How to Obliterate Writer’s Block

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“I’m stuck.” These two words ring in your ears.

That blank page. The blinking cursor. After three hours of hard-work, all you have is this:

The Knight of Moonberries
by John R. R. R. R. Johnson

The knight walked…

And that’s it.

That blank page is waiting for you to blow it up. Fill it full of holes. Slash it, burn it, run over it with a tank.

So here I am to tell you how to forever and ever, eliminate writer’s block from your vocabulary. These are 5 ways (maybe not the Top 5, but nevertheless 5 ways) to smash writer’s block in the face and send it spiraling out into the cosmos.

1. The World is Your Oyster, But Oysters Stink if you Leave them Out

Is your life boring? Does nothing really happen? Well, lucky for you there’s a great big internet for you to research and find all sort of awesome tidbits!

Now an endless supply of babies, unicorns and baby unicorns have been dumped upon your head. The internet hates you and hates your creativity. It wants to suck you in to its black hole. Bury you alive in memes and other bright flashy distractions.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great places on the internet (such as Mythic Scribes!) that can boost productivity, but try to avoid those places that are “time-killers.”

How about, um, going outside? There’s lots out there. Beautiful forests that may or may not have elves in them. Mountain trolls instead of internet trolls.

Even better? Travel a bit further out. You don’t have to go to that far. Just “escape” for a bit. You’ll notice without all the little distractions of “life” dragging you in the mud, you may actually get things done in your writing.

That weird guy at the convenience store with BO? That’s the Devil Hunter Partha, Ruiner of Worlds. How about that woman jogging? She’s a Solemn Runner, the only of her order who must deliver the message of the impending snow wyrm invasion.

Find cool people doing things. They’ll inspire you. Be a cool person that does things. Then you’ll be inspired more.

The best writers actually lived. So go live.

2. Romance Sells

Fantasy sells too, but romantic fantasy elements sell even more. Why have boring humans getting married and having human babies when you can have and an elf warrior and a demoness having a steamy night of passion in the Eclixian Plane of Myriad Pleasures? People dig fantastical romance scenes, the more bizarre and forbidden, the better.

Twilight is popular for a couple of reasons:

  1. Girls want to make-out with vampires.
  2. Girls probably also want to make-out with werewolves.

Or maybe just girls want to have fun?

In any case, men like romance too. You can’t have all the fun ladies! Nothing makes a story full of swashbuckling adventure better than if your sweaty pirate lord Skivers has a romp in the life-boat with a mermaid war-queen. Everyone likes a little romance.

But don’t make it boring. Make it awkward, forbidden, sweet, steamy, shocking, or itchy, but don’t make it boring.

So if your work-in-progress needs to get its mojo running again, just slip it a little romance and see where that takes you. Jealousy, betrayal, and undying love can all be strong themes, so don’t neglect them.

3. I Like to Move It

So your characters have been hanging out in a tavern for the past six chapters. They must be pretty drunk by now and completely worthless to advance your plot.

You could of course either:

  1. Have the barkeeper tell a long story about his journeys.
  2. Have a character try to hit on the barkeeper.

OK, so those didn’t work. Well, how about this?

Make the characters go somewhere else that’s not a tavern!

Fantasy worlds should be fantastical places. Full of wonder and mystery. Places you can’t visit in real life but wish you could. People read fantasy for escapism, not so they can hang out in a tavern with surly dwarves for fifty pages. Get your characters moving around. There are ruins of ancient lizardmen, dragon lairs, tombs of undead leopard people, sticky jungles full of bugs the size of cannonballs, and deadly, stinking swamps infested with hags and bog-monsters.

You know what’s in a tavern? Drunk people. And no, drunk people are not more interesting than bog-monsters. Unless the drunk person actually happens to be a bog-monster.

So a change of scenery can do many things for a manuscript that’s just sort of lying there like a limp Cthulu tentacle.

Get some madness going!

4. How About, Like, Make Something Happen?

Your main character Dark Stargazer sucks and he’s just sort of sharpening daggers or something and hiding his face under a dark hood. Sure, he looks like a total badass, but he has nothing to do. Oh, look! An aardvark-faced bounty hunter named Numnum has just burst into the room and shot him with a flintlock pistol right in the chest. Ouch!

Dark Stargazer is dragged away by the feet, probably to a swamp, because that hag wants to mate with him for some bizarre black magic voodoo ritual involving giant goat-headed devils. And Numnum gets paid with magic ants that only the hag has. So everyone has a little motivation. Cool, now your badass has some stuff to do. Get revenge on Numnum and avoid any physical contact with the swamp hag.

Two awesome characters to give your main character something to do. And that’s a big part of writer’s block. People get it because their characters have nothing to do. Or the stuff they are doing is boring or doesn’t make sense.

