10 Types of Writer’s Block

Once again, I am ripping off another person’s work. Since I recently suffered from uncharacteristic writer’s block, I wanted to spread some irony and write about it. Most articles will tell you how to get around it with creative exercises, going for a walk, making a collage, writing about yourself, putting a character in your shoes and seeing how he/she would deal with something that happened to you, and so on and so on.

However, I found an article I thought was both different and intriguing from this normally helpful (if common) noise. To read the original, very good, very informative article by Charlie Jane Anders, head here: http://io9.gizmodo.com/5844988/the-10-types-of-writers-block-and-how-to-overcome-them. There you will even get fun pictures of old science fiction books that I will not be including here. Some of what was said was, for me, pretty significant, and I kept picking up on things I have done. Her contention is that there are different TYPES of writer’s block, and recognizing what type you have will guide you in ways to overcome it.

So, let’s get to my butchered paraphrasing, shall we?

1) You can’t come up with an idea.

This is where you stare at your monitor until you want to chew through it and then go binge watch Netflix. The advice for this is to do all those writing exercises I mentioned above: write a fan fic, write about some random character’s death, write about another falling in love, write a diary entry. Whatever. Write. Don’t sit there with brain constipation, straining and pushing until you give yourself…what, mental hemorrhoids? Ewwe. Moving on.

2) You have ideas, but they all fizzle out or you can’t pick just one.

I do this ALL. THE. TIME. Apparently, I’ve been doing the right thing. You can’t force yourself to feel passionately about an idea that you just can’t get excited about. If you have another idea, put the current one in your “For Later” treasure chest and do something that interests you. She says something in her article which I think has enormous wisdom, and I shall quote it here for you. “It’s possible that someone with more stubbornness could make one of those ideas work right away, but probably not — the reason you can’t get anywhere with any of them is because they’re just not letting you tell the story you really want to tell…” Preach! She also says — and I find this to be true as well — that your brain is working and working. You’re probably only days away from something that really gets you going.

3) You have an outline but can’t get through one part of it.

Guilty! Some people don’t use outlines, some do. I do. I like to know where I’m going…even if I ignore it and allow the story to take me elsewhere. Usually the reason you’re stuck is that people aren’t acting the way they should and a part of you knows it. Don’t force your characters to do what they wouldn’t. Hack that outline up and go back to where it started to drift. Sometimes you can’t get from one good moment to another and have to slog through the boring stuff. Try taking a detour. Take the story in a different direction, even if it’s to distract you. Leave the boring parts out and then come back. It’s like taking a step back and looking at it for what it is, not what you want it to be.

4) You’re stuck in the middle.

You were going along great and then BAM! Wall in the face. Small spoilers for Stephen King’s The Stand ahead! Mr. King was stuck, woefully stuck on what many consider his greatest book ever. He didn’t know what was wrong. He went for a walk…and realized there were too many people and too many plot lines. So? Plant a bomb in the closet and kill off a bunch of people. By taking himself out of it and going in a totally unexpected direction, he fixed the problem, added tension, and made everything better (plot-wise. I hate that some of those people died.) Mark Twain did the same thing with Huckleberry Finn with making Huck and Jim take a wrong turn and get lost. Kill some people. Be dramatic. Do something drastic.

5) You think you’ve done something terrible to your story…100 pages ago.

There’s no trick to this one. Kill it. Go back and rewrite. That’s DEPRESSING! I once lost 2-3 chapters of something I was working on and it took me months to recover them. I had two options — to rewrite them the way they should have been or started where I was, writing things the way they would have been had I written them correctly…and then filled in the gap later. It’s like going from A to B to C, realizing that D and E are trash, saying “screw it”, deleting D and E, and starting point F, only to go back and fill in D and E with what they should have been. This is painful and there’s no way around it. If you want your story to be good, that is. Sometimes it helps to know where you’re going and work backward.

6) You’re bored with all your characters and they won’t work.

Kill them. *evil laughter* Kidding! This is about those characters not having something to do. Plant that bomb, make them take that wrong turn, kick your favorite off the top of a ladder and write what happens. You can destroy what you’ve written later, but this is likely to get the juices flowing. And sometimes having your characters not doing anything is setting up the world. No novel is all action and drama. Neither is life. Sometimes we have to do laundry and clean the bathroom and go to the dentist (and I devoutly hope none of those things is like being in an action movie or overly dramatic.)

7) You imagine all the terrible things people are going to say about you.

I do feel this. My first or second review ever was from some hag who said she didn’t read the whole book and whose record shows that she has rated about a hundred books and rated only about 5 of them over two stars. I had a terrible experience with the editing process, too, and I let THAT get to me for way too long. I wasn’t as tough then as I thought I was and it got to me and I stopped writing for a while — something I deeply regret. It happens. Chances are you’re being too hard on yourself and/or making all that negativity into more than it really is. You can never please everyone and you shouldn’t try. Ever. Writing is often a selfish act, so you need to make sure you’re happy. Did you learn? Did you do the best you could? Do you like what you’ve written? Yes? Then sucks to the naysayers. If not, then learn and don’t repeat the same mistakes later. To let that get to you and to let it stop you is not only defeating and stupid, it’s a perversion of your desire and talent. Trust me. I speak from experience here.

8) You’re stuck for JUST the right word.

There’s no secret here. Just move on. Fill the space that word should occupy with something like XXXXXXXXXXX and move the hell on. Ever seen Throw Mama from the Train? (Good lord, watch it if not. Hilarious!) Billy Crystal plays a writer suffering from tremendous writer’s block…because of the first sentence of his newest novel. The first sentence, people. He gets as far as, “The night was…” and can’t finish it. He was stuck like that for months. Yes, it’s a comedy but even when I saw it as a kid I thought, “Skip the first sentence, damn it!” Ditto for a novel/story title, a chapter title, an action scene, whatever. It’s like they tell you when you take a test as a kid. Skip the ones you don’t know so that, if worst comes to worst, you get 1 question wrong and not the 20 you didn’t finish when you were stuck on that one. Sometimes that word choice is important, but don’t let it be a roadblock.

9) You liked the story idea at first, but now it just feels stupid.

Probably your inner critic. Kill it. If that’s not the case, you might be on to something. You have the option to abandon the novel, but you should only do that as a last resort. Try writing a synopsis of what you’ve written. It’s like flying above a village to take in all the damage…or lack thereof. Sometimes you can write something from someone else’s point of view and see how things look from the other side.

10) You can’t get through revising your story.

Revising is a pain in the ass, let’s just be clear about that. It forces you to go through and pick apart your story. Sometimes a passage or even a sentence will kick you in the face. One thing you can do with a problem passage is to not work with what’s there. Don’t rearrange a sentence; just rewrite the thing totally without looking at the original. Sometimes this will help. You can do this with entire scenes. A synopsis will help sometimes. However, there’s no real substitute for honest revisions and working hard at it.

Hopefully some of this helped you. It certainly did for me. Feel free to check out the rest of the blog from which I pilfered and paraphrased this, as it is full of some very insightful articles on writing. Here’s a link to some of her other pages: http://io9.gizmodo.com/tag/free-advice. I’m gonna go read some of them now. Later!

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~ by Darren Endymion on February 18, 2016.

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