Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome Guest Blogger Sandra Orchard!

Missy, here. And I'm so happy to welcome my friend and fellow Love Inspired author, Sandra Orchard, who writes for Love Inspired Suspense. Today, I'd love to give away a copy of her debut release, Deep Cover, in e-book for Kindle. Just leave a comment letting me know to enter you in the drawing. And now...Sandra!

Do you remember those first days, weeks, years of writing fiction when the stories flowed unhindered from your pen, or keyboard?

Then…you learned about character arcs and pacing and rules, and voila, suddenly, you’ve got Writer’s Block. You realize the story isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, but you don’t know how to fix it.

Let’s stop here for a second and celebrate how far you’ve come in your writing. That is, you now recognize that meandering plot or episodic scenes or cardboard characters. Progress, yeah!

But what now?

I face writer’s block halfway through almost every book I write. I usually have the story well outlined before I start, but somewhere along the way, the characters lead me astray, and I blithely follow…only to find I’ve written myself into a corner.

Today, I’ll share three methods I’ve found helpful in breaking through writer’s block when stomping around the house, ranting about unruly characters and devouring chocolate—God’s most story-inspiring food group—doesn’t work.

1)   Get together with a couple of writing buddies and talk out your story, what’s working, what’s not. More often than not, one of my writing buddies will spot the problem and we’re able to brainstorm fixes. Admittedly, the fixes are never as easy to write as they make it sound, because first I have to divorce myself from what I’ve already written. But it is precisely because my friends aren’t married to my writing that they gave a clearer perspective.
2)   Since most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have writing buddies at our beck and call, here’s a trick I picked up from Story Weaver to kick start your creativity. Jot down three nonsense words. Don’t think about it. Just write the first words that come to mind. Then imagine that all three words are part of the same phrase and come up with as many different ideas as you can to explain the phrase. Now try to integrate those ideas into a single story concept. Don’t worry if you can’t, the purpose of the exercise is to break free of Writer’s Block by shifting out of a forced creative mode into analysis mode. Ironically, I found the opposite was what worked for me (i.e. the creative mode of coming up with ideas that made sense of the nonsense words).

Here’s what I did: I chose dog, black, and gun as my nonsense words. I came up with a half dozen creative explanations, not expecting to use them in my story, but by the end I’d created an entire opening scene for my next book. Someone in a black car pulls up to where the heroine is walking her sister’s dog and shoots at her. There’s a lot more to it than that, but the kernel of the inciting incident came from doing the silly exercise, so now I’m sold on this exercise. If it doesn’t work for you, try…

3)   Skip ahead to a scene you know how to write and write it. Oftentimes the bridging scenes to get there will reveal themselves as you write this later scene.

When all else fails, do something else. The solutions to story problems often come when you give your mind time to work on them subconsciously. But don’t stay away from your novel too long or you’ll never finish it.

How about you? What tricks have you found helpful in overcoming writer’s block?

Other stuff you might want to know:


Sandra Orchard lives in rural Ontario, Canada where inspiration abounds for her romantic suspense novels set in the fictional Niagara town she's created as their backdrop. Married with three grown children, when not writing, she enjoys hanging out with family, brainstorming new stories with fellow writers, and hiking or kayaking in God's beautiful creation. Her debut Love Inspired Suspense Deep Cover is now in stores. Or buy at

Book Blurb:

Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he's back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny's uncle. The man's crimes led to Rick's partner's death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack-dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment...and risking both their lives?

Deep Cover is the first book in the series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line.

Book 2 ~ Shades of Truth ~ March 2012
A compassionate youth worker fighting to preserve her dying father’s legacy battles the justice-driven detective who threatens her mission and her heart.     

Book 3 ~ Dose of Deception ~ TBA (title tentative)
A nurse. An undercover cop. A killer who’ll stop at nothing to avoid being caught.

Connect with Sandra Online:

Visit her website ~

Visit her personal blog ~

Like her Facebook Page ~

Subscribe to her newsletter ~


Virginia said...

I've never heard of the three nonsense words... But I'll definitely try that. I soemtimes get stuck when someone (usually my favorite reader) pops into my head and then I start thinking about what they'd want to read, or know, do with the character. and everything stops flowing. I have to kick everyone out of my head before I can get down to business!
Since it seems I'm first... I bring fresh apple streudel and belgian waffles with real whipepd cream. Mmmmm.

KC Frantzen said...

Super ideas Sandra. Thank you so much. I like the nonsense words also.

And the idea of writing a later scene. I'm working on Ch. 6 now and might need to do that. You're right! Now that I know more, I'm concerned I'm writing myself into a corner.

Might need to apply the Mary C method along with your new opening and shoot somebody. :)

Loving the idea of more undercover ideas, since I'm writing a series with a K9 Spy as my character.

Would love to win your book though I don't have an e-reader. Guess I can try the download on the trusty laptop and see!

