So, I have hit writer’s block many times while writing my dystopian novel and now I want to share how I broke it.
But before I get into solving, let’s talk about the reasons and then a solution to each (at least from what I’ve concluded in my own personal experience):
- You’ve lost touch with the characters. My main character, Claire, is a 16 year old girl, public schooled in a tyrannical dystopian world, surrounded by her peers at all times and I find that I lose touch with her every so often because I am the opposite. I am 14, was homeschooled and I am never EVER around people my age and, when I am, I normally don’t click with them very well. The only friends I have are from 28+ in age and I get along with them just fine. So, it is hard for me to come up with conversations for my teenage characters(which are the majority age group of characters in my novel) to have because I honestly have no clue what average teenagers are like in personally, character, humor, mindset..etc. And I don’t really talk about the same topics as other people my age. I have to try to come up with conversations without making them sound cliché, or unrealistic… and in the process, I lose touch with everybody in my novel because I’m always trying too hard to formulate things instead of letting the creativity flow.
My Solution: When this happens to me I find that it’s best to reread a few chapters, or all chapters (depending on how long your story is at this point) and get yourself back into the story and back into your character’s mind instead of your own. But also, when I decide to do this, I feel like I am wasting valuable writing time, reading what I’ve already written, but trust me, it’s not! This is necessary at times. So let go of the ‘wasting time’ theory! You would be wasting just as much time trying to write, but being stumped, as you would just going back, rereading and clicking back into alignment with your imaginary life. It also helps bring back the initial feeling and vibe of your characters that you may have lost deeper into the story, because of the change that’s happened through the growth of the story. Maybe you can bring a little bit of that back! This has worked for me in the past and I hope it will help you!
- You don’t know what should happen next. I’ve come across this feeling and it killed me. I thought, “All hope is lost. I suck at writing. This stupid story will never be done, because I can’t even figure out where my story is going.” Now, this normally happens to me when I haven’t had a ‘thrill scene’ in a while and my chapters are getting long and boring with no action or superactionfuncoolness… I’ve created at WORD! … It’s happened to me quite a few times over the course of writing my story.
My Solution: Think of crazy idea that doesn’t really fit and make it possible. I knew from the beginning of writing my novel that at some point in my story, I wanted my character, Claire, to be shown and respected by other characters as a fairly strong person, but I not only, didn’t know how to get that point across, but I didn’t know when I should do it either. In chapter 5(I think…) the story started getting dull and I didn’t know what should really happen next to pick things up and I thought, “Perfect! Now is the time!” What would make people respect her and make her seem strong to other teenagers? BRAINSTORM!!!!
Now, let’s give a little background so that this doesn’t sound weird: Claire is training in a ‘military’ of sorts that she was chosen to be part of out of her control. She has a very strict trainer that doesn’t take any bull! So, I came up with her getting punched at some point, but handling it very strong. At the time, I didn’t know who would be doing the punching, but it had to happen. Oh, well, her trainer! Perfect. He punches her for a stupid mistake and she snaps right back, but not going too crazy (but of course she still gets hurt, because naturally girls are not as strong as boys). After, she continues training with a good attitude. It shows the other militant trainees 1) not to mess with her, 2) that she is not childish and that she will not lay down and take unjust abuse without a fight and 3) it shows her trainer that she can take a beating, be fine and continue with a clear head (he likes any strong person he can find, because most kids in my story setting are pretty worthless…).
So, that was just one example, but overall, I just try to think of something crazy and see where it takes me in the story!
- You feel like the story is traveling in a different direction than you’d hoped a while back and you want to start over. I have felt like my story was meant to be something else way back, but it’s too late and now it’s scrap. Now, it either is, or isn’t scrap and that’s for you to decide. Is it really? Or can you make a few tweaks and make it worthwhile? Or should you just continue in the direction you are now heading and see what happens? I did a combination of the second and third options and I’m now happy with it.
My Solution: I really don’t have a solid solution. I just tweaked a few things and embraced the changes that I had accidentally made earlier in the story and I’m glad I did!
- You’ve worked so hard putting your great story from inside your head to paper and you feel like the idea will never work and that it was bad in the first place. Been there, done that. And it’s not a good feeling. I thought that my idea was great and awesome in my head, but once I put it to paper for the first time, I’ll readily admit, it was absolutely horrid. It really was!
My Solution: I started over. Fresh paper, fresh start! But that’s not always the best way to solve it. My rule was, if things didn’t pick up by chapter three, scrap it. Just my sad experience :’-(. But only you know what should happen with your story.
- You want to make a point in this one chapter, paragraph, or sentence… but it’s not the way you want it. Sometimes, I really want to make this point, but nothing sounds right. I bang my head against the wall trying to figure out how to say it, but nothing comes. I think we’ve all had this feeling at some point in writing, creative, or not. Grrrr… But thinking too hard on it usually only makes it worse.
My Solution: I draw portraits and sometimes there is a funky look about the person I’m drawing; I keep tweaking, erasing and adding new lines, but I can’t get it to look the way I see it in my mind. Some people say to turn around in a circle, face the drawing again and the first thing that you notice is the problem. That never worked for me. The only way I ever found relief was by taking a break for anywhere from a few minutes, to a few days.
But back to the first advice I got: I have found that the first thing you notice really IS USUALLY THE PROBLEM, but it takes longer that a few seconds for my eyes to reset to a fresh slate. So in the same way, writing is like this. If you want to make a point, but it won’t come across in the correct fashion, TAKE A BREAK! And then lay a fresh set of eyes on it and usually your brain will catch the problem as the first thing that sticks out to you. If it’s a word, the order of the words, the sentence build, or clause, I usually find the issue and it’s fairly easy to fix at that point. It’s normally a, “why the hell didn’t I think of that sooner?!?!” kind of feeling.
Let me know what you’ve tried in the comments. I’d love to hear!