BSV Forum - Writing - General Tips

Getting Passed Writer's Block

Feb 27 2009 12:49 pm   #1LadyYashka
Here's some advice I recently gave Ms. Scarletibis when she mentioned being stuck on a story.

(From Janet Fitch's 2008 NanoWriMo Pep Talk Email)

Fiction is all about decisions. Let me give you a personal example. Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn't decide what to do next. I'd try this, try that, but each time I'd get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan's Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads. Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn't commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, "I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all."

So you have these options, but which one to go for? When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don't let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. That's my advice to you now. Make trouble for your character. 

This is some of the best advice I've ever read concerning writing. Though I'm sure there are several authors who have said this, this is just the first time I've read it.

Anyway, we all know how sucky writer's block is. You've got your word processor open, the page may or may not be filled with text, and that damn cursor is happily blinking at you, and in your mind, mocking you. You can't figure out what to have the character's say, how to describe the scene you need written, or how to get from point A to point C.

I've been there several times. With the last fic I posted, Alone, Lost, And Found, I couldn't figure out how to end the damn thing. It really felt like it was going nowhere. So, taking this advice, and the advice I received from AJ Hofacre, I caused the characters lots of trouble. Taking some of the new characters and plot lines from season four of Supernatural really opened up the fic. By causing the characters more trouble, I finally figured out where the damn fic was going.

So, next time you get stuck on a chapter, sneak up behind the character your writing, and shove really hard. It will get the story moving, and that is what's important. Just remember, you can make it pretty later.

Full pep talk email from 2008 NanoWriMo here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3138137

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. — Neil Gaiman
Feb 27 2009 03:08 pm   #2maryperk
Hehe, good idea.  Are you one of those people who outlines their stories, or writes by the seat of your pants?  I'm a mixture myself. Of my 5 current WIP, I only have one outlined. 

Most of the time writer's block comes from the fact that the characters want to do something and I have to explain to them once again why we can't yet.  LOL
Feb 27 2009 06:03 pm   #3BecomingChosenGirl13
That actually really helped me a lot on a CB fic i`m writing. Thanks a bunch .
Feb 27 2009 10:33 pm   #4Spikez_tart
Here's another helper.  Go here, turn it on.  It's brutal and you will write something.

http://lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html

If we want her to be exactly she'll never be exactly I know the only really real Buffy is really Buffy and she's gone' who?
Feb 27 2009 10:52 pm   #5LadyYashka
BecomingChosenGirl13: I'm glad it helped you. It's helped me on quite a few stories I'm working on.

maryperk: I used to just write by the seat of my pants. In some cases, like the fic I mentioned, I still do. That one started off as an odd dream I had, and I just sat down and started writing. The other thing that helped with it, is that I've started not posting until I've finished the fic. That way I can see the whole story, and not just parts. I found that writing a fic, and updating as I went along, wasn't working. I'd get stuck and have no idea how to get unstuck. Then I'd feel bad for making people wait for updates.

On the other hand, I've started outlining all of my original fiction and some of my longer fan fiction.  It helps me keep things organised, and Lord knows I need to get more organised if I ever want to get published. Of course, I've  given myself permission to deviate from that outline if the story calls for it.

And I remember one time I had writer's block on a fic, (For Whom The Bell Tolls), because one of the characters did something that I hadn't planned. The problem I had was that I liked what they did more than what I'd originally had in mind, so I had to find away to fix the plot so that I could keep that part in. That took me a few months to figure it out, but I finally did it. Now I actually need to finish the fic in question.
Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. — Neil Gaiman
Feb 27 2009 11:19 pm   #6maryperk

Yeah, I've run into a lot of authors who don't want to post unless a story is done.  I've found for myself, if it's longer than 5-6 chapters, I start doubting the story if I'm not posting.  LOL.  That's about as high as I can get before the plot kitties need to be petted. 

The other thing with having so many WIP is that there's usually always a kitty around wanting to write.  I'm down to my lowest in probably two years.

