Writers’ block challenges even the most prolific writers at times, and a lot of times, the only way to overcome it is to trick your brain into moving the project forward. Last month, we presented nine ways to defeat writers’ block, but these were just a few simple ideas on how to do it. This month we here at InstantPublisher will present eleven more in-depth ways to defeat writers’ block.
1 – Beat It Out
No, this does not mean punch yourself in the face or beat someone else up. This technique called “story beating” helps you break down your story into small chunks. Divide these chunks into essential scenes in your novel or story.
A good story beat should include the following information:
- The character(s) who are involved in this scene.
- The location where the action takes place
- The problem or conflict the character(s) encounter within the scene
- Specific detail or language to include within the scene as a line of dialog, descriptive detail, or feeling or tone to present (not essential, but nice to have)
All of this information can fit on an index card. You can then arrange and re-arrange the index cards to organize your story as you write. The great thing about story beats is that you can write up the significant scenes that you know you want to include within the book and add more of them as you learn and understand the flow of your story.
2 – Outline It
Outlining is equivalent to story beats for non-fiction projects (although many writers use outlines for fiction projects). Many writers resist outlining because they feel it stifles their creativity. This is simply not true. Your outline does not have to be a formally organized (1,2,3; a,b,c; i,ii,iii) indented approach. It can be a series of notes on a single sheet of paper listing all of the important information you want to cover in your project. You can also create the outline of notes on index cards to provide flexibility in organizing your project. An outline can be as simple as a list of topics you want to write about in your project, or full-blown sentences and notes to include within the book’s final draft.
3 – Design Your Book Cover
Sometimes the best approach to beating writers’ block is a misdirection. In this case, you are working on something completely different to spark the imagination. Taking time to design the book cover for your book is a great way to distract your blocked mind while still moving forward with the project. Even if you don’t use your book cover design, it will give you, or the custom book cover artist you hire, some ideas for the final book cover art. Here are some tasks you can do to help with your book cover design:
- Select stock images or photos you’d like to use for your cover
- Find a good model for your lead character for the book cover
- Review cover designs for books similar to yours already for sale. Do you see any patterns or obvious “dos and don’ts?” What cover designs do you like?
- Select font types and sizes for your cover
- Look at various color schemes for the cover
4 – Storyboard It
This technique is favored by writers who are more skilled at drawing, but you don’t have to be a skilled visual artist to use it. Storyboards have been used for decades in the movie industry to help writers and directors visualize the scene. Comic book writers and artists also use this technique to map out a story’s look and feel. So sketch out a pivotal scene or a scene that gives you trouble in a series of comic panels. Again no fancy artistry is needed; stick figures and rough shapes are good enough.
5 – Eliminate Distractions
What is distracting you from your writing project? Is it your messy, disorganized desk? Spend an hour cleaning it up. Losing focus by looking out of the window and daydreaming? Close your blinds. Getting distracted by social media or news on the internet? Shut it down (at least temporarily) during your writing time. There are applications such as Freedom and RescueTime can help if you have trouble doing it on your own.
Bottom line: Figure out what is pulling you away from your writing and try to mitigate these challenges to get back to your writing.
6 – Write a Synopsis
Agents use synopses to get a summary of the story. It is essentially a high-level overview of the characters, plot, and unique features of the story. The synopsis should not be longer than one single-spaced typewritten page (or around 500 words). Do not leave any significant story twist out of the story to preserve the surprise.
7 – Step Away from the Project for a Day or Two
Sometimes the best way to work through writers’ block is to let it sort itself out on its own. Allow your subconscious mind to continue working on the problem while you focus on other things. Work on other projects, write in your journal, read a book, whatever it takes to distract your mind from the problem at hand.
8 – Write a Letter
Write a letter to a close friend, loved one, or ideal reader that describes the problem from your perspective. Tell them about the story, the challenges you are encountering, and what you think might be causing the block. Explain the story in detail and what you hope to get from writing the story in the first place.
9 – Create an Elevator Pitch
Elevator pitches work for fiction or non-fiction projects. The technique helps you quickly boil down to the essence of your project so that you can clearly communicate it to that famous agent you happen to run into on an elevator. You have exactly 30 seconds to impress the agent, so tell him/her what your project is about, who would want to read it, and what other projects your project is similar to.
For example, a elevator pitch comparison for Susanne Collins book, The Hunger Games might be presented as a combination of the reality TV show Survivor, and Richard Connell’s famous short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” This story where a big game hunter decides to hunt humans for sport is not a far leap from the savage games presented in the world of Panem.
10– Make a List of Questions About Your Project
Take 15 to 30 minutes and generate a list of questions that you think you need to answer before continuing your formal writing on the project. Write them down as fast as you can. They don’t need to perfect, and you won’t necessarily need to answer all of them to move forward with your writing. Sometimes just asking the question is good enough to spark your creativity and push you forward.
11 – Just Start Writing
If you just can’t seem to get anything going, simply set an easy “low-hanging fruit” writing goal today for you to achieve. The goal should be ridiculously easy to achieve, so you won’t resist doing it, and once you reach that goal, you can consider your writing work for the day done and go on with the rest of your day guilt-free. Here are some examples of “low-hanging fruit” writing goals.
- Sit at your desk for 15 minutes and try to work on your writing project. Don not get up, look away, or do any online research for the story. Just sit at your computer and try to move forward with your writing.
- Re-read the work you did in your last writing session and write one paragraph.
- Write one sentence.
- Research critical information for your writing project for 10 minutes.
Sometimes just sitting down to write with low-expectations, you’ll discover that your brain will want to continue working on the project once you get started.
What technique do you use to break through writers’ block? Let us know by leaving a reply below.
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