Writing is a lonely but rewarding journey. If you persist in writing for an extended amount of time, you will find that you have written a long text, and be amazed by your own achievements. But before getting to the end of your story, you might encounter what can be — for some — a most difficult obstacle: getting stuck in the middle of a story, i.e., Writer’s Block.
As the name suggests, Writer’s Block is a state of being where, for some reason, you cannot continue to write. Sometimes the words refuse to come, and in other instances, writing feels awkward or wrong.
If this happens to you, stay calm. Because being stuck during writing is very common. EVEN STEPHEN KING GETS WRITER’S BLOCK! There is no such thing as a consistent, smooth writing experience. What we need to do is to find the right solutions and work hard on it.
In the following paragraphs, we will go through different situations of Writer’s Block and the possible solutions to it.
I. Being stuck while designing the plot.
This situation mainly occurs when designing or refining the outline, when you have no idea about how to refine a vague idea you have because you lack the specific plot details. The root of this problem lies in the fact that your design is incomplete. We can try the following:
1. First, cement the ideas in your mind.
For example, you might want to write about an unexpected encounter between the hero and heroine of a contract marriage story. Keep asking yourself some questions to solidify this idea. Such as:
(1) Where did the hero and heroine meet?
(2) Did they discover each others’ identities?
(3) How did they feel when they met?
(4) What were their first impressions of each other?
The process of thinking about these questions is the process of sorting out your ideas. As you ask these questions, solidify your ideas and advance the plot. Don’t just stop at “What feelings do I want to write?” but ask yourself, “What details do I want to write?”
2. Add a conflict to the plot.
Setting up a conflict is the quickest way to solve the problem of being stuck.
(1) Increase the conflicts between the protagonist and the supporting characters.
(2) Increase your protagonists’ background information.
(3) Increase the number of people involved in the conflict.
(4) Use props to reveal and increase conflict.
Conflict is a powerful driving force for characters’ actions, and it can be the focus of a plot’s design. In Obsession With My Forced Wife, when the protagonists, Evelyn and Lance, get married, there is no apparent conflict between the two, and the story seems dull at the beginning. To spice things up, the author, Katherine Z, designed a competition. Evelyn and Penelope participated in the competition. During the competition, Katherine Z introduced the new character, Penelope, to readers. She is Lance’s ex and Evelyn’s rival in love. This game successfully led to a confrontation, increasing the conflict between Evelyn and Penelope. Meanwhile, Katherine Z introduced Lance’s backstory. In this way, the storyline became tortuous and exciting.
3. Design a public event such as a competition or party, to bring your characters together.
The primary function of a public activity is to:
(1) Introduce new supporting actors and their relationships.
(2) Explore the backgrounds of the supporting actors.
(3) Get everyone on the same page. By bringing a large cast together, they can share goals and focus on the task at hand.
(4) Let different characters meet to form new relationships.
(5) Increase conflicts.
Designing a public event is an excellent way to advance the plot. At a dance party, people who don’t know each other will meet. Quarrels may happen at any time. Cupid could shoot his arrows in secret, and secrets that have been hidden may be revealed. Dances have a mysterious power that can make a story happen. In addition to the dance party, an interview, competition, and exhibition are good public events. When you are stuck, try this method.
4. Discuss your story outline with trusted friends and family.
Writing an outline on your own can be exhausting, and you are likely to hit a dead-end when doing it alone. If you have Writer’s Block, you might as well discuss your story with the people around. Hopefully, you can get some new inspiration. Take care to record other people’s feedback when talking about your work with them. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
(1) What were the most interesting parts?
(2) Can you make any guesses about what will happen next?
(3) What would you like to happen next?
(4) Were there any unclear parts?
When you write a story, you share emotions. When readers get emotional over your story, you could build an incredible connection with them. This is ideal. So don’t be shy. Be brave. Share your thoughts and outline and review your work with others. Interaction between people is the best source for inspiration. When you give, you gain.
II. Being stuck in the details.
This mainly occurs when the outline is complete and the block happens in the writing process. The writer doesn’t know how to write the plot that he or she just designed. If this happens to you, you can try the following:
1. Let the characters start quarreling and use their conflicts to advance the plot.
Quarrels can best reflect conflicts. If you don’t know how to write a conflict, have your characters start by quarreling. When you do this, keep in mind that quarrels require skills. A quarrel is a catharsis of emotions and a confession of the inner feelings of the characters.
2. Let a supporting character place obstacles in front of the protagonist or have them promote the protagonist’s actions.
