Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Getting Unstuck: How to Keep Writing When Writer's Block Strikes

with guest Sarah Ladd.

Has this ever happened to you? You are knee-deep in your writing project, developing characters and creating settings, when all of the sudden … WHOOSH! Your mind goes blank. 
Whether you are on a deadline or you write in your free time, writer’s block can be terribly discouraging – even paralyzing. What’s worse, you never know when it is going to strike. Writer’s block does not discriminate: You may be “plotter” who has every scene outlined in detail, or you might be a “pantster” who is always surprised by what you write next. Regardless of how you approach your writing, one thing is for sure – no one wants to waste precious time by not being able to come up with the words! 

So without further delay, here are 10 tried and true tips to get your creativity – and words! – flowing. 

#1. Switch up the point of view.
Sometimes we can get the words on the page, but the words do not seem to “flow”. If this happens to you, why not try telling the scene in another character’s P.O.V.? Allow yourself to take a fresh perspective on what is going on in the scene – see, hear, and feel it from another character. This altered scene might not make it to the final version, but by doing this little exercise you might gain a viewpoint you did not expect. 

#2. Chat about it.
This one is a biggie, friends. Who can understand the frustrations that come with writer’s block better than another writer? So call that writer friend. Meet with them for a brainstorming session. Talking out loud about your story can make you think about your story in a different light. A few minutes of brainstorming can save you hours of frustration in front of a blank screen. And who knows – one day you might be able to return the brainstorming favor one day! 

#3. Dive into backstory.
Occasionally we get stuck because we write one of our characters into a situation, and once they are there we don’t know what they should do next. One way to work through this type of issue is to have fun with backstory. Go ahead … interview your characters about their childhood, or even take it a step further and write a scene about the character’s early life. Again, this will probably never make it into your actual book, but sometimes getting back to the basics with your characters and diving into their internal motivations can give you the jump start you need. 

#4. Make a list. 
Are you a list maker? If so, why not try making lists to move your story forward? If you are having trouble with a scene, write down five things that MUST happen in that scene. It could be an action or a snippet of dialogue. If that isn’t enough to get the words flowing, write down 5 more things. Pretty soon you will have a mini outline, and you can just take it from there!

#5. Go on a virtual “settings” vacation.
Does your book take place in a unique setting? The old west? Victorian England? Modern-day L.A.? Take a little break and watch a movie that takes place in that setting or listen to some music that would be accessible in that setting. Be inspired by what you see or hear. Or, if you are a Pinterest user, take a few moments to create a Pinterest board. If you are a Spotify user, think about making a Spotify playlist. You are bound to see or hear something that will jolt your creativity. 

#6: Read. A lot. 
One of my favorite quotes on writing is from Stephen King. He said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  Wow. And that is so true! If you are losing your way with your story and the words just won’t come, step away from the computer and pick up a book. It can be a book in your genre, a classic, a book on writing craft, or a book totally unrelated to your project. I really don’t think it matters what type of reading you do. Sometimes, just getting your head out of your own story and spending some with other words with jump-start your creativity. 

#7. Take a break. 
Upcoming deadlines and tight schedules can make you feel that if you aren’t making every writing minute count, you are failing. But sometimes, forcing words can be counter-productive. Take a walk or go to a yoga class. Meet a friend for coffee. Bake something. Go shopping. Sometimes a little break can be the ticket to renewing your vigor for your story. But let me offer this word of caution … don’t take too much time off! Writing is like a muscle … if you don’t use it frequently, it grows weaker. So take a break … just make sure you get back to it!
#8. GO ahead – jump forward. 
Do you know what will happen next in your story, but you aren’t sure how to get there? Go ahead and write the scene you know that is coming, and then write backwards. It could provide the insight you need to get your current scene hopping! 

#9. It’s all about the dialogue. 
Sometimes when I sit down to write a scene and I am not sure what should happen, I only write the dialogue. No setting, no descriptors, no action – just dialogue. If you can just hear the words in your head and get them on the page, then you can go back and fill in the details. In a scene where the dialogue is key, this trick can help make sure you give your scene the structure it needs. 

