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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 119, Volume 12 -- March 2008

Editorial

How does one overcome writer's block? This is a question that's been plaguing me for the last several months as I've spent nearly every day since the car wreck doing almost exactly the same thing - Sitting at my desk, randomly surfing web pages, composing blog entries, commenting on different forums, and unable to read books or write a story. I was able to turn out one entry for one of the flash fiction contests over in our Forums area, true. But that was only a thousand words. It took me all of three hours to do. Most of that time was proofreading and editing, not writing.

In my case the block stemmed from the concussion that I suffered in the wreck. My eyesight has yet to return to normal. Although it is almost back to what I had before the accident, I still sometimes get up in the morning and am able to see better without my glasses than with. Then as the day progresses my vision readjusts and I have to put my glasses back on. As part of this, I haven't been able to pick up a book and read it because I can't concentrate. This lack of concentration is also behind my inability to string together more than a few paragraphs of a composition. I have to save a file of what I'm attempting to write, come back to it later to edit what I'd done, and then add more text. So far, I've managed to cope. That said, I really would like to be able to start writing stories again. But this isn't writer's block, it's just healing from an injury. Writer's block is something different. It's something that happens to everyone from time to time.

So what is writer's block? Is it something different from the standard "dreaded blank page" syndrome that some people face? I think that those are two different things, myself. Facing an empty page and not knowing where to begin feels different than pulling up a file of an outline or a partly completed story and then not being able to compose the next scene. It seems to me that being unable to get back into the flow of composition is a bit different from being unable to think up a good narrative hook to begin a story. "Dreaded Blank Page" can be overcome by simply starting off with a number of different possible first sentences and seeing which one works best towards pulling the reader into the narrative. Writer's block, on the other hand, seems to be more of an inability to get back to work on a story that has already been started.

So, back to the original question: How does a writer overcome this inability to leap back into their composition? One standard trick is to re-read the story so far. This can sometimes spark off the next scene that one wants to write. If that works, then the writer just picks up the thread of the tale and dives back in. The story continues from the point where one had left it.

Another trick is to keep a short outline of the story as one first thought it should go, then refer back to the outline whenever one gets stalled out. The thing about outlines is that they rarely reflect the finished story except in a very general way. As the story evolves, the outline often bears less and less resemblance to the final product. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Stories should evolve as they progress. As a writer gets to know their characters better it is often difficult to force them to follow the original plan. One gets the feeling that they just wouldn't act that way, after all. Then one is faced with the added problem of how to obtain the action that the original outline needed. My advice is to think of the outline as a suggestion, not a solid plan of action. Don't force your characters to follow that plan if you've found out that they just wouldn't do "that" - Whatever "that" happened to be.

Yet another trick is to stop in the middle of a sentence. When this works it's because your mind wants to fill in the blanks that you've created. When this doesn't work, you feel pretty silly having that incomplete sentence just hanging there. Try it a few times and see if it works for you.

Other tricks can be as simple as having a set time to write every day. It doesn't matter if it is the same story that you work on during each writing period. The idea is to sit down and write. Once you've gotten into the habit of writing every day at the time that you've picked, you'll find that you produce more - and more varied - kinds of compositions. The idea is to induce a sort of OCD about writing every day. Regardless of the topic, schedule a regular time to sit and write. Then never let yourself off the hook. Don't allow yourself to skip a writing period. Once you figure out your most productive time of day to write, and your obsession is firmly ingrained, then you'll begin to reap large benefits.

Remember that every writer finds different things that work for them. Not everything will work for everyone. We are all individuals. We're only alike in some ways. But, we are different in lots of ways - That is a great source of strength.

I hope that some of these suggestions work for you the next time you can't seem to get back into your story. But for now, it's time for me to shut up and let you get on to our stories and poetry for this issue. Enjoy!

Dan

Serials and Long Fiction

Murder In A Fishbowl
By Michele Dutcher
In the not too distant future, an alien race called the Yangores are living side by side with humans on an earth still plagued by modern ills like corporate intrigue, drug use and murder. A sci-fi mystery.