We may be very familiar with this plot cliché: When we look forward to the future emotional development between the hero and heroine, a supporting character suddenly appears. He or she will spread rumors, and the rumors will lead to misunderstandings, which will stand in the way of the protagonist’s love. In the readers’ eyes, these supporting characters are nasty. To the author, though, they are heroes because they advance the plot. A plot’s development is inseparable from the “efforts” of the supporting actors. The difficulties they place in front of the protagonist are all interesting plot twists.
3. Start with a minor accident, misunderstanding, question, or clue.
People get bored with a “Step-by-Step” story, so add some surprises and misunderstandings. These “gadgets” can add some exciting variables to your story. For example, in Diving Into You, the female reporter, Riley, accidentally fell while interviewing Eliot, the male protagonist. Riley panicked, pulled off Elliot’s swimming trunks, and exposed his buttocks to the camera. Oh, this scene will definitely make readers laugh, and at the same time, it will give Elliot a deep memory that includes Riley. As you can see, a romantic love story is about to begin.
4. Start writing from the protagonist’s dreams or memories, revealing their past and inner emotions.
Dreams are magical. They can reveal people’s subconscious and show their true thoughts, fears, and hopes. At the same time, they can predict the future, take you to different worlds, or allow you to relive your past. Be careful, though; too many books use dreams to advance their plot. For example, the first chapter of Obsession With My Forced Wife opens with a dream. A strange man appears in the protagonist’s dream, and he heralds the changes in her life that are to come.
5. Give the protagonist a task that he cannot turn down.
Tasks that cannot be turned down can promote the protagonist’s actions and allow them to explore new environments and develop new relationships. Some of the typical tasks are contract marriages, treasure hunts, revenge, finding someone, etc. You can match these stories with different elements, such as romance, suspense, horror, etc.
Take a handsome rugby player as an example. If he has to accept a contract marriage, he may find himself in a romantic love story. If he is dispatched to perform an assassination, he may find himself in a story that is intense and exciting. Perhaps he finds an ancient treasure map in the chest that was left to him by his grandfather. A magical treasure hunt is calling him. You can see that your task as a writer is like a hunt for a treasure chest. If you are diligent and don’t give up, you will always find an elixir to help you write.
6. Add a pet or supporting role as a partner.
When your character is a person who does not talk a lot, is introverted, or is not good at communication, you may have some trouble designing the plot. This is because there will be fewer factors that can promote his actions. For best results, you need to match him with a “partner.” It could be a trouble-making pet or a talkative or impulsive friend. A partner can bring balance to the plot, making up for what is missing in the protagonist, promoting the protagonist’s actions, and advancing the storyline. The classic partnerships are impressive. Think of Holmes and Watson, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and Dorothy and Toto. In your daily reading, you can pay attention to how other authors describe pets and partners and then try to add a pet or a partner to your story.
III. Non-writing adjustment
In many cases, when you have Writer’s Block, it is not as simple as not having the words when you need them. Often the problem is more profound and can be related to your emotional state, well-being, or mental health. Writing is a kind of high output work, and long-term output will cause a certain degree of emotional weakness or distress. It can produce a defeatist mentality, and you may even find yourself wanting to give up. When encountering this period of exhaustion, we need to practice good self-care.
1. Pause forced output, increase reading, and relax.
2. Temporarily leave the state of writing and relax. Do something else.
3. Chat and socialize with friends or other writers to prevent breaking down.
4. Communicate with the editor and listen to their suggestions.
5. Read novels with similar themes. Learn from other authors’ solutions and learn from their mistakes.
6. Read the content written before you were blocked, revise it, and sort out your ideas.
7. If you are a novice writer, and this is your first time being stuck, remember that this is completely normal. Every author gets Writer’s Block from time to time. We recommended that you insist on writing one chapter first. Then communicate with others and modify your work. All successful solutions for Writer’s Block are reliant upon a specific output. The writer should guarantee their output first. Then the problem will be solved.
8. Habit formation. Write habitually. Read and write at a fixed time every day, and as you hone your abilities, consciously train yourself to put out a specific amount of work daily. Doing this can reduce the problem of Writer’s Block in your life!
In short, writing requires persistence. Being stuck is a problem that every author will encounter. The best way for a new book to attract more readers is to update it daily. The continuous output will continue to draw readers’ attention.
Keep up the good work, and don’t forget to join the Stary Writing Academy Facebook group to share and discuss with more than 70,000 writers! Meanwhile, more practical writing courses are now available at Stary Writing Camp. Just take the chance to start your writing career!