Writers Block

by Melody
(Troy, New York, USA)

Question: Whenever I start a book, I just give up on it and start a new one. If it is possible, how do I write a story without getting writer's block? Since I'm only eleven.

Answer: It takes a lot of self-discipline to write a novel--as you are discovering. In fact, very few people of any age have that level of discipline. So don't be frustrated with yourself. It will get easier with practice.

Some writers spend years writing short stories before they try a novel, because it is easier to hold an entire short story in your imagination as you work on it, and you can finish a short story much faster, while your inspiration is still fresh.

Because novels are bigger stories, they have a lot more elements (plotlines, subplots, characters, ideas, information about the setting, etc.) to keep track of. The inspiration and excitement you have when you write the first chapter can fade a little by the time you get to chapter five, or chapter ten. This is especially true if you discover that some of the choices you made in the early chapters are starting to contradict themselves or are getting in the way of what you want your characters to do. You may spend so much time trying to keep track of everything that you lose sight of the ideas and emotions that inspired you in the first place.

Also, you may discover that the path between the beginning of the story and the end is not as clear when you're writing the middle. Sometimes, the end of the story is like a mountain. At the start of the story, it's like you're standing on a plateau and you can see the mountain clearly in the distance, so you know where you're going. But between the plateau and the mountain is a dark forest. Once you get into that forest, you can't see the mountain any more. All the paths look the same. They twist and turn. And it's not easy to see which path will actually take you in the right direction. Some times you get an idea that's like a new path opening up, but it turns out to be a dead end and you're left in a place where you're not sure how to get back on track.

These are some of the reasons most writers say
that every story goes wrong in the second act.

One thing that can help is to write an outline of the novel before you start. An outline is a summary of the entire novel from start to end, but is only a few pages long. It serves as a roadmap, so when you get stuck and you're not sure where the story should go, the outline can remind you what should happen next.

In fact, writing an outline is a great way to make sure your story makes sense and feels exciting before you start the actual writing.

You can revise the outline if you get new ideas, but you should make sure you always have an outline that tells the complete story from beginning to end in a way that makes sense and feels exciting.

The other advantage to having an outline is that you don't have to think about the entire story at once. You can just focus on one small part at a time and know that all the parts will fit together in the end because they are all described in the outline.

In fact, if you get stuck on one part of the story, you can skip ahead and work on a different part. Later, you can go back and fill in the missing part.

One other tip: if you find you are getting bored by the story, take some time to play around with different ideas. Ask yourself, "What if this happened instead? What if this happened? What if my character does this? What would be more exciting?" Write down all the possibilities that come to mind, even the crazy ones that you know you won't use. (Sometimes playing around with crazy ideas can lead you to the next brilliant idea if you don't reject them right away.)

After you write down every idea you can think of, leave the project alone for a day. Then go back and read your ideas and see if you don't find a more exciting path for your story to take. Usually, the more excited you are about your story, the easier it is to write and the more exciting it will be for the reader.

(Note: I use the word "exciting" here, but a better term might be "emotionally engaging." It's a feeling that makes you want to keep reading/writing the story.)

Best of luck.

Comments for Writers Block

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by: Brian Parkin

I agree totally about the need for a novel outline! I am in the process of writing my second novel and my first with the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. I am up to 26,000 words of my 50,000 words in one month challenge. Without an outline, I would be stumbling and lost. Thank you for the tips on Writers Block.

My tips on this.
by: Jacob

Something I started doing was creating files on the computer that I use to type. I have a character list and short description, armor and weapon for the characters through each chapter (in case they drop or change), any unique words I have created and a timeline to keep track of how old each character.

When I need to remember what a character looks like that may be absent from the book for a period of time I can refer back to the character list. When I need to know what I named a river, that I made up, I have the important words file.

The part I have benefited
by: Elliot

I like the part which you made mention, that of living the project after coming up with a certain idea and getting back on it the next day. More especially when facing writers block. The entire idea helps in freshening up the brain and coming up with new ideas all diverting the idea into a much better one. Thanks for the practical tips.

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