One of the most common questions out there for writers is if they BELIEVE in writers block. A lot of famous authors will come out and tell you it’s not a thing, and waiting for your muse to inspire you to write will just ensure you don’t get your project finished. But I think they are confusing what writers block is. Writers block, at least for me, isn’t the feeling of being uninspired to write, or being unable to write every day. But it’s my ability to move my story along—whether that be through researching a plot point, character building, or yes, physically writing. And some days there is just this . . . thing that keeps me from moving the story forward, of finding my way from one point to the next. THAT is what I consider to be writers block. Because, and V.E. Schwab says it best—all days can be writing days: writing days are writing days, thinking days are writing days etc. The act of putting words on the page is just a small part of the overall aspect of writing, and blocks can occur in many places along that path. So, how do you deal with them? Everyone’s method is different, and whatever works for them or me may not work for you, and that’s ok! Do what works best for you, but for me personally, these are a few of the tricks I’ve found to help me get past these blocks.
Often I find my blocks tend to be my subconscious telling me I’m missing something: there’s a plot hole I need to address, I don’t know enough about my character, or I am approaching burn out. The burn out aspect is what most people think of as the “real” writer’s block, so let’s start there. It’s easy to overwork yourself when you’re writing because you don’t have a physical, tangible thing to show off as what you’ve done or accomplished until the book is “done”. So you work and work and allow for no breaks and suddenly, your brain is mush and refuses to string words together in a coherent, meaningful way. When this happens to me, I step back and refill my creative tank with books I know I’ll love (like ones from my favorite authors), or I watch something with a lot of intrigue or spectacle on TV, play my favorite video games, or even escape into nature somewhere. All these things refill my creative tank, spark ideas, and get me excited to get back to work. So while some authors will tell you to write every day, I still consider these refuel days to be writing days because it gives me the mental resources I need to keep going.
My other forms of writer’s blocks come from me not understanding my characters or knowing there is a problem somewhere in my plot lines that I haven’t addressed so I keep getting stuck. The easiest and quickest way to get around this, at least for me, is to go back in my manuscript maybe five to ten chapters and re-read what I wrote, editing along the way, getting back into my characters head, and finding the thing that’s giving me the hang up. I tend to like writing strictly “forward” for a first draft—just writing everything down and getting to the end of the story before going back and fixing the things I’ve noted along the way. But sometimes that’s just not possible and I have to go back and fix things before I write myself into a hole I can’t get out of. Which is actually not dissimilar from how I revise, so let’s talk about the revision process real quick, too, as it may give you ideas of what to do when you get to that step, or perhaps just more fodder for how to get past your own creative blocks.
As I write that first rough draft, I don’t go back and revise before I’ve finished writing. I take notes on things I’ll have to address, remember, or embellish upon in a separate notebook and save those notes for when the story is all written down in its first rough form. Often I find that I come up with ideas as I write that I’ll have to fix so it’s better to make those changes holistically once all the building blocks are in place rather than in pieces before the whole story is laid out before me. I go through several passes of this process, refining details, filling plot holes, rounding out characters, before I pass my story off to beta readers to get their thoughts and to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My final pass before I declare the book done, after my editor has done all their revisions and I’ve incorporated all the beta feedback I can of course, is to read the entire book aloud. I know some authors who re-type their novel from start to finish, or others that hand write the whole first draft and then type it as a form of revision, and both of their methods are valid and perfect for them (and maybe you?). But I’ve found, for me, forcing myself to slow down and read the words I’ve written helps me not only see those small mistakes I’ve glossed over a million times, but also lets me find those awkward phrases, or character interactions that just don’t flow as well as I thought. This does take a while to do given I write fairly long novels, but it’s been instrumental to making sure the book I put out into the world is in the best possible shape I can get it in.
So there you have it, aspiring writers! A little bit about the different kinds of writers block, how to get around them, and also a brief introduction to revising your novel. There are so many books and authors out there that will tell you the best way to do things, that their way is the “correct” way, but I just want you to remember that their way may be the correct way for them, but maybe not you, and that’s fine! You have to find what fits with your writing style and method and then stick with that, regardless of what others say. Consistency is key, nothing else.
About C.E. Clayton:
C. E. Clayton was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is the author of young adult fantasy series, “The Monster of Selkirk”, the creator of the cyberpunk Eerden Novels, and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country. When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, social media presence, and newsletter, can be found on her website: https://www.ceclayton.com/
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