Feb 28 2009 05:27 am   #7LadyYashka
Five works in progress is low? o.O

I'm almost afraid to ask what your highest was.

I have two works in progress that have actually been posted. My highest ever was three. Off line I have five fan fics that are works in progress, and about five original novels, one of which is only in the outline stage. 

I must say the temptation to post before I finished my last fic was pretty high, but I know me, so I made myself hold off.



Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. — Neil Gaiman
Feb 28 2009 02:22 pm   #8maryperk
At the beginning of last year I had ten.  I got down to seven, started a story for FFA, and was up to eight again.  Now I'm down to five.  I want to finish the outlined story before I post another.  In my 'working' file I have four stories that have started which will probably be the ones I start posting next.  In my 'working with others'(Immortally Spuffy) I have two stories I'm working on with JackofSpikes.  In my 'not working right now' I probably have about 25 stories in various stages.  I'm slowly going through these to see if I can put them into my Scenes without a Story which for anyone who hasn't been to my site, is just a 'story' where the chapters don't connect in anyway and are just different ideas that hit me.  When they won't go away, I write them toi stick in there.

So, see, writer's block usually don't bother me because I always have something else to go work on.  LOL
Mar 01 2009 01:45 am   #9LadyYashka
So, see, writer's block usually don't bother me because I always have something else to go work on.  LOL

I wish that were the case with me. I've got plenty to work on, but half the time I've got no idea how to get the story moving again. So when I read Janet Fitch's advice, I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to find out it worked.

And dang, that's a lot of stories. Also, I do what you do with certain ideas that just won't go away. I've got tones of saved files that are probably only a few hundred words long. Sometimes they turn into fics, other times they just sit there. I also have a few files were I save the "extra" parts of fics that I can't make work in the actual story. I just don't like to delete things.
Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. — Neil Gaiman
Mar 01 2009 03:34 am   #10FetchingMadScientist
Thanks for this.  Now maybe I can get "Life on Earth" back in this galaxy.  LOL
"Never a fetching mad scientist about when you need one." -Spike
Mar 01 2009 12:06 pm   #11LadyYashka
You're welcome. 
Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. — Neil Gaiman
Jun 09 2012 12:51 am   #12Spikez_tart
Hi writers - if you're stuck try writing by hand.  It works even better if you write with the hand you don't normally use.  I was stuck on my latest book for weeks and I made a mind map of the chapter (so much more fun than outlining) then I started writing it by hand and it all starting coming out.  I don't relish writing a 75K book by hand though. 

If we want her to be exactly she'll never be exactly I know the only really real Buffy is really Buffy and she's gone' who?
Jun 09 2012 02:34 am   #13slaymesoftly
Hi writers - if you're stuck try writing by hand.  It works even better if you write with the hand you don't normally use.  I was stuck on my latest book for weeks and I made a mind map of the chapter (so much more fun than outlining) then I started writing it by hand and it all starting coming out.  I don't relish writing a 75K book by hand though. 



When I first started writing fanfic, everything I wrote was by hand on notebook paper. I actually thought I couldn't write without that brain/hand connection. Typing was for presenting the finished product.   Although, had I tried that with my non-dominant hand, I wouldn't have made it past the first couple of paragraphs of the first story - and they wouldn't have been legible.  I can't imagine doing that now.
I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Jun 11 2012 02:17 am   #14Spikez_tart
It's completely illegible (which would not be much different than my regular writing) but for some reason it kicks your brain into writing mode and then you can continue with your dominant hand.  I know it sounds stupid. 
If we want her to be exactly she'll never be exactly I know the only really real Buffy is really Buffy and she's gone' who?
Jun 11 2012 03:33 am   #15slaymesoftly
It's completely illegible (which would not be much different than my regular writing) but for some reason it kicks your brain into writing mode and then you can continue with your dominant hand.  I know it sounds stupid. 

Maybe, but I may try it one of these days.
I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.