Virginia - yummmmmmmm. Thanks! I plugged in the coffee Helen. No worries! :D

may at maythek9spy dot com

Helen Gray said...

Thanks KC. Since you've taken care of the coffee, here's the creamer and sweetener. There's also a cooler of Cokes.

I've also not heard of the nonsense words approach. Will store that in the nether regions of my brain for future use.


Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

You have some very good ideas on creativity.

I don’t see it as writer’s block. I see it as an idea shortage. (Not a blockage.) You can always generate more ideas. If you are an advertising copywriter you are not allowed to have writer’s block. You simply sit at your computer and write headline after headline until one of them is inspired. You might have to write 100 of them, but then that’s what you do.

For fiction, I favor doing something totally unexpected. Introduce a new story element. If it is a surprise to the author, it will surely surprise the reader. Once you have something new and exciting, like shooting a character, you are once again flooded with all the additional possibilities. You have that first chapter, 'all-things-are-possible', enthusiasm.

I see some interesting possibilities given your name. A whole series of books with fruit and nut titles.

“Protecting the Forbidden Fruit”
“The Orange Beach Disappearances”
“The Coconut Grove Abduction”
“The Bad Apple Investigation”
“The Lemmon Conspiracy”
“The Macadamia Mission”

Now I’m cooking with gas.

Got to get back to my WIP.


I’d love a chance to win a Kindle edition of your book. vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Nancy Kimball said...

I write the next scene that works out past the block and then come back and fill in the gap. Its amazing how by then I then know exactly what I need to do in the gap that seemed impossible to generate pre-block. Although I've learned from the Seekerville blog and personal experience the difference between a block and a complete log-jam. When writing a later scene fails to bust the block for me it means no amount of taking a walk or devouring chocolate will help enable me to fill the gap because something's earlier in the story is wrong but I managed to write over it. It makes for rewrites, but I'd rather unsnarl them myself or with critique partners than have an editor find them for me. =)

Ruth Logan Herne said...


I was talking (of course I was, LOL!) at the WNYRWA chapter last Saturday and Alison told me how NICE YOU WERE TO HER!!!

You rock, chica! Of course I assured her you weren't really nice, that's it's all an act for the camera, and she was greatly relieved to hear that! ;)

I love the three random word idea. What a great kick-start. Really, anything that gets your brain moving in a new or more convoluted (deeper) direction is a huge help right then.

Mary keeps a gun by her side, just for that very inspiration.

Wonderful post, great ideas. Love it!

VINCE!!!! I've missed you, Dude!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Nancy, that's a great problem solver, too. Work backwards. Sometimes the new scene has an element that helps create that inner scene.

Awesome, Dude.

I have characters walk onstage out of nowhere. (hush Vince...) And if I like them, I let them push the scene.

If I don't, Mary shoots 'em.

And then we eat carrot cake.

Anonymous said...

good morning everyone!
Houston actually has 'high water' warnings around the city! only rained about 1/4 inch I thought! but that's a fact here - we're either flooded or droughted a word? oh well you know what I mean!


Julie Lessman said...

Hey, SANDRA, welcome to Seekerville!!! It seems like I've seen your name everywhere lately, so you must be doing a GREAT job of promo, girl!!

Wonderful tips to counter writer's block, especially the brainstorming with friends. I have one friend who doesn't even read Christian books, but I call on her anyway whenever I have a MAJOR block or plot impossibility. She literally saved A Passion Most Pure with her amazing insight and knowledge (she reads everything under the sun, fiction and nonfiction, so she's VERY knowledgeable!), and she contributed greatly to A Passion Denied as well.

One of the best things for me to do is to leave the computer and get on the treadmill to listen to worship music. Without fail, before one or two songs are done, plot possibilities and solutions are flooding my brain -- it's downright eerie!!

But, of course, it goes without saying that the very FIRST thing I do is call my prayer partners to pray ... :)

Your book looks great, Sandra!!


Sandra Orchard said...

Wow, if I'd known you gals were providing breakfast, I would've shown up earlier!

Virginia, Belgian waffles, yumm!I think writers are the only people who can talk about people stuck in their head without getting locked up. LOL.

KC,your K9 Spy sounds intriguing. And of course, shoot somebody...tried and true method to solve almost any problem. :D

Helen, could I have some hot water and lemon. I'm not a coke drinker. Chocolate is a much tastier way to get my caffeine quota. :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Vince, you're right, of course, that it's more of an idea shortage, but...that hardly sounds serious enough to justify breaking out the chocolate. :D
Love your title ideas! My editor needs a new one for my third book, a medical suspense with an undercover cop posing as an IT guy in the hospital and a heroine for the nurse, patients dying mysteriously...any suggestions? :D

Sandra Orchard said...

Nancy, don't you hate it when it turns into an all-out log jam? But glad to see you balance the chocolate remedy with walking. LOL

Ruth, spreading rumors about me?! :D With all this talk about Mary shooting people, I'm thinking I'll steer clear. LOL

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Sandra! These sound like great ideas for overcoming writer's block! I never got writer's block until I was in the middle of writing my third book. Most of the time my problem is more along the lines of lack of motivation. That's when self-discipline has to come into play! But these are great ideas and I will try them, even if I'm not having writer's block!

