“If there’s one overriding piece of advice I’d offer anyone in the throes of writer’s block, it’s this: Don’t think! Once you know what you’re going to say, just go for it. Write fast, write badly, write fearlessly. Remember, it’s a draft, not a book. Every mistake can be fixed, every awkward sentence revised. So let yourself fly! Don’t analyze. Don’t compare. Don’t imitate. Don’t think. Run through that desert, and put it behind you.”
Molly Cochran knows a thing or two about getting words down on the page and into print: She’s the author of 20 novels and has won a host of awards including The Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award (www.mollycochran.com). In “5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block” featured in the Writer’s Digest online newsletter, Molly offered pithy pointers on getting back in gear if you’re stalled on the page:
1. Problem: Indecision. Solution: Outline your next scene. Sometimes we’re not sure how to handle the next scene in our story. “Should it be presented as pure narrative? Through dialogue? As a newspaper account? Or an internal monologue? To get through this snag, it helps to write an experimental synopsis of the scene using one of those choices. It doesn’t matter which. If you go with an internal monologue, say, write down the things your character will see and do to spur his thoughts. You’ll be able to see in a few lines if the choice you made is viable. If not, outline another possible scene. The point is not to find the perfect scene, but simply to get over being stuck…”
2. Problem: Lack of inspiration. Solution: Write fast! “Speed fosters spontaneity, which can bring on inspiration. At the very least, it puts something on the page, and something is better than nothing.”
3. Problem: Perfectionism. Solution: Allow yourself to write badly. This is the number one source of writer’s block. Constantly revising every sentence until it’s a masterpiece takes forever. As Molly puts it: “A writing mentor of mine once said that novels are not written; they’re rewritten. Leave the sparkling prose for the second, third, or twelfth draft if it doesn’t come to you on the fly. For now, just get your thoughts written down. Don’t worry if those thoughts are clichéd, repetitive, or childish. Bad writing is the key to good writing. Perfect writing is the key to a blank page.”
4. Problem: Other people’s opinions. Solution: Be fearless. “Don’t allow yourself to be stymied by what your friends, mother, priest, or spouse may think of what you’ve written. We have only our own experience on which to base our fiction.”
5. Problem: Worrying about what will sell. Solution: Quit thinking about it! Trying to figure out The Next Big Thing never works. Neither does trying to massage your story into one you think is more marketable. “Better to write your novel, your way.”
So if you’re stuck, here’s the simple recipe for getting unstuck: write fast, write badly, write fearlessly. Writers, start your engines! Bravo, Molly — write on!