I’m in the Middle of Writing My Novel and Got Stuck—Now What?
by Jon O’Bergh
Please follow along to read a great article by author Jon O’Bergh about how to overcome that dreaded writer’s block!
This actually happened to me. I had produced a good chunk of material when, all of a sudden, I could not motivate myself to write another word. Weeks passed. What was happening? More importantly, what could I do about it? I devised a solution and, within a few days, the words were flowing again. Hopefully, these tips will help you if you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Initiate a Routine
Creativity can have difficulty flowering without structure. You know that feeling of being overwhelmed by choice when confronted with a shelf of three dozen products, each slightly different from the other? The first thing I did was to create some structure by establishing a daily routine. Physical exercise can provide multiple benefits—stretching, yoga, jogging, gardening, taking a walk. I settled on half an hour walking on the treadmill. Other routines, such as a daily cup of tea while reading the news, can work as well, but for me physical activity helped raise my energy level. On some days I supplemented the treadmill with a visit to a local cafe. The process of walking and sitting down for a cup of coffee away from home helped generate ideas for my story. If you already have a routine, consider shaking it up. Try introducing something different, or change the order. Make your writing time part of the routine. After my exercise, I would sit down at the computer to try to write. Eventually I found I could change the order and write before exercising. As long as my time wasn’t open-ended, and I had certain daily tasks to perform, the structure worked.
2. Set a Daily Writing Goal
I set a daily goal to write 1,000 words. This seemed modest and attainable, not something that would pressure me too much. I didn’t berate myself on days when I only produced 600 words—it was certainly better than nothing, and then there were days when I wrote 2,000 words or more. Just be careful not to excuse yourself so much that you end up rarely achieving your daily goal. We are all pretty skillful at generating excuses for not being able to do something.
3. Imagine a Scene that Makes You Feel an Emotion
I was having trouble connecting to my story and finally realized it was because I wasn’t feeling any emotion when I tried to concoct a scene. Pick one or more characters and imagine an interaction with an emotional component—compassion, anger, frustration, despair, love, fear, envy, shame… Don’t worry if it relates explicitly to the plot or not. Just start writing. Even if you decide later on that you can’t use the material, it can provide a springboard to other scenes. If you don’t feel anything, your readers won’t either.
4. Don’t Worry about Quality
A surefire way to extinguish creativity is to expect that every word that pops out of your mind should be a precious gem. At this stage, quality is not important. This is only a draft. You just need to get thoughts down on paper. There will be plenty of opportunities to revise and refine that awkward sentence later. Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in this “expectation for perfection” and will mull over a sentence as if my life hangs in the balance. That may be fine during the revision stage, but it can dam the flow if indulged during the writing stage. Everything then comes to a screeching halt, which is the last thing you want. I have to stop myself at such times and say, “Save it for later.”
5. Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open
Finally, absorb information from as many sources as you can: books, television, film, magazines, news articles, eavesdropping, etc. Don’t think your time spent reading that trashy magazine is necessarily a waste (just don’t spend the whole day reading it!). I obtained some interesting plot developments from some of these sources, often when it was completely unexpected. The new ideas helped rekindle my excitement about the story and, in tandem with these other techniques, took me over the hump of being stuck.
About the Author:
Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his novel The Shatter Point after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the atmospheric album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends most of his time with his husband in Toronto.