Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do You Have Book-Writer's Block?

Do you relate to this question, from reader Eleni Turner? "Please write about writer's block--I'm currently suffering from lack of inspiration on the storyline I'm most serious about. I know exactly what I want to write, but when I try, it becomes either too boring or too rambly."

What's your best technique for handling writer's block?
Is it real? (Some writers poo-poo the idea, but those of us who have experienced it might say otherwise.)
What makes writer's block visit you--and what makes it finally leave?

Post your ideas, tips, and suggestions below.


  1. Writers block is real, but it's least likely to happen for me if I promise to write every day and just do it!

    I assume they're talking about fiction writers block, since they mention "story line." My advice would be ramble, ramble, ramble! As long as words are coming off the pen you are not blocked.
    Two tricks I have used when a scene just won't come to life: write it from another character's viewpoint (even if there is only one narrator, you might learn something that is key to the scene).
    Or come up with an object, a "prop" and make the characters do something with it. This sounds silly but it's amazing how well it can work.

    Have fun!

  2. Writing something bad is better than not writing at all. When you tell yourself you can't write, you now have a block. I agree with Liz. I try to write everyday, and sometimes what I write isn't very good. But If I keep writing, I find one of two things always happens. 1.) After writing a few "bad" or uninspiring paragraphs or pages, something good pops out. Might be just a sentence that tells me something I didn't know yet. Might be a big new idea that I had to write myself into.
    2.) If it doesn't happen today, it happens tomorrow. Some of my best writing days come right after the worst ones.

    One last thought for Eleni---Don't know where you are in your WIP, but If you're at the beginning, the problem could be that what you have in mind isn't really where the story begins. I have experienced this.

    I have learned a good story begins when life as your protagonist has known it, is about to change, even if he/she isn't aware of it yet. Try free writing on exactly what that first note outside the song is.

    When I get stuck in the middle I go to my writing journal where I have a list of plot/character questions I need to answer to get where I want to go. I free write on one, or several if necessary, to find my way to the next part of the story.

  3. I used to think writer's block didn't exist until I hit a couple of months of it during a particularly hard novel I was writing. I just stewed and was very frustrated for a few weeks, then a good friend suggested I go back to freewriting every day on something not really connected with my book. I did that for a month, trying to keep patient with myself, trying to believe I was doing OK with my book even though it wasn't making any visible progress. After the month was over, I had a lot more energy for my book--and some of the freewrites became chapter seeds.

  4. Summer's the time when I have trouble with linear, trackable progress on my novel. I realized this last summer, when I was finally on vacation and couldn't write a word. At least not a word that seemed like good progress. So I began freewriting every day about other topics. I was reading a couple of good, inspiring writing books--Story Matters by Margaret Shoup-Denman was one. And I did the exercises in those books, just because I couldn't seem to do anything else. After a week, it dawned on me that I had writer's block. Oh, no. But as long as I kept with my daily 2 pages of freewriting, I was OK. And my novel started to come into focus again. Turned out, I'd hit a spot I was afraid to write about--a tough moment for the character that reflected a tough moment from my own life. The freewriting was a godsend. I began having a real sense that my freewrites were connecting with the novel--and by the third week of daily freewriting, they did. I had re-lubricated the writing wheels. They turned, at last.