#10. Don’t beat yourself up. 
This is another big one. I will go out on a limb here and say that the majority of writers stare writer’s block in the face at some point in their career. Sometimes an illness or an issue at work can silence your inner storyteller, and the busyness of life or the hectic nature of daily schedules can zap our creativity. Just remember – don’t give up! Even getting 500 words on the page a day can keep your story moving forward. 

So … Plotters and Pantsters … We want to hear from you! How do you get unstuck?

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). That title was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance and is a finalist in the Debut Author category of the 2014 Carol Awards. The second book in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere (2013), was on the ECPA best-seller list for several months, and the third book in the series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, spent time on the CBA best-seller list. 

Her newest release, The Curiosity Keeper, released in July 2015. Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever. To keep up with Sarah E. Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author), or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor)

A mysterious stranger, a missing gem, and flying sparks! Don’t miss Sarah Ladd’s new book, The Curiosity Keeper. Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, these two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, Camille and Jonathan will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness. 

Today one commenter will win a copy of The Curiosity Keeper. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Missy Tippens said...

What a great post, Sarah! Thank you for this fantastic list. I know that reading really does help me when I'm having trouble figuring out where a story is headed. It's like good writing inspires me to think differently about my story.

Vince said...

Hi Sarah:

Great post! I think each one of your suggestions would work. I worked in retail advertising for many years with daily deadlines and we could not get writer's block. So what we did was sit at our desks and typed anything that came into our heads until the copy started to make sense. When it made enough sense we stopped and edited it to the point it was acceptable.

I like to visualize writer's blocks as being stepping stones across the river of fear to the shores of success. : )

Here's the important question: "If you could, would you go to Austenland?"

Also what do you like best about Regency romances? I like the descriptions of the parties, dances, clothes, and fancy rooms in the homes of the rich.


P.S. Please enter me for a chance to win your new Regency book, "The Curiosity Keeper".

Kara Isaac said...

Hi Sarah,

I'm a total pantser and so am constantly jumping forward, back, and sideways whenever I get stuck. The first draft of my WIPs are always just a collection of scenes that kind of relate to each other but are generally out of order and have little continuity. I also generally run out of inspiration about 50,000 words and have no clue what to do with my glaringly missing plot. Thank goodness I have critique partners who are expert brainstormers :)

All the best with your new release!


Mary Preston said...

I'm a reader, but I know that in my every day life that if I feel stuck I take a break and come at the problem from a different angle.

Cindy W. said...

Such a terrific post Sarah! I see you live in Indiana. There are a lot of wonderful authors from this state (I live in Indiana too!).

I loved Stephen King's quote. I think if one is to grow as an author, especially if they are new at it, they must read a lot in different genres as well as "help" books. At least that is what I am working at right now.

I would love to win a copy of your book. Thank you for the chance.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Tina Radcliffe said...


I brought bagels and cream cheese and fruit for breakfast.

Three am and it's as hot as NYC right now.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Your book looks amazing. I was hooked months ago when I read the blurb. Where did the idea come from?

Tina Radcliffe said...

My favorite unstuck tool is writing out of order and writing backwards. Always helps because some scenes are THERE and some are not.

Okay, Sarah, what works for you?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ooops and I forgot to ask, what's next after this release. Man, you write fast!! What is your writing schedule like?

Jackie said...

Great post!

I especially like your tip to list the specific things that need to happen in the scene you're stuck on.

Your book cover is beautiful, and I love the necklace you are wearing in your author photo.

Thanks for sharing!

Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you Sarah for this great post. I find if I move away from the computer and go on with life, yet continuing to think about the plot, that all of a sudden the words will start to flow again.

I would love to win a copy of your book.

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Vince! I love your comment, "I like to visualize writer's blocks as being stepping stones across the river of fear to the shores of success." What a great quote! And I like the idea of just writing until the writing makes sense. :)

I, too, love the Regency. It was such a fascinating time socially, culturally, and so forth. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Kelly Bridgewater said...

