Author Steven Lake

Curing Writer's Block - 8 ideas for you!
Monday, June 12th, 2017 11:14pm
Keywords: (None)

I had an interesting topic come up recently with a fellow author who was also working on a book.  His discussion was that he'd hit a really bad case of writer's block and didn't know how to get out.  It brought back some memories to me of times I've been blocked while writing.  Oddly enough, at first it was really difficult to get out.  But then I slowly came to realize the reasons why this happens and the simple ways out of it.  Here's a few simple tips for solving writer's block and keeping the story rolling forward.

1.  Stress - Life's stresses can cause you to suffer writer's block.  Stories do not flow when you're stressed.  Yes, I know you may be on a deadline, or you want to get this done in a hurry, but if you get stressed your writing quality will go down significantly and you will find yourself dead ending on your writing leading to writer's block.  If you get stuck, then just save your work (if you're on an electronic device like a pc or tablet), or just set down your pencil, get up and go for a walk, get something to eat, go watch TV or do something.  Just stop thinking about what you're writing and walk away for a while.  It really does help and allows you to clear the block and come back fresh with new ideas and a better attitude.

2.  Painted in a corner - Oftentimes when writer's block hit it's because you've written yourself into a proverbial corner.  I do that quite regularly actually.  Sometimes I have to back up several paragraphs or chapters, or even an entire book and start over in order to break the block.  The worst case I've ever run into I literally dead ended on my story and couldn't for the life of me go forward.  So I stopped where I was at, went back to the start, and read back through it again.  This in turn led me to realize just how badly I had painted myself into a corner and even at times how to fix it.  Sometimes that involves scrapping characters, scenes, entire chapters, and in one case an entire book and starting over the idea from scratch.  But regardless how you solve the problem, just back up, reread what you've written and try to further engrain that story or article or whatever you're writing in your head.

3.  The story/plot/theme is fuzzy - Sometimes if the story or article or whatever you're writing isn't set down in black and white in your mind, you can easily find yourself getting stuck.  Not because you have nothing more to write, but because you don't fully understand where you came from or where you're going, and thus you don't know how to get there.  It's like reading a map.  If it's not properly drawn with sufficient information to help you find out where you are, and how to get where you are going, then you are more likely to get lost than you are to reach your destination.  The same is true in writing.  If you have to, sit down and write notebooks full of notes.  Write it out in detail without getting too in detail.  IE, don't write the full story letter for letter in your notes, but rather who is going where, what they are going to do or are doing, etc.

4.  Take copious notes - This one is pretty self explanatory.  It goes along with point #3.  And this is more the "how" to do it rather than the "what" to do like #3 is.  A good example of this comes from a story I was recently working on.  It got to a point as I started diving into book two that I began to lose my way and was having increasing difficulties with the story.  Why?  Because I couldn't remember enough details from book 1 to properly keep book 2 going.  So, I stopped writing book 2, rewound to the start of book 1, cleaned up a TON of stuff I'd originally written but later found didn't work, and thus ended up scrapping those items and improving the story.  I also expanded my notes file considerably along the way.  Normally my notes file only has names of important places, people and objects within the story, and a brief blurb of who and what each is, but little more.  This time I ended up writing detail mini-bios on each item and person in order to fully engrain the story and the world elements into my mind.  And it's had a great and very positive effect on book 2.  Although very soon I will probably find myself having to do the same thing with book 2 as I get closer to completion to ensure it flows well too.  This will also aid in my efforts to start book 3 once I'm done with two.

5.  No OP/Notes Set ever survives the first chapter - Notes are just that.  Notes.  They're ideas.  And as good old Murphy's law states, no OP (original plan) ever survives the first chapter.  Or the second, or even the book.  I can't even count how many times I've written out ideas for a story, or even just a scene or chapter, only to have the story go and pretty much rip them up and toss them out the window.  Sometime they work well for helping me get a scene started and sometimes they end up being written as an idea and then later scrapped because events went a different route.

6.  Follow the story wherever it takes you - One thing I tell new writers is, let the story write itself.  A good story should not need to be forced.  Perhaps it might be a bit of a struggle as you're first starting out and establishing the world, as that's always the toughest part of writing.  But once the world is established, the rest should just flow on its own.  A good writer who has been at this a while can sense which direction the story should go and which way it wants to go.  It's like this little tugging or leading that says, "go this way" which, if you follow it, will lead you to some pretty interesting things.  And sometimes even small little changes that you make to solve one problem can open up a multitude of possible story ideas.  Case in point from a book I'm presently working on.  In the story I ran into a dilemma I needed to solve involving some animals and a dragon.

I won't say what it is (I don't want to spoil it for you, lol) but that one solution ended up opening up a whole other set of scenes and plot lines that actually worked out way better than my original idea.  I'd originally planned to take things one way, but ended up using this little patch to let the story go in another completely unplanned (at least originally) direction that ended up being better than the original idea.  So don't be ashamed if the story tells you to go one way even though you originally wanted to go another.  Who knows.  In the end you may actually end up with a better end product by doing that.  And if not, then delete it, back up, and try another path.  But you'll never know till you try.  Sometimes just taking your hands off the proverbial wheel and letting the story drive itself can help you get past your block.

7.  Break it out and shift your focus - It's not uncommon to be working in one part or scene area of the book, or even with one particular group only to run out of usable content for a while.  Sometimes this is because of time frames, maybe story content, or other things.  If you find yourself out of content for a particular character or group, then shift to someone else for a while.  In the same book I mentioned above I came into that same situation recently as I was shifting them from one area of activity to another.  The "in between" point was rather boring and not much was happening if anything.  It basically constituted the protagonist and his team traveling to their next destination during which not much if anything was happening.

So what did I do?  I shifted to another group in the story.  One of the secondary protagonist groups to be exact.  I hadn't touched on them much in the story up to this point as I hadn't needed to.  But at this point I decided to dive into them a bit more to sorta break up the story a bit and give me something to keep the story pushing forward without the old cliche time skip that so many people hate.  So the focus shifted to other people for a while to let these characters get down the proverbial road a ways before re-engaging them again as the focus of the story doesn't need to be on them for a while.

8.  Food, Drink and Sleep - Sometimes writer's block is not so much that you can't write anymore, so much as it's your body saying, "Hey, we've got personal needs you need to address, like now."  I've hit writers block on numerous occasions where I couldn't go any further and in the end the best solution was just to lay down and take a half hour nap.  When I awoke I came away with an idea splurge that easily resulted in three to four chapters without batting an eye.  But before taking the nap I couldn't squeeze out even a single usable sentence.  The same has been true with being hungry and/or thirsty, restless because I need a walk, etc.  So sometimes a good way to break your writer's block is to take a nap or perhaps eat something, get a drink, etc to help your body along.

Anyhow, that's eight different ideas you can look to for breaking your writer's block.  And I know there's lots more ideas out there, some of which you can probably figure out on your own.  But if you haven't at least tried these ideas, then consider giving them a spin and see if they help you get your writer's juices flowing again. :)

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