Why dost thou imprison me, writer’s block?!
Writer’s Block. It’s a dreaded wall that encompasses every writer’s ability with imprisonment. It prevents ideas from forming within our minds and prevents us from seeing these ideas written down to provide clarity to our imagination. At times, our writing becomes redundant. We lack the desire to write even a single letter, or worse we repeat what we’ve previously written. There are many situations that contribute to writer’s block, and all of them can be dealt with the proper defense and course of action.
But, but, but that author’s work is better than mine!
If you are just into writing or are becoming an inspired author, do not compare yourself to other authors whose works you may feel are better than yours. Everyone starts somewhere. Your beloved authors spent years writing, and have had their share of troubles too. Your writing will improve if you work at it. This means spanning beyond your comfort zone to place your writing where you did not think to before. Place your characters into situations you wouldn’t dream of, push them to the brink of the edge, and if necessary kick them off the ledge.
There are footprints on the moon
Second, the sky isn’t the limit. Remember, a writer is an artist who can paint descriptive scenes using the mediums available to them. Some writers prefer traditional pen and paper. Others prefer the use of their cell phone or tablets. Some even use napkins. There are those writers who use a variety of mediums to get what they want written down. Whatever the case may be, writers produce words on their medium in an artistic way that causes the reader to imagine the scene and action taking place. As a writer, you have access to thousands of resources to help improve your literary artistic ability. Some of these resources are:
- Dictionary: If you go through the dictionary, you will find hundreds of thousands of words with different definitions and pronunciations. It may sound boring, but increasing your vocabulary will aid in your writing skill.
- Thesaurus: This one is tricky, because it is abused so easily. Yet, you can use this to come up with a synonym that works better with your writing. Use caution though, and don’t use the wrong word replacement. Use the dictionary to compare. A synonym should match the definition of the word you are seeking to replace.
- People: Believe it or not, this one of your best resources. Listen carefully to people’s conversations. It may sound rude, but listening can help you pick up on the way a person speaks. Watching helps too. Watching a person’s behavior in public can provide opportunities to use for your characters.
- Online: Across the web there are many blogs and articles and social media sites. It may seem strange to think these can aid in your writing, but by reading posts from other people, you can pick up words and topics you might not otherwise have come across. For example, if someone blogged about having to feed their dog dinner while being late to work, your idea of a story could revolve around a dog that tries everything it can to do to make its owner stay home.
- Literature: Reading a variety of literature from novels to magazines to newspapers can provide you an opportunity to grab, pick up on topics or themes to get your creative juices flowing. The more you read, the more you become aware of what is there and not there. You can then decide if you want to write a work similar to another’s, or go bold and write something entirely unique.
- Television: Perhaps the most strangest of all. Why use television for your writing? Fact is, actors and actresses portray characters who are believable (most of the time). Each character is different and uses their way of speech differently. The use of communication, actions, home style, and then some vary from each one, even if they are similar.
- The radio: Listening to the lyrics of a song can produce a variety of emotions. Emotions are what makes a character seem real. Without emotions, a character might as well be a robot. Do all characters openly show emotion? No. Yet, their actions make up for those emotions if done correctly. You may have a character who does not reveal facial expressions, but instead turns away and distances himself from others. Or you may have a character who constantly chews pencils.
- Other People’s Home videos: A majority of people love to film themselves. You can analyze a person’s behavior simply by watching how they act on camera. Every person on camera is different, bringing to light how different your characters must be.
- Textbooks: More reading. You’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes at this one. Textbook reading sounds boring because we’ve had it up to our necks with it. I mean who wants to sit and read a history book these days? Or stare at an image of a seismograph in a science book? Yet, reading a variety of textbooks allows you to use this knowledge for your characters. Your characters will either be in school or have some type of job. They will need skills necessary to survive their world. Textbook reading can involve anything from the usual academic literature to even martial arts, gymnastics, and life-making skills.
- Nature: This one is trickier. Nature doesn’t provide you with words like a dictionary would. However, by going out into nature, whether it’s the city or the woods, or the park, or just a stroll through the beach can help your mind to clear and allow you to think of your characters in that area.
- Dreams: This one may seem absurd, but dreams provide imagery and ideas you can use in your writing. If you are the type to dream vividly and can remember exact details of your dream, take advantage of using it.
Knowledge is power
Third, knowing what you want to write is crucial to writing at all. If you are in the dark of what your story is about, you need to take some time and figure it out. Some writers are capable of writing their story out piece by piece until it all flows together from just a single line of action. Others need a complete synopsis of an idea before they can even begin. Knowing which one you are can help you understand how to help your writing flow smoothly.
