How To Overcome Writer’s Block – 10 Tips

23 May
Photo by Drew Coffman

Photo by Drew Coffman

Writer’s block.  We’ve all been there.  Sometimes we even use it as an excuse.

“Why aren’t you writing today?”

“I can’t.  I have writer’s block.”

It’s not a fatal diagnosis.  It’s just a little stumbling block, which I can hopefully inspire you to overcome.

Writer’s Block Remedies:

1.  Save the best for last.

A blank page can be intimidating.  So can that first line.  Forget the first line.  In fact, forget the first chapter.  Tell yourself you’ll come back to it later.  It takes the pressure off writing the most amazing opening line or those critical first pages.  Instead, jump ahead.  Write the chapters you’ve been dreaming about.  If you’ve been imagining it in your head already, chances are the ideas will just flow onto paper.  No one said you have to write from beginning to end.  Mix it up.

2.  Skip it.

Stuck on a word?  Thesaurus not helping?  Personally, I don’t even bother with a thesaurus until I’m done with the first draft.  Instead, my rough draft is filled with _______ (Blanks).  Don’t get hung up on a word.  If you’re on a roll, why would you stop writing for one single word in an 80,000+ word manuscript?  Seems insane.  Just leave a blank, or think of the closest related word and put an asterix next to it to remind yourself to come back to it later.

3.  Start with an exercise.

The brain is like a muscle.  And just like any other muscle, it needs warming up to prevent brain strain.  Do a timed write, use writing prompts, interview your characters, do anything to start writing, even if it has nothing to do with your current work in progress.

5.  Put it aside.

Maybe you’ve spent too much time on your current novel.  Can’t see the forest through the trees anymore?  Or rather, the story through the scenes?  Is there another idea that’s distracting you?  Get it off your chest.  Put your current novel aside and work on something new for a while.

6.  Check your outline.

Are you on the right track?  The reason you’re floundering could be because the plot has gone awry.  Maybe the scene you’re stuck on doesn’t move the plot forward, and you’re inner editor is screaming “What does this even have to do with the story?”  Go back to your outline, or update it if you’ve taken the story in a new direction.  And if you don’t have one yet, here are a few reasons why you should.

7.  Start at the beginning.

Running out of steam?  Start reading your novel from the beginning to remind yourself why you are so in love with this story.  This kind of block happens to me if I take a short break from my current work in progress.  By starting over, it can re-inspire you, or prompt new ideas or side plots.

8.  Don’t aim for perfection.

The first draft is crap.  It’s always crap.  Remind yourself this and let yourself make mistakes.  It’s the revised versions that really matter, and no one will see it until you’re ready.  The most important thing is getting words down on paper.  You are not a writer if you don’t write!  It could be jibberish.  You might know ahead of time that you will eventually cut it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste.  You could learn something important about your plot or characters, or write something profound that simply must be used elsewhere in your manuscript.

9.  Shift your focus.

Sometimes I’ll write an entire scene around the conversation between two characters.  A crutch for many writers is to use phrases such as ‘he said sarcastically’ or a gesture or action to describe how something is being said.  So, I’ll write the conversations without any interjections at all.  Emotions and inflections should come through what they say not how they say it.  Remember, show don’t tell.  The conversation will tell a story all by itself.  So let it.  It’s amazing how quickly you can build a scene this way, and it’s not so daunting to go back and fill in the holes later.

10.  Write in a notebook

Writing with paper and pen is messy.  Scribbles, arrows, stars and cross-outs.  At least, that’s how mine looks.  Sure, I need the help of a linguist to decipher it later, but sometimes it’s better than using a computer.  Your story looks so clean and professional on a computer screen, doesn’t it?  It’s almost like a real book.  But that can be intimidating.  It means that whatever you’re about to type has to be perfect.  So scratch and scribble in a notebook, it feels less final, less professional.  It feels more like a rough draft.

We all get stuck sometimes.  It’s not always obvious why.  But keep trying new things.  And if you still need a little more inspiration, check out Six Ways To Find Writing Inspiration.

Check out this week’s other inspiring blogs and enter your own by viewing this linky tools list.

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

22 Responses to “How To Overcome Writer’s Block – 10 Tips”

  1. Pat Esden May 23, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    Great post! Sometimes I also have remind myself that block can mean I need to do something basic, like eat or sleep a bit more 😉

    • C H Griffin May 23, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Haha yes. That might help too 🙂 it’s not unusual for writers to forget those things.

