I saw this picture posted on a FB page about writing. To be completely transparent – I don’t know the person who wrote or posted this, or those who commented, and I’m not a fan of the page who shared it. It popped up because someone on my feed shared it. However, as an author who has helped others and learned so much from my peers over the years I’ve been writing, I felt the need to confront this advice.
Having tried more than half of these techniques, I can testify that they will NOT all work for you. Some or none will work. But, most importantly, the advice itself is NOT what any writer I know would offer an aspiring or struggling writer.
Here is the image itself, that sparked the need for this post. If you click the image, you can go directly to the place I found it, to read the varying comments of agree/disagree and why. If you just LOVE this advice and want to read more, danielle-writes can be found here, on Tumblr.
And here is my reaction. Make of it what you will. It is entirely my own opinion, from 10+ years of writing, almost 4 years of publishing and having published 18 novels and contributed to 6 anthologies.
✒️️ ONLY kill a character if it’s right for the story. Never do it to “break” writer’s block.
✒️️ NEVER switch the POV to another character, unless that character already has a previous/future POV. Switching POV indiscriminately, for no reason, is one of the WORST pieces of advice I’ve ever read.
✒️️ Writing the ending without knowing HOW to get there is pointless! I write to a plan of where I want to begin, how I’d like it to go and where I hope it will end up. But, every author knows that no matter how well you plan it, characters can surprise you. So writing your ending without a middle is a pointless waste of time. Especially if you have to re-write it later, because the way your ‘middle’ has progressed makes it obsolete. (This also goes for the idea of skipping your current scene to write something further ahead – you will undoubtedly face the same road blocks there.)
✒️️ Writing a sex scene, when you’re stuck, is also useless. Unless your book requires regular sex scenes or it fits the characters/plot, then there is NO need for this. If you’re writing a fantasy, action/adventure or a YA story then there is no reasonable excuse to use a sex scene to “refresh” your brain and help you break your writer’s block. All it will do is divert your attention AWAY from the story you’re currently struggling with.
✒️️ Never delete? Nonsense. Sometimes what you’ve written just doesn’t work. Remove it from your current story if it doesn’t work! If you really can’t bear to part with it, save it into a new document called Cuttings. You never know, it might come in handy later and be perfect for another story. I, myself, have deleted entire stories of 200+ pages, saving them for that inevitable moment that a scene, a phrase or a character is perfect for some other story. I know authors who have deleted up to 350 pages without regret, to start over. Being afraid to delete your own work will get you nowhere, if that work is mediocre and a little reworking can make it extraordinary. Sometimes, you have to throw out what doesn’t work to find what does.
✒️️ Never read what you’ve already written? No. ALWAYS read what you’ve written. How can you continue the story if you can’t remember what came before? Plus, a very important tip – reading what you’ve written so far, from the beginning, can open your eyes to plot gaps, small details that could help break your writer’s block or even point you in the direction you’d been heading, with a new spark of inspiration. YOU are your best weapon against writer’s block. NO ONE knows your story as well as you do.
As for the other pieces of advice?
✒️️ Well, there is nothing wrong with using scene prompts or sentence starters, if you find they work for you. However, there is a hazard in using someone else’s prompt as it might not have relevance to your story and it may go completely against your character. Unless you are doing these as a writer’s block restart – an exercise to get your brain back into gear, but not as something you will include in your story – then it’s unlikely that these will help your current story.
✒️️ Reading someone else is a great idea! As I review on the sidelines, I often read other people’s books in the same genre as mine and find inspiration. Perhaps a word, a phrase or an overall feeling can return the spark of eagerness and interest in your own story. Or maybe it will remind you of a thought you had for your story and had forgotten? Maybe it will even help you figure out a problem you’d previously drawn a blank on.
But, you know what? The best piece of advice I can give for breaking writer’s block is to KEEP GOING! You may feel as though you’re floundering. You might think that you don’t know where the story is going, but you have so many choices ahead of you:
✒️️ write at least a sentence every day, continuing from where you stopped. Even if you end up hating it the next day and deleting it, eventually, you will find the one that works.
✒️️ go back. Read the story from the beginning. Every. Word. Read it, make notes, highlight suitable quotes and even if you don’t get that inspiration by the time you reach where you stopped, you’ll at least have done some productive editing and quote highlighting.
✒️️ put the story aside and open an existing story. Read the notes you have for it or whatever you’ve already written. If you’re not inspired to write it after that, try another one. You never know when the spark will hit for an existing story you shelved a while ago? Or will reading the notes for them convince you that the only story you want to write at the moment is the one you’re struggling with?
✒️️ take a break. Maybe what you really need is a day off? Have you been working non-stop? Have you been writing thousands of words a day for a week or more? If so, maybe the real problem is that you’re exhausted! Take a day or two off, watch some TV, read a book and/or go to bed earlier. You never know if a few extra hours of sleep and less stress will help unless you try.
Whatever you do, find what fits you and your story. Never blindly take advice from someone you don’t know, especially if you’re only trying it out of desperation and don’t really believe that it’s right for your story. Don’t ever feel forced to write something not in your interest (such as killing a character or writing a sex scene) and that won’t help you progress with your story.
There are thousands of solutions to writer’s block. All you need to do is find the combination that will work for you. Try them, play around with options and find what suits you. Even if no one else agrees with you.