Writing Tips and Tricks: Overcoming Writer's Block

It sneaks in like a ninja.

It wedges itself in.

It delays writing goals, adds frustration, and inspires the desire to set a project aside.

Writer's Block. Why it happens and how to kick it in the booty and get going again. 

This always happens to me--I have a shiny new idea. I scribble away because the ideas seem to be literally pouring from my fingertips and demand their place on the page. I'm ten thousand words in, fifteen, twenty thousand. Things are right on track and then, without warning, I'm TOTALLY STUMPED.

Nothing is flowing. No words. I can't get my story to go in the direction I want it to. I've plotted this thing out, why won't it cooperate?

Sometimes our brains just need a break. 

You can't squeeze anything out of a dry sponge. If you've been working long and hard on your book, it's easy for thoughts to fizzle out, for our brains to need some downtime. In these instances, I find I need some creative refueling. 

When this happens, stepping back is essential. Read a book similar to the genre you're trying to write in. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Take a few days off, and I think you'll find the ideas start to flow without even realizing it! 

Get to know your story. 

More than anything, though, the main reason for writer's block is because I don't know my characters well enough. Or my setting. Or my plot. 

A piece of my puzzle is missing.

I like to write fast. I like to see the little number at the corner of my screen climb, to get my stories down as quickly as I can so readers can read them because why else am I doing this?

But even if I've taken the time to plot out my story and I know the events  and the conflict that need to happen, if I haven't taken the time to get to know my characters, they aren't going to do what I want them to do. The story isn't going to work. Writer's block will kick in, and I'll be like the end of Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree. Stumped.

If I've gotten to know my characters, I've done character bibles on them and figured out their likes and dislikes, their secrets and their childhoods, but I haven't taken the time out to set my story's plot and pacing, those characters are going to wither away. I can't write them.

The best way to overcome writer's block is again, to take a step back, but this time, it's not to refuel. It's to speed-date your story.

Evaluate your story. Have you taken the time to get to know your characters? 

I find it helpful to use writing prompts. Find a prompt online (or in a handy dandy writing prompt book!)

At times, freewriting on the specific prompt triggers ideas or situations for characters or my setting that I hadn't previously planned on. 

You can also put your characters into the prompt. See how they react. See what their personalities are. 

Getting to know a character takes time, just like meeting someone new does. Let them show you who they are. Oftentimes, you can even find ways to insert the result of these exercises into your story OR offer them to your readers as a fun teaser!

How to craft characters 

Another way to get to know your characters is through character bibles like what can be found in Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. This book was such an eye-opener for me. I love her exercises in here; she gets nitty gritty about how to craft characters that are believable and keep readers enthralled.

This is a great thing to do for your story. Readers love it when they fall in love with a character. One of my favorite things is to talk about people in books as though they're real.

That's just it, though. If you and I do our jobs right, characters can become real to our readers.

Have you taken the time to plot out your story?

Another reason for writer's block could be that you're a pantser, like I used to be, and haven't taken the time to make sure you're hitting all the right beats for your story to have a successful plot.

At this point, I used to do some note card plotting (coming in a different post!). I would examine what I'd written so far and where my story had yet to go in order for it to be as satisfying and as true to itself as possible.

If you've got your characters figured out, trying examining your plot. Do you have an inciting incident that sets your story in motion? Have you figured out your character arc AKA the changes your character needs to undergo? Do you have a Dark Night of the Soul moment?

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, I'd recommend looking into plot resources like Save the Cat, and Take Off Your Pants, both resources which have helped me immensely.

Writer's block is a bugger, but it doesn't have to stay long. Once it strikes, you can go through the above exercises and get yourself back on track once more.

Thanks for hanging out during this Thursday Tip! I hope to see you for my new tip next week! 



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