  2. Debbie Causevic May 23, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Nice pointers! I use a combination of them when my work isn’t flowing. I also name most secondary characters XX so I can just write and worry about it later, then I pull out my handy baby name book when I’m not in the middle of a scene.

    • C H Griffin May 23, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      That’s a good idea. Sometimes I just stick a random name in there and plan to change it later. But then I start to associate them with that name and often I get stuck with it. I think I’ll start using your XX method.

  3. Gwen May 23, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Terrific tips – I’ve used most, but now I’ve got a few more for my arsenal!
    What’s Thursday’s Children?

    • C H Griffin May 23, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Thursday’s Children is a group of writers who share inspirational blogs, then link it to everyone else’s blog in the group. Its a great way to connect with other writers, read inspirational posts, and garner attention for your own blog. Anyone can join. It would be a good fit for your own blog. You join in the weeks you are able to but aren’t obligated to all the time. Theres a better explanation here:

      • sugaropal May 23, 2013 at 11:06 am #

        Oh, I don’t know, I thought that was a pretty darn good explanation! Also, great post on writer’s block. I always read through a sizable chunk of the book before starting a new section, sometimes it helps me get into the groove, other times it’s thinly-disguised procrastination.

      • C H Griffin May 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

        Well, at least it’s productive procrastination..?

  4. Mia Celeste May 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    All these tips are good. I’m going to bookmark your post. Thanks.

  5. Dannie Morin (@Dannie_Morin) May 23, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Some of these I use all the time. I do try to write my first chapter and last chapter before I write anything else, but if I’m plotting and have an outline I skip around the rest of the chapters writing whatever calls to me that day. Good stuff!!

    ~Dannie @ Left to Write

  6. Keely Hutton May 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Great post and suggestions! I find I run headlong into writer’s block if I don’t write for a long stretch. It’s a bit like trying to run when I haven’t exercised in months…painful and not very pretty. As a preventative measure, I try to write every day, even if my busy schedule only allows for a sentence or two. Keeps my writing muscles conditioned and limber enough to handle a longer writing stretch when time and life allows.

  7. Kristina Perez (@babelbabble) May 24, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Great list. Thanks so much for joining us! I also like to keep a tumblr file of images related to my project that I can glimpse at whenever I need a jolt of inspiration.

    • C H Griffin May 24, 2013 at 6:27 am #

      Great idea. That’s why I like scrivener, because it lets you save photos under your current project. Or sometimes I print them out and stick them on my magnetic board in front of my desk collage style.

  8. sisimka May 24, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Great tips!

    I laughed when I read this: “The first draft is crap. It’s always crap.”

    I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted polishing a paragraph that eventually gets tossed out. I’ve learned to recognise that when I start doing that–more than changing a single word and moving on–I’m dithering. I’m flailing and rolling about, and it’s because I’m stuck. That’s when I walk away for a day, two, three. Work on something else or just indulge another hobby for a while.

    • C H Griffin May 24, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      Haha well at least mine is crap. Lol. I find its very tempting to start editing during the early phases of an MS. It’s tough to keep it in perspective.

  9. ddfalvo May 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Hi CH! These are wonderful ideas; so many of them are staples in my writer’s toolbox. But I love how you’ve listed them out and made this post the perfect resource for breaking through those metaphoric walls.

    • C H Griffin May 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      Thank you! They’ve always helped tremendously when I’m stuck 🙂

  10. Kate Frost May 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Some really great ideas here – I totally agree with you about skipping the first chapter, there’s always way too much pressure to come up with an amazing first line.

    • C H Griffin May 24, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      Sometimes that first line is the last thing I write. It’s easy to get a better feel for what it should be when you have an entire MS backing it up already.

  11. Alana Terry May 26, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I like the suggestion to use a notebook. I do this sometimes, especially in the brainstorm stage, and it’s really helpful.

  12. John Scherber February 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I stumbled into writer’s block in 1968 and didn’t get out for 37 years. This is one experience that led to my book of writing tips, A Writer’s Notebook: Everything I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Starting Out. Writing it, I imagined the self I am today, after 19 books, standing next to my younger self, ready to answer any question. There’s a sample on my website:

    • C H Griffin February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      That’s some writer’s block. Sound like you’ve got a lot of experience to share with other writer. Very interesting. Thanks for popping by 🙂

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