I don’t want to call it writer’s block. I’m stuck. I have a great outline; I’ve written several scenes, but nothing feels really that appealing to work on. I honestly don’t think it’s fair to call where I’m at writer’s block. I imagine Writer’s Block to be a bit more nefarious. It’s that moment of “Wow, I don’t even know what’s supposed to happen next. I am in fact COMPLETELY out of ideas.”
I’m not out of ideas. The well of inspiration has not dried up. The world is not ending. The scenes that need to be written look like they should be engaging or interesting. The story flows and the tension continues to build.
I just have no interest in writing them.
Is that Writer’s Block? I don’t know. Regardless, it is an impediment to moving forward. This is usually the point in my writing plans where I pause this work and start on something else until “inspiration hits me.” In a lifetime or two, I may come back and look at this work, but at that point I’m so detached from the story that I decide it’s worth a full rewrite.
But this blog isn’t about the hundred different stories I started to write and never finished. This is about my quest to finish my first book. So I must maintain focus and push through. Here are some of the things I do to push on through:
1) Ditch the plan and just go somewhere else.
So in the eternal war between “plotters” and “pantsers” I land (like most authors I would think) somewhere in the middle. That said, I do plot out some scenes to make sure I am including some of the hooks I want. So, for all you die-hard pantsers out there, this may not work, but for me, this can help a lot. Ditch the plan. It’s time to go off script.
I have run D&D games for two decades. During this time, I can’t think of a single group I’ve had that actually followed my adventure to the letter. I can only think of a few that followed the loose outline. Inevitably, the group goes off script… Way off script. You may be planning to have the party visit the town of Moldirk, but lo and behold, the party is all fired up about traveling south to get help from the Wandering Wizards of Wondrous Waffles.
That’s when it’s time to ad lib. A good DM (or GM or Storyteller, or whatever moniker is carried) will get the group back on track without looking like it. And the Side Quest may very well be the most talked about part of the game.
Do this with your story. Throw a curve ball, send them somewhere else, have a meteor drop on the castle. The cool thing about being the author is that you are the author. No one else needs to know when the story is over that the Mutant Space Monkeys were never meant to be part of it and came about because of a bad case of writer’s block.
2) Start up a conversation.
Some writing experts call this interviewing your characters. We are social animals, and I think when we get our characters talking, we are extremely likely to let the characters take the scene where they want to go. Some people have trouble with dialogue; And to a degree that’s reasonable. Dialogue in books should not perfectly mirror real dialogue. It is the stylized rendering of real dialogue.
Spice it up later or cut it out altogether, but for this exercise, just get the character talking. If you need “Umms” add the “Umms.” If you want emotion, even over the top emotion, throw it in there. Talk to the character directly, or have a scene between two characters. Make it directly relevant, or make it like a cutaway interview in a reality show. Whatever your method, get the characters talking and then let them run away with it. Once the rhythm of writing is going again, you’ll launch into your story proper.
3) Play out a scene from something else.
Sometimes the block is too strong. You aren’t pulled to write the main plot and the characters really aren’t interested in a side-quest. You try to get some conversation going and the characters refuse to talk to you, even under pain of death. So what happens now? Throw them into another scene from your favorite story, show, or movie. Give them as much rope as they deserve, but play it out from their point of view. If you’ve ever seen the movie version of something and the broadway version, they may contain the same lines, but how those lines are expressed may vary. Let your characters make the scene their own. Adjust elements to bring it closer to your story. See if the act of writing gets you back into your story.
These are a few of the things I do when I’m stuck (cough, Writer’s Block, cough). I have almost always found that just the act of writing lets me get back into the flow, and gets me past any major hangup I face.
How do you deal with Writer’s block? What has worked for you and what hasn’t?