There are four parts to a story. Each part of the story will have a specific length that depends on you, the writer. The first part of the story is the setup. Here, we have the introduction of the characters; their home lives, whether they are a student, married with a family or single, etc. We are just meeting Anna. Anna is 25 years old, just recently married. She’s also an employee at the local Burger Joint. Her husband works as a small time English teacher with very little pay.
One day, her husband is killed by someone who robbed him. Anna’s normal life is shattered. She decides to hunt down the culprit and take the person out in an act of vengeance. This leads right into the call to action, the second part of your story. It is where we see our heroine come to terms with what she must do. She may hesitate at first, but if she wants justice done on her own terms, she will do what is necessary. She will heed the call of action.
She finds her husband’s killer and takes action. This is the confrontation, the third part of the story. Confrontation is never easy. You don’t want to make it too easy for your protagonist to win, because then it becomes boring and pointless. Yet, you don’t want to prolong the difficulty of it either. Find a balance that works for your characters.
Anna defeats the robber, and goes to make a new life for herself. This is the resolution, the final part of the story. She’s ready to move on with her life, and even though she misses her husband, she knows she’s going to be okay.
- Set-up/Introduction: Where you bring in your characters for the first time, set them up with home lives, and their ordinary lives.
- The call to action: Typically the longest section in a novel. It sets the protagonists or deuteragonists on their journey to accomplish their goals. Every character has a goal in mind. In Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s goal was to survive and to defy the Capitol, who used the districts as pawns in their dangerous game of cat and mouse. Your characters must have a goal in mind to move them along in the story.
- Confrontation: Your character must confront whatever it is they are going against, whether it is an enemy or nature, or that of themselves. Generally it occurs toward the ending of the middle of the story.
Wrapping it up or the resolution is the final part of the story. It is where your characters either obtain their goals or don’t, solve the current problem they are facing, and move onto their next adventure. Keep in mind that all stories may not wrap up in one novel. Case in point, Harry Potter. Harry has to deal with stopping Voldemort in all seven novels, until he finds a way to finally and successfully defeat Voldemort in the final novel.
Unleash the rumbling in your mind
Fourth, sometimes words just don’t seem to come. If you have much on your mind and feel agitated there are things you can do. My recommendation, release what’s trapped in your mind. You can do this by jotting down what’s on your mind. Don’t feel like writing, but really want to? Jot down one word at a time. It doesn’t have to be sentences or paragraphs. It can be random words that don’t even make sense. The key is to release your mind of thoughts that prevent your ideas from flowing.
Drive your character on a new ride
If you are constantly stuck on your character, you need to understand who your character is. You need to know them. A biography of your character can help with this. There is a book called Dynamic Characters that provides an info sheet you can fill out about your character. If you know everything there is to know about your character and you are still stuck, put your character into a situation that is new for you. Perhaps your character is always kind and helpful, but has a quirk of being too nosy. Yet, they’re never confronted on this. Never. Set up a situation where their nosiness is confronted, perhaps in the worst way possible. Perhaps their friend gets upset with them for their constant nosiness and defriends them. What happens with your character then? How do they feel? What do they do? Or if your character never has trouble making friends, introduce them to a character who wants nothing to do with them. There are many things you can do to step out of your comfort zone. It may be hard at first but with practice you can do it and. A developed character makes it easier to write with them.
She just wanted to dance. He just wanted a beer. They met at a bar.
Fifth, know what type of scenes and action you want to write. This means appointing specific scenes, such as location and what’s in the location. Is the location a bar? What does the bar look like? Is it dark with minimal lights? Is there music and dancing? What’s going on inside the bar? This is your action. The bartender is no doubt filling drinks. People are sitting at the counter and tables. Most are drinking. Some are eating. There are people watching the games on the available televisions. Someone leaves. Two more come into the bar. Busy day.
He ran down the stairs and out the door, speeding along the railroad tracks
Sixth, your story should move forward. Each action and each conversation should move the story along. Scenes should differ every few pages, depending on your preference. Keeping your characters in the same scene, example, the bar scene, for your entire novel, does not help move the story along, particularly if they have a mission to fill. In very short fictions, such as flash fictions, it is necessary to keep one scene only. But in traditional novels, and even short stories, the scene changes. At times, you may notice in your favorite novels you read that a scene seems to cut off. At the end of a scene, the last page of that chapter is not always filled. There’s space there. This space represents a change in scenery that is to take place in the next chapter. Not sure how to end your scene? Cliffhangers usually work best.
Whoohoo, antagonists make the world intriguing
Seventh, sometimes you can’t seem to think of what to write for your protagonist. Nothing comes to you no matter what you try. In cases like these it is best to switch to your antagonist for a while. Antagonists are those opponents who directly interfere with the protagonist’s journey. Antagonists are not always the villain. Sometimes they can be someone who needs your character’s help that is more important than your character’s goals. Depending on your story, at some point your protagonist and antagonist are going to meet. The same goes with your protagonist and your villain.
