What a popular question –
Do you get Writer’s Block, and how do you deal with it?
Well, what is it?
I presume it is sitting in front of an empty page or screen and being unable to write. If this is the definition then I don’t get it. Maybe I have the more terminal version – if I have nothing to write I stay away from pages and screens.
So within the paragraph above we have a few hundred words. Let’s go back to an earlier blog – Mechanics Of Writing – Blog Post
I touched briefly on writing style you can either be a Pantser – Someone who writes from the seat of their pants if you believe the press they let their characters write the book and are theoretically are as surprised as their readers at the outcome. Or you can be a Plotter – Someone who outlines each chapter and the interactions within the chapter. No surprises here the characters do as they are told. Or of course, you can be both.
It is easy to believe that a Pantser can sit in front of the computer waiting for inspiration or his characters to speak to him. I suppose it is not too far-fetched to imagine a plotter overcome with plot intricacies causing seizure.
I confess to being neither of the above
I plot points which need to be covered but not necessarily how I will cover them. I plan the outcome of each chapter ensuring it fits the overall master plan but even at this macro level I am still surprised that the characters sometimes rebel. So the only way to deal with rebellious characters is to re-write the macro to fit their shenanigans.
So why I don’t I get Writer’s Block.
Anti-Block Strategy 1 – Have a goal.
Firstly, I am quite goal driven. My plan is to write a chapter per week. A chapter for me is between 3000 and 4000 words, never less, never more. For me, that takes (on average) 10 hours of writing and possibly 5 hours of research. (Some chapters more than others.)
This means that I can complete a 90,000 Novel in about half a year. I find with a track to run on all I need is a push.
Should I write a Book – Blog Post
The push is knowing what I’m going to write.
Anti-Block Strategy 2 – Know the Ultimate outcome of the Novel.
Macro – I hope you know that I write Crime Fiction (If not, shame on you – Buy the book). So before I even start I need to know the Who, what, when, where, how, and why of the plot and the subplots. I like sitting quietly and let these issues circulate until they resolve themselves.
Anti-Block Strategy 3 – Know what you are going to write.
Weekly Goal – Yes, it is to write a chapter but first I need to know what I am going to write. So more thinking. Before I sit to write I need to know what plot points need to be covered. Roughly who says what to whom where and why. Of course, it needs to be consistent.
I want to say, at this point that I am not a plotter, (well not fully) the structure I am describing allows me the comfort I need to write. The characters and plots move all the time. I once tried to write a series on-line, I got up to episode three and couldn’t continue. The earlier chapters were published and the story was going nowhere near where those chapters indicated. I am still the same, I re-write chapters all the time to adjust for a new subplot or because one of the characters would not do as they were told. I like the narrative taking control, (but I’m not a Panster either)
Anti-Block Strategy 4 – Concurrence
Knowing where you think the book will go means that you have given thought to many (most) elements of the book. You know that your protagonist is going to get run off the road by the mafia and the likely outcomes. You think this will be about (say) chapter 11, even though you may be working on chapter 7. If things get hard write chapter 11 instead. When you eventually get to chapter 11 your characters have probably walked so you will need to fix it up.
For me all I need to do is finish one chapter, it doesn’t need to be the next one.
Anti-Block Strategy 5 – Momentum
I have religiously written a chapter a week for over a year. But over the last two months, my focus has slipped.
Ignoring the queue of publishers and Literary Agents (NOT) I decided to self-publish ‘Pea Pod Murder’ and as part of the strategy, I had to also build this website. Now I have to write three blog posts a week too. I have allowed my religious goal to slip.
I had not written for over four weeks. I decided that I should try and maintain my writing but after that delay. I found it difficult to re-start.
This experience is very valuable as it demonstrates the value of momentum. For me, writing has only become hard when I left the plan.
Anti-Block Strategy 6 – Just Write
Well, isn’t this a great bit of advice – To avoid being unable to write, just write – duh! But it’s not quite that obvious. I have spent two hours on one sentence, it was a fabulous sentence which got diluted with the 8,000 other sentences. Please don’t think I am denigrating my effort if that is what the book or my mood demands that is just fine. My point here is get it down. I have occasionally stared at the screen being unable to start. My solution is – start. I find I write maybe a paragraph or two of rubbish but the characters then demand to be properly represented and the writing kicks in.
I constantly review my chapters, I am not a write and fix it when it’s finished sort of person. I enjoy reading and re-reading previous chapters. This allows me to refine them and get rid of any sloppiness. So you can see writing rubbish is better than not writing.
Anti-Block Strategy 7 – Take a walk
My goal is a goal of a chapter per week, not so many words whenever I sit down to write. This is an important distinction. If it’s not working, pick it up again tomorrow. Your mind will probably have sorted out the problem for you without a conscience effort on your behalf. So take a walk, have a coffee, come back tomorrow but you still must finish the chapter by Friday.
Anti-Block Strategy 8 – Know yourself
In my – Boldly Do! – Blog Post I encourage any reader to ignore this advice and even their own research, instead just do.
If you find my strategy useful fantastic, if you can adapt it even better. Knowing yourself will be the protection you need against Block. Create your own rules, goals and strategies.
If you reckon their any good – let me know.