In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says, "We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic." When something is really well-written we tend to think it was effortless for the writer, that it seems magical. We wonder, "Did that author ever have to deal with writer's block?" Yes, he or she probably did. Pretty much every writer does. But how do you work through a block when the inside of your brain feels so foggy? These tips will show you how to clear things up.
1.) Work Consistently
When I started my first novel I joined a class to help get me going. After it was over, I took a few more workshop sessions with the instructor, but when those ended all my work ground to a complete halt. Why? Because from then I was only working on the book a day or two a week, mostly on weekends. If I got stuck that meant I wouldn't write for two or even three weeks. Then I went out and got a place to write. I committed myself to going there 3-4 times a week to work on my book. Suddenly the writing got easier! I thought it was because I was putting in more time--and that's partly true--working consistently helps to build momentum. But that wasn't the whole answer. Here's the rest: I was thinking about the book all the time! Which means...
2.) Don't Leave Your Book on the Desk
When I started working consistently I found that I was still thinking about my character and plot issues when I went home at night on the subway. That thinking continued in the shower the next day and on the streets as I walked to work. Once I was flying to Cleveland to visit my family and during the flight I figured out the answer to the problem I was having with a flashboack in my novel.
So write at your desk and do your figuring out everywhere else throughout your day. Ideally you are thinking about your book while you drive, while you shower, while you watch a baseball game. In fact, Stephen King has said he has worked through a chapter or two in his head while at Fenway Park watching the Boston Red Sox. When you think about your book away from the desk, it ensures you'll have something to write when you get back to your desk.
3.) Ask Yourself Lots of Questions
Okay, you might be asking, "What am I supposed to be thinking about?" Your book, of course, but I understand how difficult it is to just have generalities floating around in your head competing with all the media we're flooded with already. To focus your thinking, ask yourself a series of questions related to the issues you're stuck on.
For instance, "What story or incident can I create to best highlight my character's strength and/or weakness?" Possible answer: a party where most of the guests snubbed my character's party which took place few weeks earlier. "How would my character be responsible for that situation?" Maybe she told a secret and everyone is upset with her because of it. "What behavior will my character display that will reveal her true essence to the reader?" Maybe she quietly vandalizes people's belongings throughout the evening, ripping coats in the closet, "accidentally" breaking glasses, spilling drinks on someone's designer dress. You can keep going that way, with each question leading you further down the path until you complete a picture in your head of what you want to write when you sit down again. No more writer's block!
4.) Remember Why You're Writing
When you do get stuck, it helps to remember why you're working on the project in the first place. As I mentioned before, I got stalled many times working on my first novel. But I was motivated by several things including my sincere desire to be a published author and my devotion and commitment to my characters. (Once, when going through a period of non-writing, I had a dream where the main character of my book was screaming at me--I knew it was time to get back to work!)
So, why are you writing? And is the reason powerful enough to make you do what it takes to get through the difficult times of the writing process? If it's not, perhaps you need to re-think your reasons and your project. But if your motivation is strong, go with it and allow that sheer force to help you break down the walls in your work.
© 2005 Sophfronia Scott