Defeat writer’s block once and for all!
Ah, writer’s block. I don’t know a writer who hasn’t stumbled into this pit at least once. I certainly used to fall prey to the seductive excuse of my muse abandoning me. I have learned a lot, especially since becoming a mom, about pushing past the fog and getting back to the text. So, today let’s talk about writer’s block, and how to remove it from your catalogue of excuses.
Ok, I know, I can hear you saying: “But Alison, I just can’t write! It’s not an excuse, I am totally blocked. I have no ideas. I QUIT!” First off, calm down, you can’t quit. You are a writer, you’re stuck with yourself. And yes it is an excuse #sorrynotsorry. Secondly, have no fear! I’m here to help!
I’ll start with some background to prove I have been there. While writing The Guardian series, I have had many an experience with writer’s block. I have literally left my manuscripts untouched for at least a year. There were times when I legitimately thought I was done with the series. But, something would always bring me back. In simpler days, before a demanding toddler boss controlled my time, I would wait for those magical moments of pure inspiration to strike. Then, I would dive into writing and not come up for air for hours. I would stay up until 3 in the morning if necessary to get the ideas out. There are few things in life better than writing while inspired. It’s pure magic, plain and simple. Unfortunately, for most of us, we won’t feel like this all the time; perhaps not even very often. Fear not, writer friends! All hope is not lost!
The secret I have learned, and this is going to piss you off because it sounds stupid, is to write. WAIT! Before you close the browser or throw your phone in annoyance, let me explain. When you are stuck, when you don’t know where to take your story, start writing and let the story pick you up as you go. Start writing what may seem like a boring scene, one you will probably cut later, just to get your character past the point you’re stuck on. Maybe that means they are going to have dinner. Describe it. What are they eating, smelling, seeing. Just write it. After dinner your main character (MC) decides to go for a walk. It’s raining. They hate the rain, but they are bored enough to deal with it. Suddenly, they turn the corner and see a figure watching them from an alley. They’ve seen that person before, they’re sure of it. A camera flash bursts through the darkness and the sound of shoes pounding on wet pavement is all your character can hear; eyes still blinded by the flash. BAM! We’re back on track! Who is that stranger?! Are they the mysterious man who has been tracking your MC for years? Keeping tabs on them for a mysterious benefactor!?
OK it isn’t always that easy, but I do promise it always works. Eventually. Sometimes it will seem like a waste, but when you come back the next day, your MC is somewhere else, and your subconscious may have worked on a new idea. I am continually surprised when this works for me. See? We can make our own magic :)
If this doesn’t work, you can shift gears to editing. Sometimes re-reading your manuscript can bring on motivation. It may remind you of a subplot you forgot to follow-up on, or a character that needs some more page time. Another strategy, if you are someone who has a good plan/storyboard for your plot, you can move to a later part of the book. Let future you deal with this awful section. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right? Parden? That’s not at all how that quote goes? Oh well, you get the point. Writing something is better than writing nothing. Books don’t have to be written from page one to the end; in fact, they rarely are. Have some non-linear fun!
Still stuck? Try a writing prompt! Again, this may end up being a scene you need to delete later, but it’s still not wasted time. You can go r/writingprompts on reddit for some great ideas, or just google writing prompts.
Another great idea, if you’re a visual person, is cruising instagram or pinterest. These can provide amazing writing prompts. Also, I am going to do a post in the future about pinterest for writers. It will blow. Your. Mind.
I know these ideas may seem silly, but give them a try! They just might surprise you. Plus: nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Nailed that quote!)
Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas, what you think of mine (as long as you love them), and what other topics I should cover in the future!