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Sandra! Welcome to Seekerville!

Hmm, writing oneself into a corner...gee, I've NEVER had that happen, LOL! I've never been a great disciplinarian and my characters know it. Gotta keep them on a leash - very short leash, LOL!

Loved the way your writers' block exercise morphed into an opening scene. Don't we all love it when that happens? I'll try the 3 word trick.

I have to get up and just move away from the computer when I'm stuck. If I don't, I'll get sucked into a rousing game of majhong or something like that and never get back to the task at hand.

Taking the dog for a walk works wonders...and trust me, we both need the exercise, LOL!

Glad you joined us today, Sandra. Mega congrats on new book with many, many more to follow!

Sandra Orchard said...

Melanie, yes I relate. I like Vince's idea for doing something totally unexpected to get that beginning of the book feeling back...I did that near the end of Deep Cover, and it took the story in a totally unexpected direction. But I loved it. Thank goodness for word processors to make it easy to go back and make other things agree with the changes!!!

Sandra Orchard said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, Audra!!! Great seeing you here.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Sandra and welcome to Seekerville. Great ideas for dealing with those corners we paint ourselves into. I've done it many times and have used all of your ideas except the three silly words. The best thing that works for me though is to take a walk. Somehow the act of walking is enough to keep my left brain occupied so my right brain can start cooking.

Have fun here in Seekerville.

Virginia the apple strudel is yummy.

Sandra Orchard said...

Ah, Sandra, walking used to work for me, but now I have Bella...a young pup who demands all my wit to be on high alert while walking. :D

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, everyone! I've been up for ages, working on a new project (it's a surprise! Will fill y'all in later). I'll go catch up!

Missy Tippens said...

Virginia, thanks for breakfast! So yummy. I could just eat a bowl of that whipped cream!

Missy Tippens said...

KC, I was doing the Kindle giveaway since it's so easy to give a gift book. All I have to do is enter the person's email addy. :) But since there are those of you who don't have e-readers yet (I don't either!), then I think I can do a paper copy. I'll just send to a different address. So anyone who wants to win a copy, go ahead and let me know to enter you! I'll confirm format before sending.

Missy Tippens said...

Helen, thanks! I had my coffee way early. I think it's time for a Diet Dr. Pepper. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, what a fun series idea for Sandra! :)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Wonderful post! I talk to writer friends, that ALWAYS helps! Try to slow down writers when they have ideas flowing...

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy, that's a good point. I just told one of my critique partners this weekend that I'd much rather her find problems with my book than for my editor to find them later!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I agree. She is VERY nice!! She was sweet enough to look for me at an ACFW book signing when I was sitting there all alone, looking pitiful, no one lining up for my autograph. I've loved her ever since. :)

By the way, she's amazing with promo and online stuff! And very generous to help.

Kav said...

Mercy Sandra, we meet again! LOL. Love your suggestions. I'll have to try the three nonsense words and see what I come up might be scary!

When my mind gets muddled and I start to go cross-eyed at the computer I either switch to writing by hand on a lovely newsprint pad or I walk the dog...or I weed.

And please don't enter me in the draw. I have Sandra's book already. Read it even. It's good...really, really good!

Missy Tippens said...

Susanna, don't go out and drive in it! We'd hate for you to wash away!!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, walking is a great idea. I find I do some of my best brainstorming when I'm driving! Of course, maybe I should give y'all warnings before I do that.

WARNING: INATTENTIVE DRIVER! Stay off the roads! Missy is plotting her book!

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, I'd say if you waited until your third book, then you were overdue. hehe

Of course, we usually don't have the luxury of wallowing in writers block. Have to force words on the page no whether we like them or not! :)

That's one reason I loved Sandra's idea of using 3 words. Forcing ourselves to write something.

Sandra, I love that you were able to use your words for a book opening!! Way cool.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Audra, I LOVE Mahjong!!! So addictive. I've tried to use it as a reward for getting lots done. But once in a blue moon, I use it to bury my head in the sand when things aren't going well. :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Oh, yes, Sherri, talking to writer friends is the best.

Kav, thanks for the promo :-D And I can't wait to hear what you come up with for your nonsense words. Your creativity amazes me!

Hey, Missy...I'm thinking bumper stickers. Can you get them printed in time for ACFW?! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, Sandra LS! So you're another healthy person who walks to get unblocked. :) I'm feeling convicted! So no more driving. From now on, I'll burn calories while brainstorming. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sherri, I love brainstorming with others, too! It's amazing what other people can think of that wouldn't even be on my radar.

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, weeding the garden is a great idea. Of course, I'd have to have a garden for that! :) But I love the idea of digging in the dirt to get the mind moving. I could always go pull dandelions our of the yard. :)

Andrea Strong said...

