Using Art to Break Writer’s Block



Writers block has been giving me quite a hassle over the last couple of weeks. My usual tips and tricks for dealing with writer’s block and getting unstuck with my story haven’t worked well, so I had to come up with a new strategy for breaking the block and working through the problem. What I came up with was a way to use my art in a way that further my writing project.

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Three Techniques for Endless Blog Ideas

3 Techniques for Endless Blog Post Ideas

When you start blogging, you probably had so many ideas you couldn’t keep up with them all. But over time, you’ve started to lose steam or get bored. It’s hard to come up with content on the same topics over and over every week. No matter how passionate you are about a subject, you eventually feel like you’re repeating yourself or just get tired of talking about same things all the time.

So, your blogging tapers off, your engagement drops, and you end up feeling guilty because you think you “should” be blogging more, and you know that you can’t grow your blog if you aren’t posting consistently.

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, and I have several now dead blogs that I’ve lost interest in behind me, so I know how this goes. My current blog is about four years old and still going strong. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and developing ways to sustain interest in a field of expertise and continue to produce fresh, vital blog content.

Today I’d like to share with you three methods for generating endless supply of blog posts ideas.

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IWSG: 7 Worldbuilding Tips For Fantasy Authors

My favorite fantasy books are the ones with the best worldbuilding. Give me a rich world with complex cultures, lots of terrain to explore, ecology that makes sense, and a magic system that’s more well thought out than “I used my feelings/willpower/the goodness of my heart” and I will buy your books like crack. IF (and here’s the big if) your worldbuilding is presented effectively as an integral part of your story. That’s where I see a lot of fantasy writers get hung up. I’ve been writing fantasy for about 30 years now, and while I’m not a household name, I’ve learned a thing or two about effective worldbuilding.

Here are my Top 7 Worldbuilding Tips

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2016 Writing Review

Most folks were doing “year in review” posts a couple of weeks ago, but my blog was on my hiatus, so I decided to make up for it by posting some “year end” stuff early in January.

Last week’s post was more general, an overview of 2016’s suckage and triumphs.

Today’s is a look at my writing projects and what I set out to do versus what ended up happening.

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Scapple Review and Case Study

This is a review and case study for Scapple, a free-form text tool by the makers of Scrievener.


The first example below is for my serial series, The Foxes of Synn.

Fox SIsters diagram

It’s just cells put together like a typical diagramming program.


I started by dumping my ideas down into notes and forming connections, which is what my brain tries to do first.  That’s the “Concepts/Problems” section.


When I saw it after it was finished, I knew it would be useless to me as a standalone reference because it had too many random connections and tie ins.  I didn’t know where to look.  (The problem I always have with mind maps.)


The Problems by Story blocks were made by using the stack notes and background shape features.

Diana new idea--export jpg

The new idea diagram was imported to Scapple from this brain dump in a word doc.  Scapple lets you move sections/paragraphs independently with click and drag.  I end up with these big docs all the time and like…a quarter of it is actually plot relevant.  (See above.)

I need to start off with a brain dump because things get tangled in my head and I don’t know what to focus on until I’ve written it all out.  The problem is, once I’ve written it out, it’s a huge chore to keep copy-pasting stuff to organize it better.

There’s always too much information for me to organize it in a way that lets me find what I want.   Scapple solves that problem!

It’s so helpful to be able to organize my thoughts into themed groups with connections.  I just can’t come up with a cluster of information like that from blank space.   I need to free-write first.

I need A LOT OF SPACE with distinct separations and borders around things all the time or I get overloaded. Scapple gives me that too.


I was able to work out my problems in an hour because I could move paragraphs around to see which parts were connected to a story and which were just me overthinking.

The last example is a relationship map based on the book I was TRYING to write when the foxes stole the show.  I’ll have a separate post soon about relationship mapping.


Malimore relationship Map 2

I wish you could put different shapes and stuff instead of just rectangles, but Scapple is better than anything else I’ve found so far.

Trello is still better for collaborative purposes, but this might be useful for keeping character profiles and building notes progressively until/unless Trello gets an export feature that works.  Scapple exports to several common formats, but the .rtf converter is a little glitchy and sometimes got my data out of order.  All in all, Scapple is well-worth its modest price tag of $14.99!


More Examples:

Think Ink: Brain Dump Example–Synn Revamp

This is the full text of a brain dump–free writing exercise that I used to develop a new arc in my serial.  I’ll be using it as an example in tomorrow’s writing post.  It hasn’t been edited except for a few instances where the text literally did not make sense.

So, in the middle of the night last night, I got an idea for Diana. I was on my way to bed when I got the idea, and I just have to say that is really annoying to be like on the way to bed and actually tired for once when you randomly get this whole idea, because then you have to sit there and like figure out if you really want to go to bed and take the chance of losing the idea or stay up and write the whole idea down and probably end up wide awake by the time you’re done.


