Tricks to Break Through Writer’s Block

Writer's Blocks?Let me start off first by saying I don’t really believe there’s an actual thing that is “writer’s block.” I just put that in the title so people would click the link. Seriously. It’s my belief that there’s always something for a writer to write. You might get stuck at some point in your manuscript, but you can always write something. A list. A character study. Backstory. A description of a place. A blog post about “Tricks to Break Through Writer’s Block.”

Ok, let me be totally honest with you all now: I have a YA story that I desperately want to write and when I sit down at the computer, the blank Word document stares back at me, and NOTHING happens. The story is stuck in my head in bits and pieces, fragments flitting around my days, nudging me, poking me, but NOT GETTING PUT INTO WORDS ON PAPER (or computer).

So, this blog post is actually for ME. And, if you’ve been reading for a long enough time, you’ll know that actually it’s all about me. (I keep telling my husband and kids that it’s ALL about me, but they’re not biting.) So. Here’s my list of 7 tricks to break through writer’s block, even if writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’m writing the list for me. You’re welcome to try some of these tricks, too.

images-11. If you’re stuck for ideas for a story, make a list of stories you’d like to read. Any kind of story. It can look like “a story about a boy from Boise who yearns to swim in the ocean; a story about a girl who’s jealous of her cousin; a story about an alien invasion; a story about a hippo who wants to make pancakes.” Anything. Just make the list. Then pick one of the things on the list and go with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the “right” one or not. Just start with that one.

2. If you do have a basic idea of the story you want to write, just write down the “what happens.” Again, this is just to give yourself a road map. It doesn’t need to sound good or look good or ever be shown to anybody. Just jot down the basics of your story. Just for fun. Just do it. No pressure.

3. Make a list of any of the characters that you know will be in your story so far. Write their backstory, just for yourself. So, you don’t need to “show not tell” or have it be well written. The plan is not that this will be included in your manuscript. You should spend at least 5 minutes doing this (but 5 hours or 5 days are both ok, too).

images-24. Describe a setting. It might be a room, a vista, a town, whatever. Just describe it in all the detail you can muster; sights, smells, sounds, everything.

blahblahblah5. Write a scene that is all dialogue. It should be at least 2 people talking to each other, but can be more. Pay attention to how each of them speaks and make sure that they sound different from each other.

Family portrait6. Describe the key players of your story. This is different than writing their backstories. This is what they look like, their mannerisms, how they dress, how they speak, wear their hair, what they smell like, their facial expressions, if they have good teeth, a hearing loss, a particular tic or movement they might make, bad skin/good skin, freckles, fat, thin, buxom, well hung, balding, swarthy, eye color, etc… Describe them. Count on the fact that most of this will NOT end up in your manuscript.

maxresdefault7. If you basically know what your story is going to be, write an elevator pitch or query letter for it. I know, I know, pitches and query letters are the hardest things to write. But, if you can get that done now, even before you write your story, it will be like a beacon of light in the muddy muck that writing a novel can be. And it psyches you up for writing the story!

So, that’s a start! Doing some of these things can get you (me) writing about and playing on paper with your story. And now, some inspirational quotes for you!

Our friend Yoda said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

And our friend Jo March said, “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

And our friend Chandler Bing said, “Hi, I’m Chandler. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.”

Ok. That’s it for now. Happy to hear other people’s tricks for breaking through writer’s block in the comments below! (Even though writer’s block doesn’t exist.)


Filed under Uncategorized

6 responses to “Tricks to Break Through Writer’s Block

  1. Hey Linda! Love the post!

    I’ll do one of two things to shake off writer’s block (which I see as a fear of failure, which evolutionarily-speaking, probably boils down to a fear of death, but whatevs).

    1) I throw myself into something totally new and scary (standup comedy was the most recent)
    2) I essentially force myself to get obsessed by one particular topic (astronomy, as of last year).

    Good ideas always seem to follow either practice. Although they require more of a time commitment!

  2. Cookies, Linda. Or chips. Something snacky and munchy and good. And coffee. And music or a classic B&W movie on the TV in the background. And by NOT focusing so hard but just enjoying yourself, in an admittedly PG manner–I do after all write picture books, it’ll just happen. Something will just pop into your head that’s so perfect and so ‘write’ it’ll astound you!

  3. Sometimes to get going I pretend I’m the character and just start writing “my” opinion about something.

  4. If it’s only a particular scene or chapter that I’m struggling with and I have at least SOME idea of what comes later, I’ll insert a comment box to flag the trouble spot, skip ahead to the next scene for which my brain actually works, and then keep writing. Yes, it’s totally an avoidance mechanism. But it keeps me writing and allows me to loop back to the trouble spot later in order to tackle it with (hopefully) fresh ideas flitting through my unblocked brain.

  5. When I have a case of writer’s block
    I know I need to wake up my sub concise part of my brain. So..I’ll go for a walk with the dogs, go to the gym, meditate-anything to free up my thoughts. But, because it doesn’t exist,
    do what works for you.

  6. I agree that there’s no such thing as writer’s block, and this is a great list. I love #1 (haven’t tried it before but will!). For me, music really helps. I almost always put together a playlist for my WIPs, and one or two songs end up bubbling up as most emblematic of the story. I loop those songs as I write and they fade into the background but will almost always put me in the writing zone.