Dealing with Writer’s Block

This post is the nineteenth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

For the past few weeks, I have been covering how to write a novel. I have covered opening scenes, foreshadowing, dialogue and more. But there will come a time, no matter how detailed a plan you have for your story when a scene just isn’t working.

Or perhaps you are sailing along writing when the next time you sit down, a blank screen stares back at you. Suddenly, you can’t think of what to write next. You don’t feel like you have a creative bone left in your body. You want to throw in the towel. It happens to all of us at some point.

Tips for both of these situations are often similar but I am going to keep them separate anyway. Hopefully, one of these will help you out if you have these common writing problems.

Stuck on a Scene/Scene isn’t Quite Right

You’ve written a scene and it just didn’t turn out the way you imagined. Maybe it doesn’t flow or have the right amount of urgency or tension. Or perhaps you don’t know what is wrong with the scene other than it feels “off.” Sometimes even though we continue to work on something, it just doesn’t get any better.

So here are some tips for when you reach the point where you are stuck and can’t seem to get pass the scene you are working on.

1.) Step Back – Take a break. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie or even just listen to some music. Basically, take some time to free your mind up. Now this break could be 30 minutes, or it could be a day or two but don’t step away for too long. There is no use losing all your writing momentum.

2.) Keep Writing – Instead of finishing the scene you are working on, go on to the next one and resolve that you will return to the troubling scene later.

3.) Reread/revisit other areas – It might be time to go back a chapter or two and read what you already have written. Reading what is working might just be enough to get you through the problem area.

4.) Examine for an underlying problem – Maybe you have hit this roadblock because of deeper issues in your novel. Or maybe we are trying to force the action to be what we want rather than let our characters live out their own lives.

5.) Let someone else read it – Perhaps the problem is not as glaring or as big as you think. Give it to a friend or a writers’ group member whose opinion you respect and see if they spot the problem or if they possibly can spark an idea on how to fix it.

Tips for Dealing with Writer’s Block

Sometimes, you just can’t seem to get the creative juices flowing. You are staring at the blank screen (or piece of paper). Here are a few tips to get back in the writing groove. As there is no one cure for writer’s block, you may need to try several of these. And just because one worked last time, doesn’t mean it will work the next. Just keep trying until you are back to writing.

1.) Take a break – Sometimes taking your mind off the problem can help. Get up and do something else for about 30 minutes. Get a drink, read the newspaper, take a walk, clean out the closet. Free up your mind and then give it another try.

2.) Change your location/writing method – If you are sitting at your desk and have a laptop, move outside (assuming the weather is nice) or to another room. If you don’t have a laptop or tablet, you can still move to another location and try writing in a journal. I have found that sometime writing long hand frees up my thinking. And I improve the writing when I transcribe it into the computer.

3.) Just write – Open a new file and began typing. Sometimes getting started writing is half the battle so just write whatever comes to mind even if it is unrelated to your story.

4.) Reread yesterday’s work – Perhaps reading what you worked on yesterday (or the day before) will get you back in the groove and spark your creativity to begin writing the next scene.

5.) Work on a different scene – Pick some other scene on your novel to write. No one said you had to write in chronological order. Of course, if you pick a scene too far advanced in your story, you may not know exactly what is happening and whatever you write may have to be reworked to fit into your story but at least you are writing.

6.) Brainstorm on future scenes – Assuming you aren’t working from an outline you can use your writing time to plan ahead. Think about where your story will be going and what obstacles your protagonist (or perhaps your antagonist) will encounter. (If you are a planner and already have this novel outlined then perhaps you can brainstorm future story ideas.)

7.) Call it a day – Sometimes you just have to stop trying and come back the next day. If you try too hard, you can make things worse.

No matter what you try, just realize that writer’s block doesn’t last forever. Try not to stress over it because the more anxious and frustrated you become, the worse it will be. Free up your mind and the creative juices will be flowing before you know it.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

7 ways to deal with writer’s block

Last week, I wrote about being stuck on a scene. You write and rewrite but the scene doesn’t flow just the way you want. No matter what you try, you can’t seem to get it “just right.”

So I wrote some tips about how to deal with that problematic scene. And as I wrote, I realized that many of the tips were also one that would help authors who suffer from the dreaded WRITER’S BLOCK.

man at a computer desk uid 1053387Yes, there are times when you are sailing along writing your latest masterpiece but sometimes all that stares back at you is that blank screen. You can’t think of what to write next. You don’t feel like you have a creative bone left in your body. You want to throw in the towel. It happens to all of us at some point.

Here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing again. One may work this time and not some other time so be prepared to try a few until you break through your writer’s block.

1.) Take a break – Sometimes taking your mind off of the problem can help. Get up and do something else for about 30 minutes. Get a drink, read the newspaper, take a walk, clean out the closet. Free up your mind and then give it another try.