The walking away thing works for me except I never manage to get back to it for days at a time. :-P

I'm always up for a free book, but I don't have a reader.

andeemarir at gmail dot com

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, I love the idea of bumper stickers! LOL

Andrea Strong said...

That is andeemarie at gmail dot com

Sandra Orchard said...

Missy, now if I could just find the time too get back to that new book, not to mention finishing book 3!! After ACFW ;)

I've never heard of mahjong, but by the sounds of how addicted you and Audra have gotten to it...that's probably a good thing. BTW, Missy if you'd like a garden to week, you're welcome to get your hands dirty in mine anytime!!!

Jamie Adams said...

Great tips Sandra! I'm sure I'll be using them here soon. Sometimes music or a walk helps me get back on track when I've hit a wall.

I made oatmeal muffins for the kids. How boring does that sound? I added chocolate chips and extra brown sugar. There's extra if anyone's feeling brave.

Missy the thought of you sitting alone at a table waiting for someone to buy a book brought a tear to my eye. I'd have been there, course the kiddo's are always with me and they all three talk non-stop. The party would be at Missy's table.

Sandra Orchard said...

Jamie, the consensus on walking is growing. I'll have to add it to my list of tips! I brought my 5 month grand daughter to my book signing this past weekend. What an attraction! She thought the bookmarks were rather tasty,too. Adorable pic on my FB page for anyone who wants to ooh and aahh. I am head over heels in love with her. :D

Connie Queen said...

I've never tried the 3 nonsense words, but I can see where that would help.
Loading the diswasher or switching laundry seems to help my creative juices flowing again. Actually, washing dishes by hand helps the most, but I have to be in the mood for that.
I really need everyone's advice and shoot somebody. (In my story...)
Your books sound terrific.
Sign me up for the drawing.
bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

Sandra Orchard said...

thanks Connie. My family would probably love it if doing dishes and laundry helped me think. LOL. I do find writing by hand helps me break out of edit mode and just write.

Hey Missy,maybe we should come up with a post-it note pad too. "When in doubt, shoot someone." :-D

Jeanne T said...

Sandra, loved your post. The three words idea is one I'll have to try. :) Walking and driving help me (I only write at red lights :)). I also sometimes write a scene that I've already envisioned and then go back to where I'm "stuck."
A few other ideas I've tried or come across to move beyon writer's block are to take a shower (it gets my creative juices flowing--don't know what it is about running water). Also, to randomly pick a Scrabble letter and brainstorm a list of words beginning with that letter that you may use to incorporate into your manuscript. Loving all these great ideas here today.

Jeanne T said...

P.S. I forgot to request that you enter me in the drawing for you book. It sounds fabulous. :)

Jamie Adams said...

Sandra you granddaughter is beautiful. I love how it looks like she's trying to help get the word out with the book marker.

If folding clothes and putting them away helped me think my family wouldn't know what to do "what do you mean... 'my socks are put away'? What happened to the dryer?"

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Sandra,

Another Ontario girl!! Can't wait to meet you at the conference this week!

Great suggestions! I've often written an exciting scene that's coming up in the story - just to get the writing going again. That usually works well.

Congrats on your 3 books series. They all sound super!

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sandra!~~~~

I love, love, love your smart ideas!!

AND plan to implement them.

Sandra Orchard said...

Big wave Sue, can you see me across the lake?! Looking forward to meeting you too. :D

Jamie...yee! Don't you just love her to pieces? Thanks for taking a peek. :) You're a kindred spirit in the folding laundry dept. I just spend half an hour catching up on that. I figured I better leave them with clean clothes in their drawers if I'm going to be away at conference!

Sandra Orchard said...

LOL Jeanne, you must be the lady that sat through two red lights the other day (and the green ones in between) getting that scene down! I second your shower idea, or a long hot bath with a good book...always inspiring. I'll have to try your Scrabble letter idea. That sounds like fun. I struggle with putting enough setting on the page, so I like to brainstorm words that convey the mood of the scene (to use in setting blips). The Scrabble idea might help me come up with a little more variety. :)

So happy to be here, Tina, Thanks for the warm welcome.

Nancy Kimball said...

Missy, i love the bumper sticker idea. I do the same thing in this Houston traffic. I remember the exact traffic light I was stuck at when I got the idea for my current WIP. By the time the light changed, I had the first third of the plot, LOL

Donna said...

Hi Sandra,
This topic really resonated with me. The more I learn about writing the less I know! Then my brain freezes. But not the good kind like when you eat ice cream too fast!
BTW I think Dose of Deception is an interesting title. It's different.
I would love to win Deep Cover lostie815 at hotmail dot com.

Sandra Orchard said...

Donna, I love your comparison to ice cream brain freeze. I felt my head go that way the instant you said it. LOL I hope some of the ideas work for you. I appreciate your vote for Dose of Deception. :D Just heard back from my editor, and at the moment we're toying with Fatal Remedy and Critical Condition. DoD is off the table :(

Missy Tippens said...

