Writing Fiction: 5 Tips To Eliminate Writer’s Block Forever

Writing Fiction: 5 Tips To Eliminate Writer’s Block Forever

Blocked? That’s OK; it’s common. When you’re writing fiction, you depend on your creativity and imagination. The bad news: you can’t harness them. The good news? You can baby them and reward them into giving you what you want.

Writing fiction takes imagination, playfulness, and energy

What sparks your imagination? Pay attention next time your imagination flows. I’ve found boredom and repetitive tasks useful. Whenever I’m stuck on a novel, I go for a drive, or I dust a couple of rooms in the house, and allow my mind to drift.

Tip: avoid social media. Today, when we’re bored we pick up our phone and scroll through our Facebook or Pinterest feed.

Pinterest can be great for coming up with character quirks, but in general, to spark your imagination, do something physical, and boring.

Now let’s look at some tips which will help to eliminate writer’s block.

1. Enjoy rest and recreation: fill your well

Self-publishing authors find themselves on a treadmill. Amazon rewards new content, so for a month after you publish a book, your Amazon catalogue will enjoy a boost.

Some authors set themselves huge challenges, such as:

  • Publish a book a month, or even every two weeks;
  • Write a million words in 12 months…

While challenges can be beneficial, and anything which inspires you to write is good thing, you need time off.

Rest when you complete a novel. Give yourself time away for a mini-break if you can. Time away from your desk helps you to “fill the well” as Julia Cameron puts it.

If you allow your imagination and creativity time to recover, there’s less chance you’ll burn out.

2. Read for creative energy: find authors who inspire writing

Some authors, like P.G. Wodehouse, inspire me to write fiction. Reading nonfiction history does too.

Luckily I haven’t suffered true writer’s block (the horror) for at least a decade, maybe longer. But I do have days when I’m “not in the mood” to write fiction. On those days, I read a few pages of P.G. Wodehouse.

Here’s why reading works to unblock you: writers who get blocked have lost their joy in writing fiction. When you read a writer you love, you reignite your inspiration.

3. Your characters are your friends: enjoy them

Make friends with your characters. Think about them as you go through your day. Carry index cards so you can jot down ideas if you wish. I carry index cards everywhere, but it’s not necessary. When you’re inspired with a great idea, you’ll remember it.

Why this works: when you’re actively imagining your characters, you’ll be eager to write.

4. Grab your index cards and be outrageous

Recently a student told me that she was beyond bored with her current novel — and her boredom was shading into active dislike.

Here’s what I suggested: “list your major characters, and their attributes. Then make each one face his biggest fear, or his worst enemy. Be funny. Be outrageous.”

Index cards, the larger 5 x 8 size, are perfect to make notes on your outrageous scenes. Brainstorm ten scenes. Choose one, and write it.

Authors who block insist on perfectionism; they choke off their creativity. When you surprise yourself, you’ll regain your enthusiasm for your novel.

5. When you can’t write it, speak it

Do you talk to yourself?

Everyone does, constantly.

Mind-chatter aside, it’s fun to talk to yourself about your novel.

Tip: avoid talking to others about a novel in progress. Usually it won’t help. And if someone says the wrong thing — “that’s STUPID,” for example— you’ll lose heart, and the novel will be dead to you, forever.

Grab a voice recorder, or use an app on your phone. Talk to yourself about your novel.

You can…

  • Talk out the novel’s problems: “I don’t want to write this scene because…”
  • Discover your characters: “Malcolm is an unremarkable man — maybe he should be the murderer? No one would suspect him…”
  • Build your plot: “I need two scenes before the midpoint. What if…”

You can transcribe this material if you wish. The Dragon voice recognition software will do it for you if you have it. Usually however, a complete transcription is a waste of time. Listen to the recording, then jot a few notes of anything you can use.

When nothing works, relax, and enjoy writer’s block

Perhaps the cause of your writer’s block is rooted in something that’s happening in other areas of your life. If it is, wait for your life to become stable again. Just try to relax, and focus on having as much fun as you can.

Alternatively, you may be too disappointed to write. Maybe your latest novel bombed.

