Do any of these sound like you?
- You’re sitting at your desk and waiting for the words to come, but they just don’t.
- You may know how you want your story to end but you have no idea how to get there.
- You think you’re a pantser but can’t actually seem to “pants” your novel.
- The thought of a white screen terrifies you.
- You think writer’s block is just a thing you’ll always have to deal with.
Sound like you? Then suit up! Put that armor on, grab your choice weapon and get ready to defeat writer’s block once and for all!
Seems like a big promise right? Let me put to rest those doubts that are currently crawling around in your head.
There are those incredibly blessed people that can sit down and hammer out 2,000 words with little planning, but there are also the equally blessed people that can hammer out an entire story’s outline in one day. While I didn’t do my novel’s outline in a single day, I think either approach to writing should be treated equally. If you’re finding pantsing to be a difficult thing, or you’ve accepted the fact that writer’s block is just a thing you have to deal with, then don’t settle!
I’m going to layout exactly how to defeat that white
screen dragon and finally get your novel onto the page!
That blinking vertical line freaks us all out in the beginning. The first step to defeating that anxiety is to change your perception of what that blank page really means. Henceforth I will call this white page “the white dragon.”
Most of us fear the white dragon for one reason: the fear of being judged. We want every word that appears on the screen to be perfect, something we can send straight out to every publisher and get million dollar contracts on. If it’s not million-dollar-contract worthy, you might yourself promptly erasing every sentence you manage to put on the screen.
But why do you feel you’re being judged?
No one (I seriously hope…otherwise you might have a stalker) is looking over your shoulder and reading your raw material. If they are, either call the cops or have a serious sit down with whoever that person may be. You need that freedom to learn what type of writer you are and that’s a very personal thing.
Once you flush the idea out of your mind that you’re a crappy writer if you don’t nail it the first time, you’ll find you actually start to enjoy the practice of writing.
Your white dragon starts to look a little less like a giant flying reptile.
Instead of looking at your screen with fear, you should look at it with wonder and excitement. Your novel is waiting to be written and you’re the only one that can tell it. There’s a certain freedom to knowing that the white page is just your canvas, not your prison. It shouldn’t raise walls between it and your story. It should let you see the whole landscape and wonder at what could be.
And guess what? Your dragon is shrinking and shrinking into a tiny fluff ball.
That is what I mean by turning your white dragon into a white bunny. It’s tiny and cute now and (hopefully) disease-free.
Or better put, make an outline. I know, I know. I said the “O” word. Don’t panic! If you’re not a fan of outlining, believe me, it’s actually fun. No, I’m not crazy, and yes, I did just say outlining is fun.
Think about this: If you’re driving across the country to visit relatives, you don’t just jump in your car and leave. You have to pack, you have to make sure your phone has enough charge for your GPS, you need to board the dogs and you need snacks – simply put, you need a plan. Can some people travel effectively without writing a plan out? Of course! But do they occasionally forget things like their toothbrush? Yes!
Your writing is no different. Constructing a game plan will help tremendously in giving writer’s block the boot.
I thought for a very very long time that I was a pantser. I thought I was a better person because I was a pantser and I was frankly too lazy to try any other route. After reading a million books on the craft of writing, I started to think that maybe these people were onto something. I started to write an outline and then realized that my writing became easier. It was faster when I actually knew what I was writing about beforehand.
“But making an outline takes too long!” Umm, how much time do you think you’re wasting by staring at that White Dragon? A lot.
So how do you make an outline?
First, there’s the word vomit. Put everything you have down in one giant list and then get to organizing that list. Once it makes some sort of story-wise sense, start to expand on those ideas. Play connect-the-dots and join them together. If you know how your novel ends, you can do exercises like outlining from the end to the beginning to see if you come up with anything interesting.
My method involves outlining on flashcards to the scene level then transcribing that to a word document. In the word document I delve into each scene and what happens. Since it’s a much bigger picture, you don’t get stuck on the minute details like you would if pantsing doesn’t work for you.
For more details on outlining, definitely check out the above posts!
Have you already completed the above steps, but still find your writing just won’t come? Then you need to make sure that your writing time and space is distraction free.
This is the area in my life that I’m extremely regimented, because otherwise I know I wont get any writing done. In the beginning especially, don’t allow yourself to use social media while your writing. It’s also helpful to steal away in a room away from other people and pets (as long as someone else is there to care for them of course!).
But what if you like the idea being in a public place or sipping coffee at a café while you write? Don’t worry, this is just temporary! Once you’re able to slay the white dragon consistently, you’ll be able to trust yourself to be in public or with your loved ones and still get your writing in.
This is a strange analogy, but a lot of people own dogs. If you’ve ever trained your dog to do a trick, you make sure that they can’t fail in the beginning. You make it super easy for them, and gradually add in distractions until they’re able to walk right past food while maintaining eye contact with you. You need to do the same thing with your writing!
Everyone that’s starting out needs to train their creative minds to focus on the paper. So make it easy on yourself and make sure you’re in an environment where you can’t fail.
I practiced this particular tip during both Camp NaNo and regular NaNo. By the end of November, I was able to graduate to having distractions. I like noise in the background besides music. I like staring off into space to think, but usually you need something to stare at to do that. Plus, I’m just needy. I like to be around my loved ones at all times, including writing time.
Side note: dictation is awesome for learning to ignore distractions. It’s harder to check your social media when you’re pacing the room and talking into a microphone. I’m going to release a dictation series here shortly, so let me know if you have any questions you want me to answer!
What makes you want to be a writer? For most of us, it’s that we love stories. We love getting lost in another world and at some point, we’ve had some brilliant idea for a story pop into our minds. For the first draft, you should be writing purely for your enjoyment. What do you think would make the most interesting story? Write it without any shame. If others don’t agree with something in your writing, then that’s what the whole editing process is for! Push it out of your mind and focus on what you want.
For this reason, you may find a project that you’re just no longer passionate about. Sometimes, it’s as easy as changing up a few things, adding more subplots or characters. But other times you may just want to ditch the thing. It’s okay to walk away. Don’t force yourself to write something you don’t want to write anymore. If you want to set it aside for some time and work on another project, then that’s okay! Having a passion for your story makes you eager to tell it, which makes it easier to get that first draft out there!
While we’re on first drafts, no writer’s first draft will be seen by anyone unless you want them to see it – stop thinking that your work has to immediately be perfect. You might go through one or four or six edits by the time you may have anyone else ever start to read a page, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s kind of the standard.
It’s normal to have insecurities about your writing but it’s important to understand that it’s not permanent. We’re not chiseling our stories in stone, never to touch them again. They’re malleable and flexible things.
Remember, only you can turn your white dragon into a white bunny and you should rejoice at the creative freedom that a white page gives you.
So to reiterate:
- Get rid of your writing fears
- Make an outline
- Eliminate distractions
- Remember, it’s your story!
That’s all I have for ya’ll this week! This is literally an issue I don’t ever worry about anymore, and these were the things I personally did to get there. Since I know ahead of time what I want to write about, it’s easy for me!
Please let me know what writing tips you all have and how you overcome your writer’s block. Is this something you worry about at all? How do you think it relates to your being a pantser or a plotter?