Andrea, I'll enter you. I decided to offer print or e-book.

You know, sometimes it is hard to get back to a story after walking away for a while. I have to re-read what I've written so far to get back in the flow.

Missy Tippens said...

Jamie, you're so sweet! I think that year was the year when my books didn't show up. Somehow, a box of vampire books showed up instead! The box had the name of my book on it and everything. I thought it was hilarious. But no books at my table. I just signed a few bookmarks. And bless Sandra's heart. She stopped by to see me. :)

That said, sometimes books signings are tough to sit through when there aren't a lot of people attending! Or even if there are a lot of attendees. I know one year at the RWA conference (where there are about 500 authors signing), my hair was literally blown back by fans who ran by trying to get to Sherrilyn Kenyon! All I could do was laugh. :)

Digging for Pearls said...

Yeah Sandra! :) and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for the ideas for overcoming writer's block. It isn't something I've faced yet, other than dealing with procrastination.

So excited about your new book and series.

Jodie Wolfe

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, your granddaughter is beautiful!! I love the shot of her with your bookmark. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Connie, washing dishes is a great idea! Although my mind tends to wander when I do that. I can't stay focused. Get distracted trying to scrub off baked-on gooey thing! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, I'll let you have that "shoot-someone" notepad! If I did that in my books, I don't think my editor would be too happy. LOL

Since I can't kill of characters, I guess I have to just break their hearts. There's a sticky note pad for you. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The problem with bumper stickers that ADMIT we're inattentive...

The other guy's insurance company is gonna have a field day. ;)

Hey, dropping off chicken salad for lunch... grapes on the side. Almonds, too. I love chicken salad with nuts and grapes now. How did this happen???

I don't know.

Missy, I take pity on you all the time. You just have THAT KIND of sweet puppy look going on.

Stinkin' Southerner.

And no one guilts me the way Missy does. Soooo not fair.

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, what a great idea to pull out Scrabble! That puts you more in fun/play mode instead of work mode. Might work really well!

That, and maybe I could find some use for Scrabble that way. I hate the game because I'm TERRIBLE at it! Always lose. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Sue! So you're another one who can write ahead. Y'all who can do that amaze me. I just cannot write out of order! I'm so linear it's almost comical. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy, that's a amazing! You know, I've been known to call the house on many occasions to leave a message on the answering machine with a book idea I had while driving. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Donna, sometimes when I start thinking of all the writing methods I've learned and want to use, I get brain freeze! I can't keep it all straight and really need to create a plotting notebook. I do have several planning sheets that i always print and/or copy when starting a new book idea. But I'd love to have it all in one handy place.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, I love Critical Condition!

Missy Tippens said...

Jodie, I think procrastination is a problem for most of us. Especially if the writing it hard at that moment.

Have y'all ever noticed how hard it is to move ahead when you know you need to write a scene that's going to be very emotionally draining? It's really tough sometimes.

Sandra Orchard said...

How do you gals get any writing done with all this fun chit chat and FOOD!

Vampire books, Missy! That's too funny. I don't remember that coming up in our conversation. :D I'm picturing a pink heart shaped post-it pad for you with jagged line down the heart breaker. Oh, yes, considering what Ruth said about other drivers...we could change your bumper sticker to: Caution: Heart breaker at the wheel.

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I work on that hangdog look just to make you feel guilty. I'm so glad it's working.


Sandra Orchard said...

Jodie!! Good to see you. Glad you decided to hang out with me for today's procrastination session. :D

P.S. Oh, Missy, big hug for loving my grandbaby :D

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy and Sandra, that's probably a good idea on the bumper stickers. :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Missy, that's hilarious. I can just imagine the kind of messages you leave on your answering machine and the funny looks on your family's face when they get to them before you!!!

I'm going to tell my editor you love Critical Condition :D

cynthia said...

Thank you for the strategy for overcoming writer's block. I will have to try that. The middle is where I get stuck because I think of many different ways that I can get to the ending.
I look forward to reading your latest story.

Donna said...

Missy, thanks for the plotting notebook idea. I'm sure I need to simplify and have the important stuff all in one place. I'm going to try that.

Sandra, love the irony of Fatal Remedy!

Missy Tippens said...

Cynthia, one thing I like to do sometimes is use one of those large tri-fold boards (I've used the back of my kids' science fair projects!) and tape sticky notes across the top that have all the different options I can think of. Then I go downward from each one, adding sticky notes on what would happen next, then next. Those branch off as well into different choices. Then once I get to the end of the book in each column, I look at each "route" and figure out which one I like best. It's been a good way for me to make choices.

Missy Tippens said...

Donna, I hope it helps. And I hope I can pull mine together as well! The main thing I need to do is scan a few of the sheets I use so I'll have them in my computer.

Sandra Orchard said...

thanks Cynthia. I like Missy's post it note idea for overcoming your problem.

Donna, I'll add your vote for Fatal Remedy. :)

Linnette R Mullin said...

