obscurity of an episode of The Twilight Zone.
The mood gives you all you need. Writing a romance? Be poetic! Instead of saying "the setting sun" say "the ill-fated bleeding sun hung low in the sky, dutifully accepting it's fate of a thousand deaths."
Readers will notice when a story's writing works well with it's theme!


Update Note:
If you intended to post for a subject but missed it, then I'll accept late entries in the form of Private Messages, and they will be added to the archives. However, please keep in mind that by keeping up to date on the subject you and other writers can bounce ideas off each other.
This isn't only an advice thread, but somewhere to discuss how you write, and how to get better.
Thank you.
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Old January 27th, 2014 (09:58 AM).
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This week's topic:

Writer's Block

We've all had it. Chances are, we'll all have it again at some, probably close, point in the future. That's right, the dreaded, the hated, writer's block.
How do you cure writer's block? Is there a way? Is there a way to avoid getting it? Have anything else to say about it?


Update note:
You can now choose next week's topic!
If you have an idea, or request, for a topic then you can either post here, or VM/pm me with the details!
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Old January 27th, 2014 (12:00 PM).
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I usually prefer to not describe too much. I don't like reading through too many descriptions so I don't want to write them either. Want to be able to enjoy my own writing, after all. Just enough is enough.

We finally enter the room. The first thing I see is the window. A single, large screen of glass, spreading a good portion of daylight into the room. The walls are clean, no paintings, no colors, no furniture even. Even though the sunshine falls on the floor with a yellowish light, the place feels cold. Barren.

^ that's as far as I'd stretch it. I'd only write like that to give the reader a good sense of what the narrator feels. Hm, I quite like that piece now, maybe I should build a story on it 8D


As for writer's block, I really don't know how to get out of it. I am bad at starting a story, let alone keep writing. With roleplays, it's easier, as you've always got a goal to write towards or someone else to interact with. But writing alone and hitting a roadblock... It's rather devastating.
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Old January 27th, 2014 (02:08 PM).
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I'm not sure how much I can contribute to this one either. I'm the type of person who will sit at the computer and pout about writer's block until I get through it. I'm that stubborn.

As far as how to get past it, my best advice would to just write out the section you're stuck at, no matter how skimpy or pathetic it is and just move on. Make sure to come back to it though, posting that section online without revising it would be asking for trouble.

If you're really stuck without a thought of how to continue, step away from the project and write something else. It helps because you're taking your mind off of the project you're stuck on for a while and you're still writing.

If you're completely void of all writing creativity and just can't write, stop. If you're racking your brain until it hurts for ideas on how to continue, odds are you need a break. Go play video games or watch TV. Anything to just relax your brain and to stop thinking about writing.

Once you've done one of the above three, the writer's block will usually retreat until you start writing another section. If you want to know how to avoid it as much as possible, draw a map of your story. Start with specific events you want included in the story with some way to tie them all together. Once that's done, start filling in the details. If you ever get stuck, look at your map to get back on track.

Of course, you can't always get rid of writer's block. There's the kind of block that nothing you can do will ever get past it. If you're confronted with that, I'm afraid all you can do is wait it out. Eventually the block will get bored and walk away, but it will take some time. Keep holding on to the feeling of writing and something someday will inspire you enough to shove the block aside and continue on. It's just a matter of playing the waiting game.
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Old January 29th, 2014 (01:13 PM).
Bay Alexison's Avatar
Bay Alexison
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Dani California
Age: 26
Nature: Sassy
Like Slayr231 said, usually I just write no matter how bad I think the quality is. I can always go back and edit it to make it better later. The most important thing on my first drafts is to get the story/chapter down.

Whenever I'm stuck with where I want to head the story next or, I often ask my friends and betas on some ideas. Recently I wasn't sure how to end a chaptered fic I'm working now and when I asked my beta for suggestions she gave a good one and I went along with it. Brainstorming with friends can help a lot, at least for me.
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