One of the greatest struggles any writer will face is the dreaded writer’s block. Like any disaster, it can strike at any time. Whether you’re writing an article, a novel or even a shopping list, sooner or later, writer’s block will stop you in your tracks.
It’s a horrible situation. Your hands grind to a halt and any remnant of a thought slips from your grasp. Both your mind and the page are blank. But if you’re to become a prolific writer, surely you’re going to have to find a way to avoid this frustrating situation. But how?
There are a few things we can do to ensure the thought train chugs smoothly along its tracks and the words continue to fall onto the page. So let’s take a look at three of the most effective ways you can become a more productive writer.
What gets measured gets managed
This famous quote from Peter Drucker is a great piece of advice when applied to many areas of our lives, but it becomes truly powerful when we apply it to our writing.
If you’re only writing when you feel like it, when there’s nothing else to do, or when inspiration strikes, then you’re a long way from being productive. But worry not! This tiny piece of advice can work wonders for your word count.
Try setting a daily and weekly word quota and sticking to it for 4 – 8 weeks and you’ll find the effects to be profound. Not only will you be left with a sizeable wad of writing by the end, but you’ll slowly develop the habit of writing—which as it happens is of particular importance to a writer. You’ll also begin to see yourself as someone who achieves what they set out to do. This will begin to have a snowball effect and give you the confidence and skill set to achieve other goals you set for yourself.
This applies to anything you might write, but particularly novels. Some people like to begin with the end, some with the middle and others … well, at the beginning. Although technically, wherever you choose to begin becomes the beginning. So you see, it doesn’t really matter!
Don’t get hung up on where to start. Just start. The more you practice diving into your writing, the easier it will become. Once you’ve built the discipline of writing, you’ll be able to go through your workload more logically, but for now, start with whatever moves you the most. Write whatever lies closest to the surface.
Keep it to yourself
This is a big one, and something I wish I’d learnt sooner. Have you ever written a scene, a chapter, or even a few chapters, that are you’re so happy with that you just have to show them to someone? Yeah? WELL DON’T!
Ok, wait. Aren’t we supposed to share our craft? Well, yes, but when you’re deciding whether to show someone your work, consider this first; part of the reason we write is the enjoyment it brings those around us and the feedback we receive. If we showcase our work too early, this need can sometimes be satisfied well before our work is finished and any motivation we had to finish the piece can be lost forever. I urge you to hold off on brandishing that finely polished chapter and save yourself for when the work is complete. By doing this, you will retain the motivation necessary to plough on and see your work through to completion, and nothing screams productive like a finished piece of writing!
Writing is hard. But sometimes, it’s only as hard as we make it. If you remember these three steps, writer’s block will be a distant, albeit painful, memory and you could be well on your way to being the next Stephen King. As always, keep writing, keep learning and build a better book.
Peter Turley is a writer, editor, blogger and podcaster living in the North West of England where he grew up. He reads, writes and edits fantasy fiction and co-hosts www.thebookeditorshow.com with Clark Chamberlain. Follow him on Twitter @PDTurley