Writer’s block. We’ve all been there. Sometimes we even use it as an excuse.
“Why aren’t you writing today?”
“I can’t. I have writer’s block.”
It’s not a fatal diagnosis. It’s just a little stumbling block, which I can hopefully inspire you to overcome.
Writer’s Block Remedies:
1. Save the best for last.
A blank page can be intimidating. So can that first line. Forget the first line. In fact, forget the first chapter. Tell yourself you’ll come back to it later. It takes the pressure off writing the most amazing opening line or those critical first pages. Instead, jump ahead. Write the chapters you’ve been dreaming about. If you’ve been imagining it in your head already, chances are the ideas will just flow onto paper. No one said you have to write from beginning to end. Mix it up.
2. Skip it.
Stuck on a word? Thesaurus not helping? Personally, I don’t even bother with a thesaurus until I’m done with the first draft. Instead, my rough draft is filled with _______ (Blanks). Don’t get hung up on a word. If you’re on a roll, why would you stop writing for one single word in an 80,000+ word manuscript? Seems insane. Just leave a blank, or think of the closest related word and put an asterix next to it to remind yourself to come back to it later.
3. Start with an exercise.
The brain is like a muscle. And just like any other muscle, it needs warming up to prevent brain strain. Do a timed write, use writing prompts, interview your characters, do anything to start writing, even if it has nothing to do with your current work in progress.
5. Put it aside.
Maybe you’ve spent too much time on your current novel. Can’t see the forest through the trees anymore? Or rather, the story through the scenes? Is there another idea that’s distracting you? Get it off your chest. Put your current novel aside and work on something new for a while.
6. Check your outline.
Are you on the right track? The reason you’re floundering could be because the plot has gone awry. Maybe the scene you’re stuck on doesn’t move the plot forward, and you’re inner editor is screaming “What does this even have to do with the story?” Go back to your outline, or update it if you’ve taken the story in a new direction. And if you don’t have one yet, here are a few reasons why you should.
7. Start at the beginning.
Running out of steam? Start reading your novel from the beginning to remind yourself why you are so in love with this story. This kind of block happens to me if I take a short break from my current work in progress. By starting over, it can re-inspire you, or prompt new ideas or side plots.
8. Don’t aim for perfection.
The first draft is crap. It’s always crap. Remind yourself this and let yourself make mistakes. It’s the revised versions that really matter, and no one will see it until you’re ready. The most important thing is getting words down on paper. You are not a writer if you don’t write! It could be jibberish. You might know ahead of time that you will eventually cut it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste. You could learn something important about your plot or characters, or write something profound that simply must be used elsewhere in your manuscript.
9. Shift your focus.
Sometimes I’ll write an entire scene around the conversation between two characters. A crutch for many writers is to use phrases such as ‘he said sarcastically’ or a gesture or action to describe how something is being said. So, I’ll write the conversations without any interjections at all. Emotions and inflections should come through what they say not how they say it. Remember, show don’t tell. The conversation will tell a story all by itself. So let it. It’s amazing how quickly you can build a scene this way, and it’s not so daunting to go back and fill in the holes later.
10. Write in a notebook
Writing with paper and pen is messy. Scribbles, arrows, stars and cross-outs. At least, that’s how mine looks. Sure, I need the help of a linguist to decipher it later, but sometimes it’s better than using a computer. Your story looks so clean and professional on a computer screen, doesn’t it? It’s almost like a real book. But that can be intimidating. It means that whatever you’re about to type has to be perfect. So scratch and scribble in a notebook, it feels less final, less professional. It feels more like a rough draft.
We all get stuck sometimes. It’s not always obvious why. But keep trying new things. And if you still need a little more inspiration, check out Six Ways To Find Writing Inspiration.
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