I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never suffered from this malady because when a story idea clicks in my mind, I don’t run to my Surface and immediately start tapping it out. I let it stew in my brain and let the idea actually take me on an adventure where the plot points are endless. If it stays in my mind for a few days to a week and I can’t let it go, then I know it is a story that I want to write.
Everyone is different and needs to beat writer’s block his/her own way. I’m not going to tell you to step away from the computer and do yoga or deep-breathing exercises, because anyone who thinks he/she has the cure is going to tell you that. I’m only relaying how I have been able to prevent writer’s block: This is what this post is about, preventative measures. Like good healthcare should be doing, I’m going to give you the tools to prevent it.
In any case, if you’re prone to writer’s block, these tips may be able to help you.
After I have let the idea stew, I go right into creating an outline because all the points will be on paper and I have no excuse for not knowing what to write about it. If you relax and let the character take you on a journey, you shouldn’t find yourself too stuck on the outline. But if you are, remember an outline is an outline, and you can always take another day to let the idea stew. I took a week to create the outline.
I do not want to hear that outlines will limit your scope and you’ll find yourself bored. No you won’t. This is the argument a lot of writers use for rough drafts, and I especially love this, “But character development will be shoddy!” An outline is not set in stone. For Stolentime, I just go rid of three chapters out of my outline because they are unnecessary. I also find my MC is adding things to make the chapters more exciting that were not in the outline. If you feel like an outline is going to kill your character development, then you yourself still need to develop as a writer because then you’re using the outline as a crutch, not a tool.
Once you have that outline written, sit your butt down and refer to that outline to remind you of what direction you’d like to take your story. It is merely a reference tool that will help you finish that rough draft without much fuss. If you feel yourself becoming bored because of the outline, remember that your MC is in charge of where the story goes, and that if you let the outline lead you, you aren’t properly utilizing the outline as it is supposed to be used. When I start writing a chapter, I glance at the outline to remind me what I want this chapter to be about–assuming that it makes sense with the previous chapter. If not, I’m allowed to make adjustments. People really need to stop treating the outline like evidence that needn’t be tampered with.
If you’re the type who has to write chapters out of order, use the outline out of order. I simply think the outline is the best tool for preventing writer’s block because your story is all there and you have no excuse for saying you can’t think of what to write. At the rough draft stage, you shouldn’t be worrying about how you’d like your sentences to sound. You should be writing.
12 thoughts on “The Madness of Writer’s Block”
I do something similar. I tend to start with writing character profiles because I get some unexpected subplots and personal journeys out of that. Do you do any pre-outline or pre-first draft work on the characters or do you let them develop as you write everything?
I’ll make notes in the outline over how I’d like the characters to develop, but, for me, they ultimately take control and develop of their own accord.
I’ve tried that and they end up jockeying for the spotlight. It’s like trying to wrangle a room full of hyperactive, magic-wielding toddlers.
For my rough drafts, I just let whatever happen, lol. My revisions are where I start to take control.
Do you ever have to rewrite the entire thing after a first draft? I’ve always been iffy on going that far with a revision. It makes me feel like I wasted my time on the first draft. That’s just me though.
I always do, but even then I start writing and realize this part really didn’t need a re-write, but I always do it anyway. I mean, through the rough draft, I’ll write, but I’ll put revision notes in the margins so I don’t stop and re-do it. I had that problem at one point where I’d do a rough draft, scrap it, and re-do it, only to never finish it, and I got to a point where something needed to change and I realized it was okay if I had to re-write it to meet my revision visions.
I’ve never done a massive scrap of my book, but one of the things I do is a section revision the day I write something. This has helped me retain continuity and avoid foolish mistakes like changing eye color, forgetting injuries, and a few other details.
Thanks for posting this! Very helpful! I have always used the outline process myself, but seem to always leave my character development until after I have a solid plot…perhaps if I started with developing a MC he/she will tell their own story. You’ve definitely inspired me to try something new!
Yay! I’m glad I was able to inspire! 😀