Overcoming writer’s block can be a jam. Your characters are stuck, your plot is stale, and you have no clue how to get past it.
It happens to everyone. You are not alone.
Interesting this is, writer’s block can be helpful. When your story isn’t working, it means exactly that: your story isn’t working. But this isn’t the end! It’s not time to give up or scrap the pages.
All you need is a quick troubleshoot to figure out why your story isn’t working. When you’re suffering from writer’s block, that’s the #1 question you need to ask:
It could be for any reason. Here are 20 quick and easy ways to troubleshoot writer’s block, and get your story moving again.
1. Who’s in the driver’s seat?
Repeat this: stories should be driven by character, not plot.
If you’re trying to push a character into the next plot point, instead of letting your character lead the narrative, you might be sacrificing the character itself. It’ll feel false, contrived, and your writing flow may suffer from it. Make sure your characters are in the lead and being themselves.
2. Character map
If you did #1 and realized you don’t actually know your characters very well, it’s time to character map! Write down everything you know about characters to make them as real as possible. Focus on giving them the integrity of a real person, and you’ll find writing with them becomes a TON easier.
3. Goals vs Motivations
Why are your characters acting?
Think about this for a moment. Are they just working toward a goal? Or do they also have a set of complex motivations driving them forward? Because we don’t always act solely to achieve a goal.
– The boy who wants to score the winning touchdown doesn’t just want to score for the score’s sake; he wants to make his mother proud and show her he can win a scholarship.-
Our motivations may be something we are aware of or not. Check your characters out. See what’s driving them!
4. Re-assess your plot with reverse outlines
Plots change. It’s part of the writing process, and it shouldn’t be scary at all. If you don’t know what happens next, or don’t feel like your story is as well-thought-out as it should be, try a reverse outline.
Take every chapter and summarize it into 1-2 bullet points using the most important information. When you have it all reduced to simple plot points, you’ll get a better view of what’s actually happening in your story. You might be moving too slow, too fast, or perhaps there’s even a plot hole you never noticed was holding you up. Reverse outlines are a great way to check if your writer’s block is spurred by plot problems.
5. Add a newbie
Switch it up! Choose a new setting and conflict, and toss in a brand new character. This could be a character inspired by your family member or the craziest celebrity you’ve ever heard of. Your only job is to make sure this addition causes conflict.
Have your characters interact with the newcomer and see what happens! The more tension, the better. Whether this scene makes it into the real story or not, the exercise will help break you from the bonds of your familiar narrative and refresh your perspective.
6. Toss your protagonist into another realm
Choose your favorite fandom or movie, and write your character into that world. Get to know your character in a different setting, and bring something new to your creative process. Think of it as the writer’s version of taking a jog in the middle of the day. Gets your blood moving.
7. Free write
Take away all expectations of ‘writing a story’. Remove yourself from that need to write for a purpose, and free up your mind. Write about the first thing that comes, whether it makes sense or not, whether or not your sentences are complete, and let your fingers fly!
8. Read something you like
Words not coming out like you want them to? It may be time to take a break from yourself. Read something from an excellent author, or from your favorite book. Take the time to enjoy their storytelling style while studying why you like them. Maybe you can use the inspiration.
9. Do something creative (that isn’t writing)
Reboot your brain. Stimulate your creative side with a fun activity like painting, drawing, or editing photos that you love. Whatever you enjoy, use it to refresh your right brain. When you return to the keyboard, you might find your writer’s block is long gone.
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10. Stop editing
I do this all the time. I’m writing every sentence so carefully that I’m not letting my story out. Keep this in mind: this is your first draft, and it’s not going to be perfect. It may not even be good. You might end up deleting the entire section, who knows? It isn’t worth wasting your brain power with editing that might not even help you.
A time will come for real editing. Wait until then, and let the story flow.
11. Plot ponder
If you are thinking so hard about what comes next that your writing is jammed up, maybe it’s time to revisit the plot outline and hammer down this next scene before you attempt to write it.
12. Plot skip
This is one of my favorites because it feels like cheating. If you’re struggling with one scene, skip to another. Write the scene that you are most excited about, or experiment with a cool new idea. When you’ve had some time to develop your plot more, return to where you got stuck and take another swing.
13. Journal your issue
Write a letter to yourself discussing the problems. If you can break down the issue by writing a complaint essay, do it. Lay it all out on the table and see if you can learn anything.
14. Phone a friend
Not the journaling type? Snag a friend you can trust and try to explain to them what’s stopping you up. Have them read your work or brainstorm with you. Either way, getting insight from an outside perspective is an amazing way to troubleshoot writer’s block.
15. Dash away distractions
Have too many tabs open? Keep thinking about those dishes? And I mean, that laundry pile has been there for a whole week –
Push away every bit of distraction, including guilt over surrounding responsibilities. Commit yourself to this time. Focus on that document page. Because this is important, and you deserve it.
16. Use a writing prompt
Whether it’s a picture prompt, dialogue prompt or plot prompt, using writing prompts is a great way to stimulate new ideas and get the gears rolling. This exercise will cannon your brain into a different sphere of creation that you need if you suffer from writer’s block.
(Related: check out Writing Prompt Word Lists For Novel Ideas and Story Inspiration)
17. How would your main character overcome writer’s block?
You trust your people, right? How would your coolest, cleverest character kick writer’s block in the jugular?
18. Write what you mean
If you struggle to write what you want to say, then write, in the simplest of terms, what you mean. Using the most straightforward language as possible. This is often the easiest way to write what you want to say.
Struggling to set the scene just right? Look beyond physical descriptions. What kinds of sounds, smells, and sensory details exist?
20. Conflict deficit
A lot of people hit writer’s block because they feel uninspired. That’s a great time to double-check that your conflict is still there. If there isn’t any intention, tension, motivating drive, or problem, chances are your story needs a better conflict to spur the narrative. Even micro-conflicts can make a huge difference and add authenticity to the narrative!
– The secret agent is in a cab, tailing the assassin. Since she just got into a fight with her boyfriend, she says something that offends at her cab driver, who then kicks her out of the car. Now she has to follow her target on foot while emotionally compromised.-
Here, we have one major conflict and two micro-conflicts all in conversation with one other and the plot. Much more interesting, isn’t it?
Have any other great suggestions? Comment below and share your ideas!
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