Overcoming Writer’s Block, by Kelly Inglis
She gazed longingly at the… um… ah… Scrap that. Susan wondered if… what? What did she wonder? No wonder she’s wondering – even I’m wondering what the heck this story is about!
Most writers will encounter the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ in some form or another throughout their writing career. When it does strike it wraps tendrils of fear around the heart of even the most established author. Where is this story going? What is this story about? Why can’t my main character find his/her voice? How do I get from Scene A to Scene E? What is the conflict going to be? And the most daunting – What if I can’t finish my story?
Writer’s block doesn’t have to be daunting, and it certainly doesn’t signal the death of your story or of your creativity. A slump in your story can occur for many reasons; fatigue, emotional stress, a busy time at work, or the fact the kids won’t give you two seconds of peace and quiet to think. These are very common causes of writer’s block, and very easily explained. Most times, when you’ve caught up on sleep or the stress abates from your life the words then come far more easily to you.
However, sometimes the words don’t seem to flow even when you’ve got the time and space to write. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I write? Is it because my story is boring or terrible? This is the time to shove your doubt aside and utilise one of the many tools available to inspire your prose, rather than succumb to the paralytic fear that you’ve lost your story mojo. Your story isn’t lost and it’s not terrible either. You just need some encouragement to break loose the next chunk of creativity.
I keep a list of relevant questions on a notepad beside my computer to prompt me if my story sputters and slows. These writing prompts have helped me on many occasions to focus more clearly on the next few chapters and stimulate my imagination. A list of simple questions can help to bring forth the next chapter of your story when you’re stuck, and they are based entirely on the questions you learn in second grade.
Who is in this chapter? Has the reader already met these characters? If not, have you worked out the profile of the new character? Do these characters like each other or loathe one another?
What happens in this chapter? What is the conflict?
When does it happen? Straight after the last chapter (if the last chapter ended on a cliff hanger), or is it the next day or another time? Is it day time or night time? These questions can help you with energy, pacing and tension.
Where does it happen? Is this a new location in your story? Can you describe it?
How is this person or event related to the main story? How is this character going to get out of this mess? How is this character going to deal with this conflict?
Why is this person or event relevant to the plot? Is it important to develop your character further, or do they only play a small role in the story? Why should we care about this character? Does this person or event help to move the story forward?
If you’ve tried the list of questions to work through your uninspired lull in writing and your story still won’t progress, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to inspire you through a particularly nasty dose of writer’s block. Keep an eye out for next month’s article for more ideas on inspiring stories.
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