8 Different Types of Writer’s Block

This entry is part 4 of the series Writer's Block

Five weeks ago I confessed . . . I had writer’s block. I mean, real writer’s block. I couldn’t write three words that made sense. After fighting this malady for several weeks (before I confessed) I decided to research the topic. So I turned to the best of all research buddies – Google! I didn’t know at the time how much there was to read about the topic, or that there were different types of writer’s block. I wanted to know what I could do to overcome it.

I enjoyed what I learned so much that I decided to share it with you. And wham! No more writer’s block.

We discussed whether you believed in Writer’s Block and looked at  some of the causes.

Next, we looked at 12 Ways to Deal with Writer’s Block, reading the opinion of 12 well-known authors.

The following post we came up with 17 Ways to Prevent Writer’s Block from happening.

Then the post before this one we looked at 26 Quotes from Best-selling Authors on the topic of Writer’s Block.
QuestionSo what more is there to say? Well, I’ve discovered in my research that there are different types of Writer’s Block. This should probably have been #2 in the series of course, but hey! I’m learning as I go, and I hope you’re coming with me. As we look at the different types, I hope to add one or two suggestions for dealing with them.

1. No Inspiration

You can’t come up with inspiration. You have just no idea what to write about. This was my problem. You just sit at the screen, then pop onto Facebook to see if anyone there has a suggestion. Of course, that probably ends your writing for the day as you catch up on all the wonderful things other unblocked writers have to say. This, I have been told, is the easiest writer’s block to cure.The ideal solution is to look up these sites or books that give you exercises to get you writing. They evidently do help, because they take away the fear that you won’t be able to write well on the topic. It doesn’t matter if you write well or you write total garbage because no one is going to read it, right?

Writing exercises are a quick easy fix to this writer's block Click To Tweet Writing exercises are a quick easy fix to this writer’s block

2. Your idea hits the dirt

You have an idea, a really good one, but then your enthusiasm peters out. The story stalls, and like many of the airplanes on Mayday! it plunges to the ground and breaks to pieces. You have no idea why you thought you could write the story in the first place. It has a beginning and maybe even a middle, but it has no ending. In my experience, I can write myself ragged, but once that story is stalled, it’s on the ground. I end up leaving it there in the hope that one fine day, inspiration will hit and show me how to start the engines again. And I’d rather it didn’t take forty-seven attempts—the number of times Ernest Hemingway wrote his ending to Farewell to Arms.

3. Your plan has a leak

You have a great beginning and possibly a good ending, and you have a plan. But somewhere along the line, the story hits a ditch. Perhaps a character refuses to do what you, the author, are telling him to do. Maybe you have a crisis that you can’t figure out. One way that can help is to concentrate on the parts you do know, and hope they will eventually build a bridge and you’ll suddenly see how the characters get from point A to point C. Another thought is perhaps the character has it right, and you need to give him his head and allow him to take over the story for a few minutes. He might surprise you. Perhaps you started with a promise of 10 ways to cure writer’s block—and you can only think of 9.  Well then—change your title!

4. You’ve run out of steam

You’ve followed your plan but now you’re stuck. Initially, the story has poured out onto the computer screen. It’s been great. Perhaps you’ve heard that a good way to end your day’s work is to stop midsentence and close your computer for the day. That seemed fine, but the next day you have no idea what you intended to write or how to complete the sentence. So you’re sitting with a beginning, a middle and no end. I once wrote a NaNoWriMo novel that did exactly that. I wrote as fast as my fingers would allow me to, then all of a sudden I had no clue how to finish the story. Of course, being NaNo, I couldn’t leave it on the shelf for a couple of months. I had to finish it, so I did—with a pathetic ending. One of the pieces of advice NaNo leaders give if that happens is to kill off someone! If that sounds a bit drastic, introduce some crisis, let someone take a wrong turning, or catch the wrong bus. Introduce something new and problematic. If you’re writing a non-fiction piece and you run out of ideas, you can take the topic (as I have done with Writer’s Block) and look at it from all different angles. Choose one of them and write about it. You can always take it out later if your muse returns and you no longer like the added portion.

5. You’re stuck on your outline

curved road sign

Image courtesy of nitinut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have a good plan for your story, but it’s not working. Some writers are Seat of the Pants (SOTP) writers. They start with a situation and they just write until the story works out (hopefully!) But others plan out their story, and maybe that’s you. You know what’s going to happen at each step along the road. Then suddenly, the story’s not working. Sit down and read it through. Often it’s better to print it out and relax in a comfortable chair with a red pen in your hand. You may find you’ve moved off the plan. Or it could be there’s a flaw in the plan. Go back to where you lost the plot, and copy and paste the story or article after that point into a new document and save it under another name. Now start over with the problem part and try taking it in a different direction.