A villain is like a super-selfish, narcissistic, power-hungry individual driven by his or her lust for their own goals. They care nothing about anyone, and they despise your protagonist. Why? Because it’s up to your protagonist to stop them permanently, whether they are trying to kill everyone in Manhattan, or attempting to take over a kingdom, or even just trying to keep your protagonist from obtaining his or her goals.
When nature attacks, all hell breaks loose
Sometimes your villain isn’t always a person. Sometimes it’s a corporation. Sometimes it’s nature. Most novels we read have villains as humans or human like monsters. Referring back to Hunger Games, the villain was the Capitol itself, run by President Snow the antagonist. In the novel Quake by Lou Candle, the villain is the earthquake. Knowing what your villain is will help the story flow along.
Why the heck are you runni-… Oh, never mind
Eighth, even though you’ve applied the tips above nothing comes to you. Remove all distractions from you. This includes removing anything that fixates your mind and attention to the point of obsession of surrendering yourself for hours. Now envision seeing your characters. What are they doing? Who are they seeing? Do you know what they are thinking? What’s surrounding them? Who else is watching them, if any? If they are just standing about, seemingly doing nothing, put them on a mission. Perhaps they suddenly receive a terrifying call that something is wrong at home. Perhaps a building explodes. Would your character run away? Would they run toward it to help? Or are they the type to just stand and watch out of morbid fascination? Maybe, they are the ones who blew the building up.
So many hobbies, so little time
Ninth, give your characters a hobby. This may seem strange. After all, what does a hobby have to do with writer’s block? Giving a character a hobby allows you the opportunity to come up with ideas on what they can do with that hobby. For example, if your character is not attending school and is off work, or doesn’t have a job, a hobby keeps them motivated. They may be the type to build popsicle airplanes or make crafts out of different materials. They may even enjoy learning new languages or visiting the library. Further, by inserting your character into his or her hobby, you open the door for something more exciting to come along. Example:
Rosa hummed as she glued a piece of feather to her wooden frame. Nearby popsicle sticks waited, stacked neatly in a pile. She had all day to finish her project without any disturbances. John had gone fishing and the children were staying over at their friends. The perfect day to relax and have time to herself. A rapid knocking jolted her from her thoughts, and she jerked. The knocking came louder. So much for that idea. She set her work down and went to answer the door. The barrel of a pistol pressed against her forehead.
Do you need to write it similarly? No. You can write it out to where your character suddenly gets a visit from a friend, or decides she needs to go to the store, or maybe receive a phone call. The opportunities are endless in what you can write.
Dream on, dream away
Tenth, when all else fails, it is time to step back and allow your mind to rest. At times, you have what I call mind-block. Stress, exhaustion, illness, and mental overload can contribute to mind block. When this occurs, take some time for yourself. Read a book, take a walk, play a game, watch movies or music videos. Do any leisure activity that you enjoy until your mind is clear from the stress again. Even taking a nap has benefits. Once you’re feeling better again, try again to write.
Fuck you, writer’s block
Writer’s block can be an annoyance. As writers, our very lives seem to depend on writing anything we can, and often we feel depressed if we cannot write. At times, when you have all kinds of ideas, but are not in the mood to write, you have to convince yourself to write. Sometimes you may end up forcing yourself. I don’t advise against nor do I recommend forcing yourself. You know what you are capable of. The one thing I do advise is to not stress over your writing. Even if it seems to take you years to write a single novel (of which I am guilty), don’t worry about it. It is my opinion that rushing through your writing, particularly when you are a new author or an inspiring author, causes more opportunities for mistakes. Some experts may tell you to treat your writing like a job. It is up to you if you want to do this. I personally find that treating my writing like a job makes me decide to pour on the gasoline and light a match. Instead, I treat my writing like a fun activity that I can’t just say no to.
Did you know?
Understand that writers do not always write. Nor do they always research. Too much researching can lead to mental exhaustion. If you are going to research, take notes as you go along. I recommend spending about two to three hours on researching a day (if possible), with fifteen minutes a break between the hours to give your mind a chance to rest. Your research should include anything that is relevant, from a known place your characters live in, to government and how it works, to laws, and then some. You may even need to research different religions and ethnic backgrounds for your characters. If your character uses weapons, and you know little about them, research them too. Research helps provide you with arsenal to write more realistically.
A manuscript is your precious
The key to writing is to never give up. With commitment and patience, you can beat writer’s block. It may not happen instantaneously, and at times it may even return. The above has been written to provide you with tidbits to help curb the writer’s block when it strikes. Remember there is a difference between writer’s block and mind block. Once you’ve beaten writer’s block and mind block is no problem, you’ll be on your way to finishing that manuscript sitting there on the corner of your desk.