Sooner or later, every writer faces their manuscript, puts their hands on the keyboard, and freezes. The tank is dry and there are no words willing to come forth.
If you’re in the midst of extreme life experiences (the death of a loved one, a move, a new baby, a job change, etc), you may need to give yourself grace and accept that, for a period of time, writing isn’t in the game plan. If you’re under deadline, though, it may be hard to find some wiggle room.
There are two main directions to take in attempting to break writer’s block. There are times for both avenues: powering through or stepping aside.
1. Maybe you’re not ready to write that scene. Would a little research help?
2. Work on another aspect of your story. Look for character images. Plan the book cover. Write the acknowledgments. Find a house on a real estate site that looks like your character’s. Draw one of your characters or the floor plan for his house.
3. Free write. Get out a pen and notebook or open a new document and just write. Write nonsense if you need to. Write about why your characters are balking. Write out a recipe for salsa. Keep writing until your timer goes off (15 minutes is good, or try 30.)
4. Mind mapping is a powerful technique for letting your mind play while staying focused on the task at hand.
5. Work on a different project. Switch gears. Have another manuscript you can work on? Write a book review? A blog post? Why yes, today’s post came from my experience this week!
6. Remember it’s first draft. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just loosen up and put down some words. Any words, even if they’re ugly and you know you’ll delete them later.
7. Read and tweak (lightly edit) the previous scene to prime the pump.
8. Focus on today’s word count goal, not the 60K left in the draft. Promise yourself a treat when you’ve reached today’s goal, even if you’re certain the writing is crap.
9. Try a writing prompt (Google them). If you can’t work the prompt into your novel, that’s okay. You’re writing, and it’s easier to switch lanes if you’re moving than if you’re standing still.
10. Join a group or call a friend who will hold you accountable to a deadline. Promise her you’ll clean her bathroom if you don’t reach your goal. Bet you don’t want to do that too many days in a row!
11. Change up your writing time or place. Write outside on the deck. In a coffee shop. With different music. At a different time of day.
12. Allow yourself to stumble around to get into the scene. Just start writing something. Anything, even your character’s shopping list. Quit waiting to be inspired.
13. Go back to where the story last flowed well. Did you take a wrong turn? If you deleted the last chapter or two and took a different direction, would the story take on new life?
14. Re-interview your characters. Find out what they’re thinking at this stage of the story. You may find they’re on strike and holding out for better working conditions. Maybe the hero you have picked out for the heroine isn’t who caught her eye.
15. Instead of finishing a scene at the end of a writing day, leave it just before the climax where you will feel a sense of excitement, knowing the havoc you’re about to wreak. This should help you get back into writing easily the next day. Repeat.
- 20 Ways to Break Writer’s Block – just in case you ever get stuck. Bet that never happens! click to tweet
- Stuck in your writing? Maybe one of these 20 Ways to Break Writer’s Block will help! click to tweet
16. Play a round of Minesweeper or Solitaire.
17. Get a change of scenery. Go for a walk along the river. Play fetch with your dog. Weed your garden, mow your lawn, rake the leaves, shovel the walk. Do something mindless.
18. Get some exercise: a workout, a jog, a bike ride. This releases endorphins that increase your sense of wellbeing. It also helps your brain function better.
19. Do something else creative. Write a poem, try a new recipe, take photos or scrapbook ones you already have.
20. Read a few scenes from one of your favorite novels, then try to determine why it speaks to you.
What do you do when the writing is slow or nonexistent? I’d love to add to this list. And now, back to writing my novel…
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net