Writer's Notes

When You Hit the Brick Wall: Pamela Beason


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Author Pamela Beason

By Pamela Beason
I can SO identify with this topic. Once, when I was whining about how difficult it was to be discovered as an author, my mother remarked, “Well, you must like hitting your head against a brick wall.” (Such support, right? But I digress…) Of course she meant that I could do much easier things instead of trying to write and publish novels. And in that, she was correct.

It’s hard to be an author. When I speak to high school students, I ask them to name the most important trait needed to become a successful author. They guess aspects like “good grammar” and “imagination,” which are important, but not the most important. The correct answer is “self discipline.” Nobody makes a novelist work forty hours a week. There’s usually no guarantee of payoff for all the hours we put into assembling words into stories. We have to make ourselves sit down and write and edit and finish a book. And then most of us have to make ourselves market that book, too. So, as we toil away at our computers and rearrange endless Post-It notes, it’s all too easy to hit the wall and simply not want to continue.
I smash into that dang wall on a pretty regular basis. I get stuck on plots. I decide my writing is total crap. I’m almost always certain I don’t have a clue how to market a book. Sometimes I don’t even how to finish the freaking story.
But I know I want to try. So, I back up from that wall, bandage my injuries, then take a long solo walk or paddle my kayak around the bay. Some evenings, I’ve been known to have several glasses of wine and feel sorry for myself. But I allow myself only a day to wallow in self-pity. The next day, I suck down several cups of good coffee and get to work on employing these techniques for getting over or around that invisible barricade.

  • To help with writing:
    • I read a book that I love that is similar to what I’m trying to write, and make notes about what happens in each chapter. This must be a book that I’ve read at least once before, because I don’t want to get so involved in the story that I can’t see the structure. I’m not going to copy the plot or characters, but taking notes about the structure allows me to see how the author built the story. Then I can often see where I am going wrong, usually by telling too much too soon, or straying off on some tangent that kills the suspense.
    • I watch a movie in the same genre and take notes of the scenes to accomplish the same goal I described above. Again, this should be a movie I’ve seen before, so I don’t get too wrapped up in what’s going to happen next.
    • I read an instructional book on writing mysteries. Yes, I know all this stuff, but for some reason I need to be reminded over and over again.
    • I brainstorm with another writer, asking for criticism of my story and for any and all ideas for improvement, no matter how wacky. It’s easy to lose all objectivity about your own writing, and it’s easy to fall into a rut, so you need to seek out the ideas and opinions of others. I generally don’t end up using the ideas presented to me, but brainstorming sessions open my brain to new possibilities.
    • I practice writing the short description for the story that will go on Amazon or on the back of the book. This is always an agonizing exercise for me, but it often causes me to focus on what the heck the story is really about.


  • To help with marketing:
    • I Google other authors who are similar to me and look at what they do on Facebook and author websites and such. Since I am an indie author now, I mostly look at other indie authors, because traditional publishers have larger advertising budgets and more marketing opportunities than most indies do.
    • I ask other authors at my level (or slightly above) and in my genre which marketing techniques and advertising sites have worked for them. I write mysteries, so it won’t help much to ask a nonfiction author or a romance or fantasy author; I’m seeking ideas on what works for marketing mysteries.

The process of writing, editing, and marketing a book takes a long time for most of us. I meet many writers who finished a story but did not bother to proofread or polish it, uploaded the rough version to the internet and then got frustrated and bitter when that effort did not result in massive sales. I call this group “hobby writers.” They aren’t yet professional authors.
Professional authors know that writing and marketing good books is work, and they are willing to put in the days to push on when they hit the wall. The process doesn’t necessarily get easier with each book, but we know that when that barricade inevitably looms in front of us, we will find a way to get around it.


