I was asked a question on Goodreads the other day, and in answering it, I scrolled through the other answers I’d given. I updated what I was writing now, but looking at the answer to “How do you deal with writer’s block?” I thought of so much more to say.
What I answered then.. and left on Goodreads (so far, at any rate):
I confess that so far I haven’t really suffered from it. Shelving Victor’s story [Bravo Victor] for a few years was a form of it, but I wrote other stories while that one was maturing.
Sometimes I don’t know what to write next, which is another form of block. Then I re-read what I’ve written so far, and ask what happens next. Getting the words down is the key thing. If they turn out rubbish, they can be edited. Whole characters can be edited!
But I’m lucky – I’m not under pressure to write “the next blockbuster in the series” by October. I think I might get writer’s block if that was the case. I’d recommend writing a 1000 word flash fiction challenge to freshen up. 🙂
That’s not the whole story, of course.
I was thinking about the experience I’ve had with this year’s Camp NaNo and decided that was also writer’s block at the start, born of
- not being clear of my story
- trying to do too much
- fear of failing
and probably a few other internal dramas.
This is where the hard graft of authoring comes in. You have to work out what you’re doing and do it. That’s a kind of problem solving exercise. It needs you to examine questions like:
- What IS the story?
- Is what you’re doing with this series sensible?
- What other ways could you do it?
- What do your readers like about your series and are you still doing that?
The story I seemed to be trying to tell was Willoughby’s life story. Well, that’s not necessarily interesting as a book. What are the exciting bits? What challenges does he face; what decisions does he make, especially the dumb ones? How is he going to grow as a person – if he’s perfect from the outset, readers won’t take to him unless he has some amazing redeeming features, like sparkling wit (which isn’t my strength). My strength (I think) lies in adventures and twists, so what is Willoughby’s adventure and how does it twist?
And that’s when I realised I was doing too much. I couldn’t shoe-horn all the rest of the series into two books. The bit that I set up in a flash fiction in 2013 really does belong in the books, but it’s not in Willoughby’s, and it’s not in the finale. So that’s another book. And then there are mini-adventures that I like and have done on the blog or the princelings website that don’t fit anywhere, but support and inform other parts of the series, and could well fit in a compilation of key events before the last in the series… which I actually started four years ago. I stopped because I realised I had to know what happened before then.
So it wasn’t so much writer’s block, as someone inside me telling me I was doing it wrong. Rethink it. Take a different approach. Trust your instincts.
So I suggest, if you are suffering from writer’s block, take a look at what you are trying to write and ask why you are stuck. What are you stuck with? If it’s a key scene but you know what happens before and after, write the before and after. Maybe you’ll discover it’s not the key scene after all. If your questions are like my ones above, you’ll soon sort your problem out – even if it does mean another book!
This is an Insecure Writers Support Group post for August. If you’d like to join up, or hop round other amazingly helpful posts from other writers, just go to insecurewriterssupportgroup.com, you’ll be very welcome!
12 thoughts on “#IWSG | Dealing with Writer’s Block”
Hi Jemima – Writer’s Block … I don’t really get it – but I do over-egg what I’m doing sometimes and that’s what I need to get rid of … to simplify what I’m doing. But we all have our blocks … it’s as you say finding that way round and helping ourselves … by writing and actioning … cheers Hilary
I think you’re right, Hilary – and that writer’s block means different things to different people!
So true, Jemima. I don’t suffer from writer’s block because I make myself write. It doesn’t have to sound good or be grammatically correct. I’ve noticed that once I start writing, somewhere along the page, things start making sense to me.
Enjoyed reading your post.
Thanks, Pat – and just keep putting one word after another – you know it makes sense! 😉
Hi – I’m one of this month’s co-hosts and popped by to say hi. Such good advice on writer’s block, which I’ve been suffering from lately. Maybe I’m not trusting my instincts enough. Great food for thought – thanks for sharing!
Thanks for popping in, Ellen – I’ll be round soon I hope.
There was a time I didn’t believe in it, but I have had enough books sort of peter out now that I KNOW I want to write but just can’t get to go anywhere, that I believe more. I usually continue writing, unless life is truly intervening, but there are times I can really only commit to short stories. Like now. That may be it. Each novel is a relationship and I am currently a bit jaded. I need to fall in love again, but it can’t be forced. It is certainly more likely though, if I keep getting out there where I can meet people (meaning writing and planning until one takes)
That’s a very good point about novels being a relationship. That’s definitely not helping me write book 8. But I won’t elaborate on that here!
I think that’s excellent advice, about looking hard at what you are doing and why it won’t go. I know I hit that point at the end of NaNo last November and ended up simply leaving the ending not quite finished. The book is still stewing in the back of my mind, and will get some major revisions when I go back to it.
Oh–and I got into that situation because I hadn’t really finished planning before I started writing.
But on the whole, I don’t get writer’s block. I get lazy, I get distracted, and I get a slew of excuses (“I can’t write when the whole family is at home! I need solitude!”). But if I sit myself down and do it, something comes out. And yes, those 1000-word flash pieces are super-helpful!
As you know, I think crimes need more planning, so if you fell short that might be why… but of course that other problem is the voice inside us telling us it’s not good enough… and only occasionally is it right 😉
I admire anyone who jumps into Camp NaNo. That’s a real challenge. Good that you’re listening to that voice. Getting it right is what you’re after.
I find Camp helps me because of the word goal and that it’s a short burst of effort. I can more or less get a first draft done in a month, and that helps my personal style of… just about everything!
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