Writing Tip #3 – Conquering Writer’s Block

Is writer’s block keeping you from reaching your potential?

I am no stranger to writer’s block. In fact, I would argue that about 90% of being a writer is just finding ways to cope with writer’s block. No author can write without hitting the block along the way.

Over the years, I have heard numerous tricks for conquering writer’s block and have come up with some of my own. This is a list I have compiled of the things that work for me. Before I introduce them, I would like to point out that I suffer from writer’s block for one of three main reasons: the character isn’t working, the setting isn’t working, or the dialogue isn’t working.

The Character Is Not Working

  • Switch the point of view for this scene. Tell the scene from a new set of eyes, and you’ll discover things in the scene that you have never seen before. Tell it from the main character’s best friend, or the love interest, or the homeless man sitting on the street. Even if you ultimately decide to rewrite the scene from the original character’s point of view, you will learn a lot about how the character sees thing from switching to someone else.
  • Take the character and put them in a coffee shop. What do they order? Why? Do they order a Thai Chi because their father, who left when they were young, used to drink it on Sunday mornings before church? Where do they sit? Do they like to watch the rain trickle down the window, or is there a fireplace in the back that keeps them warm? Will they strike up a conversation with the barista? What will they say? If the character isn’t working, re-evaluate what you know about the character? Sometimes, you just need to dig deeper into what makes the character tick.

The Setting Is Not Working

  • What happens if the scene takes place in outer space (or, if your scene is in outer space, what happens if it is in the wild west)? For me, a scene usually doesn’t work because I’m bored with where it takes place. Describe outer space in vivid detail as your character goes through things. What does your character notice? Has the character been here before? Once you’ve finished the scene, go back through and try to look at the original setting the way you looked at the outer space setting. What nuances are there that can help excite your reader? Is there a mahogany table that they carved from a tree themselves? Is there a chili stain on the ceiling from that time their mom slipped carrying chili (okay, maybe this one happened to me in real life)?
  • Re-evaluate the setting. Does it have to take place here? Why? What is the significance? If it took place somewhere else, how would things transpire differently? Write it in a different place and determine how things would have happened differently. If there really is importance in where the scene takes place (e.g. a villain’s lair), it will be easier to switch knowing how things would go differently. If you switch to a new location, and find it easier to write about, consider switching the scene permanently.

The Dialogue Is Not Working

  • Your characters cannot talk. If they do, someone will have overheard them, and they will be caught. How do they communicate? Do they pass notes? Do they have signals? How does the scene work without dialogue? After finishing the scene, go back through and think about what you were trying to convey. How did you convey it? Write it out in the simplest of terms. Dialogue doesn’t need to be eloquent. It just needs to convey the general message.
  • Write out only the dialogue, as if you’re writing the script for the play. Sit down with a trusted friend and ask them to read through it with you. Hearing the dialogue out loud can help isolate phrases that don’t work. And a friend might have some suggestions on how to fix it.

There are many different reasons why writer’s block occurs, and these are three of the main reasons. The important thing is to keep writing. These aren’t the only exercises you can do to combat writer’s block, but these are the ones I use that I find helpful.

Have you tried any of these? Do you have your own? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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