Breaking Writers Blocks
Not all writer’s blocks are equal. Sometimes they are all inclusive – dictating that your mind will shut down as soon as you try to write anything. This is the famous blank page syndrome of classic writer’s block.
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Some stop you from writing altogether while others thrive on misdirection – allowing you to write, but sending you down the wrong paths (more like labyrinths than huge walls or electric fences). There are more writer’s blocks than there are writers and everyone you face is likely to be different.
So there cannot be one cure for writers block.
For me, writer’s blocks are more likely to be project specific – they come as a direct result of having worked myself into a corner. It’s almost impossible to get enough distance to see what I have done to create the problem for myself. And problems you can’t perceive can be very hard to solve.
When that happens, you need to find workarounds to get yourself going again.
During my fourth draft of my Work In Progress, I recognized that there was a significant amount of information/character development missing that could only be addressed by adding a new chapter – or at least a succession of new scenes to judiciously inserted through a range of chapters. Thinking I knew what was needed, I wrote about 2000 words before hitting a wall. Then I got stuck there for over a week. After rewriting the opening of the chapter half a dozen times, I realized that I was just rehashing the same material without making any real progress – getting lost in the details before there should have even been details to get lost in – doing lots of work while making little progress.
To break the log jam, I realized I needed to take a different approach. Rather than going down the same path from point A to point B to point C, then back to A, ad nauseum – I decided to back up and look at the chapter holistically as opposed to chronologically.
I started by listing the things I need to accomplish/establish in the chapter – ie: determine the reason the chapter exists, which included:
· Defining the purpose of the chapter,
· Deciding on the concepts/characters that need to be introduced or resolved,
· Figuring out how to fit them in seamlessly with the storyline before and after,
· Determining the number of locations/settings,
· Working out the number of scenes that could/should/need to be dramatized,
· Deciding on the entry and exit points for the chapter and how it will fit into the continuity of the book (should it need to be broken up?)
· Deciding what needs to be illuminated in detail and what can simply be mentioned in passing.
There might even be more, but this was enough to get me started.
In much the same way as I came up with the strategy, I outlined the chapter in bullet point including everything I want to cover.
I started growing the scenes – writing until I put in all the information I might potentially want to reveal in that scene.
Once the bones were in place, I dropped in all the stuff I’d already written – which made it easy to see the remaining gaps, which I systematically went through and filled in.
Before I knew it, I had 5,000 words – which was about 2,000 too many. I figured out what I could move to earlier and later chapters, what I could eliminate and what I could amalgamate. A day after that, the chapter was done, and it was almost painless, at least compared to the frustration of trying to break through the log jam I had earlier.
I have used the same process a number of times during the fourth draft.
Let me know if this method works for you - or if you have a method you've developed that helps you work through writer's blocks.