Great post, Sarah!

I usually get unstuck in my writer's block by taking my beautiful Golden Retriever (aren't they the best dogs ever?) for a walk through this woodsy trail in my town. Allowing time away from the story allows me to think and see the story differently.

Enter me to win your newest book, The Curiosity Keeper.
God bless!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Kara - aren't brainstorming partners the best? I am glad you have some that you enjoy working with - that is great!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Mary - yes, it does help to look at real-life situations from different angles, doesn't it? Thanks for visiting!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Cindy! I agree - reading outside of your genre is so valuable! What genres do you like to read?

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Tina! Bagels, cream cheese, and fruit? Count me in! Have fun in NY!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Tina! I write out of order sometimes, but probably the tactic that works best for me is writing dialog only and then filling in the details after the dialog is done. I do that all the time!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Jackie! thanks for the kind words - I love this cover too! The cover designer and photographer are both so talented!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Wilani! I often break up my writing time with walks. It is always good to clear your head so the words will start to flow! Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Tina! Thanks for asking about how I came up with the idea for The Curiosity Keeper. I am fascinated by the complex social structures of the Regency Era, and that is something I wanted to explore in the Treasures of Surrey series. In many traditional Regency novels, the main characters are often wealthy or enjoy high social standing, but while writing The Curiosity Keeper I kept this question in the back of my mind: What would happen if a well-bred woman fell into hard times? Additionally, while doing research, I learned about boarding schools that served the poor and lower classes, and my mind sprung to life. What were these teachers and students like? How did they find themselves at the school? What were their stories? And by combining the question with this bit of research, the story idea was born!

Loraine Nunley said...

I like your post Sarah. There are some really good tips that I am going to use the next time I get stuck.

I am mostly a plotter which makes for a lot of frustration when I get stuck. Many times I will just jump ahead in my story to get the juices flowing again.

I'm looking forward to reading The Curiosity Keeper. Thanks for the giveaway!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...


I'm a list maker and here's one already made!
Thank you!

On my current WIP, I definitely skipped forward a time or two. I've not done that before and it seemed to help me.
Will use several of the others I'm sure as the weeks and months roll by.

Thank you so much!!!
(from a reforming pantster.)

Caryl Kane said...

Good Morning! I am so excited to "see" Sarah here. As a reader, I sometimes encounter writer's block when writing a review. Thanks for sharing this practical post.

I am so excited for the release of THE CURIOSITY KEEPER. Thanks for the chance to read it soon.

Deanna Stevens said...

Interesting post today.. I'm excited to read another of Sarah's books thanks for a chance to win a a copy :)

Julie Lessman said...

SARAH!!! Sooooo good to see you back in Seekerville, my friend -- WELCOME BACK!

And, WOW, you brought a real printer-offer of a post that I need to keep in my Writer's Block file! I am MOST familiar with two of your points that work like gangbusters for me and those are:

#6: Read. A lot.
One of my favorite quotes on writing is from Stephen King. He said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

SOOOOOO very true!! I often talk to writers who tell me they don't have time to read, and I honestly understand that to a point, especially if said writer has a full-time job in addition to writing. But I could never do that because reading is not only therapy for me when I'm tired or need a different perspective, it's as you say, a GREAT way to break through writer's block.

I will admit, however, that I did have it backfire on me one time when I was 3/4 of the way through writing my third book. A friend turned me on to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, and OH. MY. GOODNESS!! I hit the wall on my own writing harder and faster than I ever had before, so much so that I could not write another word because everything I did write sounded like garbage to me. I remember calling my sister (who was my beta reader at the time) and crying to her that I could no longer write. So I asked her to read what I had so far to see if it was any good or if I should start over. While she read, I fasted Diana G.'s books and other things, praying the entire time for wisdom and confidence to go on. Turns out my sister thought it was the best book I'd written so far, so I learned a valuable lesson. Reading does help writer's block ... unless you happen to read someone who blows you away so much, they stop you in your tracks in your own writing. :|

And then, #9 -- "It’s all about the dialogue. Sometimes when I sit down to write a scene and I am not sure what should happen, I only write the dialogue. No setting, no descriptors, no action – just dialogue. If you can just hear the words in your head and get them on the page, then you can go back and fill in the details. In a scene where the dialogue is key, this trick can help make sure you give your scene the structure it needs."