Well, don’t worry about everything making sense. Just make it as awesome as you can now and worry about it making complete sense later. First drafts are made of slugs, gelatin, gummy bears and other slimy things. They don’t stick together very well. Just accept that and keep moving your story forward.

5. Physically Break the Writer’s Block

That’s right. Break it. Go out and buy a block. Any block will do. A cinder-block, a toy block, one of those woodblocks your elementary school Music teacher used to make you play. Anything block shaped.

Manifest your writer-ly rage into whatever form of destruction you’d like. Machine gun, bazooka, fireball, knife, long sword, glaive, dragon’s breath, etc. Then demolish it. When you’ve run out of rage or are just tired then you can stop. Take the ashes and put them in a little cup next to your desk that says “Writer’s Block Ashes” on it. Then if any other writer’s block comes around in the future, it will see its obliterated comrade’s fate and think twice about invading your writing space again.

So that’s it! Those are my tips for getting rid of writer’s block once and for all. Basically if you get writer’s block, change something. If a plot point isn’t working, kill it. If a character isn’t working, kill him. But don’t kill your story simply because that big, fat, stupid block is sitting there.

Don’t let that cursor blink.

Do you have any advice for banishing writer’s block to an extra-planar dimension? Share in the comments below!

You can find Phil’s blog about Japan, writing, pro wrestling, and weird stuff at philipoverby1.blogspot.com.  His most recent story can be found in Kizuna: Fiction for Japan, available at Amazon.com.

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Philip Overby

Philip Overby is a nomadic warrior, indiscriminate troll slayer, undead unicorn enthusiast, former indie wrestler, and lover of all things fantasy. He lives in Yokohama, Japan.

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48 comments
KuokMinghui
KuokMinghui

I tend to see the internet as a constructive place to glean random inspirations, but I also agree with rule#1 especially given how youngsters nowadays tend not to be selective on whatever they surfed. There are things you surf for fun, there should also be things you discover for the sake of knowledge. And knowledge is the key to inspiration and creativity. Period.

fantasticbookspublishing
fantasticbookspublishing

Successful crime writer Penny Grubb doesn't believe in writers block. Her view is that you wouldn't expect a plumber to turn up at your house then, on seeing the leaking pipe, suddenly come down with a case of 'plumbers block' and promptly give up and leave.

 

You are a writer. Writers write. So write.

Polgara
Polgara

I love #5.  I just had a lovely little daydream of me burning a child's wooden block (since that's what's laying around) and putting it inside a tiny memorial urn for my desktop.  In fact, I may just go ahead and do it.

Kristiana
Kristiana

I'm a firm believer in picking up a pencil or pen and just writing as a cure for writer's block. This discipline, without fail, is a learned habit that is easier to develop if you force yourself to do it.

Beida
Beida

I had a friend call me last night because of this exact problem. She was stuck on one scene of her latest book and just couldn't find her way through it. I told her to put "..." and move on with the story. She can always go back later and work out that scene.

SeanDavid
SeanDavid

I have also had luck with making an outline of the story line first. You always have other parts of the novel to work on if you have an outline. Just flesh it out and go from there. I have even had inspirations for other novels just by doing this. Now that's not to say I have ever finished a novel, but I'm working on it! :)

guajars
guajars

I don't remember who told me this, but this has worked for me always like a charm: Do a list of the things that are NOT supposed to happen next in the story.

danr62
danr62

Tombs of undead leopard people? I love it!

SallyMaria Renata
SallyMaria Renata

Someone once told me that writing is circular, goes in seasons - and that a winter is necessary. Allowing it all to die back, hibernate, allows the rebirth in Spring. I believed that until I hit this one year block.

Jackie Hinton
Jackie Hinton

Well personally i just quit and go somewhere an relaxe my mind, don't think about.writing is what i do.

WinonaManrique
WinonaManrique

@mythicscribes I had just deleted my "romance" scene when I came across this! Plugged it back in. I will keep writing!

Brian Ehlers
Brian Ehlers

"I've talked to Hemingway and everybody who knows about this problem of getting down to writing. I make the same excuses as everybody else to avoid the issue. My best excuse is defrosting the refrigerator. That's a wonderful way to put off writing." - Marlene Dietrich

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Great post, Philip! I'm going to have to try some of these. I'm generally against doing this, but if I'm stuck in a particular part in my story and I'm more excited to get writing on some part in a different place/in the future/whatever, then I'll jump to that, get writing, and come back to my writer's block and evaluate while I was having a problem writing that scene. Usually, it's because it's not working -- and moving away from it helps me to see why and how. Other than that, though, I like to write the story in the order it will be read...not sure why. I guess it's just the way I am! 

Jacqueline Vail
Jacqueline Vail

Set the timer, write down any random thoughts for 20 minutes.....then go EAT A BUFFET!!! Love you, J.

Kevin R Carr
Kevin R Carr

Write about writer's block. It works for me.

