HubSpot has created this great slideshare deck looking at writers block.
Although the reasons listed (and the solutions) are geared towards bloggers and copywriters, I’ve found the presentation useful from a fiction writers perspective as well. I really agree with slide nine – you need to find the problem, and beat it with a big stick (but first, you need to know what to hit).
Why we get writers block – and what to do about it
1. I don’t know what to write!
Plan the storyline, character histories and scene notes before sitting down to write.
2. I’m not sure how to tackle this scene
Look back at the plot notes and think about what you’re really trying to achieve in the scene. What does the character need to do or experience before they can move on? What’s the real point of the scene. Sometimes you might find that there’s no real point to it at all, which is why you don’t know how to approach it.
3. I’m not in the mood to write
Then read, watch a film, play a game – just go and do something creative. Something as simple as logging on to Pinterest for a few minutes can kick the creative side of your brain into gear, and get you itching to write that next scene.
4. I can’t find the words
I’m a fan of the NaNoWriMo school of thought. Just write it. Accept that what you write may be 2% amazing, 18% average and 80% crud, and carry on. That’s what rewrites are for.
5. I can’t write the first chapter/opening scene
Ugh! Don’t talk to me about the first chapter. There are so many things that you need to nail with the first chapter, that it can feel overwhelming. This short video describes what the first chapter needs to do.
The first chapter not only needs to impress an agent and publisher, it has to engage the reader. (How many people have you seen pick up an enticing looking book in a shop, read a few pages, and set the book down again?)
Again, I tend to take the attitude of ‘just write the thing and fix it later’, but if this is seriously stunting your progress try starting from the middle, or start at the end and work your way back. Personally, I think this would drive me a little nuts, but it works for some people.
6. There’s no depth in my plot and/or characters
This isn’t The Sims, characters don’t just spring out of nowhere – fully formed 21 year olds with no family, history, education or friendships. If we look at Tolkien, the master of fantasy world building, everyone, and everything of significance has a backstory. The entire romance between Aragorn and Arwen may not be detailed in Lord of The Rings, but he planned the whole thing out anyway.
The idea is to make it appear as if the book is just a snapshot of what’s happening to your characters at that specific time. Leaving the reader with the impression that the characters existed somewhere before you started reading, and that they’ll carry on with their adventures when you’ve read the last line.
World building and creating character histories are vital tasks, and not just for fantasy or sci-fi writers. If there’s no history, you have nothing to draw on, no lessons, inspirations, myths or legends. After all, if you don’t know the world you’ve created inside out, how will the reader?
7. I keep getting distracted…
There’s always going to be something to distract you from writing. The internet. Cats. Cats on the internet. The new series of Doctor Who/Game of Thrones/Walking Dead…(sigh – I may never write again…) The important thing is to block off time to write and just do it. Give yourself permission to do whatever you like after you’ve hit your word count target for the day.
8. I can’t work with all of these interruptions!
I’m not sure if this is a reason for writers block. It could be a reason for losing your train of thought, but I can’t see it acting as a mental block. It’s hard to control what people around you decide to do. If someone, or something (yes, cat, I’m looking at you) want’s your attention, you’re probably better off giving them the attention, and going back to the writing later.
9. I don’t know where to start.
Nobody sits down and says, I’m now going to write 100,000 words (well, some people do, but let’s just agree that they’re all odd.) If you’ve done the planning, and broken the plot down into scenes, it’s not that intimidating really. Just take it one scene at a time.
10. I’m not good enough / I can’t do this story justice
Ah, the Inner Critic. The voice that tells you how rubbish you are and leads you down the road of procrastination.
Don’t listen. Just write.
Gollum’s image from: l-o-t-r.tumblr.com
The cat on the door is called Jess, he’s daft, and all mine.