Friday, September 5, 2014

What do you do when have a writer’s block?

Don't nap with the dog when you get writer's block.
Watch TV. Take a nap. Eat. No, I mean, what do you do constructively to get you past the writer’s block?

First off assess the problem. For simplicity I’ve lumped reasons for writer’s block into four categories. I wouldn’t argue with you if you added categories or lumped two of my categories together.
1)   No idea. You have a class assignment or a blog due in three hours and can’t think of anything interesting.
2)    Skeleton ideas. The idea seemed good when you lay in bed procrastinating before you got up. You trotted to the computer and typed out a great paragraph. There’s nothing more.
3)   Dead ends. You’ve written two hundred pages and know how you want the novel to end but you can’t seem to create the next couple of scenes so that you can get logically to the conclusion.
4)   Search for the right words. You’ve completed a draft of the short story, and you’re now working on a boring but essential section.

Check your idea file. What’s that? Every writer should keep files on interesting events and discoveries they spot in newspapers, science journals, or on the web. I also have a character file. When I overhear or participate in a bizarre conversation or meet someone unusual, I record the occurrence and include my feelings (usually in incomplete sentences). It’s amazing how thumbing through such files helps me get an idea for an imminent deadline or gives me material to fill out that skeleton staring at me from my computer screen.

Read someone else’s work. While it’s often tough to discern mistakes in our own writing, most of us have less difficulty spotting gaffes in others’ writing. After dissecting someone else’s work, my own writing faults are clearer to me. At other times, I learn by example and use a ploy used by another author to get myself out of an awkward literary situation.

Work on another project. I always keep several projects going at once – blogs, a novel, several short stories. Often when I’m ‘blocked’ on one, I can write on another.

Admit you created a dead end and start revising earlier sections. But save the sections you’re pitching. They might be useful later.

Edit your writing for obvious weaknesses. Revise passive sentences. Replace linking verbs with actions verbs. Check for synonyms for overworked words. Often, these activities get me in the mood to write the next section.

Do these ideas always work? No. So what do you when you have a writer’s block?

When I didn't have a writer's block, I wrote medical thrillers and mysteries - Coming Flu, Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Malignancy (due out in November).