Avoid the BLOCK : This is How I Roll …around it

I am often asked how I deal with writer’s block. I haven’t had to. No, I haven’t been writing long – only about 3 years- BUT never once have I lived the movie portrayal of a writer…sulking, swigging whiskey and living in a bathrobe while staring at a blank page. I’m a firm believer in making things happen. Where there’s a will there’s a way and all that.

I HAVE known plenty of authors who don’t write for months or more because they are embracing the block.

Give me a second to pull on my rain gear before the cyber tomatoes hit. I’ve noticed most of those writers suffering from “writer’s block” also claim to be pantsers. *ducks* *runs for cover* *lifts megaphone from safe distance*

I am NOT suggesting pantsers are wrong, not as good, ALL going to have writer’s block or any other thing like this. I, myself, frequently pants a story line. Pantsing is fun. Mama likey.

BUT.

You do see how that method of attack leaves a writer open to chin tapping and head rubbing, right? If you’re making it up as you go then any point in the story can leave you baffled and at a loss. After all, every writer knows how unruly and random our characters can be. This is why I fully support outlining and preparations of any and all kinds for serious projects ESPECIALLY those under deadlines.

Here are some ways to do yourself a favor and set a little (or BIG plan before you pants your pants off).

Be a Mini-Planner

This is a good option for those die-hard pantsers who refuse to betray their style. Mini-planners write up a blurb, a paragraph, a page perhaps of their new concept. Give it a running title. Jot down the basic plot or point of the story – the concept. Then maybe using X’s for names, list the major trials, stumbling blocks etc and the ending.

Any details you have now can help later when the blank page stares back and it’s been too long for you to remember where you were planning to go with the story.

OR

Be a Planner-Planner

This is where you sit down and thoughtfully write your synopsis now, before you start. Tell the story in a book report style hitting all the major points and sub plots. Make it a little story in itself and you know you’re done when reading it makes you smile and want to know more. Now you have a thorough layout for guiding you along and less chance of writers block.

OR…hang on to your headbands kids…

Be a Planner with a Plan

This is how I write when the story when I need to stay on task till the end. I start with a plan that matters. I spend a few days in preparation before I start writing the words of the story and it makes a huge difference. This is how I prepare:

I open a Word doc and title it Concept. There I write the general idea of what the story will be. I create a quick query style blurb hitting the key points and draws of the new story.

I open another doc and call it Synopsis or Overview. There I begin to build on the concept, adding details and maybe character names and sub plots.

I open another doc and call it Outline.

I decide how many words minimum I need to meet my required length for the story and then I break that down into 8-10 page chunks (I love short chapters). Most of my 75-80K word stories need about 30-35 chapters. My novellas are 25K, I know they need 25 chapters – give or take.

Then I write them in my outline

I. Chapter One

II. Chapter two

Then I think…what needs to happen in Chapter one? and I drop down a space and add things I need to cover in each chapter. For example, if I’m writing a romance, I want to be sure both the hero and heroine are found in chapter one – preferably they need to meet or share a moment somehow. I need to make their connection, show they will meet again etc.

When I’ve created a few sub points under each chapter, I will often go back and add clues or ties in the chapters. I will scan through the points I’m hitting on and see a place in chapter two where I can say something that will come back in chapter 15 and 28. You see what I mean? Not only mysteries use these little threads. Readers like seeing things early and wondering if it will return. I do that all the time. Themes and reoccurring points, songs, phrases, concepts make the end feel complete, like a proverbial bow has been pulled tight and fluffed with love.

When this part is finished – and really- seriously- don’t go bazonkers over this. It takes like a day or two of your writing time to get set up and if you tend to suffer from the block <– am now nicknaming it – then this will save you days or weeks or months in the future. You will have a cheat sheet to help you along. Even when characters go off the mark, it’s easier to compensate and get things on their new track without walking away. “A stitch in time saves nine” right?

That’s how I roll :) around the block

Thoughts?

10 comments to Avoid the BLOCK : This is How I Roll …around it

  • I love it! I also use the “Planner with a Plan” approach, and it makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, I am still often distracted by *everything*, but having the plan in place makes it easier to pick up and resume work when I get my focus on.

  • Great advice & another fantastic blog post. We also don’t suffer from writer’s block – never have in the 16 years we’ve been writing. BUT we are pantsers and make everything up as we go along. We do have a notebook where we write any ideas for the novel before we’ve started to write it. We’re usually so busy editing other novels, so we have plenty of time before we start writing one to gather basic ideas and write them down. They’re usually one sentence to a small paragraph long. That’s it. Then we write. With Field of Screams, which we’ve just finished, we only glanced at the plan sheet twice and that books 128k words. Yeah, too long :(

    With short stories, we only won’t have much of a plan at all or won’t know what we’ll write until we start writing. Deadlines are great for getting the ideas flowing. But with two of us writing, we also have a great plan for when we’re stuck – we swap over :D *Cue evil, smug laughter*

  • tracy

    Hey, thank you. This not only helps the “block” but getting a good start. I used something similar during NaNoWriMo. But if it was a little more thought out I wouldn’t have got stuck. Anyways… Thanks for your insight.

  • Awesome post! As a sometimes pantser, I know the joy and thrill of letting it loose when the muse hits. BUT, I can’t agree more: if you have a writing project with a clear goal in mind (seeking publication, meeting a deadline, etc.), you need a plan.

    Generally I start with jotting down ideas and eventually they grow into an outline. Sometimes a later scene hits the paper before what becomes chapter one, but I look to build continuity. In fact without an outline, I couldn’t juggle all the details!

    Everyone needs to find their own rhythm, but blocks don’t usually crop up when I have a plan. If they do, it’s most likely simple procrastination. ;)

  • I have a beautiful outline for a story that I have started and put aside for years. My problem involves details. I see it, but that voice that says perfectionism or has had colleagues say, meh, you can’t do that, have started to drum at me.
    At this point, I need a kickstart to my fictional writing motor.

  • Excellent post. I’m a mini-planner and it’s given me lots of grief over the years. I’ve been wondering how other writers work on the concept of their stories before they fully commit to it and this post is a great help. Thanks!

  • I love this. I always have the intentions of writing an outline and things, start one, but never finish. I have so many ideas, I really need to get all of them organized.

    Great post, as always. :)

  • good post. I too have never struggled with writers block. MY problem is procrastinatory writing..when I get ‘stuck’ at a point in my WIP, I then am easily distracted into writing…blogposts…chatty emails…journals..short stories…another newspaper article for my freelance work…etc etc. I guess the good thing all of that involves WRITING, right?! lol

  • If I hadn’t used this very tactic on my most recent novel, I wouldn’t hesitate to call shenanigans on you.

    I was that writer who paced around waiting for my muse. Then, two months ago I wrote out the plot in one sentence, then a title, then detailed character bios, then a 5 page outline. Every time writer’s block reared its ugly head, I’d look up at my notes on the wall (literally keep these notes on my cork board), the blockage disappeared and I moved on. I’m already polishing my finished novel less than two months later.

    Great post!

  • Never underestimate the power of notes, writing prompts and outlining.
    These are powerful tools to combat the war with Writer’s Block. Thank goodness I have the equivalent of ‘Creative ADD’, which simply means if I am stuck in one project, I can jump to another. However, this also bites me in the butt when it comes to sticking to a project long enough to its completion. My current project is novel-length, so I’m now able to concentrate my different creative energies to it.
    Thank you for this article.

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