In a recent interview with Shelley Hitz at Self Publishing Coach, she asked me what strategies I used to overcome writer’s block.
I began my response with, “I believe there are many causes of writer’s block, each with its own solution…”
After the interview, I realized this subject represented an opportunity for a series of articles. Rather than publish them back-to-back, I’ve decided to sprinkle them into my normal stream of content. They will all begin with a title that starts “Overcome Writer’s Block By…” You can access them easily by clicking on the “Writer’s Block” link in the Tag Cloud in the sidebar.
I’ll start with the tip mentioned in the interview.
When I find myself sitting, staring at the display, or pressing the backspace key in equal proportion to other keys, I’ve often found my block is due to the lack of clarity in the scene I am attempting to describe – or, sometimes it’s because my gut is telling me my approach to the scene isn’t right.
If you find yourself in this situation, here is what I recommend.
Regardless of which of the two root causes is preventing progress, start your breakthrough in the same manner. Ask yourself, “Is this scene necessary?”
If the scene doesn’t move the story forward or develop a character, then stop. Your writer’s block just saved you from wasting a lot of time.
But if the answer is yes, then you need to answer a couple of other questions.
- Why is this scene important?
- What are the key items I need to communicate to the reader?
With those answers clearly defined, the next step is shift the perspective.
Obviously, you weren’t happy with your original approach to the scene. So consider writing the scene from a different character’s point of view. Does this make it more interesting?
Change your perspective in describing the scene by pulling back to a distance. How would your description of the scene change? If you start far away and zoom in as you tell the story, does this frame the scene more clearly for the reader?
Or, perhaps you’d be better off starting from an ultra-close-up view. Maybe describing the drop of sweat hiding in the hairline behind the ear best sets the mood you are trying to create.
Continue shifting your perspective in this manner. Look at the pluses and minuses of each when compared to your objectives for the scene.
Even if you reject all of the different points of view and stay with your original approach, you’ll have a much sharper vision of your scene. And that’s the objective of this exercise.
Once you can see the scene clearly, you’ll find the words rolling off your fingertips and into your manuscript.
Have you struggled with this type of writer’s block? If so, do you have a different technique to break through?
What other types of writer’s blog have held you back? Tell me; I’ll address them in future posts.