Writer’s block, the bane of a writer’s life. The only way to overcome it is to just write something down. Don’t think about whether it’s good or bad, wonderful or horrible, just write it. You can fix it later, but don’t even think about that now.

#You can’t edit what you haven’t written. You do have thoughts in your head. They maybe buried deep, but they’re there. Let them out.

First a don’t, then a lot of dos:

  • Don’t self-censor when writing the first draft. At this point you don’t know what’s good or bad, and you also don’t know exactly where the story will take you and what your characters are going to do, even if you are a plotter. Just go with it.
  • Do lower your standards. You don’t have to find the perfect word right now—you can do that when you edit. Get the thought down. First drafts have no standards. Anything goes.
  • Do keep a notebook handy when you’re writing, and if you think of something that needs to go in later or earlier, just jot it done quickly, and continue on with what you were doing. You can go back during your next session and put those things in. Or you can refer to it later to jog your memory about something you thought would be good later on.
  • Do start anywhere in the narrative, wherever the mood strikes. You can put it in the right spot later on. You can use a program like Scrivener to help you.
  • Do ask yourself what could happen next. List at least five things. Pick the strangest/funniest/most unexpected.
  • Do ask yourself what-if. What-if the main character did such and such? What if so-and-so arrived unexpectedly. What if a bomb went off?
  • If all else fails, ask for help from a writing buddy or someone else you know who often has good ideas.

Here are some famous writers who had writer’s block: Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, and Ernest Hemingway.

Anyone have other ideas that have helped you out of a writer’s block?


For editing.

My system, and I know from hearing it from lots of other writers, is to just write. No planning, or not much of one.

But even with an outline, a lot of fluff is going to go into the manuscript that is unnecessary, boring, unclear, or for some other reason needs a good edit.

I learned about cutting ten percent when doing lots of short stories. I like the idea because it’s a straightforward way to edit. And it works.

First, you finish the piece and type “the end” at the end. Then you read through it and cut out every single word that isn’t needed.

They lurk around as modifiers where a stronger noun or verb would work better. They hang out at the end of sentences in trailing prepositional phrases. Sometimes they’re completely unnecessary sentences. Or even paragraphs.

Sometimes you just need to change the phrasing so it’s cleaner and clearer. I find this true when listing action taken. I might start with one action and tack on a phrase like “after she did such and so.” Such and so would have been better at the beginning of the sentence. And might help eliminate a few words such as “after she did.”

I admit, this becomes harder to do the more you write because you begin to edit yourself as you go. But this is a good thing. You will write faster, have to edit less, and have a much better story to show for it with less effort.

So, take a short story, old or new, or a chapter from a novel you’ve written or are writing. Write down the word count, go at it, and then see what the count is after your first pass-through. Not ten percent? You aren’t working hard enough. Go through it again. It’s taken me, sometimes, three or four passes to hit the ten percent mark. But when I do, the story or chapter is always better. Every time.