Advice For New Writers: 2 Ways to Write AROUND Writer’s Block (not through it.)


2 Ways to Write AROUND Writer's Block

The example links in this post are down right now.  Working on getting them back up ASAP, sorry!


One of the biggest struggles I faced as a new writer was the type of writer’s block that develops when my ideas stopped just flowing. I’d be going along fine, and then all of a sudden my plan wasn’t working or I couldn’t figure out what should come next. I’d get frustrated. I’d spend a lot of time staring at the screen, and pretty soon you aren’t writing at all.   The most frequent advice I hear about writer’s block is, “Just keep writing through it.” I hate that, because the whole problem with this type of writer’s block is that I don’t know what to write. For some people, it’s possible to just write nonsense long enough that you’ll break through, but that rarely works for me. I’ve developed a way to write around my block instead of trying to write through it.

If you feel like you’re getting lost or stuck, try this:

If you’ve hit a snag and you don’t know what to do next, create a plot event that forces your character to make a decision.

It doesn’t have to be a big decision, but it needs to force the characters to change something or do something a different way. Build tension and quicken the pace by creating a chain reaction like this:
Character wants>>>>but [problem/obstacle] so character decides to [do something about it]>>>>>but [new problem/obstacle.]

If you need to slow it down, spend a few minutes on your character’s emotional reactions to what is happening. If you need to pick iup the pace, add more obstacles and choices.

If you feel confused because too much is happening, make a list of scenes and summarize them. Here’s the format I use, but experiment in making your own:

  • Opening Image: Think of this like a snapshot that anchors the scene and draws the reader in..
  • Goal: What does the character want right now?
  • Problem: What obstacle is her way?
  • Reaction: How does she feel about it (show her emotions, doesn’t have to be a lengthy inner monologue.)
  • Choice: the character must make a decision in order to move past the obstacle.
  • Outcome: this is usually where the problem escalates. She picks a new goal, tries again, faces a new problem, makes another choice. Eventually, you reach the end of the scene when all of the options of been exhausted or she has what she wants
  • Closing Image: This image mirrors the opening and creates a frame, reinforcing the change(s) that have taken place throughout the scene.
  • This will help you feel more grounded and the scene list will be a valuable reference as you continue the story.

I’ve got a working example here.


There’s a whole other set of tricks for using plot structure diagrams, outlines, and beat sheets as revision tools rather than pre-writing techniques. Follow the blog and look for more tips in the coming weeks.

The bottom line: If you’re stuck, look for a new angle or a different way to approach the situation.

This post is a followup to

Control Your Plot, Not Your Story

I’m participating in several blog challenges and activities this month.

This post is for Blogher’s Writing Lab, #Postaday and Zero to Hero on WordPress, and’s 30 Day Challenge.


2 Ways To Write AROUND Writer's Block (1)