WAYS TO BEAT WRITER’S BLOCK
I’ve been writing for more years than I care to think - and I have 67 titles in my backlist. Some of them were wonderfully easy and wrote themselves (not too many, sadly) Others were harder – and yet others so difficult, they were like pulling teeth to get the words down on the page. But somehow I’ve still kept writing - I know that giving up is the way to lose any chance of being published. Over the years I’ve learned ways to tackle the dreaded ‘writer’s block, to fight my way through it and make sure it doesn’t totally overwhelm me. So I thought I’d share with you some of the ways I’ve discovered that help me keep on keeping on.
1. Writing your way through it
BICHOK – bum in chair, hands on keyboard : sit down at the computer and start typing. At the end of the day you will have something- even if it’s only 100 words but that means you are 100 words further on than yesterday. And even ONE of those words might spark a new idea or something that works and you have to run with
Sometimes you have to stop researching/planning/learning and just jump in – you can always fill in factual details (if needed) later
2. Select a different scene
In general writing a book from start to finish works best because the events you planned in your outline may change as you write
But if you’re having trouble with a particular scene and it’s stopping you from writing try moving on to the next scene –seeing what has to have happened in retrospect! Or one that happens later in the book that you have to work up to.
Or a love scene because they don’t change so fundamentally except in MOOD
3. Looking at the last scene you wrote.
Sometimes the problem isn’t the scene you’re trying to write – it’s the previous scene, the one that sets this up.
Have you set it up ?
Or set it the right way?
Are you forcing this scene from something that never happened?
The set-up scene may be further back – several scenes ago – you need to look at that scene and see where you went wrong. Where your characters went off track
4. Writing a scene that you won’t use.
If you feel like you’re losing touch with your characters write a scene that puts you in touch with them again – even if it isn’t part of this story:
A ‘normal date’
Their 25th anniversary – what would they look back on?
When they really talk – tell each other who they are and find what they have in common.
Let them tell you about themselves. IN THEIR OWN VOICES
5. Viewing the scene from a different angle
Sometimes just getting another perspective gets your creative juices flowing
Try describing the scene from another’s POV – and outsider
What do they see?
What does the observer think is in the character’s minds?
Write the scene ONLY in dialogue so the conversation carries the burden of explanation
Or write the scene as if one - H or h - is remembering what happened – and analysing it
6. Forgetting about perfection – or GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO WRITE SHIT
Sometimes ‘good enough’ really is good enough
Get it down on the page – you can always rework/polish later – or even discard the scene but it will TELL you what your characters need.
JUST KEEP WRITING
JUST TELL THE STORY
7. Looking FORWARD- NOT BACK
Every writer works differently and there isn’t a right or wrong way to work
But if you are not MOVING FORWARD because you keep second-guessing the decisions you made in previous chapters you have to tell yourself not to look back – and move forward no matter what
8. Write scenes that MATTER - out of order – or just because
You can always go back and link them up together later
But what do these scenes TELL YOU about your CHARACTERS?
9. Analyse your outline
Take a look at your story plan/outline – what you planned to do
Ask does this make sense in terms of plot and CHARACTER?
Looking at your outline now you know characters better, you may see gaps, problems, times when you have FORCED them into actions that are not right
Are you dictating the plot rather than your characters?
10. Re-energising your creative instincts
What drew you to this story in the first place?
A plot twist?
What story did you want to tell?
A romantic comedy? A drama? The fun of a complicated mystery suspense plot?
Try taking a break from writing and immerse yourself in a similar story plot or atmosphere or mood wise
But don’t do that for too long!
11. Sleep on it
Go to bed with the story in your head.
Eyes closed play the scene over in your thoughts
‘Hear’ characters’ voices. You can wake up with the answer
12. Idiot questions
Discuss the story with a trusted friend
Get them to make suggestions – just the fact of saying ‘no that wouldn’t happen . . can spark you off again.
13. Tell yourself the story – aloud
Use a tape/voice recorder to record yourself telling the story just as you speak.
14. LEAVE A SCENE AT A POINT YOU WANT TO CARRY ON
Don’t wind it all up at the end of the day
Give yourself a cliff-hanger like the reader
IF ALL ELSE FAILS - start another project – but don’t keep on starting – and stopping – and starting . . . Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and keep on with it.
I have a post it note that’s stuck on my computer screen – it’s a message from a wonderful friend and a great writer Michelle Reid. What she always used to say was:
JUST TELL THE STORY
And when I’m really struggling or stuck – that’s just what I do. I just tell the story. I can always go back and edit/polish it late – but as Nora Roberts says you can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page!
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