Fantasy Writing: How to Obliterate Writer’s Block II

This article was pretty popular when I wrote it a while back for Mythic Scribes. So I’d like to post the link here and see if anyone has any further opinions.

I’d like to comment on my comments (yes, this is a weird writer inception thing).

You can check out the original article here: How to Obliterate Writer’s Block.

So in my original article, I advised these five things to avoid writer’s block:

1. Go outside and experience life instead of sitting at your computer wasting time.
2. Adding a bit of romance
3. Make your characters go somewhere
4. Make stuff happen (an unexpected visitor, an attack, a snowstorm, whatever)
5. Physically break the writer’s block

I still stand by the belief that writer’s block is just a thing people make up because they require perfection. If the writing isn’t working out and it’s not perfect, then there is a mental block that makes your creativity shut down. For me, it’s the same as studying a language. I’ve studied Japanese on and off for several years now. The reason I stop is because I get that mental block. I’m not progressing fast enough, it’s taking too long, it’s too difficult. These are excuses.

How about these?

My characters won’t listen to me, my plot is too complicated, my writing is coming out flat. Sound familiar? Even if you don’t get writer’s block, you’ve surely heard other writers refer to these problems.

So here is my addendum to my previous article:

1. Outline

What a crappy picture. But outlines don’t have to be so crappy!

If you’re prone to writer’s block, a good outline may create a protective force field around you. When it comes to fantasy writing specifically, you’re going to get bogged down once in a while. Try to make your world less complicated if you can. That way when you follow your outline you’re not getting blocked because you already know what happens to an extent.

But what about discovering my own world? I get bored by outlines.

Well, OK then. Do you get writer’s block? If the answer is yes, maybe an outline, just a small, tiny outline, may help a bit more.

2. Social media is fun and all, but you know, get off of it sometimes.

Is it good that I don’t know what half of these are? I hope so.

I know of some people that check social media every five minutes or so. Or any time they get a notification. This is fine…if you’re not trying to do anything else. Think about how much time you spend on social media a day. Is it helping you finish your book any quicker?

I understand the appeal of talking to writers about writing, but there has to be a cut off point. I visit lots of forums and communities that discuss writing and I enjoy hearing feedback. But there comes a point when I say “No, Phil. Stop it. Go to your room and write.”

Yes, I effectively ground myself.

I would say social media is the number 1 plague of fantasy writers. That and Google. They’re probably tied. Fantasy writers love researching and that’s great. But I think having a research quota for the day may help give you more productive writing time.

3. Read books

Books! Glorious books!

What? How does that help? It does. Next time you get writer’s block, pick up your favorite writer’s book and just read it for about 5 minutes. Really read it. Get in deep. What is he or she doing that you love so much? Find out what it is and try to inject that into your own writing. If you get hyped up by other good writers, it’ll motivate you to get to typing again like a frenzied walrus. You know, with your tusks of productivity.

4. Set a timer and don’t get up until it goes off

Ah, my eggs are ready. I mean, I’m finished writing. Either way, good times are ahead!

Write or Die works for me, but you could try other methods. The best way to really get through writer’s block is to just beat your head against it. Which means write more even though you don’t know what the hell you’re writing. This doesn’t necessarily mean write on your current WIP. Write something new. Get excited about writing again and then go back to your WIP.

I call this the Cake-Carrot rule. Do you like cake? Yes, we all do! So the new bit of writing is like dangling a piece of chocolate cake in front of your face. You’ll work hard to get that cake won’t you?
Right before you get the cake though, jam that carrot back into your face (your WIP). Then you’ll remember “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be eating healthier. Oh well, I sure am hungry. Come here you delicious carrot.”

So writing something shiny and new may help get you excited about writing again and by proxy get you going with your other project. Trick yourself!

Put your new bit of writing in your “Chocolate Cake” file and come back to it only in the case of an emergency.

5. Use a notebook

 No, not that notebook. Although if that works for you, go for it. Hmm…I may just try that.

One thing that will really force your hand is using the archaic pen and notebook method. Meaning go outside, find a tree to sit under, and just write in a notebook. Without all the technological, familial, and worldly distractions, you might actually unclog that writer’s block faster than you can say “Wow, I feel like Shakespeare!”

Another way is just to doodle. Doodle one of your characters in your book. Or a scene. Draw an epic battle between dragons and giant ants. It may help spark your imagination.

This method has worked for me several times (when I believed in writer’s block). Getting just 30 minutes or an hour a day to go sit outside and write may do wonders for you. Give it a try.

So coupled with my previous article, that’s 10 ways to avoid getting writer’s block (which I still don’t believe in.) This is kind of feels like writing “10 Ways to Get More Presents from Santa Claus.”

Give some of these a try next time you’re stuck. It may do wonders!

Chocolate cake. Yum.