Here’s what to do. Tell everyone you’re giving up writing fiction forever. Have a tantrum. Throw things. Before you know it, a little voice at the back of your mind will whisper: “what if…” 🙂

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How To Write, Even If You Think You Can’t: 21 Easy Exercises To Bring Out The Writer In You

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Do you find writing a struggle? I work with writing students every day who believe that they “can’t write.” And yet, they must write, for one reason or another. More info →
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Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Savvy novelists love using a bullet journal while they’re writing. I’m a keen journal-writer, and started using the bullet journal format for my novels several years ago.

Basically, your novel’s bullet journal is: a book journal, a calendar, and a tracker, combined.

Here’s Ryder Carroll’s quick summary of getting started with a bullet journal.

Your bullet journal is your novel’s Bible

From Bullet Journal Your Novel: Free Up Your Mind, And Write:

When you’re writing a novel, there’s a lot to keep in your mind. Plot, characters, timeline — when you start tinkering with these elements, while you’re writing, the temptation is to go back, and write new scenes, and eliminate scenes. The impulse to fix it NOW is almost irresistible, yet resist it you must.

If you’re keen to try a bullet journal to manage your novel, here are some tips.

1. Use a dedicated journal, paper or digital

I like to use a paper journal for each of my novels, but I’ve also used Evernote. If you’re using Evernote, create a dedicated notebook for each novel. Whatever you use, your aim is to have your journal with you at all times.

2. Create a page for each of your main characters

With a bullet journal, you use one page after another. If you’re using a paper journal, number the pages if they’re not numbered already. Keep the first five pages of your journal to use as an index.

Create a dedicated page for each of your main characters, and for the plot — plus anything else you need to remember.

Enter all your dedicated pages into the index. For example, you might have a page for a character called “Fred”. Later in your journal, you’ll have Fred 2, Fred 3, Fred 4 etc — add those numbers to the index.

One of my main reasons for liking the bullet journal format is that if you choose a journal with blank pages or a dot grid format, you can create mind maps right in the journal.

3. Journal before you begin each writing session

I like to spend five minutes journalling before I start each day’s writing session. This helps me to clear my mind.

When you journal before writing, you can journal about anything you like. You don’t need to journal only about your novel, your goal is to get distracting thoughts out of your head and onto the page.

4. Maintain your index: enter each topic page into your index

Whenever you create a fresh page for a collection of notes on a topic, enter that page into your index.

For example, you might come across some useful information about changes on Amazon’s KDP, or an idea for a new novel. Create a page immediately and enter the page’s title and page number into your index.

5. Enter questions into your bullet journal after each day’s writing

I use paper journals, in the A5 dot grid format. I carry my journals with me, so that I can enter ideas and questions whenever I happen to think of them.

The biggest benefit of using a bullet journal for a novel is that it’s free-form. You can add anything you like at any time. When you get into the habit of creating a bullet journal for each of your novels, you’ll spend less time procrastinating.

The “sagging middle” of a novel is always a challenge. On a recent novel, I got to the 40% point, and panicked. I was sure that I didn’t have enough material to get to the midpoint, and the 80% point; which are the next major plot points.

To steady myself, I created a mind map right in the bullet journal, and soon plotted character changes which would carry me through.

Later, when I was revising the novel, I remembered my panic. Without the bullet journal, I might have floundered for a few days, but the bullet journal enabled me to keep writing without a break.

6. Use your bullet journal to manage your moods if you’re a procrastinator

Do you procrastinate? Here’s what I found useful. Each day, when I enter the date into my novel’s bullet journal, I add a note about my mood. Cheerful, depressed, confident – whatever.

My students have told me that tracking their moods helps them to see how their moods affect their writing; their tracking helps them to avoid procrastination.

7. Capture each important page on your cell phone (for paper journals)

I photograph any important bullet journal page into Evernote.

Think of this as a backup for your journal.

One day I left my bullet journal at a client’s office, and panicked. I picked the journal up next day, but what if I’d lost the journal somewhere else? That’s when I started capturing important pages into Evernote; I commend the process to you.

8. Use your bullet journal as a time log to count words and increase your productivity

One of my 2018 goals was to increase my productivity. I tend to be quite productive. But I waste time, usually on “research.”

I’ve started entering each day’s word count onto a dedicated page in my bullet journal. I can easily check whether I’m on track to meet deadlines.