I soooo agree with this! This actually works best for me when I get on the treadmill. Suddenly, dialogue flies through my head, so I keep a pad and paper handy. Some of my best lines/scenes have come that way.

Great post as usual, Sarah!


Jeanne T said...

Sarah, I love your suggestions! Talking with a friend about the thing blocking my writing process has been huge. Sometimes, they will make a suggestion that doesn't feel quite right for the story, but I've found that these suggestions can be a spring board for finding the perfect way to move forward.

I love your suggestions for writing backstory, writing scenes in a different POV, and coming at the problem from a different angle. Great suggestions!

Diane Estrella said...

I loved Sarah's first series and this one looks like another winner. Thanks for the chance to win!

dianemestrella at gmail dot com

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Loraine! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Caryl! You are so right -- I get writer's block all the time, even when not writing a book! Sometimes I get stuck with blog posts or even emails. I like to use "list-making" for writing tasks that aren't novel related. Thanks for stopping by!

Leslie Waters said...

I am a reader and also love regency period. I have loved your other 3 books and can't wait to get this new one.

Glynna Kaye said...

WONDERFUL tips, Sarah! I think I've fallen back on just about every one of these in some moment of desperation!! I plan to print this out and keep it handy as a reminder of my options as no doubt at one time or another before I finish this latest WIP I'll need to make use of a few of them. Sometimes you "stall out" -- your brain gets in a rut -- and you have to step back and have a go at in from a different direction. I love this concise list of options to help dig out those new directions!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Sarah! All of these are great tips, but my personal favorite is switching POV. Getting another character's perspective on events really helps me dive back into the story.

However, reading a novel by a great author I deeply admire can have conflicting results. First, I realize I really, really, really want to emulate this author. Then I can get majorly discouraged about the seeming drivel pouring out on my word processing screen.

angelakcouch.com said...

Great suggestions! Among what you have listed, which are extremely helpful, I find my main fall-backs to be a long bath, walk, or washing dishes while listening to music that fits the mood of the scene I need to write. That way I can walk through it like a movie in my mind. Only problem is, often I do't get the dishes finished. ;)

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning from Indiana, Sarah! I love your list, and I do, generally, love lists, so I particularly love your suggestion of making a list. :-) So many great tips here for us writers, and I appreciate your effort and time to share them with us.

Believe it or not, as a reader, I have just discovered the wonderfulness of Regency Romance. I need to look up ALL of your books!

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

Great advice. All of those help me. The brainstorming helps me a lot and feedback from critique partners. My hubs and son often help me with their "unique" perspective! Sometimes I have to hire an editor to get me through and there's no shame in that. I always appreciated your CP feedback, Sarah. Blessings!

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

When I get stuck I generally just jump to another scene and work on developing that one for a while. I'm not good at writing straight from beginning to end, so I generally have four to six scenes in-process at any one time. Sometimes it even switches up the point of view! Though I don't know that I've ever done that intentionally to undo writer's block.

Sydney Anderson said...

What a fun and enlightening post. Thank you Sarah for sharing your thoughts about writers block with us. I read an e-version of The Curiosity Keeper from NetGalley and absolutely loooved it. My review will be coming soon... I would thoroghly enjoy winning a print copy of the novel though. Thanks for providing this giveaway!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sarah, these are great points for getting unstuck. Well done!

I'm always finding inspiration to weigh in on stories at church. The readings, the prayers, something someone says.... It's amazing how relevant that all is to a current story....

And I brainstorm with my daughter Beth, who also edits my indie work with Jamison Editing. She's got a great outside view to see why something either seems shallow or not critical enough to be worth writing about....

Or when I go over the top.

