First off, Writer’s Block is a real thing, and it’s one many writers suffer from at least once during their writing career. Maybe it’s a line that just won’t come out right. Maybe it’s an arc in the plot or sub-plot. Maybe it’s the plot itself. Or, simply, you want to write and have no idea as to what. It happens. Fortunately there are ways around it.
It would be impossible to address all the ways to address writers block, but I’ll hit you with a few. The obvious first is to put the work down and step away. Leave it and do something else for a while. Either reading, or writing, just find something else to do and let your mind leave the topic for a bit of time. You could even move on to another part of the story and come back to the troublesome bit later, something many authors do. Another idea is extrapolated from the first, which is write on something else. We have a bunch of writing prompts that can be used to give you some ideas if you’re fresh out. They’re great prompts and not used often enough in my opinion.
Here’s the link to locate those: https://www.writerscarnival.ca/category/writing-tips/
But what happens when none of the aforementioned ideas work, or if you just plain and simple don’t want to do anything but be stubborn and work on the piece at hand? What then? Turns out, there’s a way around that too.
There’s a simple question I like to ask when this happens. It’s the same question I often ask to start a story, or to see if there’s merit to an idea. It also, I’ve found, works well as a tool for beating the block. So what’s the question? Simple, it’s two words. ”What If?”
Yup, that’s it. Nothing too special about it, one might say. But see, that’s where one would be wrong. For a writer, that simple two word question is a powerful one. How so? Read on.
For story starting purposes, I use it thusly, What if my dog started talking to me one day? What might he say? What if it was the cat instead? What if the mirror I’m looking in to comb my hair in the morning suddenly pulled me into it and into an alternate universe? What would that be like? What if a vampire were allergic to blood or afraid of the dark? What kind of story would that be?
What if can be used just as effectively in story telling too.
- Trying to get the dialog between some characters right? Simple, what if they said this instead of that? How might that work?
- Trying to get a bit of plot movement going? For example John wants to kill his father for being abusive to him. What if John forgave him instead? What if John’s father was abusive because he wasn’t really his father? What if he planned it out, but John’s father found out about it? What if John found out his father was the real father of his child?
- Trying to begin your story? Again- what if? What if I opened the scene as something from Matt’s Memory? What if I open up describing the setting first? What if I write from the first person instead of the third person?
The point of this exercise is simple and two fold. Doing this will get your mind working. A bit of problem solving stirs up the brain cells and that’s always a good thing. The other part is by asking this question, you’ll come up with a list of things that won’t work. Which will put you all the closer to finding the one that does. Once you’ve done that, you simply keep going until you’ve either finished your work, or hit the next block and do it again.
Is this method the ultimate, fool proof, work every time solution? No. No method is. This is the method that I use because it’s the most effective for me. I’m hoping by sharing it, it’s just as effective for you.
Written by Writer’s Carnival Team Member
Tim Hillebrant, husband to one, father of four (one daughter, 3 Shih-Tzus), and aspiring writer/photographer. Born and raised in Idaho where he lives still. Also loves family, fishing, and most SF/Fantasy.
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