Writer’s block happens to everyone, for all kinds of reasons.
When it happens to me, more often than not, it’s because something has upset my delicate internal balances.
My schedule changed, I’m starting a new diet and my blood sugar is low, something traumatic or exciting happened…lots of things.
One entire semester I hardly wrote at all. To this day I have little idea why, but thank goodness that’s over with.
Sometimes, however, I can’t write because something has gone wrong with the story. My inner writer has detected something amiss and slammed on the brakes.
Now this may not apply to everyone. We all have different styles of writing. My inner writer is very particular. I need a quiet place with a minimum of distractions (unless I’m in “the zone” already), and I can only write in chronological order. Although I know I may change the order of events or scenes later, I can’t write one scene if I know it will be read after a scene I haven’t written yet.
Similarly, if my inner writer detects something wrong with the story, hello writer’s block. Until I’ve figured out what the problem is.
Now, for me, this only applies to my creative writing. If writer’s block involves anything with a deadline (like a school assignment), writer’s block is usually caused by stress or procrastination, or lack of interest…etc.
But I digress.
Over time, I’ve learned how to tell if the story is the problem or if its just me. Usually there will be some little thing nagging at me that I haven’t addressed. Or I actually just don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Whatever the case, the fix for it is the same. Or similar, anyway. If something’s bothering me about the story, I write down what the problem is. I try to work out these problems in a conversational way. This is a technique I learned from a writing book, the name and author of which I have forgotten.
For instance, were I to do this for my current project, I would write something like…
So I’ve gotten my two characters in a predicament and I don’t really know how to get them out of it.
What exactly is their predicament? (This is myself, answering me back)
Well, MC (main character) and SC (supporting character) have been taken hostage by BG (bad guy). Blah blah blah story problem blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah what my problem actually is blah blah blah
Blah blah blah potential solution to problem.
And so on and so forth.
Sometimes I just don’t know what will happen next. Granted, that looks like that’s what the problem is above, but it really isn’t. In the above case, I know what’s going to happen (that my MC is going to do something clever and get himself and SC away from my BG), I just don’t know how. Yet. I’ll work it out later using a pencil. I find keyboards useless for these kinds of exercises.
Now if I don’t know what is going to happen next. I start by asking what each character involved wants. If the gap I’m trying to fill is significant, I go through each of the conflicts going on in the novel and work on them individually.
The process is simple. Once I figure out what each character wants (which I usually know already), I figure out what s/he is going to do about it. Then what is the other character going to do about that, based on what s/he wants. I usually have the added complication of intentionally moving these characters towards a specific plot-point. But the characters and their desires normally came from, or caused, these plot-points to begin with, so usually it’s not difficult.
Writing down the problem has two benefits. Firstly, you can get the problem, whether its your story or a specific issue, out of your head so you can look at it. Secondly, given that you’re writing it down, you’re writing. Hence, you don’t really have writer’s block anymore, even if you’re not ready to continue with the story yet.
As a disclaimer, however, just because your inner writer is blissfully chugging away at the story does not mean it isn’t broken. It just means neither of you have noticed yet. There will always be plot errors, and errors in writing, you aren’t seeing. So eventually you have to send your inner writer out of the room, and edit, and get critiques.
Happy writing everybody!