Everyone goes through times where they feel as though they are in a rut. They may be stuck on how to get a character out of a situation or how to make one scene flow well into the next. The same is true no matter what you write and those times are extremely frustrating. But what can you do about it? It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Well, here are a few tips to help you pick up the pen again.
Free writing is more of a preventative measure than it is a means of conquering writer’s block but it is still a useful tool. Every day try writing ten or fifteen minutes about something. It doesn’t have to be related to your long project but it can be. It can be a character’s backstory or a scene that the reader’s never see. Or it can be a response to a writing prompt that you got from a website such as Poets & Writers. What you write is not as important as the fact that you do it. It doesn’t have to make sense nor does it ever have to see the light of day, that isn’t the point. The point is that you are exercising your writer’s brain as I like to call it. You can write something that works and do it in a short period of time. In my high school we had this event called “Power of the Pen.” We had to write stories in a limited amount of time and they had to be pretty close to perfect. In a way, this is a more relaxed version. Free writing allows you to hone your craft and you experience writer’s block less often because you have this library of scenarios you have already written. And with a few tweaks, something might just work. I dare all writers to try it for a week. You’ll notice that it gets easier to write and work on a long project.
Work on Another Scene
Usually, when I have writer’s block I know exactly what I want to come next. It frustrates me all the more because I have no idea what path to take to get there. One trick I found was that just skipping that singular scene and writing [something awesome here] or words along those lines in the empty space helps. I work on what is concrete in my head and after it all comes together I go back and work on that bracketed section of mess and confusion.
Take a Break
Sometimes we get carried away. When the Harry Potter series was just becoming well-known in the U.S. I decided to read books one through three all in one day because the fourth one was coming out. I stayed in my room and didn’t eat all day. I finished the books but was completely worn out. When we truly enjoy something we can sometimes allow our passion to overtake us. Sometimes it isn’t that you have writer’s block, it’s just exhaustion. You may have just written 10,000 words in a single sitting; and while that is an accomplishment, out bodies were not meant to work for so long without a break. Get up stretch, rest and get back to it when your head is a bit clearer. That means focusing on something that isn’t about how you are going to have Carl kill Shayla in chapter nine!
Rewrite the Scene on a Different Document
Personally, I prefer writing by hand but that is no longer the way of the world. There are tons of different types of writing software like Scrivener and there is always the good old Microsoft Word, even if it does get a bit wonky after a certain word count. I do not use Scrivener but I do know that it allows you to have various different versions of the same scene all on one document, just on another tab. This is something that any writer should take advantage of regardless of how they choose to write. If you are feeling a bit unsure about what to do next, copy and paste that scene into a new document and just workshop it with yourself. Don’t spend too long on it, thirty minutes max (just to give you an idea of what is possible) and then get back to writing or eat a burrito if you’re hungry. Food makes everything better, haha. But seriously, allow yourself the room to mess up and make mistakes. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And it most likely won’t be but that is what good editors are for.
Not everyone is an artist. Trust and believe me when I say that I can’t even draw stick figures well. That isn’t the point though, sometimes you just need to do something a bit mindless while you gather your thoughts and work on your next plot idea.
When it comes down to it, the best way to cure any ailment a writer goes through is to write and that includes the curse known as writer’s block. Even if the next few pages are awful and never make the final cut, it is a starting point. And first drafts are meant to have flaws, that is what second and third drafts are for. And by that time, you’ll have finished your novel or play or whatever you choose to write and will have a better idea of how a particular character would react to this situation or how to set the mood as one scene transitions into another.
These are by no means new ideas but sometimes the simple things are what leave us stumped. Writers all over the world have used some of these techniques to help them avoid or conquer writer’s block and I have used all of them at one point in time. Have you ever used one? What was your experience like?