I haven’t been writing as much as I should be lately. The last few weeks got crazy busy, so now that I’m back to my regular days, I’ve lost my momentum. It always takes some time for me to fall back into my daily writing schedule when I’ve been away from SC for a while, but a few things always help get me back into the groove of things.
If you’ve been around long enough, you may have noticed that I’m not a big fan of just pushing my way through a writer’s block. All my best writing has come with words just flowing, and when I force things, I often find myself rewriting or deleting those bits down the line. When you aren’t entirely ready to write, it’s probably because you need to think things out. If I’ve been away from SC for too long, it means I haven’t been thinking things out for a while and that means I’m not ready to start writing yet. But the last thing to do is forget it and turn to social media, waiting for inspiration to hit. Social media is a distraction, not a solution. In fact, if you get the Self Control app or something similar, it can turn off access to all those pesky distractions that may be getting in the way of your writing.
Sometimes, I get writer’s block even when I’ve been writing every day. In those cases it’s pretty much always because I don’t know what happens next, in which case I need time to think on it. Sometimes it’s because I know what happens next, but I don’t want to write it, in which case I need to think something else up because part of me knows even if I do write it, it won’t be what I want it to be. Basically, the best ways I’ve found to get over writer’s block is to think your way out. You have to know what comes next and be excited about it.
So what are some things you can do to get the wheels in your head turning?
- Read a book. Books remind you of what you love and don’t love about stories, what things work, what you wish you could read. And at the end of the day, you should be writing something you would love to read, right? And what better way to figure out what you do and don’t love to read than to read?
- Write something else. You’ll still be practicing your craft and thinking through problems, just with other characters and other scenarios. Whether working on a different book or a short story or poems or, say, a blog post about getting over writer’s block, writing gives you the time and space for a solution to come to you about your big bad book, but still keeps you in a writing mindset for when lightning finally strikes.
- Make some art. In the early years of writing SC, I wrote longhand in coil notebooks. Littered throughout the margins of those notebooks are doodles and drawings. Every time I was trying to think up a line of dialogue or a heroic feat or the ending to the entire thing, I’d start drawing in the margins. And it helped. Nowadays, I’ll sometimes draw my characters, or floor plans or scenes from the book. Some of my drawings can even be found on this blog if you know where to look.
- Plot things out. Sometimes the reason why things aren’t going anywhere is because you don’t have enough of the story, or maybe you only know the broad strokes but not enough of the specifics. Or maybe you need something a little different from what you have. So start figuring things out. How will things go? Why that way exactly? What would happen if something was tweaked? What is the most unexpected thing that could happen next?
- Do some character development. Maybe you’re stuck on what your character’s going to do because you just don’t know them well enough yet. How do they act? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their motivations? What are defining moments in their life up until this point? What lengths would they go to in order to achieve their goals? What in the world could possibly change their mind about something? Or write little “nowhere” scenes—scenes that aren’t part of the story and maybe never happen canonically—to see how your characters might act in different situations. Have fun with it. These are your characters. Get to know them and love them.
Today, when the words weren’t coming so easily, I started developing my antagonist. I watched a few videos about villains and one thing led to another, and soon I was writing out a whole backstory which helped me know my characters a lot better and influenced the plot, giving it a history and making it more grounded.
My last block came right before some of my characters were supposed to run around a big building. It was just too daunting to write the scene, so I started drawing out a map of the building and developing some more minor characters. When the block passed, I wrote over three thousand words that day (I average 800 on a normal day), and that scene turned out better than I could have imagined.
Hopefully these tricks for getting past writer’s block will help you as they’ve helped me. Let me know your thoughts on them, and if you have any tricks of your own I’d love to hear them!
Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash