Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thoughts on Blocked Writers

Apparently, Writer’s Block can be a serious ailment. It is an actual documented problem studied by professionals. Not being a professional psychoanalyst, I thought I’d throw out some random, and probably very unprofessional, comments.

I would imagine the two main areas of blockage would be (1) what do I write about, or (2) I’m well into the story and suddenly hit the wall. The only time I run into #1 is when I decide I’m going to submit a short story to one of those themed anthologies. I really grit my teeth. I’m not fond of being told what I must write about. I did enough of that at work. I throw several ideas into the air and try and come up with something that might fit. After being told by two anthology editors that my short stories sounded like they should be novels, I saw the light at the tunnel’s end and headed for the long door. Sorry, I can’t really give you a lot of advice on how to break the starting log jam. I have more ideas than I will ever get a chance to use. Of course, there are several articles on the subject of writer’s block on-line, and pages of reference material you can study, but I’d rather be writing. The only advice I can come up with for those looking at anthologies or collections is to just start to write and try and keep the theme in mind. If it doesn’t fit, maybe you can sell it elsewhere. Actually, this trick did work for me.

How do you break out if you are stuck in the middle of the actual project? It can happen in the early stages when you are plotting, when you are in the midst of the writing, or it might even be you are stumped for the magic word to use in a particular situation. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so if you are stuck for an opening, my suggestion is to just close your eyes (narrow your focus?) and get on with the writing. For goodness sake, don’t get hung up on creating the most marvelous first sentence. You can always go back and create that based on the great ideas you will have as you go along. The same applies if you are spending the entire day on one word or phrase. Just press on writing past it. You can worry about perfection during the polishing and re-writing phase.

I go for a walk almost every morning. Because I’m on familiar routes and my mind is in neutral, (and one cup of coffee) I find dialogue and scenes are constantly running through my head. My daily writing routine usually consists of first, reading over what I wrote the day before, and then inevitably making some changes. It gets me in the mood to continue the flow of the narrative. Because I don’t spend a lot of time plotting, I make my notes after the fact. When I come up with a plot idea while I’m writing, I will put down a sentence describing the idea. I might even end up with a sentence for each future chapter.

The best advice I can come up with is, when in doubt, write. Don’t keep polishing the same opening paragraph, chapter, idea. Just write the thing through to the end, so that you know you have one, and do the correcting later. There is another one who might help you break the log-jam. You can always stop and ask what the characters would do. If you have fleshed them out properly, they should have an opinion or two that might help.

Finally, there may be times when you realize that the story just doesn’t work or you can’t bring it to a satisfactory ending. There will be times when your beta reader comes back with more questions than praise. Situations when you don’t think you want to show it to your publisher or your editor. Don’t throw the epic out. File it in a drawer. You can always dig it out years later, work it over and try again.

Whatever you do, just keep on writing.


The Dark Lady - February 2012
Dark Days – March 2014
The Queen=s Pawn - April 2013
The Housetrap Chronicles Volume One - Jan 2014



Liz Fountain said...

"Whatever you do, keep writing" - best advice for me. Everyone's writing process is different. For me, pushing through the blocks (frustration, fatigue, distraction, etc) requires just that - pushing through.


Victoria Roder said...

I always have several things I'm working on, so when I get stuck I work on a different project for awhile. Motorcycle rides really help, too!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

When I hit the wall, I either go back to the beginning and pick up loose threads, or I write a detailed ending. Then I know where the threads can be incerted and what I'm going to expand.

Sometimes it helps to add a rediculous character, or an unusual twist that you have to work out of.

Big Mike said...

I problem is not hitting a wall, rather finding enough time to complete all the writing projects I've committed to.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)