Characters have a mind of their own, and sometimes the best thing you can do is let them decide on the next action. Click To Tweet

6. Your characters are doing nothing

Your characters are well defined but they’re doing nothing. They’re all such nice people! But the story is going nowhere. You have several options here:

  • You can kill one of them off then see how your other characters scramble to get the story moving again.
  • You can throw a crisis at one of them and watch how your other characters try to help the one in trouble, or
  • you can prompt one or two of them to use the crisis to their own advantage.
  • One other option is to bring in another character with a problem that involves one or more of the existing cast members.

7. You’ve taken a wrong turning

It wasn’t your character that took a wrong turning. It was you. You suddenly realize your story should have gone in a different direction. Perhaps your non-fiction article about a historical ship in the harbor has got sidetracked onto discussing the cranes working around the ship. Maybe your hero has fallen for the wrong girl. Stop where you are and give yourself a day or two to think before taking drastic action. It could be that you are right where you should be, and your initial plan was wrong. Or perhaps you need to take out the whole section you feel is wrong and save it under a title you will recognize. Don’t, whatever you do, press delete! It could be that in a few weeks or months, you’ll receive inspiration to write an article or story using that very material. Or you might even find you need that section later in the story.

8. You’ve hit a dead end

You realize the  story that seemed so good actually sucks. No one will ever read it. It’s boring. There’s nothing new in the article. It’s all been done before. You struggle to add more excitement or to make a character more interesting. You look for just the right word or a more vivid way to say what you want. But really? You’re wasting your time. Maybe you are, and you need to give it a new title and save it. (Remember? Don’t delete!) I can’t tell you how many half-written articles I have on my hard-drive. One day, I may just find the inspiration to take one of them out and write them into a story, or even a blog post. Before you decide this, however, take a day or two away from it. Work on something else, or read a good book. Then look at it again. You may spot what has gone wrong and you’ll be off again.

Do you struggle with any of these different types of writer’s block? Or have you a different problem? Have you found a solution? Do leave a comment below.

10 comments on “8 Different Types of Writer’s Block

    • Hi Lisa,
      I’m so glad you’re finding these posts inspirational. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you find the key that will give you a nudge in the right direction.

  1. I get good ideas all the time, and one of two things happens. I either lose them before I get the chance to do anything with them, or I start doing something with an idea and I don’t know how to take it to an ending.
    I have all sorts of beginnings with no endings sitting in my virtual drawer.
    On a bad week, all I need to do is remind myself of my struggle to find endings and, voila — I don’t even start. Because, if I can’t end it, what’s the point in starting it?

    • Thanks for your visit, Tracey. I think finding beginnings with no endings is a curse of writers! Sometimes it’s best to just write those beginning anyway, regardless of where they’re going, and often when you reach that point, you can see how to end. (I did say “often!” I have many beginnings and middles awaiting their endings! 🙂 )

  2. I find that I have good ideas, but I’m a day late. As soon as I start writing about something -wham- I find that someone just wrote about it. I finally realized that everything has been written before, I just need to write it my way and not worry.

    • Yes, you’re right, Lori. It’s all been done before. But your own take on the topic will be different to all the others, so write on!

  3. Isn’t it interesting all the different variations? I sometimes have problems with number one but, because I don’t write fiction stories, the others don’t quite apply to me. I do sometimes get the started but lost enthusiasm issue. What I have the most trouble with currently is that I have lots of ideas, but am feeling stressed & overwhelmed so I struggle to focus and get started.

    • I totally get that, especially when you’re “helped along” by little people. I always think there’s a good reason I didn’t start writing until the babies were all grown up and out of the house! I so admire mothers of young children who find time to write. I don’t know how you do it! Thanks for the visit.

  4. Thanks for the visit, Leanne. I was right in the middle of an e-book plus keeping two blogs running, when I went for knee replacement surgery. Two weeks later I was rushed to the hospital to have my gall bladder removed! The double whammy threw me into total writer’s block! I honestly couldn’t form one sentence. I seriously thought of giving up writing. Then I decided to research writer’s block on the web and that started me writing again. I’ve finished my book and I’m keeping up with both blog posts.

  5. Wow – so many ways to end up at a road block and have no idea where to turn! I’m sticking with blog posts – at least they are more flexible and no characters refusing to co-operate with me! Nice to see that writers block has inspired you so much Shirley!

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