Writer's Block Buster: Some Tips to Overcome It

On a fresh, bright day, you sit staring the white background of your word processor, with nothing to write about. Not even a character to plot, and with no idea of where or how your plot will go. You are almost sure that whatever you start now would turn out dauntingly complex, and you would end up in a more severe block any time soon. You have absolutely no idea where your story is taking you to, but your hunch is that it will be immensely complex. And this problem greatly disappoints you and you just stop writing.

This phenomenon is writer’s block. When you write, you expect a certain standard out of yourself, and since you are not absolutely sure that you will reach it, you don’t write at all. Writer’s block is a problem affecting all writers in the planet at one or other time—you, I, and Stephen King included. So, I thought I should give some tips to discipline this little pet urchin of all writers. As I research more on writer’s block, I will post more on it, but now please find these tips that I use to get around the problem.

Find out the cause of the block

Diagnosis is the first step of treatment. So, be inquisitive and ask yourself what is causing your block. What is the issue? What robs you of any characters? Most of the time, this inquisition gives you the answer you want. It may be the plot complexity, it may lack of inspiration, it may be lack of detail, it may be lack of a plot or a character, or it may be the aftermath of any of your recent experiences.

Doing the inquisition is very easy. All you have to do is ask yourself, your conscience, what is causing the issue. You will definitely get the answer, and you may even get the particular situation that causes the block. When you know this reason, the busting is pretty easy.

Busting the Block

When you have the issue at hand, there are various ways to fight it dependant on the reason of the block. Here are tips to fight each issue. The major reasons addressed here: Lack of character, lack of plot, lack of plot twist to move the story forward, lack of necessary detail to characters or plot scenes.

1. If you have no character in mind: Maybe your problem is character development. You have no character in mind that you want to expand upon. I had told the best place to start a story is a character (Please read Character and Plot development Tips). So, without a character you cannot just start a story. Sometimes you have a specific idea or situation, which gives you a character; sometimes you might just create your own character.

The best methods to bust this are these. First, sit for half an hour and try to think up the character and its features. If you end up getting that character, well and good! Otherwise, do one of the following as the second method. Go for a movie, get your most favorite author’s short story and read it, read a little from a good novel, watch cartoon show, go out and mingle with your friends, or chat with anyone through chat messenger.

The aim is to inspire your imagination. Without enough prompt, nobody writes well. In whatever thing you do (movie / short story / novel), analyze the person or character you are dealing with. Find and think about his traits; try to expand him in your own way; and mix and match the character traits to create your own new ones. Chance is that eventually you will get your coveted character, matching your unique expectations. Once you have the character, you can build upon him.

2. You have no way to move forward (Plot is at a dead end): In the second situation, your characters are at a dead end and you don’t know how to move the story forward. You may sit for hours and seriously think up several ideas to move the story forward, but you discard all of them as regular crap. The fact is that all of them may really be.

In such a situation, finding a solution is a little bit difficult. You have to dedicate time and read a full novel this time. The actual method is to make yourself the narrator of the novel (get into the shoes of the author of the novel you are reading) and anticipate how the novel would go forward as you read it. Do the same thing in a short story. Better, don’t watch any TV shows or films. The reason is obvious. Films go faster and don’t give you time to think on your way.

As you read your novel forward, you will definitely encounter those places where the actual writer might have encountered similar writer’s block. Imagine what he might have done at such a time and what you would do. Then read further. Chances are that you will get a better idea to move the story forward than the original author did. This exercise will trigger your imagination greatly and will give you the possible course of action to take about your story.

Tip: Introduce a new character in such a block.

3. Lack of plot: Though the story is better begun with a character, some writers prefer to start the story from a one-sentence plot. The plot is a difficult thing to dig up. You may think up a million of them and discard all as crap. In such cases, the trick is not to get disappointed. Just understand that even Charles Dickens experienced such problems (perhaps more than you do).

When you don’t have your plot, the best thing to do is get the newspaper and read news stories. Alternatively, go to an online magazine or a news site, find out interesting popular articles, and read them. One of the best sites to read very interesting articles is Fark.com. Find out the content and read some of these articles. Naturally, you will come across a great plot. Chances are that you will come across a truckload of marvelous ideas.

4. Lack of detail: One of the great problems that put off the writers is that their characters lack in detail. They may not be able to feel the character or the situation with all senses. In fiction, it is extremely important to show the situation to the readers. So, having no detail about your scene may put you off. That will cause writer’s block.

The best remedy for this solution is seeing something related to your writing. Go to Google images and search for the images of people similar to your character. Just search for movie scenes (there are plenty of them), or landscapes. Or better, search for any place you have in your writing. For instance, if you are writing about a character that stands in a London street, search for images of London streets; and if you are describing a movie star in a public function, search for "Brad Pitt in Oscar Award Ceremony." Chances are that you will get a fairly good view of what you have to write. And the view will greatly inspire you.

5. When you lack inspiration: In this case, all of the above remedies apply and will give you best results. The reason is that your lack of inspiration springs forth from one of the reasons mentioned already. It may be because you don’t have a character, a plot, or are at a dead end. So, mostly the remedies of them will work just fine here.

These five are the prominent reasons for fiction writer’s block. There is a block affecting non-fiction writers. Since I write a lot of non-fiction, I experience writer’s block occasionally. Even at the time of writing this article, I was experiencing a little non-fiction writer’s block.

Non-fiction Writer’s Block

Since non-fiction is not based on imagination, non-fiction writer’s block is different. You may shout: “What shall I write about? I need a topic!” Yes, you may not have a topic to write about or you may just have exhausted all your topics already.

At this point of time, all the topics you find to write about are either superficial (too many articles written about it or you have nothing new to tell) or unimportant (like review of any rather unimportant program or service). In such a case, getting an article idea is tiresome.

So, the trick in this case is reading news articles. Do not read any general purpose, self-help, or how-to articles at this point of time. Better, don’t read your subscribed blogs at all. Just concentrate on breaking news sites like Cnn.com, Foxnews.com, Reuters.com, etc., (alternatively use Digg) and find news in your niche. Chances are that you will come across something hot, placing a great article idea on your lap. You can concentrate on the hot topic or anything related to it. Do your research and write.


Writer’s block is a pet peeve of all writers. It is universal and no writer is free from it. All they do is inspire their imagination by various means to get out of the block. As you write further, there will definitely be a time when your writing will become tiresome. Having no original ideas may put you off for some time. But the key is never to give up. Try hard and hard to find new ideas, ways to move the plot forward and always be in contact with your characters. Converse with your characters and understand even the tiniest points about them. All the best!

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

2 Opinions:

  1. Great blog i will be visiting regularly.

  2. Thank you very much for this. I've been struggling horribly for the better part of this year. I'm still not sure what the real problem is, but this has helped me a lot. Thanks again!

    - Jessica


Comments are moderated very strictly