I know what it's like. You start out with a great idea, you've got all this momentum, you get halfway through your book, and wham! The words just stop flowing. No matter what you do, you can't recapture the shiny newness of that initial creative burst.
I’ve written six books so far in THE CIRCUIT FAE series. Further, I’ve been an editor for a number of small presses, helping authors make their publishing dreams a reality.
Today, I'd like to let you in on my secret of why I'm never really bogged down by writer's block. It's not a magical formula and, no, it doesn't require any blood sacrifices.
As with all writing advice, your individual mileage may vary, but here are some tips that have helped me slog through the word mines, even when motivation was low.
1. Create a habit of writing
We’ve all probably heard the saying “butt + chair = productivity,” and I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a habit of writing.
What this means is that you should strive to write every day. By “write every day,” I don’t necessarily mean you’re constantly shoveling words onto a page. That’s great during your drafting phase, but in later revision phases, you’ll want to take the time to think about your story, maybe do some further research, go back and tweak your outline, and really get the details down.
It’s the habit that’s important. You need to make time in your schedule. This will mean sacrifice. Do you do your best work in the morning? Set that alarm an hour earlier. Do you find yourself bingeing Netflix at night? Use that time to write.
Look for areas of opportunity. Seize them.
2. Break bigger goals into smaller goals
Having daily goals is key. First, because even THINKING about writing a 50,000-word novel is intimidating for anyone. Pro writers alleviate this by splitting that 50,000-word novel into smaller chunks.
Want to write your 50K novel in a month, like in NaNoWriMo? That means you need to write approximately 1700 words/day.
Break those goals into smaller, more manageable chunks, and the job will seem less daunting.
Some examples of good daily goals are: write 500-1000 words, redo my outline, reread and take notes, do research (so long as you don’t fall down any rabbit holes).
Let the stage of the manuscript dictate your goals. When drafting, having daily word count goals is great. When outlining, shoot for outlining 1-5 chapters/day.
3. Accept that you will miss some goals
As we all know, no plan survive contact with the enemy. You will definitely miss some of your goals. That’s just life. Work comes up, friends call, family visits, you get sick.
Or maybe you just have a bad writing day. It happens to all of us. It’s okay.
All these things can really throw a monkey wrench into your daily goals, but guess what? Having daily goals will keep you on track, even when life throws curve balls at you.
For every goal you miss, you’ll have those that you exceed, and mostly, it comes out in the wash. If you miss your goal, you can always tell yourself, “I’ll make it up tomorrow.”
Plus, writing every day keeps you steeped in your novel, thinking about it, and that lets your subconscious really work on it too.
4. Keep inspiration high
Creativity is a tricky thing, and the muse doesn’t always come when she’s called. A good writer doesn’t have time to wait for inspiration to strike. It’s important to surround yourself with things that inspire you.
I keep pictures of my characters near my desk as I write. I also do Pinterest boards for each character concept. When I feel is connected from the characters, I can go back to these for some visual inspiration.
You might also watch movies or read books in a similar vein to your WIP. Or listen to music as you write.
The important thing is this: pay attention to what inspires you.
Did you just have an amazing writing day? Ask yourself why. Was the sun shining and the music playing, and the words just flowed? If so, next time, grab your laptop and head out into that sunny day with your headphones.
Did you have a bad day? Why? Did you keep checking your phone? Maybe put it in the other room or use a Pomodoro app that only lets you access necessary apps.
Continuously examine your process and make adjustments based on your findings. Writing is art, but it's also a little bit of science too.
5. Celebrate small successes
Writing is hard. It’s isolating. It’s frustrating. And at the end, there’s no guarantee of success, sometimes even for established authors. It’s vital that you celebrate your successes, no matter how small.
Did you make your daily goal all week? Celebrate it! Finished a tough chapter? Celebrate! Got 25 words onto the page when all you wanted to do was sleep. You got it—celebrate!
Because, really, in your writing career, there’s always something to freak out about. Before you’re published, you freak out about getting published, then after, you freak out about your reviews. Then, you freak because you have to write Book 2, then you freak out about THOSE reviews.
It can be exhausting.
Enjoying each step, learning from it, and bettering your craft is vital to avoiding jealousy of other authors and preserving your sanity.
And remember: every writer is different. What works for someone else may not work for you. Examining your process is key.
Best of luck! I’m rooting for you!