Monday, March 23, 2015

Writer's Block: Roadblocks and Detours

So last Wednesday I woke up at my usual 5 a.m., sat down at my laptop with a nice, big mug of coffee...and then I stared at a page on Microsoft Word that only had the word "Eleven" at the top of it.

I did that for an hour.

The thing was, I was torn: half of me wanted to write one scene, and the other half kept calling the first half stupid. I was more inclined to listen to the second half, because the scene I kept thinking about was simple and contrived, and something that I definitely knew would not be in the best interests of my current WIP.

What I'm trying to say is: I had a dose of writer's block. It didn't last long (like I said, only an hour), but it was a rather difficult hour (given that I give up sleep to write in the mornings). Whether you believe in writer's block or not isn't the point of this post; instead, the point is that when you're stuck, try to think critically about why.

I have a theory that whenever I can't write, there's a reason. Maybe it has nothing to do with the writing, itself: it might be something happening in my personal/emotional life. In which case: hey, I can take a step back and go watch anime and Disney movies and lump around for a bit (until I'm feeling better).

All too often, though, I can't write because something in my WIP, itself, just isn't working. In which case I spend time staring at a blank page (like yesterday morning; I hope ya'll sort of see where I'm going?). But instead of doing nothing and waiting for inspiration for strike, I fully recommend being proactive about beating your writer's block (hence: take a detour).

The trick is to be very aware of your WIP and your own writing style. Look back to that third paragraph: my brain was telling me to take the easy way, but my gut instinct said that it was too simple, that it wouldn't work. No matter how much I was tempted to, I didn't write what I already knew was a bad idea.

So neither should you.

The problem, then, for me was that I had no clue what would be better to put in that contrived scene's place. So I skimmed through the previous 18 k and started thinking about plot points that haven't been introduced yet, and plot arcs that hadn't even been started. I thought: what could happen to this character that would have the most impact, and that wouldn't have the same impact if it happened to another (for those of you not up to speed: my WIP is told from two different POVs).

And then: ta-da! I figured something out, was eternally grateful my CP was awake, ran it by her, got the okay, then wrote.

If you're experiencing a block, try looking back over what you've written so far and ask yourself what might have gone wrong. Or brainstorm potential scenes that could go next, and think critically about whether they belong. A big part of this is understanding your own writing methodology and your own goals in writing your WIP: go back to the core of your story and find the basic theme or plot that you're trying to tell (something simple: family, friendship, loss, etc.). Then go back to your WIP and see if any ideas have been sparked.

Here's a reason why it's also a good thing to have CPs who are familiar with you and your writing: you can also talk to them and see if they can help you brainstorm. What you need to remember, though, is that nobody knows you and your writing better than you do, so if you find yourself stuck, try taking a look at your own writerly bad habits (as in: the things you do to just to make it "easy," such as lazy plot filler, a hacked-up backstory. We're all guilty of them, particularly in early drafts). Odds are slightly, sort of, almost pretty good that they might have something to do about it (one of my own bad habits is lazy plot filler, which is what that contrived scene would have been).

You'll be surprised how easy it is to find where you're going wrong if you look at your own weaknesses (again: we all have them, and they're nothing to be ashamed of. Just admit them to yourself, and you'll find that you can catch them before you even start).

So now I'm curious: this is my personal way of figuring out where and why I'm stuck in my writing. What kinds of detours do you take to get around writing roadblocks?

Tweet It:

Writer's block? Blogger @Rae_Slater shares her method of taking detours around those pesky writing roadblocks (Click to Tweet)

Nobody knows your writing method better than you, so if you're stuck try to think critically about why (Click to Tweet)


  1. I have to completely stop thinking about it. Relax. Then my brain always comes up with something.

    1. It's sometimes maddening, but it's always a good idea to step away from your writing for a bit. I've found that once I stop thinking about things so hard and relax, everything looks so much simpler!