Like most creative endeavors, there aren’t many wrong ways to approach writing. As every person is so unique and specialized, it would be silly (and unrealistic) to make troubleshooting so concrete. Rather, I’d rather you approach your writing struggle as something directly linked to your personality. What times of day are you most productive, and what fuels your spirit the most? Follow that, and you most likely can’t go wrong.
But if you somehow find yourself backed into a wall, there are usually some easy fixes to get you back on track and off the struggle bus. This week, I’m outlining some of the most common struggle types that writers complain about, and how to get through them in one piece. But one word of advice to consider, no matter what your issue is would be to take it slow. Be kind to yourself while you learn new ways of telling the stories in your heart. For more about self-care while you’re writing, read this recent article.
Pacing eludes you.
If this is your issue, no worries! Sounds like you just have to slow down a bit. Grant yourself permission to linger a bit longer in a scene. Ask yourself what dimensions you can expand on to squeeze everything possible out of that moment. Maybe you decide to throw in a new love interest sub-plot. Or maybe there’s a massive plot twist sprouting there that you want to water a little bit more. Just like life, a book goes by pretty fast if you don’t stop to enjoy it every once and a while. Take this as your sign to stop and smell the roses in your story (unless they’re poisonous, obviously).
Your characters give you the silent treatment struggle.
Is your main character suddenly tight-lipped? That’s okay, we have ways of making them talk. No, not like that – I meant, there are ways you can approach them to keep the conversation going. One exercise I find particularly amusing is pretending they’re a friend (or enemy) sitting right next to you IRL. What are some questions you would want to ask them if you could? Or, maybe you’d rather just yell at them. That works too! Regardless of your relationship with said character, you can absolutely jot down some things, and then see what they say. Catching them off guard and a bit out of context might be just the ticket to freeing up the secrets they’ve been keeping.
Worldbuilding comes easier to you than the plot development struggle (or vice versa).
This struggle isn’t really an issue, so much as it is a helpful realization of your strengths and weaknesses. For me, I’ve always been good at writing emotional romantic scenes, but fight scenes were a struggle. I eventually learned how to amp up my action scenes to be at least as good as my romantic scenes – but it didn’t happen overnight. The biggest step I took was seeking out the help of a friend to practice writing with. This particular friend had the opposite skill set I had when it came to writing, so we were a perfect match to help each other improve. We challenged each other to swap scenes to beef up the other’s current project, but then we also discussed how we approached each style. One thing I learned about the fight scene concept is that it must read slowly but feel fast. That slight mindset change helped me approach it differently, instead focusing on each individual moment. Sometimes, it’s as simple as switching from a bird’s eye view to a more up-close-and-personal approach.
As for worldbuilding and storytelling, I would recommend the same thing. Find a friend who writes (or enjoys reading) and ask them what they like about the thing that’s been tough for you. Their insight might give you a fresh outlook that allows you to see it with new eyes, and a renewed enthusiasm for the thing you used to hate. But if you still need some tightening in the middle of the story, read this article.
Nothing is coming to you when you sit down to write.
This is a classic case of burnout – and it’s about as fun as it sounds. But don’t fret! The best way out of burnout is to listen to your body, and indulge in some restful lazy time. Been eyeing a book that looks interesting? Grant yourself permission to get lost in a story you don’t have to write. Need some extra sleep to counteract the hours spent hunched over your computer? Now is a great time to get snoozing. Long story short, you can’t develop a new skill when your body is telling you it needs a little TLC. Writing is a holistic endeavor, involving mind, body, and spirit. Don’t forget there’s a whole body below your neck – so take care of it.
As previously mentioned, writing is a magical, creative endeavor. The minute it doesn’t feel right, and you notice a deficit in your skillset, step away and come back. When you get some new tools in your arsenal, you’ll be unstoppable.