3 Quick Tricks to Beat Writer’s Block and Finish Your Novel

This article presents 3 creative writing assignments, with a multitude of variations and examples, to help a struggling novelist get moving again. The tips include ways to delve deeper into the work and find hidden issues in the plot or character development, while at the same time getting the creative juices flowing.

How many writers have part of a novel sitting idly, nagging to be completed? All writers know the painful difference between writing when ideas and words are flowing freely and trying to force a few more words onto the page when they are not. Even when a writer diligently prepares and knows the plot from beginning to end before writing, writer's block can bring everything to a halt without warning. Here are some stress-free activities to get back in the flow.

1. Record yourself

Sometimes the easiest way to tell the story is just to tell it. After all, every narrative tradition starts with the spoken story. Tell the story aloud from beginning to end. There are plenty of apps that can be used to record it. When you listen to the recording, look for pace, logic, and suspense. The story, even its most synoptic form, should pull the listener forward. Listen also to the voices of the characters. If you developed the characters fully, their voices and speech patterns ought to be discernible. To go even deeper, tell the story from a specific character's point of view. For more input, share the recording with a friend, editor, or writer's circle.

2. Hand your characters the pen (or keyboard)

If you are struggling with a specific character's actions or a particular relationship, let the characters work it out themselves. There are many flexible ways to do this. It can be as simple as writing a diary or journal entry as that character. Perhaps you can write a series of letters or emails between two characters. Fast forward several years or decades beyond the end of your story and imagine one or more of your characters recounting the events to a friend. Write a mysterious letter a character leaves behind for his heirs at the reading of his will. Take your characters completely outside the realm of the story you are writing and see how they behave and what they do in a different place and time.

3. Do something other than writing

To get another perspective on the same idea, have each major character perform the same task or answer the same question. This exercise will highlight how well defined each character is. Keep it short and straightforward. For example, if set your story in a small suburban town,
have every character write a letter to the editor about the difficulty finding parking downtown or cuts to the high school arts programs.

After sitting at your desk for hours at a time, it can help massively to take a break and mentally “reset”, then start a new writing stint. 

Showering, going for a walk, and preparing a nutritious meal are tasks that most people would agree are easier than writing a novel — but they can all help give you space to daydream and make creative connections that you might otherwise miss. Just lather, rinse, and repeat until you’ve kicked that block to the curb!

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