6 things you can do NOW to get your writing unblocked
Fear is basically a combination of two things: not knowing the outcome and not believing in yourself. And that’s exactly why I launched this site – to show you how to write on your terms and to boost your confidence.
Writing can be scary. But so is ignoring the little voice inside you that screams to put pen to paper. So, I’ve got a present for you all you dreamers in hiding. If writing is what you truly want to do …
Here are six (6!) things you can do NOW – this second – to get your writing unblocked and the words flowing.
• Just write. Write what pops into your head. No hedging. No second-guessing. Absolutely no editing. Write song lyrics or spell your name backward if you have to. Write complete and utter crap. Incomplete sentences. Stuff that doesn’t even make sense to you. Play with words. It doesn’t matter if you come out with nothing you will ever use in a manuscript or story. The point is to get you in the habit of allowing yourself to say whatever you want to say.
• Brainstorm around one phrase or even one word. Let’s pretend one of your characters has rough hands. Why? What kind of work makes the hands rough? Outside in the cold? Inside working on machinery? Are they dirty hands? Is the character worried his love interest will be offended by his hands? Show us what his hands look like? Hard like the pads on a dog’s feet? Chapped? Are they meaty palms or thin, long fingers? Fill a page about those hands with all manner of adjectives to describe them. Later, you can choose what you actually use in your work.
• Break it down. Avoid thinking in terms of word count, chapter breaks, pages, etc. You will quickly overwhelm yourself. Decide which section of the overall manuscript you want to work on then concentrate only on that piece. If your character is at the beach, show me the beach. Where does the sun set – east or west? How cold is the water? Is the sand soft and warm, or hard and sharp with broken shells? Is it day or night? Is it crowded or empty and why? Assume nothing. Cover all six senses with description (see, hear, feel, taste, smell, touch). You’ll be surprised how fast new ideas, characters, scenes, will crop up for your story.
• Be as specific as you can. Good writing is detailed. Those details bring readers into the story so deep, they get lost. As writers, we love this. We want to create real life. If a man is standing at the door on page one, I want to know what kind of door, what color, what the doorknob looks like, if it creaks, how big it is, which way it swings open, and how often that door is used. Will you use every piece of that detail in your final manuscript? Again, it doesn’t matter. Until you know the story, you cannot tell the story.
• Research. This is a biggie. Sometimes, writers get caught up in writing “just enough.” We are practiced in the art of being concise. Expanding on what we believe to be a complete thought or scene can appear futile, a waste of time. Not true. Writing more than you need is necessary when you’re blocked or stuck. Let’s say you already filled a page with description of your character’s hands and decided he’s a mechanic, but you don’t know where to go next. Tell us what kind of mechanic – does he work on cars or even planes? Then look it up. Find out what those people do all day. The chemicals they are exposed to. The tools they use. The environment they work in. The stress level. Examine the names of whatever machine parts they work on. Will you need all of this for your final manuscript? Not the point. The more you know about your character and his environment, the easier it becomes to tell his story.
• Tell story across your hand. In elementary school, teachers tell their students to count each part of a story on their fingers. 1 – He woke up. 2 – He got dressed and had breakfast with his step-sister and father. 3 – He went to school and got in a fight. 4 – His teacher called his parents and he got in trouble. 5 – He made amends with the boy he fought with and his teacher and parents by X, Y, Z. The next step is to write each section on its own blank sheet of paper. In this instance, the top of the first page would have one sentence: He woke up. Next, the student will fill that page with nothing but description of that character waking up. It’s ridiculously elementary. Yet this method allows the writer to break up his story into workable chunks. The single sentence at the top of the page helps to keep the writer focused and prevents him from becoming overwhelmed.
Remember: Create first. Critique later.