Those two things are big helps to me. I also print a hard copy every 100 pages (or nearest scene break) and go back and do a read-through, adjusting and changing. I see so many openings and possibilities then. And sometimes I'll have dropped a thread (where's the baby??? Who's got the baby???? Is the dog inside? Do we have mention of the dog? Could the dog get sick? Can a kid get an allergic reaction) Sometimes I just need to entrench myself into the origins of the book, to see how to keep the building smooth.

Mary Connealy said...

When I am struggling where to go next in a story, I just press on. I write it BADLY knowing I can change it later. Or if a scene is done and wanted but badly written, again, I just go forward, keep writing.

This is what revisions are for to bring the book to life.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, I wish I had more time to read. I don't. And when I do, I generally read non-fiction, but with working and kids and writing, pleasure reading is curtailed.

But I don't find that as helpful as watching people and listening and deriving "what if's" from those situations.

What if that woman left her cart clogging the driving aisle of the parking lot?

What if Callie didn't know how to roof a house or install kitchen cabinets??? :)

Those what ifs help me the most.

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE this is often how I write my seekerville posts.
I meander, sass, nonsense, backstory (yeah, even in a blog post) and at some point I START MY ACTUAL TOPIC and usually delete nearly all of the chatty stuff I wrote to get to the beginning.

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Julie! Good to "see" you!! I can absolutely relate about having reading backfire!! I was nodding my head in agreement because I have done the SAME THING!!!! Whew! At least we're not alone in that! LOL

And about having time to read -- I struggle with having time to read, so one of my tricks to combat that is to listen to audiobooks. It isn't exactly the same experience as holding a book in my hands, but it is still a great way to keep up to speed with all the books I want to read! I listen to audiobooks in the car and while running or walking, and I love it!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Jeanne! Thanks for stopping by!!

Amber Schamel said...

Very helpful tips, Sarah! Thanks for sharing. I will be saving these for future reference.

I'm stuck right now, but it isn't so much writer's block as it is not knowing how to make the scene I want to write work. I know WHAT I want my character to do, but can't figure out HOW he can do it. LOL. Got him backed into a corner I can't get him out of.

I'm going to try some of these to loosen up the creative juices. Thanks again!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Glynna - I completely agree about getting in "stalling out" now and again. I think that is just part of the creative process - and the more tools and tricks we have to overcome it, the stronger (and faster!) our writing will be! Happy writing!

Amber Schamel said...

"I like to visualize writer's blocks as being stepping stones across the river of fear to the shores of success"

Vince...that's genius.

Ruthy, great idea. Maybe I should go back and start reading the story from the beginning. It might give me some ideas. Maybe one of those loose ends would tie in nicely at this point. Maybe I can find some foreshadowing I forgot about.

Mary, I've often wondered how you Seeker experts come up with such great posts all the time. Ya'll are AMAZING! I consider Seekerville my Writer's University. ;)

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Myra, I like switching POV too. Sometimes I find that the scene actually works better in the other POV than the one I was trying to write it in!

And I understand what you are saying about reading great authors. When I feel that way, I reach for a research book or a craft book -- something outside of fiction. But keep in mind that what makes YOUR writing unique and great is that it is YOUR voice!! It is great because it is not like anyone else's. :) So keep forging ahead, my friend!!

Sarah Ladd said...

HI Angela - I like your suggestions too!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

What a nice thing to say, Amber. Our guests come up with their own brilliance!!

Vince said...

Hi Sarah:

It just occurred to me that "What gets rewarded gets done." If you make the methods of overcoming 'writer's block' too attractive, it can cause 'writer's bock'!

If you want a lot of 'writer's block' just make eating chocolate one of the ways to overcome it! : )


P.S. As a marketing person yourself, did you have input on your cover design? It is a curious cover. Is a storm brewing? It almost looks like one of the gothic novels with a woman with a storm coming is running away from a spooky house. It's not meant to be pretty.

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Meghan! YAY - a fellow list fan! :) Happy list-making, and enjoy the world of Regency-set stories!!!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Carrie!!!! So fun to see you here!!! Working with an editor is a great idea!!

