On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Shall I Write About? Some Tricks for Overcoming Writer's Block

Some people's story ideas fly from their fingertips onto the computer screen, while the rest of us watch them in amazement. I happen to be one of the slower people, but this is good because I then ponder tricks to get around this problem of writer's block: ways that I can pass onto you that might be helpful.

Here are some tricks to create original, compelling writing:

1. Trick #1: Just Do It.

If you are a natural perfectionist, like me, you may have trouble getting words down because you want every syllable to be flawless as soon as you write it. Sadly, it's never going to happen. A trick I use is the ten minute (or up to an hour) rule in which I decide I'm just going to write my story and if it isn't great I won't worry about it. I'm not allowed to play Spider Solitaire (I'm quite good at this, sadly) or stare off into space. If you are brave you may even wish to consider the NANO challenge in which you write 50,000 words in November. I've been able to successfully accomplish this goal in 2010 and 2011 by writing 2000 words six days per week. Yes, my prose was truly awful, but the word count was there. My NANO identity is Amy_D so friend me if you decide to do this and we can encourage each other.

2. Trick #2: Free Write.

Many people tell me that they don't feel like they have anything to say and so go in circles when they write. A helpful technique for this is free-writing, in which you actually talk to yourself on the page about what you're trying to write and why. You're capturing your thoughts and mental trails that you use to solve a problem so that you don't forget that wonderful inkling you had 30 seconds ago while pursuing another thought. It's not perfect, but it works well.

3. Trick #3: Develop a Personal Resource For Ideas.

A great trick to coming up with story ideas is to create an IDEA FILE on your computer desktop, or you may prefer to write these ideas in a notebook or other permanent place. Wherever you put this file, make sure it's in a place that you put eyes on it often as you go about your daily work. Next, get a small notebook, index cards, or whatever, and carry these around with you at all times. Whenever you come across something intriguing, either a situation you experience or a thought process stemming from a trigger, WRITE IT DOWN. Write down at least two items a day. Transfer these ideas to your idea file every day. When you're dipping for a story idea, take out your file and play with these ideas.

4. Trick #4: A Helpful Idea Triggering Trick.

You can go through the titles of songs and films to trigger ideas for your own stories. These titles are written to be compelling, ambiguous, suggestive, and other neat things. Take advantage. If you find something that interests you, FREE WRITE about it immediately and discuss with yourself why you might like some of the ingredients of the title, and how you might be able to twist it into an original story idea.

5. Trick #5: Tell Your Muse What You Want.

Your muse does have a mind of his or her own, and cannot be reasoned with logically. However, you CAN work with your muse as a partnership to create stunning, original work. You do this by clearly articulating what you want and WRITING IT DOWN. For example, you might be ready for a new story. Write down: I want to write a short love story with an original idea along paranormal lines. Then, listen to your muse -- your muse will manifest as ideas suddenly popping into your head. WRITE THEM DOWN! This way your muse knows you're taking these ideas seriously Your muse might sequentially suggest:

ghosts? too cliched.
reading thoughts? too cliched.
near death experience? not really.
angels and demons? doesn't work for me.
potential realities? maybe...

Pick up what your muse says and continue to follow it by writing down further requests: How might potential realities interact with people? And so forth. These muse-originated ideas don't necessarily come immediately, but they will come if you determine to listen.

6. Trick #6: Be Brave.

This is the circle back to Trick #1. Write. Just write. If you want to plan then come up with your story goal, your obstacles, and why the goal is so important. Then just write. Don't be afraid.


Creative writing is hard. Hopefully these tricks will help you start moving again. Let me know if they help, or if you have your own tricks!

1 comment:

  1. Some good advice, Amy, as usual. One thing that works for me is reading insightful books of fiction tech (or any good book on writing). Soon I'm getting ideas on how to make my work better, and that means motivation.