Friday, 12 October 2012

Fighting Writer's Block

I've read lots of tweets lately from fellow writers venting about needing to just buckle down and write. Some said they were distracted by the internet. Others were stressing over meeting their daily word count. I think most writers go through this at some point, so how do you beat the slump? How do you make writing fun again?

1. Write the acknowledgments page for your work in progress.

This has two benefits. The first is that should your WIP be published you won't have to rack your brain for the names of all the people who helped you along the way, praying that you don't forget anyone. The other benefit is that this is something that is writing related, but not actually "writing," so if you find yourself at a loss for ideas and need a break or maybe you need a break because you have too many ideas, give this a try. It's fun and it can give you a bit of perspective, helping you to appreciate all the hard work you've put into you WIP. Hopefully, this appreciation will motivate you to finish your WIP.

2. Write out of order.

Inspiration comes at the worst times. In my case it happens when I'm on the stairmaster, dripping with sweat, with no pen or paper in sight. I'll think of a snappy bit of dialogue or a scene that belongs in the middle of the novel I just started. Write these things down. I used to tell myself I'd remember, but never did, so I rarely go anywhere without a pen or paper or my phone, so that I can write down inspiration when it strikes. So how does this relate to write out of order? I used to simply jot down my inspiration in short hand and would come back to my notes when I got to that scene, but I never used to write the scene. For some reason, I was hellbent on writing in chronological order--I think it was a fear that my writing would appear disjointed if I wrote out of order. Recently, I was stuck on the piece I was writing. I kept rewriting this one scene. It didn't feel write and I couldn't move forward. Then I had an idea for a scene that is probably 4 chapters ahead of where I was. Rather than writing shorthand notes, I decided to write the whole scene. It worked. The juices were flowing and when I was done and returned to the scene I had been working on, I was no longer stuck.

3. Do something else.

For me, it's going to the gym. See stairmaster reference in the example above. Having a separate activity that I am involved in not only serves as a release, but also helps me be more disciplined as a writer. I work best when busy, so it helps me to have to pencil in writing around other activities. I find I get more writing done on days when I have other plans than days when I have "nothing" to do.

4. Make a time card.

If you are surfing the internet too much while you are writing or maybe you just aren't making the time to sit down and write, start a time card. Writing might not be your full-time job, but if you consider writing your job rather than your hobby and treat it as such, you might be more productive. Being honest with yourself and recording how much time you are actually spending writing could make the internet less tempting. Sign in when you write. Sign out when you surf (unless it's research). Then sign back in. Having a tangible record of your time spent writing can help keep you focused. It can also show you how much time you are wasting.

5. Find a strong section in your WIP or a trunk novel.

Stuck? Feeling unmotivated? Find a section in a piece you've written that you like and reread it. It doesn't have to be a section in the piece you're working on, but it can be. I find that if I am stressing or losing faith in my project, rereading something I've written that I am proud of reminds me that I am a good writer and I can do this.

6. Outline or make a story board.

If you are stuck on a plot point, outlining can help you sort out the problem because it helps you think about the bigger picture. Story boards work the same way. They help you find your bearings when you are feeling a bit wayward.Take a step back and ask yourself the big questions. Where is this scene going? What does it reveal about my characters? Is it driving the plot forward and if not why?

These are just a few of the tricks I use when I get stuck. What works for you?


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