A couple days ago I was looking through my Stephanie Flint Goodreads author dashboard (I also have an account under my maiden name, where I post my reviews), and I decided to answer another one of the author questions (you can see my answers here). One of the questions was on writer’s block, and that got me thinking about the concept. I wanted to elaborate on my original answer to “How do you deal with writer’s block?” and this post is the result.
(Parts of this post are taken from from my original answer on my Goodreads page. The rest is new).
I have a ton of story ideas I like to work on, so I rarely feel like I have true writer’s block. It’s more like having a zig-zagging line of a ping pong ball that doesn’t get anywhere fast because it’s trying to go too many places at once. That being said, there are times when I’m not really in the mood to write, or I don’t know how to approach a scene.
If I’m not in the mood to write, I’ll often switch to a different writing project (since I write in slightly varying genres, the projects themselves have different moods). An example of this is when I want something more lighthearted, I might work more on The Wishing Blade series (Middle-Grade/YA Fantasy). Ultimately, I expect that series to have a happy end (though I could surprise myself). If I want to work on something darker, I’ll switch to The Multiverse Chronicles (Adult Steampunk Fantasy war). Both feature war and fighting. but the approach, depending on the scene, is different.
Another example of this is the difference between Distant Horizon and Glitch. Both take place in the same universe, but the themes are different. Distant Horizon is a dystopia at heart, but it’s science-fiction and action, with a few horror elements thrown into the mix. The horror elements add to the tone, but they don’t dominate. In Glitch, the story takes on a more science-fantasy tone, with very heavy horror elements. There’s a sense of dread throughout the book, with a tragic ending rather than a feeling of determination.
If I’m having trouble working on a story in particular, maybe my heart just isn’t into tormenting the main character. I’ll switch projects for a little while. Of course, if I want to drive a character insane, it’s just as easy to switch projects to that story arc and work on the scene I really want to write.
Alternatively, if you prefer to write linearly, but you’re stumped, you might try writing a detailed summary of the scene, or even just a few sentences describing what should happen so that you can keep moving forward and not get stuck. After all, you now have the idea written, even if it’s not fully fleshed out. I did this quite a bit for Little One.
Other times I’ll work on editing and revision instead of writing something completely new. The process of cleaning up the manuscript is usually different than putting a whole new sequence on paper (er… the computer). For me, having multiple projects lets me keep moving along even when one stalls (such as if you have to send it out to beta-readers or an editor or need to set it aside for a month so you can come back to it fresh).
In the event that I don’t know how to approach a particular scene, a lot of times I’ll find music that fits the mood, and listen to that while daydreaming the scene from multiple angles. I’ve got eclectic music tastes. I might go from listening to Epica and Xandria to Gordon Lightfoot and Dan Fogelberg in the same day, all while working on different scenes.
Finding music that matches the mood can be really helpful.
Another music option to consider is that if you’ve listened to a particular song or set of songs while plotting, listening to that music again can help rekindle the desire to work on the story. (Youtube playlists are nice for this, at least until the a video in the playlist is removed or made private, and can’t remember what songs you had listed).
When I started back on working with Magic’s Stealing, I was listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s “The House You Live In,” “Race Among the Ruins,” and “Shadows.” Also found a rendition of “Rainbow Connection” that I liked. Those were some of the original songs I plotted to. Since then, I’ve added other songs to those, but those were my starting point for re-imagining the series.
A different example is for Distant Horizon. “Subdivisions” by Rush and “Brave New World” by Styx immediately come to mind, and listening to those songs will quickly have me daydreaming for the book. Alternatively, “Pushing the Speed of Light” by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather, and “The Phoenix” by Julia Ecklar will have me wanting to work on Glitch.
Funny thing, though, is that just because you might have a certain mood associated with a song, not everyone is going to picture the same thing. Take a look at fan music videos. Some you’ll think work really well to fit the story. Others… well, you might feel they’re grasping at straws. But the key for your plotting purposes is to find music that helps you. Unless you’re trying to come up with a playlist that absolutely matches the story for readers to enjoy, at which point that might be a bit different.
Finally, I’ve noticed a tendency in the weather and time of year having an effect on the stories I want to write. Come November, I’ll want to work on Magic’s Stealing. Right now, as it’s the beginning of summer, I want to work on Distant Horizon. At the same time, the start of the school year season will have the same result. A lot has to do with when I started plotting a story, and the setting of the story itself.
But that’s just me. Do you ever have to deal with not wanting to write, and if so, how do you work around it?
I hope you found this post helpful. 🙂