Writing Through a Slump

Hi, should have done this last week, but motivation to do things when nothing seems to be happening is difficult. Speaking about motivation, let’s look at the difference between a slump and writer’s block.  

A slump is when your writing slows down or drops in quality, and it is a general malaise. Nothing is working, everything is garbage.  What I do in a slump is write through it, then look at my mistakes and try to learn from them. Taking a day off isn’t a bad idea, but stay away from your writer’s garret too long and you’ll have trouble returning.  The other thing is to pay attention to what is going on in life around your writing. The pandemic, for instance, has made it hard for me to get going on my writing tasks for the day. Even though my life isn’t that terribly different than it was. You aren’t going to be able to fix everything, so maybe consider writing about what is haunting you instead of ignoring the ghost at the banquet.

A writer’s block, at least in my mind is very specific. I’m stuck at this particular scene. I’ve tried it twelve different ways and I still can’t make it work. The mind is blank, or at least fuzzy. The reason I suggest writer’s block is specific is it isn’t about being able to write, but being able to imagine. That makes it different from a slump. So what do I do about writer’s block? My first thing is to go to the story structure. If I can’t come up with a scene it is very often because I haven’t laid the groundwork.

K.M.Weiland ‘Making Writers into Authors’ blogger is a genius at explaining story structure.  (google her) If I’ve missed a plot point, or jumped over the inciting incident, my plotting brain calls a halt. But it also may be that classic actor’s question. What is the motivation? Have I established why the character is doing this? Does my character know? Does the reader know? Do I know? Action follows motivation, if you get it turned around it could lead to a dead end. Another problem may be you aren’t writing the story you think you are writing. I have heard it said that Erin Morgenstern starting working on a book, but the characters didn’t want anything to do with it, they wanted to run away to the circus. She listened to the characters, the result is The Night Circus.

With writer’s block taking a walk, changing up what you are writing are also effective methods to get past it.

As a professional writer, I am expected to produce stories, if I stop, I’m no longer a writer. Though I publish my own books, I have deadlines to meet decisions to make about where a series is going. So I rarely take more than day off unless it’s a planned vacation. Oddly, I enjoy my vacations better when I want to write, but don’t because I need rest.