Also, I’m really tired of Synn producing random ideas out of order. I mean, I wrote Fox. Hunting two years ago. Two years. Two years! At the time, I only had

some vague ideas of what to do to resolve this question of who the stranger woman was that Diana met at the beginning. That is a horrible sentence.

Anyway. There was this stranger at the beginning of the story. Diana was in the marketplace, and she was shopping for Micah’s present when she ran into this bitchy woman who was yelling at a bunch of kids. She decides to steal from this woman, because that’s what Diana does when she decides she doesn’t like someone and they need to learn a lesson, and stealing from her launches off into this whole chain reaction.


When I was writing it, I sort of had an idea who the woman was, but I didn’t have the added details. Over the next few months, I got a bunch of follow-up details, but I was already busy writing Cleo’s story, and my plan at the time was to have Diana leave because she was supposed to go away with Marigold and meet Helena.

The Helena the thing didn’t work out anyway. Helena and Diana are still friends, but Diana lost interest and Helena was uncomfortable with all of the casual sex and whatnot. I think Diana lost interest because it was too much work, but Diana feels like it was something that happens to her all the time, and she does sort of have that issue where she gets bored and loses interest easily, and she doesn’t really want to, which I think is a Fox thing. So I don’t know if I’ll do anything with Helena in the series. She’s a Ranger, and relevant to that, but I don’t have actual plot stuff for the Rangers really get the weight. At least not separate from Cleo.


So, since the Helena thing didn’t work out, I think it makes more sense to have Diana be the person who follows up on that lady. My first idea was that she goes with Syas to Spiritverse, then to add more conflict I thought maybe he goes ahead and gets into some trouble and doesn’t check in, so Diana wants to go after him, but there’s a magic storm making the portals and mirrors all wonky.  So Thad won’t let her go, but she does it anyway and gets lost.

The problem is, I can get her lost, but I can’t get her connected with Syas again once she’s in Spiritverse.  Unless he’s carrying a phone.  That might work better.  He could be carrying a phone since he knows where he’s going and it’s a modern world.


The other problem is Syas himself. Well, not Syas himself, because I love Syas, but Syas’s origins. He started out as the gardener’s kid. She was pregnant when she came to the Castle, and we established the whole back story for that, and she ended up marrying the groundskeeper. They were living in the groundskeepers cottage, and then the whole thing with Eitme and Somei started because Reynard wanted to get to know them. So than they were hanging around and they were interested in the gardener and the groundskeeper. So the whole group is like this square of interrelated romantic attachment now.

Then, when I redid the timeline, I needed Syas to stay the same age as the girls, and I needed all of that stuff with the groundskeeper and the gardener and the twins to move up earlier, so I ended up with another kid who Ashe was pregnant with when she came to the castle and then Syas came later, around the same age as the girls.  So the way it works out, he’s got four parents and Eitme is his biological father.  Well, the relationship between the girls and Syas was important and I couldn’t just take it out. So I kept skirting around his actual family connection because Thad is his grandfather, and it would normally not be an ethical problem in Synn and everything would be fine because Thad was a seed-parent to the twins (sperm donor) not like…their emotional/legal parent. Seed parenting is a common practice for same-sex or infertile couples, where a close friend or someone they trust acts as a surrogate, and then the standing custom is that that person has no ethical or moral obligation to parent the child or even have the relationship be open. In Thad’s case it wasn’t, but then Reynard wanted to get to know them and everything so I went along with it and the twins ended up knowing anyway, and now Thad’s in a parental role with them (even though they’re adults and not like dependents or whatever. )

The Fox Sistters Anthology Cover

The Fox Sistters Anthology Cover

Synn still does have some incest taboos, and I think in the real world it would be questionable for the girls to have a relationship with Syas.  The girls are like…his aunts or something, even though the girls are younger and they grew up as playmates. I know his family and origins and everything don’t have to be relevant plot point, but I’ve established that Somei is one of his mother’s, and I’ve also established that Eitme is his faher AND the twins are in the stories AND the fact that the twins are the girls’ half-siblings is an actual plot point mover, so it’s discussed. Which means, if I don’t deal with Syas’s origins directly and mention or have the characters discuss it or SOMETHING then I’ll have readers going “Wait, what? Huh? Diana’s dating Syas…but Syas’s parents are Diana’s brother and sister…OMG, wait AGAIN!” Because readers assume “parents” means a heterosexual couple, not “four people of varied gender who may or may not be having sex with each other.”


I had this problem with Doubling Back.  There were passages I re-wrote several times because I’d drop mentions of “Aldra’s fathers…” and still have beta readers going “Wait, which guy is her father? Why is she calling all of them Dad? SO CONFUSED…”

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

That’s partly a POV issue.  I’m writing 3rd person limited.  Strictly from the characters’ POV.  The characters don’t explain their relationships to their parents or how many parents they have.  I don’t think Diana would have an internal monologue about Syas’s parents, either.  So…meh.


