So you’re stuck. Banging your head against a literary brick wall. Here are a few pointers to hopefully get the words flowing again…
1. Get off the Internet!
Seriously… I know it’s been said countless times already but it’s worth repeating. Mainly because it’s so true. And I know how important building a ‘platform’ is but the Twitterverse will still be there when you get back. I promise. But if you’re really desperate download Buffer and line up a few tweets for when you’re offline. Everyone’s allowed to be too busy sometimes.
2. Go somewhere quiet.
If you don’t have an actual cabin in the woods for when you need some undisturbed writing time then make your own virtual private writing space. Put some headphones on. Find some mood music (without words) to listen to and leave the world of endless distractions and ‘things to do’ behind for a while.
Pressure is not good for creativity. It might increase productivity but are they always the same thing? Try to put any ‘real life’ problems to the back of your mind – at least while you write. Fiction is all about escapism. That applies to writing as much as it does to reading.
4. Stop overthinking.
As with pretty much everything else you’ll ever do, trying to force writing just won’t work. If you find yourself staring blankly at the screen, unable to see past the last sentence you’ve written then STOP. Take a deep breath, put whatever preconceived notions you have out of your head and start afresh. More often than not you’ll find there was a much better solution to the problem than the square peg you were trying to force into that round hole…
When you come to a scene, play the film of what you want to happen in your mind. Imagine it as realistically as you can. Faces, smells, feelings… Then let the film run on. See where it goes and follow it.
6. Don’t be afraid to change things.
We’ve all been there. That favourite line or phrase you can’t bear to cut out but the scene just isn’t working with it in. My rule of thumb is ‘If in doubt, take it out’. I can’t tell you how many times something I thought was brilliant was actually the blockage. You remove it and the whole thing starts flowing again. I know this is your baby but try not to be too precious about it. When you send your story out to the big bad world, you want it in the best shape you can get it. If that means being ruthless then so be it.
7. Stand back.
Sometimes when things aren’t quite working out you need a change of perspective. Take a mental step back and look at the big picture of the plot. Where do you want the story to go? Is what you trying to write helping to take it there? If the answer’s no then look for a new route. Retrace your steps to where it went wrong and try again.
And when you’re really stuck…
8. Take a break.
Do something different. Put the story to one side. Go and work on something else. Write some flash fiction or a short story. Anything to get your creative juices flowing again. The important thing is to keep writing. But there’s no point staring at a screen for hours if nothing is coming.
9. Revisit earlier writing.
Maybe earlier on in the manuscript. Something else you’re proud of. Find examples of stories and plotlines that you fixed in the past and note the changes you made. Try to learn from your previous mistakes.
Sometimes you can get buried so deep into your own work that you forget the world is bigger than just you and your story. I know how easy it is to convince yourself that you’ve not got time. You’re too busy writing. Reading other authors’ work will broaden your mind and help develop your own writing skills. It was Stephen King who said, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’ Take time to appreciate and learn from the best.
Now go and write. And whatever you do – remember to have fun!