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Avoid Writer's Block in Fiction Writing in Six Easy Steps

Updated on December 15, 2017
cygnetbrown profile image

Cygnet Brown graduated magna cum laude from Argosy University. She is an author of twelve books and a long-time gardener.

Why I Never Had Writer's Block.

Don't hate me, but I have never had a writer's block. Never. I always have something to write about. If you read on, you may discover why I don't and the how I avoid getting writer's blocks.

I don't let word counts dictate what I am writing on any given day. Instead, I decide where and what I am going to work on that day and what direction I want the story to move.Although I have a word count that I am working toward, I know that it is great story lines, not word counts that move fiction along.

Step One: Write Down Questions, Then Sleep On It

I ask questions the night before a writing session. Let’s say that I'm just starting to develop a plot for my book. I begin my initial writing session by exploring where I expect my book to start and where it ends. I begin exploring the characters that will be developed in my story. I discover who they are, and their motives. I write down everything I think I know about my book. I then look at what I have written and ask myself questions that I want to begin to answer in my next writing session. This is critical. This prevents me from having to face a blank piece of paper next time I sit down to write. Plus it gives me something to mull over the next 24 hours or so before I sit down to write another word.

When I give myself enough time to ask questions about my following writing session, I may not think about my book consciously during that time. However,my subconscious mind will be mulling over those questions while I'm going about my day car pooling, cleaning house, going to college, going to work, or whatever else I do during the day. I might even dream about my story line.

The next day I sit down and write whatever answers I can come up with for those questions. Some of it might be good, some of it might not be, but I write everything that comes to mind during that writing session. Next, I read it over and remove anything that I know doesn't belong in my story.

Step Two: I Write What I know Right Now

I determine what I think I know about my book and write it down. If I have a scene in mind, I write it down, if I have a character that I want to develop, I write down everything I know about that character. If I have any questions about anything that I are writing, I write down the question and go on with what I know. If there is anything I want to research, I write down what I want to research, but I don't do the research yet, I do it after I have written down everything that I know for today. I don't worry about what I don't know. I write down what I do know. If I don't know how to start my story, I write an action scene that I have a good idea about what is going to happen. If I know the ending, I write down how I think it will end. It may not end there, but at least if gives me an idea. The beauty of the whole process is being able to put down in words at least something close to what you want to say.

Step Three: I Save Editing for Later

I avoid editing too much in the beginning. I don't edit during the first draft. I write whatever comes into my head. I don't worry worry about grammar or spelling (although I am pretty good at both). instead I keep going. If I decide to change the beginning, I'll make a note that I want to change the beginning and might even write a different beginning, but I don't edit out the original until I am into rewrites. This keeps me from getting bogged down in the process.

This is one of the reasons I like NaNoWriMo so much for writing my first draft. The object of the whole month is to get the whole first draft written in a month. There's no time to edit the first draft. The object of the month is to get the story down and develop the base of the story line, characters, dialog, scenes, etc. Editing comes later.The way I look at it, during NaNoWriMo my editor is on vacation.

Step Four: Realizing that a Story Doesn't Have to Start At the Beginning

I know I don't have to start my book at the beginning. Thanks to my word processing program on my computer, I don't have to write my stories exactly how I expect them to appear in print. I can start with what I know today. If I know what my protagonist looks like, I can write out his description. If I know a specific scene between my antagonist and protagonist I egg the fight on. If I think I know every detail of your final scene, there's no rule that says that I can't write it, I can fill in the plot later. I simply write what I think I know today. I can rearrange the material as I go.

Step Five: The Story is Not Written In Stone

I am not, however, afraid to explore alternative ideas. In my first book, I wrote several different ways to begin my book. In the first place I started when Drusilla and her father met Kanter on the ship. In another version I began the story when Kanter and Drusilla promised to marry one another. I cut all those out and decided to start the story just before Codman's murder. Those earlier moments are in the book in flashbacks.

