The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing it.
Also known as: every writer’s worst nightmare.
And let’s be real, it happens to everyone. Even the best writers in the world get stuck sometimes.
You know the feeling when it starts to creep up on you. The one where you’re writing and you have something you really want to put to paper because your entire plot hinges on this one scene or chapter, but for some reason, the words aren’t coming and it feels like your cursor is mocking you. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. It’s stressful.
It sucks, but don’t let it stop you from finishing your piece.
I’ve been stuck more times than I can count (not that I’d ever want to). Whether it’s finding the way to write something tough at work, for the manuscript (#WhoIsTalyaNightingale) because fight scenes are hard, or even now, as I’m in the middle of You Will Find Your Way, and I’ve written myself into a corner that I haven’t figured out how to get around.
For two and a half weeks.
But it’s not going to stop me forever.
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Just because you can’t write what you’re trying to (let’s call it Thing One), doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to write anything else ever again until you finish it. So open a fresh document and start on Thing Two, get into that writing zone so when you’re ready to go back to Thing One, you’re already there.
2. Get Off Twitter
And all of your other social media accounts.
Seriously. Do it.
These days, with all the distractions and drama and bad news, if you log out of Twitter (my personal number one distractor), Facebook, and any other website you know is going to distract you from your work, you’ll actually get stuff done.
There are countless productivity software and apps out there that will take you offline and keep you offline so you can focus. Google is your friend.
If you want to take it a step further and turn off your wireless router, you’re really going to get your work done.
There’s nothing wrong with making an abrupt transition to get the plot moving.
You don’t like where your character is? Then take them out of the situation.
Are they standing on the edge of a cliff and you don’t know how to write them getting to the other side?
Take them there anyway!
If getting from Point A to Point B isn’t the most important aspect of the plot, then just don’t worry about it. No one is going to send you a mountain of angry tweets about how they want to know what climbing techniques your character used to scale down the mountain.
Unless mountain climbing and those techniques are what your story is all about, but I digress.
Just take your character to where they need to be. That’s how I got through some of the last scenes on the first draft of the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale manuscript. Instead of getting stuck and staying stuck, I moved right along and bent the plot to my will.
Eventually you might even get inspired by the right rope-tying techniques, and you’ll know exactly how the character gets from Point A to B.
That’s why you get to go back and edit when you’re done.
4 Take A Break From MS Word
Have a notebook? A few loose pieces of printer paper? One of those really narrow notepads from your local city council election that you shoved in the junk drawer? The white space in one of your old magazines?*…
Grab a pen, take the last line you wrote, and start writing anywhere that’s not your computer.
*When I was in college and flying to and from home, if I didn’t have a notebook on me and my laptop battery was just about dead, I’d grab my seat’s copy of the Southwest Airlines Magazine (RIP Sky Mall) and write out plot points and quotes in the white space of the Sudoku pages.
Whatever works, right?
5 Write Every Day & Talk About Writing Every Day
There is never going to be a time in your life where writing too much is a detriment to your written works. Never. The more you write, the better you write, and the more you write, the easier it’s going to be to figure out how to get out of whatever writing holes you dig yourself into.
Take some time and try to get a couple hundred words out a day. That may sound like a lot, but 500 words is pretty much just one, 12-point font-sized page in MS Word. You don’t need to set a benchmark as long as you sit down and try, because once you start, you’re not going to want to stop.
As for the talk, when you’re done writing–ONLY when you’re done–hop on to Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, or other social media avenue of choice, and talk about how many words you’ve written, or maybe reference a vague plot point or two to tease your fans (of course, don’t give everything away). They want to see what you’ve written as much as you want it to be written, so they’re going to be some of your best support in all this.
Examples from my own Twitter include when I accidentally wrote about birds pooping on my protagonists, explaining what Maui is to a fairy, and how much angst was involved in naming a new male character.
And that kind of accountability is awesome.
(Two tips in one might be cheating, but I do what I want.)
6 Stop And Do Something Else
Of course, this sounds even more counter-intuitive than option one, let alone options two through five, but if it’s really not coming, then it’s really not coming. That’s not to say that you can or should only write whenever you’re inspired or when you’re feeling the magic, but sometimes you do need to take a break and recharge.
But you have to recharge productively.
That means no Facebook, no binge-watching Power Rangers in Space or CSI: New York on Netflix (guilty!), no mid-afternoon naps.
Go outside and take a walk, make a snack (you never know how much trouble you have at concentrating until after you get some food in you. I recommend anything with protein), cuddle with your four-legged companion if you have one, find a friend’s four-legged companion to cuddle with if you don’t, make a playlist of songs whose themes relate to your work, look up some writing prompts and let them noodle around in your brain for a little while.
Then go back to your computer and get back to it.
Talk through your plot points with a trusted friend or writing companion. I don’t know how many times I’ve come up with new plot ideas, ways around problems I’ve written myself into, or even new and necessary arcs, just by talking about my work with my friends. Sometimes, talking is the best inspiration.
Just remember, your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Honestly, it’s not going to be perfect, but as long as you can get the words out, you can make it perfect.
That’s why editing is awesome.
Guest post contributed by Kathryn from The Fake Redhead. A life-long college sports fan and forever bitter about the country’s east coast biases, Kathryn, The Fake Redhead, graduated from the University of Arizona with a BA in Creative Writing, emphasis in poetry because she felt the fiction studies emphasis was too pretentious. She is currently helping other writers hone their craft while she pursues her dreams of becoming a published novelist.