Managing Writers Block and other Tools for Writers of Women's Fiction
This article may seem pretty basic to you if you are already writing. However, many people want to write, or start to write, without actually knowing how. They don't realize that treating writing like a job is actually a necessity.
You have a schedule at work, right? Even if you are not currently working a structured job, you know that this is true. And this is exactly what you need as a writer. You need a schedule. Whether you plan to write for an hour a day, five days a week, or seven hours a day, five days a week, plan it and stick to that plan as closely as possible.
If you do work a full-time, or even a part-time job outside the home, look for moments to write. If you take the subway or the bus to work, maybe you can write then (although that is usually a tough one to pull off!) Maybe you can write on your lunch break? If you are a busy mom, often writing before the kids wake up is the way to go, or if you are not a morning person, writing after they go to bed is more productive.
No matter what you decide, try and stick to that schedule. Remember, it takes weeks to make a habit, and writing -- any writing you do -- is a good habit!
Whether you have suffered from it or not, I am sure you have heard of writer's block. It is that moment when the words just won't come. You want them to, but they just are not up there. Nothing is happening, no synapses are firing -- you are completely blank. Or maybe there are words coming out, but they are just not the right ones.
What can you do to avoid this, or overcome the block? There are many strategies, and there is not one that works for everyone. Recently I read a quote from the author Sylvia Boorstein:
"When I do not like how what I am writing is sounding, I quit. I leave the computer. I do something else, like cook soup."1
Now, maybe cooking soup is not your thing. I clean. For some reason cleaning my house helps to clear my mind and I can go back to what I was doing and the words come. Who knows why, but they do.
Many people prefer to take a walk, mediate, do yoga, exercise -- anything but worry about writing! Watch television, take the dogs for a walk, sing, dance, make cookies! Just do something that gets you away from your computer or notebook and frees your mind a bit.
Experts believe that when your brain is free to concentrate on something else, something mindless like cleaning or reading a recipe, the creative part of it can go back to the problem and, well, create!
See if it does not work for you.
Your Writing Space
It is also important to find a space of your own to write in, when you are at home (or anywhere, really, for that matter). If you have an office at home, great. If not, maybe your kitchen or dining room table? But make it yours. Clear it of all other debris and make it as much of a work station as you possibly can. Find a quiet place, a quiet time of day to write.
There are many subgenres of women's fiction. It is important to note that romance, chick lit and women's fiction are not the same things, and they are not interchangeable. However, romance and chick lit are two subgenres of women's fiction. Additionally, mystery, historical fiction (sometimes), western and several other genres can all be called subgenres of women's fiction in some instances. It depends, of course, on what the story entails. What are the themes, the settings and so forth?
This article will deal specifically with romance and chick lit; I will explain how women's fiction is not chick lit or romance, and go through examples.
So, how do you decide what the subgenre is? Or, maybe you are asking what is a subgenre? Let me explain.
The subgenre is a subcategory within a particular genre. For example, the academic mystery is a subgenre of the mystery novel. Mystery is your broad genre, and the academic mystery is a type of mystery. A mystery does not have to be an academic mystery, but the academic mystery is part of the mystery genre. Make a little more sense?
As you can now see, a romance novel can be part of women's fiction, and a chick lit novel can be part of women's fiction, but neither of these have to be women's fiction. Get it? Maybe? Maybe not? If not, or if you'd like a bit more detail, check out this great article on women's fiction versus romance by Lisa Craig.
Other subgenres of women's fiction are numerous. There may be mystery involved, perhaps paranormal elements, humor, and more. All of these could be the subgenre of your novel, if you so choose. Just remember to keep your main focus on your heroine and her story; keep your themes to those of women's fiction.
It is not essential, or even necessary, to start writing with a subgenre in mind. You don't even have to classify your work, just write! The subgenre will show itself. Or, you can begin your outline with the subgenre in mind. That is up to you! Creative freedom at its best.
So, are there really "rules" to writing women's fiction? Well, yes and no. There are really no hard and fast rules, but there are some that writers tend to live by when writing in this genre. These rules come fromRebecca's Rules of Defining Women's Fiction. For example,
When you write your women's fiction work, keep these rules in mind. If you don't have a female main character who drives the story, you are not writing women's fiction. Make sure that she (your main character) has relationships that drive the plot, and try to keep your setting contemporary.
A relationship-driven plot is similar to one that is character driven. What does that mean? Well, for starters it means that it is not plot-driven, which is what many novels are. The plot moves the story forward. In women's fiction, the character's relationships drive the story forward. As the relationships evolve, the story moves forward.
As you can see, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what women's fiction actually is! Agents know it, publishers know it, lots of authors know it and many readers know it, but there are a lot of people out there that lump women's fiction in with all romance novels, assuming that they are one and the same (as well as chick lit).
But now you know the difference. You know what constitutes a women's fiction novel, and what does not. You know that without a central female character, the work is not women's fiction. You also know that if the central themes aren't there, it is not women's fiction.
The next time you are at the bookstore, or browsing the new books online, try to pick out the newest titles in women's fiction -- and then see what the bookstore has it labeled.
* A side note here on dialogue. In your novel, you are probably going to have a lot of dialogue. It helps to show, rather than tell, and it helps to give back-story, drive subplots, build relationships; dialogue is a great tool. However, it is only a great tool if it is written well.
Dialogue needs to sound natural and be punctuated correctly. One way to make sure that it sounds natural is to observe the way people speak. Listen. Write it down. Read it back to yourself. Grammar, within dialogue, is not necessarily an issue. Let's face it, most people do not speak in grammatically correct sentences. However, punctuating dialogue correctly is key.
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