Backcountry_ebook-final-cover-2x3-200x300Pamela Beason is the author of Backcountry, Book 4 of the Sam Westin series, s now available in eBook form almost everywhere. Print copies are available from Amazon and Ingram. She is the author of nine full-length novels: The Only Witness and The Only Clue in the Neema Mysteries, romantic suspense novel Shaken and novella Call of the Jaguar, and Endangered, Bear Bait, Undercurrents, and Backcountry in the Sam Westin Mysteries, and young adult novels Race with Danger and Race to Truth in the Run for Your Life trilogy). I also wrote the nonfiction eBooks SAVE Your Money, Your Sanity, and Our Planet and So You Want to Be a PI? and multiple informational eBooks for authors. You can check out everything from the Pam’s Books link here.
In Backcountry, after the murder of two friends on a popular hiking trail, Sam reluctantly agrees to take over the job of leading a group of troubled teens on a three-week wilderness therapy program. But she soon begins to see signs that the killer may be traveling through the wilderness with her band of teen misfits.

When not writing, she’s out hiking and kayaking and having adventures so she’ll have something to write about!  She has a jam-packed, wonderful life. Carpe diem!

Writer's Notes


By Nancy Raven Smith


LS 3.8MB-1There have been lots of brick walls in my life, such as the ones I used to jump my horse over, the ones in relationships, and those on the outer walls of the house I grew up in. But let’s discuss those pesky ones that pop up when I’m writing. Especially since I’m a pantster.

As a pantster, I usually know the character, some of the major act breaks, and the ending when I start a writing project. But everything is up for change and development as I go along. Plotters/planners spend a lot of time outlining and making decisions before starting. I spend the same time tightening and rewriting after my first draft. As an explorer, some of the paths I take end in box canyons, and often the only way out is to return to the mouth of the canyon and move on. So I hit a lot of canyon walls, but I don’t count these as brick walls. More like taking the scenic route.

When a serious block appears on a project and my forward writing motion comes to a halt, I often wish that there was a magical horse that could help me leap over the problem. Sadly I haven’t found that horse yet. So in the meantime, I’ll share something that does work for me in the hope that it will help other writers with the same problem.

When I start writing, there are always scattered scenes that I see in my head. A love scene here or a bit of action there that comes late in the second act, or the ending of my project. These are scenes that I haven’t written yet because I haven’t reached them chronologically. So if I’m blocked from writing chronologically forward with the story, I’ll skip ahead and write one of those scenes. Sometimes as I write, my chronological log jam will break and when I finish the new scene, I can go back to where I was stopped. Other times not. If that happens, I’ll write another miscellaneous scene I know. If I write enough of those scenes, I’ll start connecting them and begin moving forward again.

While writing my second ever screenplay, I hit a serious wall right before the midpoint. I finally managed to keep going because I knew the ending very clearly in my mind. So I wrote the ending. When I did, I realized I knew the scene before it, and then the scene before that. As I continued writing backwards, I actually backed into the midpoint and the first half of my script. Then I smoothed, added, subtracted, and polished the screenplay during the subsequent rewrites.

Lest you think this produces a bad piece of work, that screenplay ended up in the top six out of over three thousand entries in the Disney Fellowship Competition. So I can honestly say this does work for me.

I hope this idea is a help if you get stuck somewhere, and I’d love to hear if anyone else has an unusual way of addressing the challenges they run into when brick walls stop their writing.



In Land Sharks, Lexi Winslow is a fraud investigator at a private Beverly Hills bank. As a favor to her boss, she’s sent to fetch home the daughter of the bank’s biggest client.
So she’s off to Sumatra, where the wayward daughter and her latest boyfriend were last seen. She has the added complication of having to take the boss’ inexperienced son along for training.

Once Lexi arrives at an isolated resort carved out of the remote Sumatran jungle, she discovers there are more deadly dangers inside the hotel than the crocodiles and head hunters outside. It is a hotel where women check in, but most don’t check out.

And of all the places in the world, Lexi runs into her ex-lover, who not only conned his way into her heart, but is always conning someone somewhere. Lexi is determined to find out what is going on and to get everyone out alive.



HeadShotNancy LS Banner2Nancy Raven Smith grew up in the Virginia horse country near Washington D.C. where she was an active member of the equestrian community. She also rescued and retrained former racehorses as well as cats and dogs for over twenty years. Raven Smith was a contributing writer and cartoonist for several sports magazines such as The Chronicle of the Horse and Practical Horseman and her screenplays have won multiple awards.

Raven Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. Her debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Selection Winner.
Reluctant Farmer on Amazon –
Land Sharks on Amazon –

Writer's Notes

Writers’ Notes: Hitting That Brick Wall

By Thonie Hevron

Everybody's a critic
Everybody’s a critic.

