HOW TO CRACK YOUR WRITER'S BLOCK



Hi Fierce Friends!

I’ve been teaching writing workshops since I was first published in 1993 and many of my students have asked me about having Writer's Block. I didn't even believe in Writer's Block until a couple of years ago, but boy am I a believer now! Now I know that even seasoned writers butt their heads against a wall from time to time, and I’ve sure had my share of days like that. After my father passed away in 2006, I had a really hard time focusing on getting out my next book. I had never experienced real Writer’s Block before in my life, and when it hit me, it was pretty devastating. What to do, what to do?

Well I moaned and groaned a lot. Whined a great deal. But finally I came up with a way to get myself jump-started and believe it or not, it really helped me on days when all I could seem to do was stare at my computer in despair. So for any of you who are struggling out there, here it is, in a nutshell. It’s not a magic wand to wave and isn’t good for the long haul, but is a realistic way to get started when you feel stymied by fatigue, stress, the lack of a muse, indigestion, unpaid bills or crying children.

HOW TO CRACK YOUR WRITER'S BLOCK
copyright Tess Mallory 2008


1. Choose a scene you have already planned. Write the dialogue first. No descriptions, no action, just words in quotes and ‘he said, she said’ or in this case, ‘George said, Elaine said’.

Example:
“I know that dog is around here somewhere,” George said.
“We’ve searched the entire yard,” Elaine reminded him.

(Note: Try to write an entire page of dialogue before moving on to the next step. )

2. Next insert brief character actions and revise.

Example:
“I know that dog is around here somewhere,” George said as he stared down at the ground.

Elaine shook her head. “We’ve searched the entire yard,” she reminded him.

(Note to New Writers: A person ‘looking’ or ‘gazing’ is an action. Notice how I rewrote the second sentence, putting Elaine’s action at the beginning and changed ‘Elaine’ to ‘she’.)

3. Now, insert a brief description of setting.

EX:
“I know that dog is around here somewhere,” George said as he stared down at the ground. Fido’s favorite squeaky toy lay at his feet, just a few inches from the red and blue doghouse in their backyard.

Elaine shook her head. “We’ve searched the entire yard,” she reminded him.

(Note to New Writers: Little details like the squeaky toy I put in make the characters seem real, as well as the setting.)

4. Insert brief description of people from ONE POV.

EX:
“I know that dog is around here somewhere,” George said as he stared down at the ground. Fido’s favorite squeaky toy lay at his feet, just a few inches from the red and blue doghouse in their backyard.

Elaine shook her head. “We’ve searched the entire yard,” she reminded him. With a sigh, she turned toward her husband. His dark brows were knit together in concern and he dragged one hand through his too-long brown hair.

(Note to New Writers: Once you start a POV in a scene, this is the POV you should stick to. You would not, after this last sentence, write a sentence from George’s POV giving a description of Elaine. What did I change in this version? Why? )

5. Insert character emotion into the scene.

EX:

“I know that dog is around here somewhere,” George said. He stared down at Fido’s favorite squeaky toy lying near his feet, just a few inches from the red and blue doghouse in their backyard. His thin lips pressed together as he kicked the ground with the toe of his work boot.

Elaine shook her head. “We’ve searched the entire yard,” she said. With a sigh, she turned toward her husband, hands on her hips. His dark brows were knit together in despair. He dragged one hand through his too-long brown hair in dramatic concern and she closed her eyes.

“If anything’s happened to that dog—“ he began, then broke off, almost sobbing.

Typical. He was the one who had left the gate open, but she’d be the one left picking up the pieces.

(Note to New Writers: Notice the rewriting that has happened in the this scene. Why did I change the things I did? How did I add emotion?)

Until next time -- Keep Writing!!


Writers Block Cat
4 Responses
  1. Eliza Knight Says:

    Great post Tess!

    I've used this method before, and it really does help!

    Also wanted to let you guys know I've nominated you for the Excellent Blog award! Check out my blog for details :)

    Cheers!


  2. I enjoyed this post, Tess! That's the method of writing I use all the time. LOL! I know, I'm weird but it works for me. I hope you are not blocked now.

    Eliza! Thanks so much for nominating us!!! I'll have to check out your site.

    Hugs to you both!


  3. Natasha Says:

    I write that way alot - I call it my "talking heads" - it definitely helps me get through the scene. Layering in the rest is fun.

    Great post!


  4. Cynthia Eden Says:

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing.


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