Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.
Courtesy of Adirondack Editing
Ok, so maybe you’re not quite done writing. Maybe you’re stuck. Horribly stuck, and you have no idea where to go next in your book. You are so completely, terribly, frantically stuck that you can’t even write a darn thing! (Yes, that’s a lot of “ly” adverbs there, isn’t it?
Aha! Super Susan to the rescue. I can’t say I’ve ever been there, because I don’t do a lot of writing. But I can imagine how horrible it is, and I’ve read a lot of threads in LinkedIn writing groups talking about writer’s block. So I’ve stored up quite a few hints and ideas to get you over the hump. No, not Hump Day—that’s the Geico® camel*. This is another hump.
The most important thing about writer’s block is: DO NOT STOP WRITING.
“I’m telling you, Chris, this editor-lady is just plain stupid. She’s telling people who can’t write not to stop writing!”
Write about something else; something completely different from what you’re trying to work on. (Unless you’re working on a deadline for an article paying $300 million—then you’re on your own.) Here are some good ideas for getting around writer’s block. You’ll note that they all involve…writing!
If you’re writing by the seat of your pants (called a “pantser” and you don’t know where to go next, take some time to outline your story (now you’ll be a “plotter”).
Make a character list of everyone in your current work in progress (aka WIP) with all their descriptions and relationships to other characters.
Write a commercial, a product advertisement, or a quick how-to guide. (“How to kill that crazy editor-lady in five easy steps.”)
Use writing prompts to jolt your creative juices into an entirely new direction. Try:
for some good ones.)
Interview your main character or antagonist. Or a minor character who has very little to do with your book—see what they are hiding from you.
Take your main character and put them in some impossible situation. See what happens.
Just write. Don’t edit, don’t revise, don’t review. Cover the screen if you have to, and just GO!
Write a random opening sentence.
Turn off the laptop, tablet, or desktop and speak into a recorder. Invent silly accents for your characters and really hear what they have to say.
Work on a repetitive task that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower—washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, shoveling, gardening, or going for a long drive (highway, not city). Keep a notepad handy for the ideas trickling out!
Write a scene for a completely different genre. If you’re stuck writing a murder mystery, try writing an erotic scene. Or if you’re stuck in fantasy, write a scene in a thriller.
Open a favorite book you enjoy reading and pick a scene to rewrite.
Be one of the characters in that scene. Let your imagination skyrocket!
Reread a scene in your current WIP and rewrite it with a different outcome. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit your book, just play with it.
I think these will give you some good ideas to keep writing and moving forward. It might take a couple of days, and perhaps even several of these exercises, to get you unblocked. If you can’t get unblocked no matter what you do, put that manuscript aside and try something new. It might not be catching your interest, and there’s no sense forcing it.
*Oh, and if you don’t know who the Geico® camel is, below is the commercial. In some places, it’s become a hit:
Next week we’ll discuss ‘Sentence Fragments’
This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.
I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.
If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.