Sarah Ladd said...

Rachael - wow - 4 to 6 scenes going at any one time?? That's incredible! I tend to write straight through - from beginning to end, and usually only go back when I have forgotten something. Sometimes I jump ahead if I get stuck, but for me that is pretty rare and in extreme circumstances.

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Sydney - thank you so much for taking the time to write a review - that means so much and is very much appreciated!! :)

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Ruth - that is a great idea about printing out hard copies. I don't typically do that, but I will have to give it a try! Thanks for the tip!

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

You wrote:

"VINCE this is often how I write my seekerville posts. I meander, sass, nonsense, backstory (yeah, even in a blog post) and at some point I START MY ACTUAL TOPIC and usually delete nearly all of the chatty stuff I wrote to get to the beginning."

Mary, you know why I think this works so well for both of us? Because you need to make trying to break out of 'writer's block' far less attractive than the alternative of sitting there at your computer with the words not coming out.

Like Humpty Dumpty says about him deciding what words are going to mean when he speaks with Alice:

The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

We just tell our muse that words are coming out whether she likes it or not! Get on board or get out of the way! We are the masters!


Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Amber - I've been there! :) Good luck as you work through the scene!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, Vince, I like this...

Writers block(s) are the stepping stones across the river of fear to the shores of success. ~ Vince Mooney

I made a tiny tweak and added it to my list of quotes (with attribution!) that I tweet regularly.

Pam Hillman said...

Kara, I've done that and it ain't pretty! Course my other way....trying to write very linear, isn't much better! lol I guess I have to stir and let it simmer until it's finally done.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks, Sarah, for these great tips! I use several of them myself!

I love the premise of your book and would love to be in the draw!

Now to use your tips this afternoon!!


Sarah Claucherty said...

Sarah! Great name ;)

I'm eager to read your newest release! Like someone mentioned earlier, the blurb caught my fancy and I've been awaiting a chance to read it. That said, please count me in for the drawing!

I need to print this post and save it! I like Ruthy's practice of printing off the book every 100 pages or so to make sure you haven't lost any threads or ideas. I once did that (on a much smaller page count scale) and realized that somewhere in the middle I'd changed the hero's name to a completely different one, and his history was now different too! Whoops...

The tips I really use beyond that are walking away (literally or mentally); reading; and taking a break from the project to either research or relax. I love the idea of just writing the dialogue or making lists; I'll have to try those. I make lists in about everything else I do, why not in my writing projects?

So where in Indiana are you? I'm in central Indiana. :)

Sarah Claucherty said...

Amber, Seekerville is definitely a great 'school' for writers! Me too!

Pam Hillman said...

The Curiosity Keeper sounds like a great read... and I'm not the only one who thinks so. It's been shuffling back and forth between the #1 and #2 spot on Amazon's HOT NEW RELEASES for well over a week now. Yay!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Meghan Carver, are you another fellow Hoosier?!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Switching POV is an exercise literature and writing instructors have used in several of my courses to make us more understanding of the characters in works we've read. It's also a favorite free write prompt of mine, especially if the character isn't given much backstory or history, or is a person of my own creation! :)

Sarah Ladd said...

Vince - LOVE this: "If you want a lot of 'writer's block' just make eating chocolate one of the ways to overcome it!" TRUTH.

And thanks for the compliment on the cover. The same cover designer and photographer have done all of my covers, and they are truly talented and wonderful. I cannot sing their praises enough! I do have input, although I always LOVE what they come up with! I really like the expression on this particular model's face. There is a thread of suspense in this story, and I feel like her expression conveys a sense of uncertainty and urgency.

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Susan! So good to see you here!

Jill Weatherholt said...

These are great tips, Sarah. I printed them and put them into my Seekerville notebook. Thank you so much.
As for what gets me unstuck...listening to music.

Mary Connealy said...

If you want a lot of 'writer's block' just make eating chocolate one of the ways to overcome it! : )

My trouble with rewarding myself with chocolate is, I end up eating the whole bag of whatever chocolate in about an hour.

