How do you get unstuck and keep on writing. Eight tips.

Do you ever get stuck with your writing? I bet you do. Here are the strategies I use to ensure I keep pushing on.

1. Reread a chapter or two. Sometimes I sit down at the computer to write the next chapter or to finish off a scene and nothing comes. My fingers hover over the keyboard, refusing to type that first word. That’s when I scroll back ten pages and start reading. By the time I get to the end, my head is full of the story and I’m usually ready to push on.

2. Walk it out.

My dogs need walking twice a day. They demand it. I start walking, watching the dogs, appreciating the tropical scenery and as if a switch is flicked, my mind takes off plotting the next part of my story or bouncing dialogue between my characters. Distracted by my competing plot twists, I sometimes lose the dogs and have to back track to find them, but that’s okay. it gives me more time to think out plot issues.

3. Talk to fellow writers.

I’m in the Ubud Writers Group and we meet once a week. At these meetings we share our work and get feedback. I often start my presentation by saying, “I’m not sure if this works. I want your ideas.” The other writers listen as I read, following their print-outs and when I’m finished, the real work begins. Comments like, “Where’s the tension?” “Everyone’s too nice.” “Bess and Anne sound too similar.” “No one reads happy-happy.” and “Where’s a dramatic event?”, make me rethink what I’ve written. Blockages removed, I revise and improve the work I’ve presented.

4. Read.

Reading’s always a good idea whether you’re stuck or not. Pick up a book and start reading. It will give you ideas on how other writers structure their work. If you’re really stuck, maybe it’s time to pick up Stephen King’s book, On Writing. This will inspire you.

5. Just write, delete and write some more. I write from 4 to 6 most mornings. Some days the words don’t flow, but I’m up, out of bed, seated at my computer and I must write. This is my writing time. So I force myself to use these precious two hours. Uninspired, the prose may be lousy, but at least the words are recorded and I have something to work with.

6. Squeeze into a crowded cafe, listen and take notes.

I use this strategy when stuck on dialogue or if I’m developing the voice of a new character. Sipping coffee, I eavesdrop on people’s conversations and record snippets of real dialogue, and their non verbal interactions. I’m 63 and this is particularly helpful when my story contains younger characters. Surrounded by twenty-year-olds I listen to their way of speaking and interacting and record snippets of it.

7. Look at one of my notebooks or journals.

I think most writers have notebooks and journals where they record life’s happenings, good ideas, interesting facts, expressions and the ‘you really can’t make this shit up’ scenarios. I’ve got notebooks filled with these scratching and sometimes skim through one of them, seeing if something will spark the creative juices. And it often does. Try it.

8. Ring mum.

And when all else fails, I ring my Mum. At ninety-three, she’s still my number one supporter and can be relied on to say, “You can do it, Lovey. Tell me where you’re up to.” I do and then she says, “Have you thought of…” or “Wouldn’t Bess be more hard-arsed than that?” Loved, encouraged and prodded, I return to my keyboard and write.

What strategies do you use to get unstuck and to keep on writing? I’d love to hear what works for you.

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