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Defense Against the Dark Arts – Writer’s Block Edition

Help! I’m Stuck at 10K Words!

First of all, don’t panic. Ten thousand words is nothing to sneeze at and you’re well on your way towards a complete novel. In fact, congratulations are in order.

Normally when my brain stops sending typing instructions to my fingertips or my mouth when I’m using dictation it’s because there is something my gray matter is still working on. Some piece of information is missing, like what comes next or what should the main character do now that she’s up to her neck in quicksand.

Here are some techniques I use to get through what some folks call “writer’s block”:

Time Travel

Pick a different chapter of your novel and start writing. If your protagonist is in quicksand now, you know she’ll get out somehow and get to the town of Quadloon because she has to confront Emperor Eviljerk. Feel free to leave her hanging (don’t worry, she won’t mind) and just jump to where she walks into Quadloon. Continue the story from that point. Eventually your brain will come up with that missing piece plus some fantastic bridge between the two points and you can go back and fill that section in later.

Ballpark answer for this is writing does not have to be a linear progression. Remember, this is a first draft. Things will change due to edits or some grand idea you discover while you’re writing. You need to get your manuscript first draft down into an editable format before you can polish and tweak plot holes.

Dimension Travel

Can’t figure out anything that is supposed to happen to your hapless characters without getting her out of that quicksand? Are you a dedicated pantser and have to let the characters dictate what happens next? That’s certainly one of the perils of not planning anything out at all.

There’s nothing in the rules that says you have to work on one manuscript at a time. If you had another idea for a novel or novella in your head, go ahead and start writing that one. It would be best if it was a different genre, but work with what your brain hands you. Even if you get stuck at ten thousand words with a second novel, you will most likely discover that your brain has figured out what was missing and you’re ready to dive back into the first one. Perfectly legal and valid to do so! The idea is to keep you in the habit of writing.

Form Travel

You can always switch out to writing some short stories or articles if you need to give your brain some time to work on the loose ends. Indeed, ending up with ten 5K stories should up your odds to getting one or more published after a bit of polish. Worst-case scenario is you can use them as giveaways for your newsletter or as perks for signing up.

I always use short stories or articles as palate cleansers between writing chunks of novels. It gives me time to process my longer works so I never have writer’s block. I’m always writing something. For me, that’s a win-win!

Guy Anthony De Marco

Guy Anthony De Marco, MFA, is an Italian-American speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker® and Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; a poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; a disabled US Navy veteran, and a coffee addict. One of these is false. A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, IAMTW, ITW, RWA-PRO, WWA, SFPA, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA, IBPA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia.

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