Then I can either get BACK to my reward system (aka buy more chocolate)

Or I can just soldier on without it. A few pounds heavier!

Kathryn Barker said...

Sarah, your post is just what I needed today!! I'm stuck!! I know the ending...I'm so close!! But the scene before the windup is going nowhere!

Made a lunch date with my best writing buddy for brainstorming, but it's not until Thursday... :(

A few of the other ideas...walking the dogs....interviewing the characters...and writing only the dialogue (this worked in the past) haven't produced workable results.

I'll try making a list and diving into the backstory...yeah...you know, I only created a smidgen of a backstory for that evil backstabbing former rodeo queen!! (LOL)

I love Ruthy's suggestion to people watch!! Isn't it fun?

Thanks for the inspiration! And thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of The Curiosity Keeper. ( I almost wrote The Curiosity Seeker...have "Seeker" on my mind this morning!)

Mary Connealy said...

You know, Vince that might just be exactly true. Writing nonsense is more creative than staring at a blank page.

Sometimes it really does seem like the stories almost come out of my fingertips without passing through my brain. (OKAY RUTHY, SHUT UP!)

I remember a teacher phoning and asking me if I could write a few skits for the school Christmas program.

I said, "NO!"

This was on a Friday.

On Monday I sent three skits to school.

The teacher laughed at me and told the audience at the program exactly what I'd done, which was funny.

But it was like I needed to start TYPING to get those skits to come to me. One of them was particularly lovely, I think. About Rudolph getting spoiled by all the attention to his nose. HE REFUSED TO PLAY THE REINDEER GAMES!

Santa had to have a talk with him.

I still think it would be a worthy sequel to Rudolph.

And I had no idea I was going to do that when I opened that blank page.

Also a little poem about Christmas Mice. (shudder, I hate mice)

And a sort of Battle of the Sexes between the messy boy students and the tidy girl students, which I still think was pretty funny.

Mary Connealy said...

Kathryn, could you by chance just WRITE the ending?
Just open up a word doc and DO IT.

You'll probably fully see the bridge from where you are to the ending by the time the ending is done. It might even happen FASTER than that and you can go write it, the paste whatever part of the ending you have onto it.

Tina Radcliffe said...

In a historic moment here in Seekerville, I agree with Mary. Trick your mind and write the ending.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay your behind the scenes into your book reminded me a bit of Harry Potter!!

Keli Gwyn said...

Great tips, Sarah!

My biggest hurdle is self-doubt. I wonder if what I'm writing is any good, if the GMC is clear, if I avoided enough adverbs, etc. I've found the best way for me to overcome the paralysis doubt can create is to write anyway. Eventually the bad feelings bleed off and the fun begins again.

Winnie Thomas said...

Great ideas! Thanks for your post. Sarah, I love your books and have your new one on my To Read list. I would love to win a copy. You are an awesome writer!

Mary Connealy said...

Keli, let me know when that stops.

I'll let you know too.

No sign of those self-doubts going away anytime soon!

Mary Connealy said...

Now Tina, honey, You've agreed with me before. True you've never admitted it in PUBLIC, but stilllll...............

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Sarah! Thanks for such great tips. I've tried a few myself, and just got OUT of a writer's block rut. I took a break for a few weeks and was reading Cheryl St. John's writing craft book, which helped me get back on track and reevaluate where I wanted to be in my story. That's the tip that worked for me!

Have a great day, and love your books!

DebH said...

Hi Sarah
I really like this list of things to do about writer's block. I'll keep them in mind when I do happen across that impasse. Love your author's picture too, btw.

Vince: love your quote for the day. Copied, pasted, and attributed in my quotes document.

I wrote a short screenplay once about writer's block. Sort of sci-fi in that the writer's block was a literal block that helped a writer create stories. She didn't return the block when her time was up and, as punishment, she ended up getting sucked into the block. The last we see of her, she's in a small cubicle typing away on a keyboard as the camera view retreats and the viewers see a myriad of similar cubicles. They all form the "Writer's Block".