Hey, Missy-girl! I would totally love to be included in the drawing. lr(dot)mullin(at)live(dot)com

Sandra, welcome to the Island! :D #3 is one I use hugely - "Skip ahead to a scene you know how to write and write it. Oftentimes the bridging scenes to get there will reveal themselves as you write this later scene." This is so true for me!

Also, I was really stressing over how to start book 2. I know what I want to do with the story, but at what point do I start and with what scene? Then, I remember the get in late and out early rule I learned here on the island and it hit me! Yes! Here's hoping it works and I don't have to rewrite the beginning of this story a gazillion times like I did book one!

Sandra Orchard said...

Linnette, sounds like you've got a great strategy for your second book!

PatriciaW said...

Hi Sandra! Love those ideas for breaking through. The writing definitely began to bog down last month. I'll be putting your ideas to use as soon as I get out from under some day job stuff.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sandra! Thanks for the nifty ideas for blasting writer's block! Will give the three nonsense words a try.

When I'm stuck, I usually go back and reread the book up to that point. Sometimes that's all I need to get moving. Other times I brainstorm with friends. I've written ahead too. Then go back and try to figure out what path will get me from point A to B. I sometimes just talk it out with my d/h. Poor man. He says: "Just make something up." Now why didn't I think of that? LOL


Jan Drexler said...

Hi Sandra!

Thanks for the great ideas. Not that I know anything about writer's block!

I mean, of course I have those times when I just have to change the laundry, or clean the toilet, or eat some chocolate, but that's not writer's block, is it?

I'll have to try the three words sometime, though. It's amazing what can come out of our minds when we're not trying, isn't it?

I'd love to win a copy of your book - kindle is great for me, Missy.

Sandra Orchard said...

Wonderful, Patricia, I hope the ideas work for you.

LOL Janet, bless his heart :D

Jan, anything that drives you to clean toilets rather than not good. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Linnette! Don't fret too much on your book opening. I think I just about always have to re-work the beginning. You can always fix it later if you change your mind. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Patricia! I'm glad you dropped in!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Janet!! I can just hear your poor hubby saying that. :)

Our hubbies have certainly learned to be patient. And I rarely see their eyes glaze over. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Jan. Yeah, you're not dealing with writer's block. You're just using your regular coping methods. :) I love it! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Speaking of coping methods...

Forget chocolate. I have discovered the MOST YUMMY THING EVER!! It's Biscoff Spread.

Who's ever eaten those wonderful Biscoff cookies while flying Delta? Well, they make it in a spread now. It looks like peanut butter but it's crushed up cookies. Creamy and sweet and AMAZING. My kids like it on toast and as a sandwich. I just like it by the spoonful! And I'm ashamed to tell you how huge the spoon is!!! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

By the way, another LIS author, Rachelle McCalla, is featured on the Harlequin blog today! If you get a chance, check it out. She's also doing a giveaway. I can't figure out how to add links in comments, but here's the URL:

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Nice to see you blogging here Sandra!

That is really neat that the opening scene of one of your novels came from a writing exercise!

I may be the only writer to enjoy this (hopefully I am not though) but I like writing myself into a corner, I love the ideas and work it takes to get out of it :) And yes I write without an outline :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Hi Eva, I've got to tell you that when I first read your writing into a corner comment, I'm picturing a school girl enjoying being sent to the corner, because it gives her a chance to read on the sly...most likely. LOL. Now I know who to call when I'm stuck. I'll let you figure out how to unstick me. :D

Patty Wysong said...

I love your nonsense word idea! I've been able to jump ahead to a different scene and that's helped tremendously.

So cool that the opening came from such a simple exercise! Love it!! =]

Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks, Sandra! I sure hope so.

Missy, if I have to change Tiffany's opening as many times as I did Beth's I just might go insane! LOL I don't mind changing it, but that was just too much. :D

Helen Gray said...

Missy, I'm also linear. Can't write out of order.

Is it OCD?

Missy Tippens said...

Eva, I bet you're an optimist, aren't you? :) Love it!

You know, you make a great point, though. Sometimes getting stuck can be fun.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Patty! thanks for stopping by.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Linnette! I know what you mean. I started out as a pantser. But after about 3 novels, I started outlining because I decided it was much easier than all the revising I was doing. :) I'm thankful I had turned into a plotter before selling. It's helped me with writing synopses that I have to do for proposals.

Missy Tippens said...

Helen, I'm not sure. I just have to know what emotions I'm dealing with in each scene. And if I skip ahead, I'm not sure yet how my characters are going to feel about each other. Of course, you could work out those details later. But for me, it just doesn't work.

I can plan ahead, though. I can jot down scene ideas. Just can't write them.

Missy Tippens said...

Speaking of outlining...

Sandra, you say you have books well outlined. And I usually do, too, at least a few chapters ahead. So how do we get writer's block if we know what's supposed to happen next?? How do we end up in those corners??

