Writing Past Writer’s Block

Last post, we talked about ways to train your Muse to show up when inspiration is AWOL. But after you’ve plopped down at the keyboard, how can you be writing past the dreaded writer’s block?

Writing Tip for Today: Here are a few more ideas to keep your writing productive:

Junk it Through

One of the most important lessons I learned as a fledgling writer was to separate creating writing from editing that writing. I once had a student who’d been polishing and revising the same opening of her novel for a decade. Nothing wrong with that, but her novel was not finished past that opening. She’d been “stuck” trying to perfect her beginning and hadn’t even drafted the rest of the story.

One of my rules for new writers especially, is to discourage editing, revision, rewriting, polishing—whatever you want to name it—before you finish a draft. In drafting a novel-length work, you may apply this rule by chapter (especially if you change something radically) or by the entire draft. If you get feedback, resist your urge to immediately “fix” everything. Make notes and keep each chapter in a separate file folder for review when you do begin editing.

Separating creating from revision is important. If you write creatively in a passionate way, you can sketch out the bones of your story without stopping to revise everything. Editing and creating use different parts of your brain—and most writers have experienced the way you can short-circuit if you try to do both at once.

Mid-Scene Strategy

One of the ways I prevent writer’s block is by ending my writing session in the middle of a scene. If you stop mid-scene, you can jump back into the emotion of a scene more easily. And your next scene’s purpose will be more likely to present itself logically if you sail from an ending into a beginning in one sitting.

When you try this strategy, be sure to write a summary sentence that covers the scenes purpose and how it moves the story forward. With my first try at novel writing, I neglected this important step. After my draft was complete, I was shocked to find how much I’d forgotten in the previous chapters and scenes (Yep, I started as a pantster).

In the pre-internet days, most agents required something called a Chapter-by-chapter synopsis, where writers used a sentence or two to describe the action of each chapter. Although I haven’t seen this technique asked for much these days, I still use an abbreviated method to map out the plot points, subplots and so on.

If you are more organized, you can still use the mid-scene idea to keep your writing fresh and full of emotion. Scrivener and other programs allow you to organize and map out your story in detail. Or, just get yourself a presentation board and some colored sticky notes to lay out your story. But instead of writing a full scene, you’ll go from mid-scene to mid-scene.

Write Anything, Anyway

But what if you find yourself staring at that blinking cursor? You daydream, think of a jillion reasons not to write and fiddle with the same sentence over and over. How can you defeat this inertia? The first thing I recommend is that you congratulate yourself because you have BIC (Butt in Chair). Honoring your commitment is something you can be proud of. 

But if the words won’t come, there are a few tricks. Try retyping your last written scene or the last few paragraphs you wrote. If that doesn’t help, try writing a letter from your Main Character. Let the character express deep dreams and fears. It won’t go into the story per se, but it can help put you back in touch with the goals of the story.

If all else fails, sit at your keyboard and type anything. Rant about the neighbor’s yappy dog or dip back to typing class with the swift brown fox. Type your writer dreams or chronicle frustration. You won’t keep any of this, but you can “prime the pump,” bringing your emotions to the surface. Still blocked? Type, “I can’t think of anything to write.” By the tenth time, you should be so bored that your story is a welcomed sight.

What are some of the ways you fend off writer’s block?

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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