On Writing

Paws and Prose: 7 techniques to stop Writer’s Block

Text reads stop Writer's Block. Bin with paper in it.

There is often a debate as to whether writer’s block actually exists. Personally, I think that the answer is yes.

Writer’s block is when you have come to a point in your story, you know where you want it to lead to but you have no idea how to get there. You think, and think, and think and think. But the problem doesn’t get better.

In some cases, it can become worse. New ideas come that you try and fit into the space but for whatever reason, look clunky and breaks the flow of the piece.

There have been times when I’ve had a story floating around in my head. I know the characters. I can see their world, their issue and what they need. But the words won’t come to paper. The sentences do not appear, and the character just stops talking. I end up staring at a blank piece of paper or deleting what I have written, cross-referencing half a dozen word documents and still, nothing comes out. To me, that is writer’s block

So how do I get out of this mess?

1. Listening to music

This is the first technique I try. I often listen to score music and it helps me to see scenes, imagine what my characters could be doing and how they feel. I think my favourite score track for writer’s block is Pirates of the Carribean: The Black Pearl. 

Often, I listen to music that does not have any lyrics as I find them distracting, but there are lyric versions that do help on the odd occasion.

Reading my pieces back, I can see how the mood of the music helps me to set the mood of the piece

2. Free Write

This one helps me sometimes, but not all the time. It is just typing random words until a story comes out. Often, I combine this with listening to music and I have got some good pieces of writing from it.

Most free writing is not turned into anything. Some of them have powerful lines that I steal for other pieces so it can be used for different reasons. The free writing doesn’t have to be limited to the one story.

 3. Talking to others

I often tell my classmates and friends my story idea, explain the problem I am having and they help me bounce off ideas. I usually leave with more questions than I had originally, but this helps me to build my story as I answer them. This is useful for me to structure my story and make it believable.

4. Mind-mapping and Planning

Most of my stories are written from the free writing technique, but occasionally, I do hit a really complicated story that does need to be planned in advance. I use an app called C-maps which is a virtual mind-mapping tool. However, I don’t do mind maps in the sense of the exploding circle. I do it by structuring it as a path.

Every time my characters have a decision to make, the path they are on splits. Do they run or do they face their fears? Each leads to a different story and so a different path. Each affects the characters and the people they interact with differently.

image of a mind map example

5. Looking at previous work

I often find that looking at previous work can help me get some form of inspiration for my piece. It’s never the same stories, but perhaps the theme of the story inspires me to write one on the same theme, or maybe the same genre.

6. Write it as a script

I know this sounds odd, but I find scripts easier to write than prose. So what I tend to do is write the story as a movie or tv script first, get to a certain point and then rewrite it as prose. I find that this then helps my story have the visuals that you see on screen as well as the structure of a prose story. It is a win-win situation and I recommend giving it a go.

Or, if scripts aren’t your thing, try another form of writing. Poetry, article, essay. See what comes from your story when you change the medium. You might learn something about your own writing when you do.

7. Write each section or chapter in a separate document

Imagine all the chapters as little mini stories themselves. The beginning of the chapter is the start of a mini story, and the end is the resolution, whether that is an opened or closed one.

Each chapter will contain its own scenes, characters, character arc and journeys, conflicts and resolution to those conflicts. So writing in separate sections may help you see your chapters as different stories of the bigger story and may help you get out of that hole writers fall into.

There are softwares out there that can help you do this if you don’t want completely separate Google Doc or Microsoft Word files.

Scrivener creates a file known as a project. It then allows you to break the projects into smaller files, while still saving them in one place—the project file. A bit like a navigation tab, only you cannot see more than the stuff on navigation tab that you are on.

Celtx does the same thing. Although, you are able to scroll on Celtx and still see the tabs underneath or above the one you are currently working on.

If you don’t want to use Scrivener or Celtx, you can use evernote and onenote. They are like online notebooks. So you can split the notes into their own separate navigations and pages too. Plus you get the benefit of the cloud.

Search engines should also be able to help you find similar items that may work for you.

Was this helpful?

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have, why not read some other posts? You can find more on writing under Paws and Prose. And please do follow me on here, Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for reading



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