I don’t believe in writers block. I really don’t. But this doesn’t mean I never get stuck. I get stuck plenty, and I mean plenty. But I wouldn’t describe it as blocked. Things are in my head, I just am in a pickle about how to get them out on the page. I know what I want to say, just not always in what order or in what form.
Today I felt stuck on my latest novel, a YA book about a boy named Elliot. I’m working on this book with my fabulous mentor, Kathleen Duey, whose comments are always spot on and help unstick me. But I get stuck again.
Here are a few techniques I have found useful in getting unstuck:
First, change it up. For years I wrote all my fiction out by longhand, and then typed it into my computer. It worked for me. But for efficiency’s sake, I have tried writing this current novel at the keyboard. When I am stuck, though, it helps if I go to longhand for a bit. It’s like my hands can translate from my brain to paper better than brain to screen. Sometimes if I’ve been in one location, it helps if I go outside, or to a coffee shop, or get away from distractions.
Second, I give myself permission to write crap. It’s easy to get so caught up in getting things right that I forget this is fun for me. That’s when I find myself stuck most often. So if I just give myself permission to write a scene even if it’s horrible, at least I’m unstuck. I can always revise it. Or cut it.
Third, I ditch the manuscript. No, I don’t mean I throw it away. Never! But I do something else related to the novel. I might google some information I need. Or maybe ask some questions of the characters. Terri Farley suggests using index cards to write pieces of information or summaries of scenes that you want to include. I find this very useful. Kathleen Duey, suggests interviewing the main character. She does it on the computer. I do it in my head. (I might be crazy.)
Fourth, go for a walk. Play solitaire. Stare out the window. I know, these all sound like waste of time ideas that accomplish nothing. But for me, when I’m doing something that does not require my full attention, but keeps the body busy, the mind can zip and flit around all it wants to solve a problem. I work through more issues while playing spider solitaire on the computer than I care to admit.
Fifth, read about writing. Sometimes when I pick up one of my favorite works about writing, it helps give me a focus. I like Cheryl Klein’s Second Sight and Darcy Pattison’s Novel Metamorphosis. I can usually latch onto something that will help me move forward. Or something inspirational, like Jane Yolen’s Take Joy.
All of this counts in my mind as “still writing,” even if I’m not actually adding words to my manuscript. I am doing the work that will result in that, eventually.