I wonder if it's because our character arc isn't exactly what we thought it would be. Things do change as we go. New ideas hit. BETTER ideas hit! :) Why do you think it usually hits you in the middle of the book?

I usually have the worst problem around chapter 5 for some strange reason.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Any time Sandra :)

Missy, I try :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Hi Patty, I don't know about you, but I rarely do the suggested exercises in how-to books etc. But I'm glad I tried this one. It takes you mind to unexpected places that can prove to rewarding.

Missy, what gets me stuck is that I'm always trying to end chapters with a good hook to propel the reader forward. However, sometimes the hooks I come up with detour the story in unexpected ways. I'm experiencing now, my editor asked me to change a major characteristic of my heroine. This changes her character arc and her romantic conflict to a certain extent. It's making my rewrite really challenging, because I've lost a wonderful layer that I can't easily substitute.

Eva, my friend...did you read what I just wrote to Missy?...You'll be hearing from me after ACFW. You may want to stock up on acetone or whatever other tricks you have for unsticking things. :D

Anonymous said...

well I don't knwow where we had high water 'cause I didn't even walk through a puddle! we're back to drought again I think..can't even tell it rained. :-(

now I'm awake and up at the hospital with my dad waiting for his catscan.tomorrow will be hectic with more of his medical stuff but hopefully it'll go smoothly. I haven't been to this part of the hospital since my mom passed..actually a bit before that..I usually just bring him here for the treatment and visit in that part of the hospital- the times I came to this part for the scans, etc I sat out here with my mom and either got online or read depending on which building we were in...feels sorta strange and not a good strange :-(

off to grab a book!!


Linnette R Mullin said...

Ach! Missy! You said the writer's curse word! synopsis.... bleh....

:D Maybe you can give me some pointers.

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

You asked a good question:

"So how do we get writer's block if we know what's supposed to happen next??"

Writer’s Block is not just one thing. You can know just what you need to do next and not know how to do it. You may even know how to do it without being able to force yourself to sit down and do it. The block can be mental or it could be instrumental. It could be a lack of ideas or too many ideas! It could be fear of failure or a fear of success.

A poet once said “I see the right way but I choose the other.”

Right now I’m blocked on a story and I don’t think it has anything to do with Writer’s Block. It’s instrumental. I need to come up with three examples where I can layer into a first person POV romance, ways in which the reader is shown that the hero is falling in love with the heroine. I am not allowed to use the heroine’s friends telling her how the hero looks at her because this is too cliché.

The story needs these examples because the hero is editing his sister’s romance and he has stated to the heroine that the book needs these examples.

Is this writer’s block or am I just a blocked writer? Sometimes writing is too hard. That's when you call in help.


Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

Here are a few titles with a medical and/or IT theme.

Diagnosing Murder
Murder Undiagnosed
Death Stalker
Death by Stealth
COD Code Cracker

Idea: “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Nor does the book fall far from the title. Think of Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich. I can tell many of their books by the titles alone. I really envy that as a marketing guy. What an advantage.


Missy Tippens said...

Susanna, I'm sorry. That must be difficult to go back. Hang in there.

Enjoy the book. I hope it helps.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, that really is hard when we have to unravel a thread and then weave something else in there. I understand what you're going through! But I'm sure the end product will be fantastic.

Missy Tippens said...

Linnette, maybe I'll post on writing a synopsis next time I do a post. Great idea!

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, you're right. This is hard!

I'll toss out some ideas for your story...

--hero does something nice for her--something special that he's thoughtful enough to do.

--Hero does something special for someone she loves (like her sister, parents, child...)

--hero sacrifices his own comfort/welfare for the heroine

--hero remembers something she told him a long time ago--thus, proving she was important enough to him for him to have been paying attention. I especially love this if they weren't even dating at the time, showing he cared even before she did.

--hero chooses her over something else that's very dear to him

--cliche alert...hero looks at her with love in his eyes. :)

--his kisses say what he can't say in words (okay, that's probably a cliche as well. But I love it. :)

Sandra Orchard said...

Susanna, I hope your dad's results are good.

Vince, thanks for the title suggestions. Apparently titles with death and murder in them don't sell as well for Love Inspired Suspense though. It seems Missy vote has swayed my editor in favor of Critical Condition. I can't decide whether I like it better than Fatal Remedy. :D

Sandra Orchard said...

Missy, your "cliche alert" reminded me that I'm on Margie's alumni blog tomorrow!!! She's going to dissect passages from my book. Should be interesting. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, how fun, Sandra! (Margie's blog, I mean). But scary, too. :)

I really like Critical Condition! It has alliteration, which I love.

Missy Tippens said...

Castle's on tonight!!! I've been so excited for the new season, and to see how they resolve last season's finale.

I'll check back again after it's over. Although I'm pouting. Hubby is watching Monday Night Football on the big TV. I'll be stuck in the bedroom or kitchen. I think there should be a law against watching football when Castle returns! :)

Jackie S. said...

