A slightly relevant Daily Post here as it relates to stubbornness. We writers are a stubborn bunch and sometimes we have to be, don’t we? If we weren’t we wouldn’t spend so much time writing, rewriting, playing around, changing, fiddling, tweeking, fine-tuning and scrapping entire chapters, killing characters, creating new ones to fill gaps or changing their gender to make the story work better.
And we wouldn’t keep trying to work through our writer’s block.
I’ve been relatively lucky so far with my present novel. I’m brimming with ideas and possible directions it might go in the future but I have felt that drag before on other projects. I feel the drag of that anchor that keeps us rooted to the spot staring at a blank page upon which we barely seem able to impart a single word of coherent English. How do you deal with writer’s blog? What can be done?
There are pages and pages of advice on writing sites on what to do. There is no one-size-fits-all mentality to writing or making yourself get over a case of the block but this is generally what I do.
1. Write Something Else
When writer’s block hits us, it is usually because we are stuck on an ongoing project. You probably need a break from it so go back to something else stuck in development limbo, or do something else. I usually find it helpful to write some flash fiction. Find a site with some flash fiction prompts and bang away. Flash fiction stories are usually no more than 500 words, though I usually aim for 300 words. Yes, I’m hardcore!
2. Write Rubbish
You’re going to anyway so you might as well embrace it. While at university I made little time for writing fiction. My then partner gave me a three word exercise to write about. It ended up being a truly craptastic short story about a redneck going to hunt a boar when he almost shoots a duck. No publisher in the world would ever touch it and I am actually too embarrassed to post it here. But… it was something. I had actually written something
3. Step Forward!
You’ve hit a brick wall with your novel. You know where you want to be… five chapters into the future… but you don’t know you will get there. So why don’t you write the actually being there? There is no rule in the Author’s Rulebook of Writing that says your book has to be written in a linear fashion. There is, in fact, no Author’s Rulebook of Writing either so work on your book whichever way best suits you. You know how the film Pulp Fiction is completely non-linear? Yes, you can write a book like that too. When I started my present novel I wrote chapter 1, then chapter 2 and then constructed a number of back stories which I expect to intersperse at various points. Now I am onto a much later chapter where the group have arrived at the fort. I have yet to write the journey out of Rome
4. Step Back!
There’s nothing wrong with writing a back story, even if you never use it. Writing a back story, some motivation, some childhood experience for one of your characters can sometimes lead to new directions for your characters or your story. Make it a self-contained short story and treat it as such, rather than as a chapter or a prologue of your book
5. Schedule time
Set aside time in your schedule to write. I mentioned a few days ago that I was making myself put aside a day and a time to write and it is working. Knowing you have a block of time in your diary to write something (even if it will only be about a redneck hunting a boar). It doesn’t matter how bad it is, this is about the journey and not the destination.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
If you write fiction, find a project that is something you haven’t considered before. As a freelance writer, I am writing a lot of business material – understandable because this is what the majority of clients are going to want. Occasionally I’ll come across a small, interesting contract that taxes the brain in a slightly different way or for the pleasure – the financial reward secondary to the sense of satisfaction I get from writing it. Something like this or this.
7. Don’t limit yourself
Sort of related to number 1 and number 6, it is prudent not to limit yourself to one project at a time. You need a break from each project so mix it up. If you find yourself running out of steam on your novel but a short half-finished story is niggling away at the back of your mind, work on that too. Your brain will appreciate the break and the fresh material to chew over
So that is my seven top tips. What works for you when you have writer’s block? Do you succumb to it, curl up into a little ball or do you have little tricks and tips that work for you? Please feel free to share them!