Short Stories

An Echo of Strings
By L. J. Geoffrion
On November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was lost to Lake Superior, with all hands. No one knows what happened that stormy night. This is the story of The Lady of the Lake, the Finnish Snow "God", Heikke Lunta and the Mighty Fitz...

The Body of Isaac Cracklin
By Brian C. Petroziello
A series of five murders with the same bizarre M.O. rates attention even in New York City. Minelli and Mulhearn take on the case, because when the going gets weird, they get going.

Spitting Image
By E. S. Strout
Divorce wasn't an option, but unless Jennifer could give Steve a child, he would make her life hell. A clone seemed like the solution to her problem ...

Testing The Babysitter
By Gary J. Beharry
Secretly working to identify people infected with the virus that granted psychokinesis -- followed by insanity -- was a tough job for an eleven-year-old, but Derek had to try.

Extraction
By Ryan A. Somma
Jyl found a way to step outside of Time -- but there was a price to pay. And that price kept growing...

Electrocuting The Clowns
By David Byron
He was a misfit, and maybe a little crazy if not for his meds. So when a sexy punk girl invited him over, he figured he had nothing to lose. Of course, there's more than one kind of craziness in the world, and some kinds are more dangerous than others.

The Tower House
By Ronald Polizzi
Caitlin hated the new house on principle -- being forced to move with her parents away from her friends and her school because they had problems was totally unfair. They barely cared if she was there anyway, between her Mom's drinking and her Dad's angry retreat into his work. But the window in Caitlin's room in the tower offered a way out...

Space Castaway
By David Brookes
He'd won a Once In A Lifetime adventure -- a year alone on a space station, with his every move recorded for viewers back on Earth. But things were not nearly as much fun as he had imagined, especially as the weeks dragged on -- and on -- and on.

A Dog's Story
By Terry Larson
Leonard Growler tells all, from his birth through puppyhood and into maturity! The life story (so far) of the world's first genetically-enhanced, talking, genius-IQ dog, in his own words.

Problem
By Chris Ward
James woke up after a very, very, very long nap to find that he was the Last Man on Earth...

A Matter of Form
By Robert Moriyama
If Al Majius doesn't face the undead uberwizard Aaron Morgenstern in a duel to the death, hundreds of innocent lives may be lost. His chances of victory are somewhere between zero and less than zero, but if he dies, there will be nobody who can solve the Morgenstern problem for the long run.

Results of Forum Flash Challenge for February 2008

Congratulations to Nate Kailhofer, winner of the February 2008 Challenge. Check out "Bill and Harriet's" and four more snack-sized morsels of Mom 'n' Pop spacegoing fun (after you read and comment on our other fine features, of course)... And check the Fun and Games folder of the Forum in March for another impossible mission in the Flash zone!

Poetry and Filk Music

2084
by John Grey

Duel In The Midnight Rain
by Deanna

Industrial Action
by Stuart Sharp

Ivory Scam
by Francis W. Alexander

Last Train For Edinburgh
by Jon Stocks

Lend Me Thy Heart
by James Matthew Byers

Plasma
by Don Coonrod

Proposal
by Lyn Perry

The Legend Of MiddleEarthenTown
by Joseph Cameron

The Lovers
by Michaela Sefler

Stratification
by Richard Tornello

Stratification 2
by Richard Tornello

Stratification 3
by Richard Tornello

Swirling Grey Storm Clouds
by Heather Kuehl

Unidentified Funny Object
by Richard H Fay

UFO
by Christian Ward

Features

Reader's Corner: Myth Adventures, Volumes 1 & 2
By TaoPhoenix
TaoPhoenix dives into Meisha Merlin's new ominbus reprintings of Robert Asprin's classic fantasy humour series.

Space Policy In The 21st Century: The New Commons vs. A Sky Full of Enrons
By Daniel C. Smith
Daniel C. Smith examines the future of manned space travel.


Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2008 by Dan L. Hollifield