Yes, I'm all three of those title characters in today's blog. I'm a writer, an editor and I taught a course on writing to college students. What that means is that I've encountered "writer's block" in many forms. Some people debate if writer's block even exists and suggest that if a writer sits down to actually write, it will disappear. The way that I'm defining writer's block, for the purpose of this post, is any time a writer encounters a problem and doesn't know what next to write.
In other words, you want to be like this...
But instead, you're like this....
The story of the orange chair-
After I'd given my students a writing prompt, I noticed that some of them were looking more like Tom Hanks than Kermit the Frog.
"I don't know what to write." "I have nothing to say." "What should I write about?"
These are the questions and comments of many writers at some point in their writing life and those were the comments of my students on that day.
When I was in middle school, one English teacher was especially beloved by her students. She once tap-danced for us on the table to show the importance of subjects working with verbs in sentences. Each shoe was labeled as one half of the sentence. I didn't get on the table myself in my own classroom, but I was inspired by her actions.
In the middle of the room was an orange chair. I picked it up and set it on top of the table and I started asking my students questions about the chair.
"What is it made of?"
"What are its uses?"
"Describe the color, its shade and what else is the same hue."
As they began to answer my questions, I pointed out to them that if they had so much to say about a simple, orange, plastic chair they would be able to find something to say about the prompt. In short, there is always something to write about. Sometimes the words just need a little coaxing, like my students did.
My top 5 tips...
1) Choose a different way to record your words. Do you always type? Take out a pen and paper. Always write by hand? Try typing. Something as simple as writing with a different tool can help new thoughts come.
2) Like I did with my students, start asking questions. If you're writing a novel and you're on a difficult scene, ask yourself "What needs to happen here?" "What is the motivation?" "What do the readers need to learn?" "How does this connect?" "Why does character A feel that way?" Ask yourself as many questions as you can think of, by writing them down. Then, go back and answer them. For this exercise, write down the first thing that comes to mind. Your instincts will often be right. If not, you can always fix it during revision and editing.
3) Write a summary of the story. Many people wait until the end of writing to make a synopsis. That's perfectly fine and it makes sense since a synopsis explains what happens, both in terms of plot and character and it also gives away the ending. You may not know all of this until you write. You can, however, write a summary of what's going to happen in the story, what you've already written and what still needs to happen. This will help you see what areas are missing and what to write next. Connections are important for fluidity.
4) Psst.. You over there, the one reading this, I have a secret... Lean in. Are you ready? You don't have to write a story in order. That's right! You can write a story in any order that you want or in any order that the characters tell it. Writing is not like baking a cake. You can't frost a cake before you put the eggs in, but you can write the ending before the beginning. If you're having trouble on a particular section, or if you get real excited about another area and want to work on it, do it. There's no need to wait. And, as a bonus, if you're not writing filler- waiting to get to the next exciting section, chances are your book will be a lot more exciting. It will be a series of sections that you were thrilled to write and really excited about as you were writing. Just make sure to put your sections all into order when you're finished.
5) Go do something else creative. If you've tried everything and the words just aren't coming, that's ok. Step away and do something else. One really important thing that you should be doing, even when you're not stuck, is reading. Reading boosts brain activity for up to five days after you read a novel. So, guess what? If you're a writer and you're reading a lot, you'll always be in a more creative mindset. Other creative activities, art for example, can also awaken the creative areas of your mind and help your words fly. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then sometimes creating a picture can get you exactly that, 1000 words, or more.
With these easy tips, you'll be an accomplished writer and then you can look like this...
And when you're finished, in order to make your work shine the brightest, feel free to contact me at Extra Ink Edits. I offer query help, synopsis help, submission packages, and polishes for pages or full manuscripts. I also help indie authors with title suggestions and back cover blurbs.
My best to you all and happy writing!