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Beating Writer's Block
by Lee Masterson

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Writer's Block is a fairly typical dilemma - one which most writers will find themselves in at some point in their writing career. The key to breaking writer's block is usually a personal one. Most writers have their own special "block-breaker" that is unique to that person, but may be totally ineffective for another writer. The trick is to experiment with which ones work best for you, and then, once you've cured your current block, move on to prevention measures to stop it happening again!

Let's start with some basic reasons for writer's block. Understanding a little about why you're blocked now might just help you to avoid becoming blocked again in the future.

Problem: Stress.
Too many writers put enormous amounts of pressure on themselves to write a perfect draft on the first go.
Solution: Don't expect to write perfect, clean copy first try.
Simply scrawl down all your ideas for the story in random order - anything - just get that story out of your head. Then, during your edit, create a second draft that adds in finer details, edits out the problems, fixes the missing characterizations etc. Then, on the third draft, polish up every word until they all shine.

Problem: Can't get past (x) amount of pages.
This is perhaps the most common problem for writers. The beginning just falls onto the page. At a certain point, though, the writing dries up and you are left with no ideas to run with.
Solution: Who says you have to write a story from start to finish anyway?
Write the climax scene instead of the boring middle. That climax might just give you a few ideas to help propel the middle along further. Skip a section of the story and come back to it later. Write the bits that interest you now - the hazy sections will suddenly become more interesting when it's clearer to you what needs to go into them

Problem: Lack of planning.
Almost every writer begins a story without really knowing where it will end. Many stories simply 'stop', because your mind does not have a clear focus on where the story is going. The characters are ready to go, but the situations haven't arisen to get them going yet.
Solution: ~ Spend a little time in the planning phase of your story.
Be clear on the basic sequence of events needed to get your characters to that climax you have planned. Write up a short synopsis of your storyline and keep it handy, so that you can reference it as needed. Following a rough outline can really help to keep your story on track

Problem: Created too difficult an obstacle for character to overcome.
Many stories also stop when the author has backed a character into a corner and finding a way out for them seems almost too difficult, without resorting to contrived solutions
Solution: There is no such thing as "too difficult an obstacle".
You are the author. This is your fictional world. The tools, characters and situations you choose to put into it can be altered or added during a simple edit. Go back through the story and add the necessary props to assist your character when the time comes.

Ideas to Help Beat Writer's Block

All writers have moments where the last thing they feel like doing is writing - especially when Writer's Block has reared its ugly head and your muse has deserted you.

How, then, do you force yourself to sit down and keep writing?

Here are some thoughts to help increase your creative flow and keep the dreaded writer's block at bay.

Time Management. Create a time table for your writing and stick to it as rigorously as you can. Be realistic about the time set aside, and do not allow yourself to get sidetracked into doing something else during this time. This one is difficult at first. Your mind will rebel, insisting that something else urgently needs your attention. Persist. After a relatively short amount of time, your mind will come to recognize these times as 'writing time' and begin to cooperate.

Music. Listening to music while you write can often open the creative center of the mind, allowing creative thoughts to roam more freely. Listen to music that inspires certain moods that correspond to the style of writing you're working on. You'll be surprised what odd things end up on a page after listening to odd styles of music.

Watch a movie. Many writers are visually stimulated. Impassively watching the action take place before you is often a cue for the creative side of the mind to kick into action. Reading has the opposite effect to this, as your logical center must focus on translating the squiggles on the page into coherent meanings.

Take a walk. Wander around in the park, stroll around the block, roam along the beach. Where ever you are, just walk. Don't take a portable music player or a friend. This is thinking time for you. (I take my dog, a pen and a notepad) After a few minutes, your mind will run out of noisy chatter and begin to meander through unfinished creative business. Many creative people report this as being a great inspirational tactic.

Start a different project. The human mind is an odd creature. If you are working on a fiction novel and your mind will not co operate, work on something completely different. Begin a short story in a totally different genre. Start work on a non-fiction article. Because the second project will eventually begin to bog down with details, your mind should suddenly switch modes to a project that is less difficult - i.e. the first story! Details that were blocked before will suddenly become very clear. Having more than one project at a time can work wonders with increasing your creative output.

Use a different medium. The 'tone' of some writing can vary dramatically with the medium used to record it. For example, I like to type quickly during fight scenes - I type faster than I can write, so this works to keep up with the ideas in my head. Try writing longhand into a notepad for scenes that require a little more time to work through. Talk into a voice recorder for those stubborn ideas that just won't 'write'.

Take a nap. Lack of sleep can be creativity's worst enemy. It's hard to function properly on any task without adequate sleep.

Spend time planning. Don't stand in the shower - use the time alone in the steam to work through your next scene. Don't just drive - plan your next conflict. Don't take a newspaper into the bathroom with you - take a notepad. Don't read a book in bed at night - write one!

Remember, writer's block cannot exist in an overly stimulated creative environment!

Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.

Lee Masterson is a freelance writer from South Australia. She is also the editor of Fiction Factor (http://www.fictionfactor.com) - an online magazine for writers, offering tips and advice on getting published, articles to improve your writing skills, heaps of writer's resources and much more. Check out Lee's newest book, "Write, Create & Promote a Best-Seller" here and jump-start your writing career.


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