Blink-blink. No, it’s not a person who blinks often but the cursor that appears and disappears at the beginning of a blank page. The vertical dash that brings panic and depression. You would never have thought how much suffering causes this simple indicator of empty space.
Joke or not, the writer’s block exists. It’s not just an expression everyone uses when they don’t have inspiration. On top of that, it also has serious reasons to exist. Some we can figure out for ourselves, others are a bit more hidden. Let’s see them one by one.
The most common cases occur at the beginning of a manuscript. You sit in front of the screen, you have an idea about what you want to write, but no word seems appropriate for the opening. You just stand there, repeating short sentences in your mind, sometimes just scattered words and you can’t decide on any of them.
Why is this happening?
Your mind and body can be tired. You have another problem to solve and your subconscious is stuck on what it thinks is essential to solving. You should skip writing at that point. Do anything else. Solve the pressing problem if you can. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Scroll on Facebook until you fall asleep. Accept that day is not the right time to start something new.
If you don’t find yourself in the paragraph above, it means that you belong on the other side. You want to write from the very beginning the most astonishing opening sentence in the history of literature. Neither long nor short. To provoke, but to say nothing. To present the character, but not to force the moment. Or other options. What you’re supposed to do? You choose the best option that came into your mind and move on. You can change that first sentence dozens of times until you finish the work. Don’t put yourself in trouble and don’t waste half a day trying to write perfectly from the beginning. Nobody does.
Writer’s block may occur also at the end of the first chapter.
Because you joined the heroes, all of you jumped into action and forgot about the work’s pace. You gave all the information there, in the first ten pages. Your characters are already described in great detail. They fought, quarrelled, reconciled, ran continuously from the first paragraph. Now they are so dizzy and tired that they don’t know what to do in chapter two. And you empathize with them.
What to do?
You start reading the chapter again and try to slow down the pace. The reader can find out in chapter three that the heroine has blue eyes and likes coffee with milk. Or the hero has an unsolved problem with his former high school friend. A friend who appears anyway only in a short dialogue and disappears into nothingness. There’s no need to put every detail from the start.
Set as much as possible the place and time of the action. Focus on one main character, or two if it’s a couple, and let the rest develop in chapter two. When five characters have something to say and do in the first pages of the paper, it is difficult to work with them. The reader at the end of the first chapter should know the names of those presented and have a vague impression of future action. But about how the first chapter should end, I will write in another article.
The last version of writer’s block appears in the middle of the book. Especially if we are talking about a novel that exceeds 70 thousand words.
Why precisely in the middle?
Here we have to part the waters. The authors are categorized as pantsers and plotters. Pantser is a word adapted from the expression fly by the seat of your pants which means to do something difficult without the necessary skills or experience. This kind of writers sit down at the computer with an idea in mind and start writing. No plans, no sketches. The characters are the ones who write their own story. The author lets the action flow in any direction that seems logical to him/her along the way. Ehhh, those lucky bastards have no problem with writers’ block.
The others, however, plotters – those who create intrigue – end up with nothing to write after 50 thousand words.
If you are among these authors, what blocks you is precisely your writing style. You didn’t structure the action of the novel well in your mind. You didn’t decide from the first chapter whether to kill the main character or go with him/her to the end. You started the story in the summer, but the heroes roamed so far over the seas and hills that winter caught them on the road and you didn’t prepare a scene involving snow.
You have to go through the intrigue of the work. It is clear that you didn’t have all the scenes well established and structured. Somewhere in the chain of events, a link is missing. If your work is the fantasy genre, you get away with it. A fairy appears and casts a spell. A leprechaun comes down from the tree, hocus-pocus and you solve the problem. If your text is anything but fantasy, it’s harder to use the Deux ex machina procedure. Regarding this mechanism ultra-used in recent years movies, see the Marvel series – people raise their eyebrows and turn up their noses when a seemingly hopeless situation is saved by a character or an action coming out of thin air.
Review your notes. See if they are still in line with what you’ve written so far. Analyze whether the character, which in the middle of the book should be well outlined, still retains his/her logic and personality. Add on paper or wherever you write on other details, other challenges. Would the characters be able to do those things? Change the action if it’s no longer sustainable. For now, you’re the only person who has an idea of what’s going on. You can change things anytime, anyway.
No matter what type of writer’s block you encounter, don’t panic. It’s normal and all the authors, successful or not, went through it. It is important to analyze the moment, to discover the cause and to act accordingly. And never give up writing.