Writing Tips #2: Writer’s Block

Tip: Writer’s Block

“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”
(Neil Gaiman)

Writer’s block will strike us all at some point. It’s annoying and frustrating. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll never get over it. Sometimes, you can’t. But that’s a last resort. Here’s my advice for overcoming that demon before you exorcise it with fire.

  1. Walk away. Like Neil Gaiman says (above), sometimes you need to put it down for a while and come back to it with a fresh outlook. I got blocked for a while with Uncharted and I left it alone for six months to work on some other stuff – including Judgement. When I came back, I reread the beginning and just carried on writing, filling the gaps as I came to them. You don’t always have to leave it so long, of course. Sometimes even an hour or two is enough to clear your mind a little.
  2. Sort out that thing that’s distracting you. Sometimes, you don’t really have writer’s block at all. Sometimes, you just need to put a wash on or do some shopping. Your mum’s birthday is coming up and you need to send her card. Having a little worry at the back of your mind can distract you enough to make you unproductive. Just don’t let it turn into procrastination, because that never helped anyone to write. Focus on the important tasks and don’t bury writing beneath the pile – that’s important too.
  3. Plan. If there’s a particularly thorny scene coming up, maybe you need to give yourself a vague outline to work with. A few bullet points can make the difference between fumbling in the dark and having a torch to light the way.
  4. Reformat. It took me three years to work out that Sky Pirates was not meant to be a novel. Try re-formatting your work as something else – a stage play or maybe a comic book. You might be writing in the wrong style.

Sometimes, you can’t overcome the block and you need to walk away from a project.  Maybe it’s the wrong time to write it or you actually don’t care about it as much as you thought you did when you started.  This list is by no means an exhaustive collection of ways to combat the dreaded demon, but it’s a good start. Have a look around. Find a way that works for you. And if it doesn’t work next time, maybe it’s a different kind of writer’s block.

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