Ky_Mountain_Man
Ky_Mountain_Man

@KimberlyKinrade My problem is never writers block, it's just the simple fact that i can't type worth a damn.

Baylie Magee-Aayla Secura-Scarlett
Baylie Magee-Aayla Secura-Scarlett

Write a story about a rock. . . It doesn't matter what happens to the rock, if its a talking rock or a rock that gets thrown at a bird, as long as you write it. If you can write a story about a rock, you can write almost anything! xD

Baylie Magee-Aayla Secura-Scarlett
Baylie Magee-Aayla Secura-Scarlett

Write a story about a rock. . . It doesn't matter what happens to the rock, if its a talking rock or a rock that gets thrown at a bird, as long as you write it. If you can write a story about a rock, you can write almost anything! xD

Ernur Anik
Ernur Anik

Fresh air and exercise works for me, sometimes I just need to grab my notebook and go for a walk.

cazutt
cazutt

@Patrick_Satters I wish you well on your debut novel. Just released 4th crime fic and am in the grip of writers block http://t.co/9ZcyJ5Ab

DavidJoelRodz
DavidJoelRodz

@Patrick_Satters @mythicscribes thanks for tweeting this link

Lisa Kopchyak
Lisa Kopchyak

go to the beach, or an open field, if it is cold outside, got to an unfamiliar place.....also reading a few pages to a book you like....lots of ways. just got to be creative.....grammar doesnt particularly have to be good either!!

Mythic Scribes
Mythic Scribes

Actually, what Nathaniel Mellen is saying has a lot of truth to it. Lots of great writers have relied on alcohol to move past writer's block. Unfortunately, many of them come to depend on it to write. Stephen King talks about this in his book On Writing. He was terrified that if he stopped drinking he would lose his abilities as an author. He managed to work past this, though, and has been sober for a few decades now.

MykleWoltersMcClure
MykleWoltersMcClure

Free writing with the self-imposed rule that I may NOT write about anything which is connected with/to the story I have becomed bogged down. It is a little like being told, "do NOT think about a pink elephant - it is ALL you all you are able to think about. Perhaps that makes me rebellious (or perverse), but it seems to work!

steiner_jessica
steiner_jessica

I usually run into writer's block when I've had a character do or say something that isn't working for some reason. If I pick at the last bit of what I wrote, I can think of a different way to get where I want to go and it unsticks me.

ZuhaibKhan_
ZuhaibKhan_

@Patrick_Satters @mythicscribes This is so useful right now! Thanks for the link :)

Rolf Wagner
Rolf Wagner

When I get bad writer's block it's a sign that I've let myself get too close to the story and the characters. I need to step away for a while and do something else. Then I'm able to come back to the project a few days later and look at it more objectively.

KuokMinghui
KuokMinghui

@fantasticbookspublishing Amen there. But equally important is the process of planning. That's why we are still waiting for Book 6 of A Song of Ice and Fire w/o any due date.

Lyrie
Lyrie

 @Beida I've had to do that before.  I frequently have a set of scenes written and only then do I go back and fill in all the blanks.  This isn't always efficient as I then have to rewrite half the scenes for continuity but it helps keep me going.

mythicscribes
mythicscribes

@WinonaManrique Excellent! We're glad to hear that you came across our post at just the right time. :)

Philip_Overby
Philip_Overby

 @annedreshfield I'm the same way.  I have trouble skipping scenes, but others have mentioned they've had success with moving around.  I think as long as I know the ending, then getting there is the main goal. 

mythicscribes
mythicscribes

@ZuhaibKhan_ Thanks! We're glad that you found our advice helpful. Most writers can relate to these sort of experiences, unfortunately.

Patrick_Satters
Patrick_Satters

@ZuhaibKhan_ @mythicscribes problems with starting your next piece? i know how this feels ;)

Beida
Beida

 @Lyrie I agree that it isn't the most efficient method, but, for me, I would rather keep going that sit staring at the screen getting nowhere. It just seems like such a waste of hours, possibly days.

ZuhaibKhan_
ZuhaibKhan_

@mythicscribes Yeah I'm experiencing it now, hoping to come out the other side soon! :)

ZuhaibKhan_
ZuhaibKhan_

@Patrick_Satters @mythicscribes I'm stuck on my current piece, some good advice though :)

ZuhaibKhan_
ZuhaibKhan_

@Patrick_Satters Haven't had that issue yet. I know exactly where the story's going and that's where it ends up. Just not a major plotter :)

Patrick_Satters
Patrick_Satters

@ZuhaibKhan_ @mythicscribes which sometimes changes the main plots and leads to a differentstory

ZuhaibKhan_
ZuhaibKhan_

@Patrick_Satters @mythicscribes Yep that's me. I can plot out the main points but the rest happens as it's happening :)

Patrick_Satters
Patrick_Satters

@ZuhaibKhan_ @mythicscribes let me guess, you are a discovery writer, not a plotter.

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