Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 6, 2014

Putting Words on Paper

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here, on….

Putting Words on Paper

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re writers. That’s what we do.

But most of us have been there… struggling to get to that next thought.

I may know what I WANT to happen, but I don’t know HOW to get there. I may know the tone I need to create, but can’t grasp the words to create it.

Or with no explanation I’m just… stuck on being stuck.

When clearing my mind isn’t enough… 

It’s time for plan B…. 

Instead of letting my lazy-instincts take over and killing an hour or ten on Twitter or (insert your own social-media black hole here) I have a few things I do to break the cycle.

Review critique partners’ work: This keeps me in creative-mode, without focusing on whatever project is freezing me out.

Okay. Check.  

Hmm… still nothing? No problem! There’s no greater excuse to curl up on the couch and….

READ READ READ! Important for ALL writers, I find it even more key for writing for children.

Reading for the target age group for my manuscript, keeps my brain thinking in the right rhythm. There is undeniably a pace, meter and natural ebb and flow to the way children’s brain’s take in their world. Reading the genre I’m writing, puts me in the right frame of mind.

Okay. I don’t think I can avoid it anymore. I have to go back to “that spot”.

Sigh. Okay. Fine! (slooooowly reopens the manuscript)

If I’m still hesitant to jump back in the first thing I try is….

Retreat. Regroup. And RE-WRITE:

Maybe the reason I’m stuck is because somewhere along the line, I took a LEFT when I should have gone RIGHT. I re-write the last section and make as many changes as I can think of. (I can always change them back later!)

If Bradley had pancakes, now he has cereal. If he rode the bus, this time missed it and was late for school. If Katie was after school for detention, this time it was because she forgot her math book.

A new lead-in can smoothly take me in the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

And other times….   Ugh. I’m right back where I started.   

Okay…. deep breath.  

First, I remind myself that thunking my head on the table will most likely not actually help. 

Time to buck-up, straighten my shoulders and JUST WRITE!

Write anything.

Ignoring my next plot point, I’ll throw my character in a completely random situation. It can help with character development, and gets my pen on the paper!

I wrote an entire chapter about my character randomly being told the family was moving. It got pulled, but I learned more about how he reacts in stressful situations, and actually came up with some funny lines I worked into other places.

Does this break me out and spur an idea of what how to bring things together? 

Well…. Sometimes.

If not… and I’ve done everything I can think of and gotten NOwhere…

Well then, I’m back to thinking that thunking my head may just be my best bet!  

(Honestly just picturing it is frustrating!!)


This is incredibly discouraging, horribly painful, and unfortunately… just part of being a writer!!!

So what NOW???  

There’s really nothing left to do accept…. FORGE THROUGH!

Time to write badly!!!

I use this when I know WHAT I need to write next, I just can’t figure out HOW. I know where my plot line needs to take me and I’ve done all the free-writing I can. I pick up the pen, and I write horribly (and I mean HORRIBLY).

I don’t worry about voice, or style. I don’t think about flow or if the reader will be confused. The more awkward, out of place writing, the better!

I’m like a Super-Villain from a new line of DC Comics. (oh yeah… I said it)

She uses run-on sentences and self-indulgent language to laugh in the face of all that is good and professional writing! 

She’s — The Agent Repeller!   MwaaahahahahaHA! 

I KNOW that I can’t write well all the time. So sometimes, I just don’t even try!

I write through it. I put words on paper.

Eventually, often without me even realizing it, things have smoothed out and I’m back to my natural style and flow of words.

Everyone’s process for how to work through these situations is different. All that really matters is that we have SOME way to deal with it, and don’t let it get us down.

What we do is HARD. Whether it’s picture books or YA, we’re creating entire realities that children have to believe in and CHOSE to visit.

No easy feat for sure.

We have to trust ourselves. Know that the story is in there and we will find it.

If we don’t put words on paper… sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing words that we’ll never show another soul… then there won’t be anything to work with.

Anything written, can be fixed. (Even if that means deleting 99 percent of it!)

It sounds so simple, but sometimes putting words on paper, is the toughest part of the job.


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,




  1. This is where I am today… in the middle of PB revisions and the story is just not gelling. So, I am rewriting a rough outline and then I’m going to just write – not worrying about pace or form or word choice, but getting words on paper.
    Thanks for your post.
    From a fellow farmer/writer,


    • Thanks so much Patricia! Good luck with your PB. Keep me posted about it. I’m sure it’ll find it’s way out!


  2. Another great post. Very true, and very encouraging, because we all go through this, but getting through it is the important part. This is exactly what I end up doing (just getting it down), and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised at what my characters end up doing. Sometimes they end up being funny when I hadn’t planned on it.


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