I also have this thing that I’ve wanted to do for a while with Diana and Jimmy that’s actually ancillary to Fox. Hunting, so I’m probably looking at a expansion of the short story again. The last time I looked that an expansion of Fox. Hunting, I ended up with Doubling Back, Foxes and Thieves, and that bit about the train station and turning Diana pink. Doubling back obviously works as a standalone. Foxes And Thieves kind of does, but the timeline of that one is weird and stretches for several months, so I’m not sure how to handle it with publication. I feel like I’ve got Fox. Hunting and then all of these little offshoots from it that should be able to fit in one book, but I can’t figure out how to organize them appropriately, and every time I start one it ends up different from what I thought it was going to be and then I get nervous about starting anything.  It’s annoying.

think ink

Presuming I can sort all of that out. This is what I have so far:


Diana wants a present for Micah, so she’s going to sneak out the window because everyone keeps asking her if she has a present yet, but as she’s climbing up the window, a branch breaks, so she has to turn into a Fox and lands, but (something happens) and she runs off foxed and runs into Jimmy. She explains the whole thing to Jimmy, and he tells her about (something that Micah would like) but (there’s a problem, possibly having to do with Drake owning whatever the thing is) so she makes a deal with Jimmy to have him and his gang lift it, but Jimmy doesn’t tell Diana that he’s already under contract to Drake and could get himself in big trouble.  (Drake’s holding one of Jimmy’s gang hostage.)


So, while Jimmy’s working on that, Diana’s down at the market getting into the Fox. Hunting mess. (Why, if she made a deal with Jimmy? Does she think he won’t follow through? Want to cover her bases? Why doesn’t she worry when Jimmy doesn’t turn up again.  Maybe this isn’t going to work.



bluejay, blue jay, free, bird

Jimmy The Snitch


I can already see a problem, because the action starts off from Diana’s POV, but the immediate danger is to Jimmy.  (I had this happen in Diana: Lady of Synn as well where I spent FOREVER trying to raise the stakes for Diana because all of the actual danger and investment was on Kerrileen’s side.)


So, after the Fox. Hunting mess Drake is in prison, but Jimmy’s gang have already departed for the Southern Islands.


Diana wants to know who the stranger is that she stole the stuff from the first place, that tells her that the Rangers are interrogating the woman and Syas went to Kaolin to Investigate. Syas doesn’t check in when he’s supposed to, Diana want to go after him, but there’s a magic storm, and Thad makes her weight. So she lies and gets Aldra to give her some book about magic mirrors and gets into Mirrorveld but gets lost on the other side due to the storm.  SO, she texts Syas but………..


……….and somehow she hooks up with Syas and Dianny and they save the daaaaay.

Advice for New Writers: 8 Ways to Write through Your Fear And Conquer Writer’s Block


8 Ways to Write through Your Fear And Conquer Writer's Block

Writer’s block happens for a bunch of reasons. One of the most common is fear. Self-doubt is a normal part of the writing process, but without the right tools to deal with that, it can be paralyzing. You might feel like there are so many choices and things to do that you get overwhelmed. What if you make the wrong choice? What if you waste all your time working on this one thing but you really should be working on something else? Pretty soon, you don’t do anything. You tell yourself you should be writing, and then you feel guilty, so it’s even harder to get past the block.

Try this:

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#WeekendCoffeeshare at Castle Grayskull [Plus #ROW80 Check In]

If we were having coffee, I’d be kind of quiet. I wouldn’t have coffee, because you would know that I don’t drink it, but there’s always some on hand for company. I like the smell of coffee. I think it reminds me of my grandmother. But I don’t like the taste at all.


I drank coffee for a while in my 20s, when I was going to this church where the adult Sunday school classes were held out in these freezing cold trailers. Coffee was the only hot thing that was offered to drink, and I couldn’t leave early because the people giving me a ride liked stay for the Sunday school. So I learned to drink it with a lot of sugar and cream, and I think I even liked it after a while, but caffeine doesn’t actually keep me awake, so I get no benefit from drinking it since I stopped going to that church.

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My Cousin Wants A House With A Horse

I’m participating in several blog challenges and activities this month.

Today’s Zero to Hero assignment is to Write A Post Inspired By A Comment on Another Blog

It would take me too long to formulate a cogent post on the kind of topics I read, so here’s a funny.

Every morning, I do an exercise where I write down as many random ideas to write about as possible.  These are today’s.  The date is wrong because I opened the file yesterday so it was waiting when I woke up.


This post is  for  Blogher’s Writing Lab, #Postaday and Zero to Hero on WordPress, and’s 30 Day Challenge.