2.) Change your location/writing method – If you are sitting at your desk and have a laptop, move outside (assuming the weather is nice) or to another room. If you don’t have a laptop or tablet, you can still move to another location and try writing in a journal. I have found that sometime writing long hand frees up my thinking. And I improve the writing when I transcribe it into the computer.

3.) Just write – Open a new file and began typing. Sometimes getting started writing is half the battle so just write whatever comes to mind even if it is unrelated to your story.

4.) Reread yesterday’s work – Perhaps reading what you worked on yesterday (or the day before) will get you back in the groove and spark your creativity to begin writing the next scene.

5.) Work on a different scene – Pick some other scene on your novel to write. No one said you had to write in chronological order. Of course if you pick a scene too far advanced in your story, you may not know exactly what is happening and whatever you write may have to be reworked to fit into your story but at least you are writing.

6.) Brainstorm on future scenes – Assuming you aren’t working from an outline you can use your writing time to plan ahead. Think about where your story will be going and what obstacles your protagonist (or perhaps your antagonist) will encounter. (If you are a planner and already have this novel outlined then perhaps you can brainstorm future story ideas.)

7.) Call it a day – Sometimes you just have to stop trying and come back the next day. If you try too hard, you can make things worse.

No matter what you try, just realize that writer’s block doesn’t last forever. Try not to stress over it because the more anxious and frustrated you become, the worse it will be. Free up your mind and the creative juices will be flowing before you know it.

Story Idea Wheel generates wild stories

Summer break is almost over for my kids. We took a trip to the Doseum last week. This is a hands-on kids’ museum in San Antonio. They have such great areas where kids can build floating contraptions, play with sound and light, do math Olympics and do creative storytelling among other things.

In the creative section where kids can draw, play out a scene with a green screen, dress up as a character or do their own video hero’s journey, there is this huge wheel that creates wild story ideas. It is called Spin A Tale.

It basically is three wheels that you spin and from this you can come up with hundreds of different story ideas.

The outer rim is the main character. Here are some of the ideas.

  • Be an Alien
  • Be a Detective
  • Be a One-Eyed Pirate
  • Be a Deep-Sea Diver
  • Be Ferocious Animal
  • Be a Gnome

The next circle give you your problem/action. Here are a few of the options.

  • Who wakes up
  • Who answers a distress call
  • Who falls under a spell
  • Who wins a vacation
  • Who meets her or his double
  • Who has a pair of magic glasses

And finally the inner wheel give you the setting of the story. Here are a few of the choices.

  • In the deep, dark woods
  • On an alien planet
  • On a deserted island
  • In a windswept desert
  • In the ancient temple
  • In a sunken ship

So you can write a story about an alien who wakes up in a deep, dark woods or maybe about a one-eyed pirate who wins a vacation to a windswept desert. And where you (or your child) go with this writing prompt is totally up to your imagination.

I am not saying you should use this type of wheel to decide on the plot for your next novel. But it is an interesting tool to get your creative juices flowing and could be a way to help you when you are struggling with writer’s block.

For those of you not in San Antonio, there are websites that offer the random plot idea generators but there not as fun as the Spin A Tale wheel.

 

7 ways to deal with writer’s block

man at a computer desk uid 1053387

Yesterday you were sailing along writing away on your latest masterpiece but today a blank screen stares back at you. Nothing flows like it did the day before. You have been struck with writer’s block. It happens to everyone at some point.

Here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing again.

1.) Take a break – Sometimes taking your mind off of the problem can help. Get up and do something else for about 30 minutes. Get a drink, read the newspaper, take a walk, clean out the closet. Free up your mind and then give it another try.

2.) Change your location/writing method – If you are sitting at your desk and have a laptop, move outside (assuming the weather is nice) or to another room. If you don’t have a laptop or tablet, you can still move to another location and try writing in a journal. I have found that sometime writing long hand frees up my thinking. (And I can improve the writing when I transcribe it onto the computer.)

3.) Just write – Open a new file and began typing. Sometimes getting started writing is half the battle so just write whatever comes to mind even if it is unrelated to your story. Write about your cat, what you did yesterday, the color blue – it doesn’t matter the topic as long as you get some words on the page.

4.) Reread yesterday’s work – Perhaps reading what you worked on yesterday will get you back in the groove and spark your creativity to begin writing the next scene.

5.) Work on a different scene – Pick some other scene on your novel to write. No one said you had to write in chronological order. You can write the bar scene before they even get to the city. Of course if you pick a scene too far advanced in your story, you may not know exactly what is happening and whatever you write may have to be reworked to fit into your story but at least you are writing.

6.) Brainstorm on future scenes – Assuming you aren’t working from an outline you can use your writing time to plan ahead. Think about where your story will be going and what obstacles your protagonist (or perhaps your antagonist) will encounter.

7.) Call it a day – Sometimes you just have to stop trying and come back the next day. If you try too hard, you can make things worse.

No matter what you try, just realize that writer’s block doesn’t last forever. Try not to stress over it because the more anxious and frustrated you become, the worse it will be. Free up your mind and the creative juices will be flowing before you know it.