A writer is rarely at a loss for words which makes writer’s block the bane of the writing life. At any time in the writing process, a writer can be derailed by not knowing what comes next. A blank page at the start of a new project can make a writer stumble for how to begin. A complicated middle can make an author freeze without a clear path to the climax. And figuring out how to nail a story’s ending can stymie a writer.
Here are six ways to get back on track.
#1 Go outside – refresh with a change of scenery and getting active
If you are truly stuck with your writing project, staring at a blank screen is not going to get you unstuck. Writing is solitary and sedentary which itself doesn’t lead to generating actions and events in the story. Both the change of scenery and getting active will renew your creativity. The feeling of fresh air on your face will translate to a breath of fresh air on the page.
#2 Change format – take a break from prose
Sometimes sentences just don’t seem to flow. Try a sideways approach to getting back on track by writing part of a scene in a very different mode. Write a scene only with dialog. Or, replace the prose with a poem. Don’t get stuck on rhyme because poetry is more than that. Maybe alliteration or a rhythm could be the change in texture that helps you get on track. Afterwards, you can replace these sections with prose that’s consistent with the rest of your story. Sometimes, getting your brain to work with words in a different way does the trick so you can find your way back to your story.
#3 Brainstorm again – switch to generating ideas
Bring fast energy to your scratch pad by writing ideas without stopping. You’ll switch from storytelling mode to brainstorming. Try giving yourself topics related to your characters or events happening in the story and brainstorm various possibilities. You could try ordering some of the ideas into lists, and then switch them in unusual ways to see if that jogs your storytelling brain. You can throw out the crazy and wacky ideas, but often they help you find an unexpected answer for what comes next.
#4 Research your audience – find out what your readers crave
If you dive into your audience’s experience of reading, you’ll find what keeps them coming back to read more of the type of book you’re writing. Consider what you can do to amp up that experience for them. Can you add something that was missing before? All books have readers turning pages to find out what comes next or what information the author has to share, but categories and genres do this in different ways. When writer’s block stops you, go back to the reason readers will pick up your book; you’ll be able to dive in again to add what readers will enjoy most about your story.
#5 Switch to a different project – shifting gears can recharge your creativity
It’s always easier to pick up where you left off with a project than to start a new one. Have you ever cheated on one writing project with another? If you’re like most writers, you’ve got a stash of ideas and half-finished projects waiting for you to get inspired to continue working on them. Sometimes getting into a groove with a different project that is in process can jog your brain into productivity on the one that is your main focus.
#6 Take a shower – the Hail Mary
This is the writer’s version of Murphy’s Law: you’ll get your best ideas when you're wet because you can’t get to a pen (or computer). There is something about immersing oneself in water that helps with going back to the well of creativity. Just try it.
When writer’s block challenges you, try sideways tactics to get the flow of words going again. Give yourself permission to get a draft that’s in rough shape; don’t expect your most amazing prose to come with the first sentences you get on the page. The main concern is to beat the block by getting back to writing.
by Jennie Dunham