Prayer Request

A reader writes

This may seem minor, but currently I’m suffering from an extreme case of writer’s block. I’m planning to enter into Tuscany Press’ short story contest, and the deadline is only a month away. This may seem like quite a lot of time, but add in time to get it revised, and another contest I’m planning to enter at the same time, and I have literally a week (starting next month) to get the first draft finished.

Meanwhile, I suffer from a mood disorder, wherein things going wrong tend to set off a severe depressive spiral. So while it wouldn’t be an absolute disaster if I didn’t get it done in time, I would feel terrible about it. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire me.

Father, send your Holy Spirit upon him that he may sub-create his story well and swiftly, succeed in the contest and amuse many readers with it! We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen!

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  • Marthe Lépine

    I have some idea of where your reader comes from, since I, too, have a mood disorder (I have suffered, and sometimes been disabled, by depression all my life), and I am interested in becoming a writer, and have tried a couple of contests. So I will be praying. But I also have a suggestion – that may or may not apply, each person’s circumstances are different – but it might help. Sometimes, when I start becoming overwhelmed by too many things going on at the same time, such as 2 contests and the other of life’s requirements, what I have been trying to do is just to decide what needs to be done first, start by taking one thing at a time and concentrate on that one thing until it is finished before I even think about the next one. This would probably save a lot of time – trying to do, or to think about, 2 things at the same time, often takes twice the time. Start with the first story, sit down and write what first comes to mind without worrying about the editing. You may be surprised – like I have been sometimes – to realize that in fact you had already worked it out in your mind more than you had assumed and even be surprised to see what you actually end up writing. Next, take a break, maybe even until the next morning, and start the next story in the same manner. You can leave the stories aside until the next morning, so you can re-read and edit with a fresh mind. I don’t know if this would help you, but it did help me, so I thought I could share it.

    • orual’s kindred

      I find it both amazing and embarrassing that I see so much errors when I go back after some time to something I’ve written.

      • Marthe Lépine

        It’s ok. And it is the reason it is a good idea, whenever possible, to “sleep” on something before getting back to it. I found it is also true with the translation work that I earn my living from: If I am able to wait until the next morning to do a final editing, the final result is usually much better than if I do everything in one single session.

  • Your reader has my prayers for success in the contests and mental and spiritual healing.
    And since short story writing is actually an area in which I have firsthand experience, I’d be remiss not to offer some practical advice.
    One of the most important lessons I had to learn when I started pursuing writing seriously is that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Writing is an art in the medieval sense of the word: a craft practiced according to a standard. Blacksmiths and physicians don’t need external inspiration to do their jobs. Neither do writers.
    If you’re feeling stuck on a story, it’s probably for one or more of the following reasons.
    The characters’ motivations aren’t clear. Solution: develop them more to figure out what makes them tick.
    The stakes aren’t high enough. Solution: apply pressure by increasing the scope of the consequences for failure or making them more personal.
    The plot structure has logical flaws and/or gaps. Solution: examine your outline for unfulfilled promises, improperly foreshadowed deus ex machina moments, and plot holes. Then fix them. (Don’t have an outline? Go back and make one.)
    You find that the part you’re currently writing is dull. Solution: review a prior scene or skip ahead to the next part that gets you excited.
    If you haven’t started and need an idea, remember that ideas are a dime a dozen and everything’s already been done. It’s the execution that counts. If you’re still at a loss for material, make a list of mundane things and another list of strange things; then mix and match till you find the most appealing combination of one ordinary thing and one “strange attractor”. (A clown who doubles as an assassin, a world that uses hair for currency, a pro wrestler who’s appointed apostolic nuncio to Cameroon, etc.) Then keep asking “what if” questions until you’ve got a setting, characters, a conflict, a plot, and a theme involving that idea.
    And since this is a contest, try to find out who the judges are and what kinds of stories they like. Then read them.

    • orual’s kindred

      In filling out what I thought was a minor detail, I ended up with an ending to a story I just finished writing.