I would love to read Sandra's book...have been seeing some good posts on it lately. And thanks, Missy, for offering it in print form also....still don't have a Kindle. Thanks for entering me!

Missy Tippens said...

I've got you entered, Jackie (and all the others who said they wanted to be entered)!

The winner will be announced in the weekend edition.

Jessica Nelson said...

Great tips, Sandra! I have to force myself to sit down and just write. Sometimes I bring in a surprise to get excited again. Writing through a block can be painful but well worth it. :-)

CatMom said...

Hi Sandra!! GREAT post (and love your idea about the nonsense words--I'll definitely try that). ~ I like to take "needlepoint breaks" now and then, and often I get fresh ideas (or at least a more creative way of writing a scene)while my fingers are stitching away*smile*. ~ Thank you for sharing here today, and of course....thank you for being the BEST Accountability Partner!! :)
Hugs, Patti Jo
p.s. Found your book at my Walmart today and was SUPER excited!! Made pictures and purchased several copies. :)

Cathy Shouse said...


I would like to be entered for the book. I'm actually having writer's block for this post! I don't have the answer for writer's block, obviously.

I get writer's block when I pressure myself about how good the "hook" has to be, how witty the dialogue must be, that sort of thing. Like Sandra said, learning craft can actually promote writer's block.

In case it hasn't been said, (no time to catch up on all these posts), to get over writer's block, I will tell myself that what I write doesn't have to win a Pulitzer. It can be revised. Sometimes, I will type while semi-reclining on the couch, or even in bed. Being in a relaxed position, not hunched over the keyboard with shoulders tensed, sometimes helps. I need to quit feeling the writing is so incredibly important and just relax and let thoughts flow.


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Sandra,
Loved your tips to jump start creativity! Talking about the story always helps me work through a problem area.

Sorry, I'm so late stopping by. A cp meeting and ACFW prep took up most of the day.

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

Thanks, your suggestions will work. I’ll have them in the story by tomorrow night!

What I especially need are examples that the reader will get but the heroine might miss. I want the reader to be more sure of the hero’s love then the heroine is. I think it would be very interesting to put the reader in a more privileged position than the POV character in a first person narrative. Again: I know what I want to do but it is very hard to execute.

I like the idea of remembering something the heroine said before they even met. (He overheard her talking to her friends.)

I also like him doing something very special for her. She says she likes a mystery author very much but she hates waiting a year for the next book to come out. He orders the newest book from Blackwell’s in London because the UK versions come out a year before the NA editions. Of course, she didn’t know this. ( I actually did this once years ago on a Donna Leon book! It worked!!)

I also like “Critical Condition” but I might make it a little more forceful by putting the adjective second: “Condition: Critical”. At least they do this in romance languages. : )

What a great day and helpful blog we've had today!

Thanks to all.


Patty Smith Hall said...

Sandra, so looking forward to seeing you at the conference--can't wait for you to sign my copy of your book!

Missy Tippens said...

Jessica, thanks for stopping by!
Patti Jo, I know Sandra will appreciate your support!

Missy Tippens said...

Cathy, what a great idea to change to a more relaxed position! I usually write on my laptop on the couch, so I'm pretty relaxed. Maybe I should try moving to the table sometime just to see what happens. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Debby! Hope you have a great trip!
Vince, I hope you can make it work. It would be difficult to do in first person but not impossible. If you've made the hero really likable, then while the heroine thinks bad thoughts about him, the reader will be pulling for him, hoping he'll prove himself (and that the heroine will get a clue!) :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Patty SH! Hope you have a great conference!

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, y'all. I have to rave about the Castle episode! Loved the twist at the end!! But I won't give any spoilers in case other DVR'd it. :)

Edwina said...

Great article, Sandra! I would love to read your book!

Sandra Orchard said...

Wow, your the bestest group. I woke up to a dozen more comments!! Bummed I missed the Castle episode now that you mention it Missy!

Jackie and Jessica, thanks for stopping by. Yay, Patti, so glad you found the book. Can't wait to see the pics.

Cathy, as I read your post, I found myself fixing my posture. LOL. Like you, I often find a change of scenery like moving to the recliner works long as Castle's not on. :D

Debby, so happy to see. I just realized that I missed your interview of my hero Sunday on Craftie Ladies! I have a good excuse though. My daughter was really sick. Thankfully seems to be on the mend now.

Vince, I'm so glad you suggested Condition: Critical. That's what's been running through my head all night and seeing it written with the colon makes me like it all the more.

Patty!! I'm reading your book right now! Really enjoying it. Looking forward to seeing you again. One more day and I'm on my way!

Edwina, thanks so much for stopping by.

Missy Tippens said...

Edwina, thanks for coming by!

Sandra, we really enjoyed having you. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Sandra Orchard said...

Thanks Missy for having me. I've had a great time!

Linnette R Mullin said...

Missy, you're now my favorite person. LOL Thanks!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Linnette, I'm not sure I have much to offer! But I can tell how I do it. :)