3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them

It doesn’t exist.”

“It’s laziness.”

“It’s in your head.”

“What you need to do, is just start typing.”

The internet has a lot of opinions on writer’s block, from dismissing its existence entirely to ineffectively proscribing blind clacks at a keyboard as its remedy. For someone in the thick of the brain fog and creative stall that is writer’s block, I don’t think either of these mentalities — that what they’re going through isn’t real, or that all they need to do is just write something down — is really going to help, because I don’t think writer’s block is simply a matter of  mental fog or stubborn procrastination.

I think it comes from something far worse — and far easier to fix.

First off, what kind of writer’s block am I talking about? I don’t mean the beginning writer staring at a blank computer screen unable to think of anything to write a story about. That’s not really a writer’s block, that’s just a writer’s beginning. Writer’s block, to me, is when you’re entrenched deep in the middle of a manuscript, you were writing with great speed and excitement and quality, and then suddenly — you’re not. You can’t explain it, but you’re knee-deep in mud and either unable or unwilling to try and pull your feet out. You unconsciously avoid writing, you edit the same few paragraphs over and over, you look at the scenes you’ve yet to write and have no idea how to put them down in words. Your brain is mentally stalled, and you’re terrified, because you have no idea what you did wrong. To me, that’s writer’s block as I’ve experienced it, and, luckily, I’ve picked up a couple ways on how to break through it.

Every instance of writer’s block I’ve ever suffered through as stemmed from legitimate sources of concern, as far as novel-writing goes. Either:

  • I’ve gotten overwhelmed with what I’m doing
  • I didn’t plan well enough ahead, or
  • I’m not acknowledging that I’ve done something wrong

These realizations — that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, that you’ve written yourself into a fog you can’t see out of, or that something has gone amiss in your writing and you didn’t accomplish what you were trying to do — can stall a writer for weeks, or even months. Because these things feed on our insecurities as writers; they poke you in the ribs and whisper you weren’t ready anyway; you’re not good enough; you should give up. Ignore that little voice. Everyone gets overwhelmed, everyone could’ve planned better, and everyone makes mistakes.

So let’s look at each of these problems and how to fix them.

Continue reading “3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them”

Using Harry Potter to Kick Characterization in the Ass

Harry Potter gave us tons of useful tools and spells we can use to evaluate our own original characters, see if they’re as well-rounded and fleshed out as we think. Take a character from your novel and think about the following questions. Writing down detailed responses, even expanding your answers into scenes, will help kick your creativity into overdrive, and might teach you something about your characters you hadn’t realized until now:

What Hogwarts House would your character be in? What traits do they have that match the House perfectly, and what traits clash? Would the Sorting Hat decide their House immediately or hesitate?

What would their Patronus be? What memories would they call upon to produce the spell?

What would be their favorite classes at Hogwarts? What about their least favorite? Continue reading “Using Harry Potter to Kick Characterization in the Ass”

Clean Up Your Draft By Eliminating Crutch Words

A quick and easy editing tip is to eliminate the words “was”, “had”, and “that” from your writing. These words separate the reader from the action of the sentence; eliminating them adds for more intimacy and immediacy. 

After I’ve churned out my first draft, I’ll do a fancy Find-and-Replace in Microsoft Word that bolds each occurrence of whatever crutch word I’m battling: usually was, had, and that. Then I’ll print out the document, go outside with a notebook, and tackle each bolded word, tweaking, and rewriting, and staring at the page upside down until I’ve found a better way to express that particular thought.

Practical Application: The Elimination of “Was”

After the ‘Read More’ are a couple examples from one of the novels I’m working on, with every incidence of “was” bolded. My mission: to study every “was” and decide how I could best eliminate it, making my writing clearer and more creative. Setting yourself random tasks like this can jumpstart creativity: giving your mind a problem to solve, a restriction in which to work in, forces your brain into action. (A great tip for if you’ve been stuck staring at your Word document for hours, idly scrolling, occasionally making vague grunts.)

Continue reading “Clean Up Your Draft By Eliminating Crutch Words”