Everyone has time when they come across a barrier to their progress. It happened often when I first learned how to ride horses. All the videos, books, advice and trainers’ lessons barraged my consciousness while I was trying to effectively steer a 1300-pound animal with a brain the size of a walnut. [To be painfully accurate: The problem is the cerebrum, the thinking part, is only slightly larger than a walnut. The rest–all 1.5 to 2 lbs. of it–is  cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls gross muscle coordination, balance and body functions.]

The one thing that got me on track was a trainer saying, “If it’s not working, go back to basics.” Start from the beginning and work up until you work though the barrier. Usually by the time I did all that, the barrier had dropped. To borrow from Horse Listening, a wonderful training site, I’ve para-phrased the popular equine rider training blog (dated originally 2/24/2013) and applied them to the writing craft: 10 Tips for the Average Rider.

1. Find a good teacher-whether it’s a night class, an MFA, a mentor or a critique group, find someone who will urge you on, teach you new things, and maybe find another way to look at the same old issue.

2. Be patient-no way around this.

3. Practice-write every day, even if it’s journaling, blogging, marketing text. Just practice.

4. Accept your limitations-okay, I know I’ll never write the great American Literary Novel. But I can put out a pretty darn good mystery/thriller!

5. Find your comfort/un-comfort-whether it’s writing a love or action scene/making a speech or putting your work out there (in all probability to be dismissed by agents, publishers, etc.), learn to do it. Baby steps, practice all come into play here.

6. Enjoy the moment-this refers to when a horse does all the things your fingers, hands, back, butt and legs are telling him to do—at the same time. There’s no better feeling than the gliding on air of sinewy suspension, unless it’s getting an ovation after a talk or class you’ve given. Maybe your first fan mail. Enjoy it, savor the feeling. This is what can keep you going.

7. Set goal-short term (500 words today), long term (a completed manuscript by May 2018) and/or marketing plan. My publisher required me to do one for each book and they are invaluable.

8. Persevere-if you quit, it’s a sure thing you will fail. So, don’t.

9. Read, watch, imitate-Read craft books, watch your favorite author’s marketing technique/website and imitate!

10. Keep practicing-develop a routine so there’s no wiggle room to say, “Ooh, I don’t feel like writing today.”
monitorSee how this applies to writing? There are some days when I sit and stare at my blank page. The characters are revolting, the story arc fell flat, dialog is stilted. Okay, start at the beginning. Write one sentence. Don’t like it? Tough. Delete it tomorrow. Write another sentence, put some dialog in it. Throw in a twist that you didn’t plan. Write another sentence.

Pretty soon a whole scene will lay before you. If you don’t like it, wait until tomorrow to delete it. Give it some time to percolate in your imagination. Maybe losing it is what needs to happen; maybe this little side-trip is what you needed to jump-start your creativity.
I cannot buy into writer’s block—for me. I can only speak for myself. When I decided to make writing a professional enterprise, my husband and I decided it needed to treat it like a job. And it is. During my law enforcement career, I went to work every day. The boss wouldn’t have kept paying me if I’d said, “I’m not coming in today. My muse is on vacation.”

When I write, I apply the same principle. My writing routine varies with the seasons, family needs and activities. And, I may not work on my current novel. I have an active blog with two posts a week, a website, marketing and appearances to prepare. There is always something to do to further my writing.

Other ideas to move me through a rough patch:
• Go back to my initial inspiration for the story and review. See if I can capture the spirit of it.
• I go for a walk or hike; a trip to the beach. Sometimes, getting away from that blank page can refresh my creativity.
• I’m an inveterate note-taker. Often reviewing these scribbles can nudge me back to where I need to go.


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Marni Graff

The upcoming Fridays in November, you will find three other authors’ perspective on how they re-start their muse. If you’re like me, you’ll find something to help you over that hurdle. Marni Graff will appear on November 10th, Nancy Raven Smith on November 17th, and Pamela Beason is the final post on November 24th.



Don’t forget to check out the Sunday posts from the law enforcement veterans, Hal Collier, Mikey, and Ed Meckle (all retired LAPD), and retired California Corrections Officer John Schick. Their stories will make you laugh, cry, cringe or all the above!