Some people say writers’ block doesn’t exist. It’s an excuse for laziness, one of the weakest reasons why not to write. But I know better. The past few days especially have been hard for me. I’m finally moving on from my NaNoWriMo book as it enters the advanced editing and less creative stages, and I find myself at, quite literally, a loss for words. I look at my other stories, open a few documents and review some older ideas for stories, and then close everything down again because I just don’t know what to write.
I don’t have the cure for writers’ block, but I do know some methods of working past it that can speed the writing process and make things more fun for you as the writer. It might be a setback, but it shouldn’t mean the end of a potentially brilliant writing career.
1. Write through it. This is my oldest way of breaking through it. It’s especially effective if you know where you’re going in your story but don’t know how to get there from where you are. Type a word onto the end of what you have. At least one individual word. Don’t tax yourself; you’ve been writing words since you were a kid. Then take a break. Listen to music, grab a snack, play solitaire or read a chapter in a good book. Five to ten minutes is ideal. Then return to your story and write another word. Repeat the process until you’re past the hard part. This sounds like a slow way to work it out, but I usually break several thousand words a day when I do it. The trick is to keep writing until you sense yourself slowing down and then force a break. When you come back you have to write at least one word, even if you don’t know what the rest of the sentence will be.
2. Write past it. This is best if you hate what you’re writing now but know things will be better lately. Some writers (like my husband) don’t like the confusion of writing out of sequence. That’s okay. I don’t really care, so long as I have fun and the book gets written. Sometimes it’s best just to drop the boring or hard-to-write scenes and move on to something that gets you excited. Remember why you fell in love with this story in the first place and what ideas first sparked in your imagination. Write those scenes and then bridge them later.
3. Toss in a surprise. This is especially popular on NaNoWriMo forums and works best if you have no idea where your novel is going. Have someone die. Interrupt the conversation with a shocking confession or actually have a man walk in with a gun. It may or may not help your story, but it is a way to help you as a writer. Remember that you can always go back and change it if you don’t like it or if it doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to be cliché or stray off topic or throw in something that doesn’t work with your novel at all. Sometimes you just need to shock the writers’ block out of your system. And who knows? Maybe it’s just the kind of pick-me-up your novel needs.
4. Enter the authorly intervention! Enter your book yourself as a character. Or as the narrator. Interview your characters, ask them how it’s going and where they think everything is headed. It might seem like a silly and worthless exercise, especially since you’ll have to cut it out anyway. But it’s also a unique way to get inside of your characters’ minds and get them to take the initiative needed to move the story forward in a way that won’t seem forced or manipulated. You might also learn a good tidbit or two about a character, while you’re at it, and have a few good laughs.
5. Take another path. If you didn’t think this scene was necessary on some level, you probably wouldn’t be writing it. But if it’s boring you, you can count on it boring your readers. Maybe you need to find another way to get to the point you’re reaching for. This can be scary and risky, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Take the novel in another direction, and you could find more excitement, engagement and emotion.
Hopefully these tips can give you what you need to conquer your writers’ block. If you have any to add to the list, please mention them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!