Lately, writing has been like trying to get a car out of deep snow – my wheels turn as hard as they can, but the car doesn’t move. I’m on the way up out of it now, but the week down there has forced me to come up with new tactics for dealing what to do when writing is extra hard.
Don’t Get Stuck: Keep Writing
1. Switch Background Noise
On bad days, I default to what I consider comfort background noise. That’s 4-5 different shows or musicals that I find subconsciously soothing.
For some people, this might require silence. Or even a white noise machine if actual silence isn’t possible in your home. Whatever’s easiest for you to write to.
2. Let Yourself Read the Last Chapter First
When my brain’s firing on all cylinders, I don’t have to go very far back in the manuscript to get back into the scene. Especially if I’ve been writing every day (like I should).
When my brain needs an overhaul, on the other hand, reading the full scene before can really help. It’s like giving your car extra time to warm up in the winter. It helps immerse me in the story and focuses my brain on what’s happening right then.
3. Break It Down into Smaller Bites
Sometimes, trying to write a chapter is too broad a task. But if I can focus on one scene or even one conversation, it’s more do-able.
Just think about what that character is trying to do right now. Don’t think about clues you need to work in to complicate the plot or how it ties in to other scenes. Focus on now.
You can add more detail, switch wording, or tweak as needed later.
4. Write a Different Scene
Nothing says you have to write everything in the order it will appear in the book. I’ve heard of writers who write scenes as they feel like writing them and then assemble it all in the end.
Well, sometimes, it’s easier to write one scene than another. Maybe, it’s an easier scene or a more exciting one. Doesn’t matter. Just write something.
5. Write Description
In some ways, the baby step of writing is describing what you see or saw. Go back to that. Close your eyes, envision the scene, and write what you see.
You may not be able to keep it all. You may need a leaner scene or something with a faster pace in the long run, but it will move you forward.
6. Plot, Worldbuild, or Make Characters
There’s more to writing a novel than pure writing. If nothing you do gets words on the page, try working on a different part of the process:
- Enrich the world of your story,
- Add complications to your plot or improve your resolution, and
- Flesh out your characters and their backstories.
But as fun as those tasks are, you can’t do this all the time, or the book still won’t get written.
7. Write Something Else
Do a completely unrelated writing prompt. Write a poem.
Flex your writing muscles with something completely different. Even if it doesn’t add to your novel, it protects your dedicated writing time (AKA your writing habit), and that will.
Does It Work?
So even with these tactics, I didn’t make great progress on my book this week. But I did make progress. That’s important.
And trying to make progress kept me moving until I could get traction and speed up again. That’s even more important.
It’s trying to get that car out of the snow – you have to keep moving and use the momentum of the car to get out of it. The longer you’re stopped (and even a second can be too long), the harder it is to get started again. And you can lose all the progress you fought for.
These tactics helped me keep moving, and I’m on the verge of getting the traction to pull out the rest of the way.
I just need to keep writing.