The White Screen of Death.
We’ve all faced it.
We all hate it.
It sits there, mocking, forcing us to face the internal fear that we just aren’t writers. We are no better than the writer’s block keeping our fingers from furiously typing our next adventure.
But there are ways to fight writer’s block. The trick is keeping a list handy of ways to break it. Below are my favorite ways.
25 ways to beat writer’s block
Get into the writing groove
1. Free write
Write something – anything. Show the white screen of death who’s boss. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to lead to anything. Just write something.
2. Writing sprints
Set a timer and write – anything. Follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter.
3. Writing prompts
Find a writing prompt and write a story or vignette about it. This is similar to writing sprints, except you aren’t timed. The Writer’s Book of Matches is a great book for prompts.
4. Read a book or short story.
We always learn something new from each book we read. You don’t necessarily have to look for inspiration from these books – just enjoy them. Later, ask yourself why you enjoyed it and see if applies to your story.
5. Edit another story.
Stumped on your current project? Or worse, starting to hate it? Grab another story and start editing. It will give your muse a rest from the current project and finish up another one.
6. Edit what you have so far
Sometimes, you just need to refresh your brain on what you have so far. Go bad, so minimum editing – nothing major – and see if that sparks a block breaker scene.
7. Find the problem
If you are stuck, there’s a problem. Your subconscious knows it; you just haven’t “seen” it yet. Go back through. Look at everything critically. Does each sentence, each scene, move the story forward? If not, cut. Liberally. It’s better to ax what isn’t working. Not only will you move forward, you will streamline the story for readers.
Go over your notes. Find new materials. Research time periods, technology, character traits – anything that has to do with your story. Sometimes, a tiny new nugget will spark an amazing plot line.
9. Connect with other writers
Sometimes, you need to connect with other writers to vent, work out a problem or just talk writing. Set a timer and spend a little time networking on social media, chat rooms or via email with other writers.
10. Read an article about writing and/or editing
Put some focus on the craft, instead of the creativity.
11. Write a vignette
Sometimes, you just need to spend some time with your characters. Pick one – your protagonist, or a fun secondary character – and write a short story or vignette involving them. It’s not only a great way to connect with that character and their world, it’s also a great freebie to offer new readers.
12.Work on marketing plan
I know, I know. I can hear you groaning out there. Fact is, you MUST have some sort of marketing plan – even if it just involves your blog and Facebook. Take a little time to scratch out an editorial calendar of blog posts, social media posts, guest blogs and ideas for marketing your next book.
13. Format for Kindle
I dread this. Seriously. But you could spend a little time formatting what you have for Kindle, so when you are at The End, you are ready to post.
14. Brainstorm new story ideas
Take yourself out of the story and think about what you want to work on next. Throw together ideas on a dry erase board, notecards or whatever works for your muse. Sometimes, you find a nugget in an idea for something else that fits perfectly with your current project.
15. Connect with other writers
Talk up some writing contacts on Facebook, or in chat groups. Ask only trust sources for advice on your problem – or just vent a little about the creative muse. The latter is cathartic and will help you relax, knowing that others have been shamed by the White Screen of Death, too.
16. Shuffle your outline
Sometimes, you can create a even more dramatic story by simply changing around events. Put your chapters or key events on notecards. Throw the notecards in the air and let them land where they may. Pick them up randomly and see what happens. A brilliant idea may come from switching things around.
Step away from the story!
17. People watch
Don’t just put your head in your smartphone. Grab some coffee, sit on a bench and watch people, what they do, how they interact (and how they stare like zombies into their phones).
You don’t have to be perfect! Just sit down and free draw, or sketch a tree, your cat, a jar – anything that strikes. A different type of creative medium can free up your imagination.
19. Look at surroundings
Like people watching, you want DETAILS! Describe a plant to the most minuscule detail. Watch how the butterfly frantically flaps its wings by the sweet Mimosa tree. See the sky turn blood read at sunset. Write these details down. They can be used for scene setting in future stories.
20. Take a walk
Move your body. It’s healthy and increases blood flow, which helps you think.
21. Watch a movie
Grab a bucket of popcorn and sit back, relax and enjoy a story written by someone else.
22. Call a friend
You don’t have to talk writing (though I do with most of my close friends). Just talk. About anything. Catch up. Have a meaningful conversation. Then, get back to the writing mines.
23. Mindless social surfing
I rarely recommend this, but I think it is OK when you are stuck. Just LIMIT TIME. Don’t Twitter away for entire writing schedule. Set a timer on your computer, if necessary. Mac has some terrific apps that literally lock up your machine if you go over limit.
Make something homemade. Try a new recipe. Cook a nice meal and give your brain some time to refocus.
25. Take a drive
Go through a state park, drive down the Interstate. Drive somewhere that won’t frustrate you. (That means you shouldn’t do this at rush hour – unless it helps with setting a scene in your book). Your mind can think through plots as your body instinctively takes over with the driving routine.
These are some of my favorite ways to tackle writer’s block. What are yours?0