Writing Tip Thursday #3: What To Do About Writer’s Block

Hey everyone!  Sorry I missed last week’s installment of this.  I was busy dealing with my writer’s block, which then occurred to me that it would be a good topic to talk about, especially with NaNo right around the corner.  So here’s what happened to me and what I did about it.

What To Do About Writer’s Block

About 1.5-2 weeks ago, while writing my novel, I realized I didn’t know how it was going to end.  I’d planned everything out, but in the process of writing a pivotal scene, I realized the emotions weren’t right and that I wasn’t ready to do a Really Bad Thing to my main character, so changed the scene.  I really like where it went and I think it brought more depth to all of the characters involved, so I don’t want to cut it.  But that meant now…my ending didn’t work right.

Simply put, I was stuck.  I felt like a sailor without any guides, drifting aimless in a sea of words.

So I did just about the only thing I could do, being 45,000 words into the story: I went back to the beginning.

That’s right.  I went allllll the way back and started rereading and editing as I went.  And I’m telling you, it helped me so much.  By the time I’d gotten to that 45,000th word, I had a much better idea of who my characters were than I did at Word 1,000.  Because of that, I needed to change scenes.  I needed to make my heroine stronger and more brazen.  I needed to add scenes now that the mystery in the story made more sense to me.  It also meant that I cut a couple thousand words, but I also added back at least 5,000 in new scenes that I now adore.

This also helped because it showed me where my plot holes were.  I saw the times my mystery didn’t quite work or seemed stupid.  I saw the scenes that needed foreshadowing or needed more context later.

Most of all, though, I noticed I still hadn’t figured out my villain’s motivation except that he’s a horrible person.

That was, surprisingly, the trickiest part of this whole thing.  I had 4-5 things in motion that he was doing to thwart my heroine…and yet I didn’t know why.  Once I realized that, I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I had to figure it out.

I tried getting him to talk to me in my head.  (The voices can be very helpful in that way.)  There was one sentence he kept growling to me over and over, but it didn’t tell me why he did these things.  But I kid you not, the moment I picked up a pencil to jot down what little I had figured out, the rest of it came pouring out.  Suddenly, all my clues and pieces worked.

So I went back to editing.  I needed to make sure the pieces I’d already written made sense with this motivation I’d finally found.  I still have some new clues to drop to make it make more sense, but I’m on my way.

Here’s basically my advice: if you’re stuck by writer’s block, it probably means something’s not right somewhere.  Maybe it’s the plot not coming together the way you want.  Maybe it’s characters or even the conflict itself being weak.  My recommendation is to go back through what you’ve written and look it over with as impartial an eye as you can.  Does this need to be there?  Does this feel right?  Are my characters acting the way they would naturally and not just the way I want them to?

Sometimes your own feelings can get in the way.  Sometimes the stress of your day comes between you and your best writing.  There may be days when it’s not possible to leave your day at the door–and maybe you don’t want to if that helps drive your writing.  I can be very inspired by what irritates me.  But it can help to take a step back and look at your story with a critical, English Lit major eye.  Or at least that helps me.

Others obviously have other fixes for writer’s block.  Some people go for a walk or let the story sit for a few days.  Some clean their houses or do more research on their topics.  For me, it’s about going back to the roots of the story.  If I find a tangle in the web, then untangling that may just be the inspiration I need for the ending.

Whatever you do, don’t give up.  Unless whatever you’re writing is actually terrible (and I have a binder full of those).  But if you’re truly passionate about what you’re writing, you need to keep pushing on.  A setback is just that–a setback.  It’s not a nosedive off a cliff, something that will kill your story.  You just need to find out what went wrong and work from there.  It might be a lot of work (it took me nearly 2 weeks to edit what I have so far and write those new scenes), but you’ll feel better about it.

Hope this helps!

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