Thursday, February 22, 2007


Put whatever is not working away for a while, then try to reread it as if someone else wrote it. Maybe the story isn't what you originally envisioned, but it may be much better if you go with what it's turned out to be.

Or try working on something else. (I have seven novels in progress right now and expect to finish all of them one day.) If your subconscious is like mine, it wants to work on anything but what your conscious brain is trying to do.

I also find that research sometimes helps. It may give you a fact or line of inquiry that connects apparently unrelated ideas.

Try bouncing the story off another writer, a librarian, creative writing teacher, or local full-service book seller familiar with your kind of story.

Join a writer's group in your area (geographically and genre-wise). Be careful. Some groups are toxic--it's always easier to bitch than come up with constructive comments. Don't put up with criticism like "I just didn't like it." Good criticism goes something like "Too many sentences start with participle phrases" or "You spend too many words describing scenery or clothing, not enough developing character or describing action" or "The paragraph has two run-on sentences" or "Your pronouns don't agree with the nouns they refer to" or "You put your entire backstory in chapter one. Save most of it for later." Good groups are hard to find and hard to get into, but well worth the trouble.

If you haven't already, read On Writing by Stephen King, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, or Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

Also check out How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat, Getting the words right: How to Revise, Edit & Rewrite by Theodore A. Rees Cheney, and Story by Robert McKee.

Attend a writer's conference like Love is Murder or Left Coast Crime. Hanging out with other's who share your passion usually fuels the creative fire.

Go to a great movie, play, art exhibit--something stimulating and unrelated to your story. It will ignite your creativity.

Take a ride on a bus or the El (or Metro, or subway). Eavesdrop in a restaurant or in line at the grocery store. Take a walk and read the graffiti.

Keep writing but don't try too hard.

Don't give up.

Do have fun.


Regina Harvey said...

I often stop and take a shower. Don't know why that works.

Like you, I often have many projects going at once and I used to write one thing for a few hours in the morning until I was sick of it, then eat lunch and come back to start on another piece.

Free writing always helps me too, just stopping and turning to a blank page or new document and just writing, "What I want to say is..." or "I'm not sure how, but..." and then keep going without lifting pen or stopping typing. Stream of consciousness sort of thing and it usually does the trick to get at what I need to do next.

Barbara D'Amato said...

I have a friend who sharpens a dozen or so pencils when he's blocked. [He works on a word processor.]

Personally, when I don't know what to write next, I chop vegetables for soup.

Libby said...

I have writer's block when I'm not sure where I'm going next... or I suspect I'm going in the wrong direction. It's happened so many times that I should be used to it, but it still takes me by surprise... Usually I stop writing and give the other side of my brain a chance to catch up. If I'm lucky it will only be a few minutes or an hour. Unfortunately, there have been entire days.. even weeks when I've been blocked.

That's when I talk it out. There's something about verbalizing the problem that seems to help direct me toward a solution. I also enjoy brainstorming... especially with other writers.

Long trips are great for that. In fact, you and Barb helped me out of a deep hole in A SHOT TO DIE FOR on our way to Indianapolis...


Maryann Mercer said...

When I get blocked, I try and work on something else as well, although sometimes just reading for a while gets me back to the PC. I had a problem with how to stage a murder in a short story I just finished. Talked to several people at LIM and got great stuff. The final solution came over chicken fajitas at a local cafe! If I worry too much about how to write a scene, I can't write it.