Go With the Flow

I don't worry about what I don't know. I simply believe in the process. I didn't necessarily have to know the end of the book either before I got started writing book. In my second book, I initially didn't know how to end it. I couldn't picture Elizabeth going back to England with Phillip, but at the same time, I couldn't see Phillip giving up his career as an Officer of the King's Own either. While I still had the question out there, I continued to write the story hoping that the end would come. One day, it dawned on me how I knew the story had to end. The answer to the story's likely ending was already foreshadowed at the beginning of the story! As soon as I saw the ending I knew it had to end that way, and I believe that anyone who reads the books will draw the same conclusion. I don't think I would have come up with such a compelling ending if I hadn't allowed it to be created organically through the interactions and development of the characters.

Step Six: Write Regularly

I keep writing regularly so that I keep up the writing momentum. I have developed a habit of writing on a daily basis, but I know that not everyone can write every day. However, if you write what you know and write down questions for your next session at the end of your current session, you'll always have something to write every time you sit down at the computer.

Find what works well for you and begin writing. It doesn't matter what you write, writing anything is better than writer's block. If you write something, you will have something to edit later.

© 2012 Cygnet Brown


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    • janemanthorpe profile image

      Jane Manthorpe 

      23 months ago from Nelson, New Zealand

      This is very helpful, I love the ask questions and sleep on it, this I am going to use to get the creative juices following. Questions go direct to the subconscious to workout an answer. Also, working out of order on bits you are confident to write about makes sense to get you in the writers zone. Good stuff and thanks for sharing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      This is extremely useful information, and it applies to any type of writing, not just to fiction writing. While reading your tips, I realized that I do similar things. So I know it works with non-fiction too.

      In a similar fashion to how you explained to write your questions so you have something to answer in another writing session, I tend to keep notes of questions to expand on later. It works well and writer's block never has a chance.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      You're welcome Schoolmom24. As I said, I look forward to seeing more of your work as it comes out!

    • Schoolmom24 profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon

      Great many times I try editing everything from day 1, which not only slows me down, it slows down the whole creative process. Also, I have heard such great things about NaNoWriMo and really want to finally check that out!

      Voted up and useful. Oh, and thank you so much for stopping by today at my short story and and your kind words!


    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      8 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Deep Metaphysical, It already exists. It exists in your mind.

    • Deep Metaphysical profile image

      Deep Biswas 

      8 years ago from India

      I will Cygnet, let's see what happens. If it's meant to be it'll be. Peace and blessings to you.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      8 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I hope I have helped you, Deep Metaphysical! I am impressed with how much you got done in just a few days. If I were you, I definitely would go back and read what you wrote and at the same time ask yourself (and your characters) a few questions to get your muse interested in the process again! Please let me know how it goes!

    • Deep Metaphysical profile image

      Deep Biswas 

      8 years ago from India

      I do suffer from the block once in a while, they're mostly short termed, but when they go I get this immense pressure of making up for the lost time. I am working on this novel, 70% of the story was done in a matter of 7-8 days, because I was in a flow. Now, after 6 months, no further progress. I will try out some of your tips. :)

    • ashleeosborn profile image


      8 years ago

      Will do! I started a book a long time ago and got stuck within the first two chapters. I'm guessing my problem was trying to write it all chronologically. I'm definitely going to dive back into it using your method.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      8 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I hope this advice does help you in your writing! Let me know how it goes, okay?

    • ashleeosborn profile image


      8 years ago

      Fantastic! I've always had a terrible struggle with writers block. I think I'm going to find these tips incredibly helpful in my writing. Thank you.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      8 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Thank you Pagesvoice for your comment. I'm glad that you found my article useful.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 

      8 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up, useful and interesting. You did a great job of breaking down the mental and writer's block that can cause some people to not write at all. I too do not suffer from writer's block. I especially liked your idea about not having an ending when you start writing. I guess if we get caught up in the characters and the plot, eventually the natural ending will come to us. I really enjoyed this article.


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