Overcome YOUR writer's block - cheat it to beat it
This is the first in a series of articles to help you address your individual issues if - or even when - you are cursed by writer's block.
Each writer differs - each 'block' may differ
There is a lot of advice out there, but 'not everyone is the same' when it comes to how they suffer from 'WB' or when. Therefore, the same solutions do not apply to everyone.
To bombard you with all the possible ways to overcome WB - in one hit - seems to me unwise, and unfair. It's too much to take in at once - and still give each solution the right amount of attention. For those reasons I have decided to deal with just a few at a time.
At the end of this series you may discover some work for you, whilst others don't. Perfect. That's how it should be.
Hopefully, even if you find only a few methods work for you, again - perfect. There may be diverse reasons why you suffer from WB, so it seems only sensible that you 'store' several solutions in your 'locker' - to use when you need them.
I have broken each down into 'points', for clarity, first consider this overview.
WRITER'S BLOCK OVERVIEW
Solutions differ for everyone but, right at the core, it could be fair to describe a key ingredient of WB as:
fear (of failure? 'coming up short'?)
pressure (not meeting deadlines? falling short of your own expectations?)
confidence - lack of (frightened your efforts do not measure up to your peers; self-critical)
As you can see, there is an overlap in the above. To make it more understandable for what's actually going on, perhaps PRESSURE is at the centre of all the above in terms of creating a BARRIER (the block) to your continuing to write.
Solutions to writer's block - cheat it - beat it
- including HOW to relieve this pressure.
I came across this term in another article, recalling how it described something I had already found helped me when I had 'stalled' in the middle of my second novel, so I know it works.
You simply sit down and write, but without bothering too much about accuracy or whether it 'reads well'. I used this technique and still stuck to the general flow of my story-line - but you don't need to. (See my feature 'write without fear - edit without mercy'.)
You can just write about anything - who knows, it could be the start of another, quite separate story?
2. Write out of sequence
What I mean is, you allow yourself to take up the story at some later stage, further along in the plot. You could even be mid-way through the novel, break off and then 'jump' forward, deciding to write the ending.
This is where 1 and 2 combine - you free-write, but in another section of the story.
You may even decide to go backwards.
In one of my blogs, I talk about reading and rewriting - several times if need be - what I have already written and (hopefully) improving my work at each subsequent rewrite. Or I may come across 'gaps' in what I have already written - 'holes' in the story or in the character development, that need 'filling'. (Note I use the term filling, not padding out.)
In my 're-reads and rewrites' I have found sections, overlooked the first time round, that are what I call 'thin' and require fleshing out. These occur where I have written - and assumed people know 'the full story' that is still in my head, but which I have not, or at least not quite, explained myself properly.
3. Don't expect to get it right first time
Don't beat yourself up. Lower your own expectations of yourself. Loosen up and take the pressure off. You can apply this to Item 2, above, as well as taking this 'attitude' in your spell of free-writing.
If your copy editor is anything like mine, handing over your 'baby' to someone who has permission to correct (e.g. spelling or grammar), suggest amendments to sentence construction and phrasing, or even to point out anomalies in your plot, you will recognise this as a process which creates stress and pressure in you as the author.
Of course, you have to be mature enough, or sufficiently thick-skinned, to cope with being found lacking (!).
So how does all this sit with you if you decide to 'free-write', deliberately producing work that you know will not be the finished, polished article?
Simple. You don't release it for copy-editing until you - yourself - have first re-read and rewritten your first draft until you are satisfied with it.
4. Writer's block when you have a deadline to meet
By definition this creates pressure, and pressure that can - but hopefully only occasionally - bring on a bout of WB.
Pressure can also be induced if you have set your own discipline to write so many words per day, or to write at a set time, for a set period.
How do you overcome this 'conflict' if no other remedy - such as the three aforementioned - works?
The problem is that, if you take time out you either slip behind schedule and let somebody else down, or you may feel you have let yourself down.
Try this. If you are writing to a plot outline - especially if you have already written a synopsis for each chapter from start to finish - revisit each chapter outline and add to them. By this I mean you describe in more detail the plot and/or characters and/or locations and/or period settings for later chapters.
Alternatively, if your plot contains historical or other references - based on real-life occurrences - you may find that replacing a strictly writing session by research adds ideas as well as authenticity and credibility.
You may wish to do this in any case, because your already-completed chapters will have introduced thoughts, emotions, characters, story-line detail that will influence later chapters anyway.
By carrying out this very process, one side effect may be to 'unblock' your WB, enabling you to continue with your normal writing immediately, or at your next session. (What joy!)
Even if this does not happen, at least you will not have wasted the time allotted, even if you have taken a 'holiday' from your target word count or session of normal writing.
You will have paved the way for later chapters to be easier to write, and to be better written.
This concludes the current article - writers block - cheat it - beat it. It is more than enough to consider for today, but please look for more features on Writer's Block in the future.