Sunday, January 29, 2012

GUEST POST: "How I Overcome Writer's Block to Write an Award-Winning Novel" - by Beth Barany

by Beth Barany


Lara Croft meets Lord of the Rings!

Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can't stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?


Grand prize winner at the California Fiction Writers Book Contest!

Award-winning novel at the Hollywood Book Festival!

This is a YA fantasy novel suitable for ages 12 and up.


“HENRIȄTTA THE DRAGON SLAYER” by Beth Barany has 13 reviews on GoodReads. Read it here - 



GUEST POST: “How I Overcome Writer's Block to Write an Award-Winning Novel
by Beth Barany

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger on Books4Tomorrow. It's an honor to be asked!

I love talking about how I overcame writer's block, so much so that I wrote a short ebook about it called, yep, Overcome Writer's Block: 10 Writing Sparks to Ignite Your Creativity.

I started out as a nonfiction writer. In that domain, writer's block wasn't so much of an issue, though I did have to deal with the feelings of "who am I to be commenting on this book or writing this column?" Knowing what to say wasn't the challenge; the challenge was giving myself permission to say it.

What was much harder was learning how to write fiction and there is where I really experienced writer's block. I mean the kind where I just wasn't writing, even though I so wanted to.

I define writer's block as just that: you are not writing.

Now I'm writing! I've written two nonfiction books, contributed to three others, and have written hundreds of articles. And in fiction, I've written four novels, and started three others, though of course not everything will see the light of day.

I'm proud to say that I published my first novel, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, a young adult adventure story.

From one reviewer: "It was a great read – I read it in one sitting. The dialogue and the whole tone of the book made for excitement from the first line. Beth Barany did a fabulous job grabbing me right from the beginning with this story. I highly recommend this story to anyone who is a fan of fantasy and kick-butt heroines. It’s really a great book to have in your collection."

-- Anastasia Pergakis, author of Cleanse Fire: The Kinir Elite Chronicles, (#1)

I worked hard to write a good book, but before that I worked hard to learn how to write novels.

There were many times I didn't know what to write or how to write it.

So what got me writing and overcoming writer's block?

Over the years, I've found 6 key elements that got me writing and that I think can be helpful to other writers, too.

1. Deadlines:
I needed a way to give myself a deadline to produce pages that went beyond me, myself and my computer. When I was starting to write novels, that wasn't working. So when I decided to really commit to novel writing, I joined a writing group. We wrote during our gatherings, which was a great way to get started. A writing class can do the same thing. Then I moved to a writers group where I had to turn in pages for critique. We each took turns, so that I knew that in two to four weeks I'd have to turn in something. For some reason I knew that agreeing to hand in pages to my peers would get me writing.

I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to break a promise once I make it, so that kind of peer pressure got me moving in the right direction.

After many years of this, I realized I didn't need the group deadlines anymore to get writing. What I needed now was more self-accountability, so then I devised my second tool: tracking.

2. Tracking:
Like deadlines, tracking was a way for me to be accountable, this time to myself. I created a simple spreadsheet so I could track how many words an hour I wrote. I still use it, both for the first drafting phase and for the editing phase. Like punching a time clock, when I'm on, I'm on. Any twittering, facebooking, etc. is duly noted by my conscious mind because I'm "on the clock." I've also learned how fast I can write when I’m totally focused and know what I want to say (approx. 1,000 words an hour). I like honoring the time with tracking. I run a business and have multiple projects cooking at the same time, so it's great to be able to dedicate focused energy and to track that time in a tangible way. I have tracking records going back to when I wrote my second novel in six weeks as an experiment to see how fast I could write a novel. (My first novel took me 5 years to write -- of course, lots of starting and stopping...)

One word about tracking: I use it also as a timed writing tool. I started out by doing 15- and 20-minute timed writing. Now I can do hour chunks. Even a little more because once I get going, and I'm deep in a scene, I like to finish writing the scene!

3. Feedback:
Like many of you, I write to be read. I need to know that my stories will be appreciated by others. So back to a resource I mentioned in #1: a critique group. I am back at a group with other excellent writers, this time to help me get to my editing. We critique each other's work with a fine-toothed comb. I credit my two fine critique partners, authors Kay Keppler and Patricia Simpson, with helping me become the good fiction writer I am today.

Knowing they are waiting for my pages in a week is great motivator to get my editing done.

I also have another critique partner, my husband, author of the award-winning bestseller, The Torah Codes. He and I actually met in a critique writing group 14 years ago. He was my critique partner long before we started dating (!) so we have a nice way of giving each other feedback, most of the time.

4. Brainstorming:
Lastly, when the other tools don't get me putting words on the page, I brainstorm with Ezra.

I've found that I can't write when I don't know what to say. Funny that! Since I write fantasy adventure from Henrietta's point of view (and sometimes from other characters' points of view), I care most about what my characters are feeling while they do their action kick-butt things. I don't plot out my stories ahead of time --  boring! (I know many people do plot first; Ezra is one of them!) So, all I need to know is what happens next. I like being as surprised as my readers about what will happen.

When I'm stuck I turn to Ezra and say, "I don't know what to do next."

He asks me, "What's the worst thing that can happen here?" or "What’s the character's biggest fear? How can you make that happen now?"

Talking out the answers to these questions usually provides clarity on what happens next. So then I go to it! Yes, I mean writing!

If I'm still stuck I go back to the drawing board about my characters and do free writing on who they are and what they want, bringing me to the final overcome writer's block tool I use now.

5. Character Development:
I create rubrics and free write on my characters in several different ways, depending on how deep I need to know them. I need to know my main characters really well, secondary characters less so.

For my main character, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, I've taken the time to really get to know her and have lots of notes on her. I have to know her:
· Goal
· Motivation
· Conflict
· Strengths
· Friends and family
· Childhood moment that shaped her
· What she carries
· How she dresses
· How she talks
· Secrets: what is a secret that she knows that others don't? What is a secret she can't admit to herself? What is something others know about her that she doesn't? What is a secret about herself that she's afraid others, or that one important other, might know?
· What she loves
· What she hates
· What her emotional palette is (Thank you to author Sophie Littlefield for this awesome concept.)
· What it feels like to move in her body
· What stands out to her in her environment
· What she pays no attention to in her environment
· Her world: this is where I also spend lots of time on world building, but I also focus on what she knows about her world.
· Tales, songs, lore that she grew up on (This is a fantasy, after all!)

Over the years I've developed these tools: deadlines, tracking, feedback, brainstorming and character development to help me create an award-winning novel.

If you're curious about more tools, more for nonfiction writers, you can check out my ebook, Overcome Writer's Block, where ebooks are sold.

One thing I know for sure: Writing begets writing.

So if all else fails I pull out my trusted Moleskin journal and just write the stuff that is always floating through my mind. Because I believe that we all have the answers within us if we just ask and answer. 

1 comment:

Amaleen Ison said...

Some great ideas to keep the words flowing, Beth. Thanks for the tips.