Writer’s block is like the monster under our beds when we were kids–it only exists if we believe it does. I used to be scared of the big, bad writer’s block hiding under my bed, but eventually I have come to realize it isn’t real.
Getting stuck in writing is inevitable. Nobody can know what exactly to write next all the time. But, that doesn’t render them unable to write. Unless they have no hands, of course. The best cure for a child scared of the monster under their bed is always to look under the bed and prove it isn’t there. The same follows for writer’s block. You must prove to yourself that it doesn’t plague you, that it doesn’t exist. How might you do that? Keep writing. Even if you can’t think of anything good, or what exact words to use, or even if you’re stuck deciding between two choices; keep writing and the monster goes away.
However, if you are finding yourself unable to shake your belief in the monster under your bed, there are some tips to help scare him off.
Tip #1: Draw the Scene
Don’t run away just yet–amazing works of art are not required. If you can draw a stick-person, you’re set.
Sometimes, it helps to be able to visualize the scene you’re working on. For example, a battle-scene. A battle-scene will usually have a lot of things happening at once, different characters moving quickly in different locations. It can be difficult to track what each character is doing in the scene at a given time, and even to make sure they are doing something. Drawing a couple small pictures, side-by-side like a comic-strip, can be useful to help you get a clear image in your head about what the scene should look like. I find that just making a few small stick-figure pictures can be a great help in organizing a scene before I put it into words, and also help in eliminating minor plot holes (such as a character that was supposedly on the other side of the room appearing by the MC’s side).
Tip #2: Read
Reading is never a bad idea when you’re a writer. Reading something other than your own work for a few minutes can help to spur new ideas. For example, sometimes when I’m reading, a single word or phrase tends to spark an idea (that’s completely different than what I’m reading), and I have to put the book down multiple times to keep jotting down new ideas.
You can’t write well if you don’t read a lot. But, it should also be noted that you can’t write at all if you don’t write. A bit of reading is good to clear your thoughts and spark new ideas, but you do have to get back to writing.
Tip #3: Simplify
Often, if I find myself stuck, I continue on writing simply, as if for a children’s picture book. No pressure for detail. What needs to happen next to drive the plot forward? Do the characters need to go somewhere? Move on from a conversation? I start by writing bare sentences, just for the sake of moving forward. Then, what I have noticed will usually happen in seconds; I start automatically adding in details. Once the idea of writer’s block is knocked down, your brain is free to continue pumping out fresh ideas, and the words begin to pour out of your fingertips with ease, again. Some of the best scenes I feel I’ve ever written started out with needing to simplify.
Tip #4: Research:
Research can be the best way to spark or develop an idea at times. I’ve had whole plot-points sparked by a tiny piece of information. Whatever your general topic is,–maybe it’s a lawsuit–a bit of new information on the subject can lead to minor or major ideas. Maybe you find a small fact that your character could use to turn the case around in their favour.
Whatever you’re researching, it’s for your writing. Therefore, you must be extremely interested in the topic. It can be tempting to get lost in research, but you cannot let this happen. Some research that will add depth to your novel is good, but research isn’t writing.
Tip #5: Choices
This is a more specific problem I’ve noticed. Sometimes, while writing, it can seem as if we are faced with a couple, or several, options for pushing a scene, or even a whole plotline, forward. We have some different ideas for how it could play out, so we just stare at the screen of our laptops. Stuck.
I have one solution to this dilemma, which I found after staring blankly at my screen for over a week, with no idea which to choose. Take out some sheets of paper, or load up a fresh file, whichever you prefer. It doesn’t matter which, just start writing one of the options, whether it be in full detail or plot points. Then, if you haven’t already grown too attached to that one, write the next. As many options as there are for the scene, write them all. If you don’t already have a clear choice of which to use, then you can compare them. Does one have any major plot-holes? Which is more true to your story and characters? Pick the option that works best for the story, and go with it. Now, you’ll be able to move the story forward, and you can always change things later if you need to.
The only thing that can get rid of your writer’s block is you. When you imagine writer’s block is real, you create it in your mind, under your bed. It builds up into this big, bad monster you can’t defeat. You have to be the one to look under the bed, and stop believing. Keep writing, even if the writing seems bad. You can edit later, but only if the words are there for you to do so.
With all this in mind, go and write your masterpiece!