9. Distracted? Do a brain dump

I write fiction in the early morning. When I’m on deadline for a client project, I write fiction later in the day.

This upsets my routine, so when I get back to working on my novel I’m distracted. Words flow like molasses.

A brain dump, written into my bullet journal, helps.

Try it; it may help you too.

10. Keep your bullet journal: file your journals by year

Your bullet journal contains lots of useful information. So when you’ve completed your novel, file the bullet journal. You never know, you may decide to turn the novel into a series.

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Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

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In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
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Ultra-Simple Plotting For Pantsers: Focus On 3 Steps

Ultra-Simple Plotting For Pantsers: Focus On 3 Steps

Do you HATE plotting? Many authors do. Others are convinced that they “can’t plot.” Either way, these non-plotting, outline-averse authors are pantsers: authors who write by the seat of their pants.

Plot? Who needs to plot, or outline? Well… maybe you, even if you are a pantser, especially if you habitually start novels you never finish.

Ultra-simple plotting with three steps to success

Last year’s classes on plotting were fun. Amazingly all the pantsers discovered that yes indeed, they could plot, in a fun, minimalist kind of way.

We discovered a fun new way of plotting: I call it the “open the door” method. With this method, you’ve got a clear visual of your plot. It helps.

Look at your plot like this:

  • You’re standing in front of a closed door. Look around… when you open the door, you’ve done the setup of your novel;
  • Next, explore the darkness. Careful — don’t stub your toe!
  • You reach another door. Open it gently (you’ll need to fight to open this door.) Then SLAM the door, and step away.

This method is fun, and helps you to structure your novel.

1. Entry: open the door with the setup

You know that the first 25% or so of your novel is the setup. You get to know the main characters. If you’re writing a mystery, the detective goes to the crime scene, and we learn a little about his (messed up, always) home life.

The setup ends when you open the door. In the Hero’s Journey, the Quest/ Adventure begins.

Getting back to our mystery novel, our detective tries to get someone else to take the case, and fails. He’s stuck with it. Moreover, if he doesn’t solve the case, the results will be dire. The setup ends/ he opens the door when he sets off to hunt for clues and question suspects.

2. Walk around in the dark: nasty surprises

The “walk around around in the dark” phase is the long stretch of the novel from the 25% point (end of the setup) to the roughly 80% point, which is the Dark Moment/ All is Lost/ Ordeal in the Hero’s Journey.

I love the Dark Moment. Prepare for the Dark Moment (80%) as soon as you open the door and start exploring. However, there’s a long stretch between 25% and 80%: this long stretch is often called the “saggy middle.” Your sole aim is to stop the middle sagging. 🙂

Imagine you’re walking around in the dark. Do you:

  • Find a torch?
  • Tumble off a cliff?
  • Meet someone threatening, who injures you?

Pantsers love the idea of walking around in the dark, because they know that the midpoint’s coming up.

At the midpoint — the 50% point of the novel — there’s a BIG change. In our mystery novel, the detective gets fired, and it’s his own fault. He faces his demons. Often, he has a drinking problem, or a drug problem, and he knows he has to overcome this.

In a romance, the hero and heroine make love at the midpoint.

3. Open the door gently, then SLAM it — and step away

As we’ve said, at the 80% point it’s the Dark Moment, or the All is Lost Moment. You’re heading for another door, which is the Climax; the Big Fight at around the 95% point.

At the Dark Moment, your hero loses big: it’s his fault. His negative attribute (carelessness, bad temper, dislike of authority) or whatever it is, means that he knows that there is no way he can win.

Of course he does win… 🙂 However, at this stage, it looks as if he won’t. After the Dark Moment, the hero pulls himself together, and decides that he will win, or die trying.

And it’s onward to…

The Climax: the big fight, or reveal, before your novel is DONE

In a mystery novel, at the Climax, the detective discovers the killer, and captures him. Or, if you’re writing a cozy, your Miss Marples character calls all the suspects into the library, so that she can reveal the killer.

The Open the Door Method helps you to visualize your plotting journey

Students who are pantsers enjoy this method of plotting, because it’s visual. You know where you should be at the 25% point for example: you know that your setup should be done by now.

Give this plotting method a try. It’s sufficiently freestyle to please most pantsers. Have fun with it. 🙂

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

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I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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