Kathryn Barker said...

Thank you, Mary Connealy!! I will WRITE the ending...I've just been carrying it around in my head...didn't think about seeing the end as a BRIDGE for another part of the story!! (I'm crazy about bridges...so symbolic).

Haha, Tina Radcliffe...Trick my mind....well, that should be easy! It's not hard to fool me, but usually I try to keep that other me in order!!

So happy Mary and Tina are in agreement!!

Love this blog site...and all you seekers...such inspiration!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hahaha. Mary writes stream of consciousness and they are best sellers. Must try that trick!

The Artist Librarian said...

Great list! If I have time (that is, didn't wait until the last minute), I definitely like to take a break from writing assignments/papers by reading! Writers: do you read other books in the genre you write in? I've seen authors who do and those that don't --can you share why or how you came to your decision?

Sarah E. Ladd was the best new-to-me Regency author I came across last year ---thanks for the chance to win! :)

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Kathryn - best of luck getting "unstuck"! Sounds like you have a great plan in place!

Sarah Ladd said...

Mary - that sounds like a great Christmas skit!!

Sarah Ladd said...

Keli, I love this: "I've found the best way for me to overcome the paralysis doubt can create is to write anyway." You go girl!!

Sarah Ladd said...

Hi Winnie - thanks for the kind words!!

Sarah Ladd said...

Stephanie - congrats on getting OUT of the writer's block rut!!! That is terrific!

Sarah Ladd said...

Deb, I bet that is a great screenplay!

Sandy Smith said...

Sarah, great post and very important for me to read. I feel like the Queen of Writer's Block. My problem is I have such a hard time just writing when I know it is terrible. But I really enjoy revising, so I have to have something written first to revise. I like the hints about making lists of what has to happen in the scene and writing out of order. I am trying to do that especially with the short stories I write. Sometimes I know exactly where I am going, but don't know how to get there, so I just need to write the end first.

Please enter me for your book. It looks good!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm with you, Sandy. I am a reviser. I hate writing garbage. So my perfectionism holds back the flow.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Sarah!!! GREAT post, girl!!! Sorry I wasn't here earlier. I spent the entire morning at the DMV with my daughter who was getting her license. Actually, we spent 3 and a half hours waiting and half an hour getting her license, but that's normal, I guess. :P
Seriously, this is a great post! I get this question sometimes and I need to just send them a link to this blog post, because it is perfect. :-) Love ya!

Sherida Stewart said...

Sarah, your tips are very appreciated....and needed. I use number 8 often, skipping ahead to what I've planned. I'll definitely be using your other suggestions. Thank you!

Congratulations on your newest book. What an intriguing title!

Sarah Ladd said...

Sandy and Tina, I agree with you. I have a hard time letting my first attempts at a scene go, because I know I need to get the book written so I can polish it! But we have to start somewhere, right?

Sarah Ladd said...

Mel! How exciting - getting her driver's license! Hugs, friend!

Mark Abel said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your post today it confirms something that has been nagging my mind. I know what the final scenes look like in my story and I generally know where I'm going but I'm struggling to get there. I've been thinking maybe I should write the final scenes and then fill in the gap. Hmm, and then you suggested exactly that. Hmm...

I'm a Panster for sure and wrote most of my story as such however towards the end I worked up an outline and now seem to be struggling. I would ask for suggestions but likely you would encourage me to write the end and then fill in the gap.

Think you're right but fearful of doing it because it's different than what I've been doing and I seemed to get stuck when I tried plotting. Is there any hope for me? I'm 565 pages into my first novel and wondering if I will ever type 'The End'.

Help me out sister what encouragement do you have for me...
Lost in the ocean and tired but looking for the island, Mark

Tanya Agler said...

Sarah, thank you for this post. When I was pregnant with my twins, I didn't write. Since I've started writing after they started preschool, I've discovered great resources like Seekerville and the willingness of so many authors to share great tips like these. I love walking on the treadmill and brainstorming.

Thanks for the post. I'm miles away from home tonight, but the Seekers and all their villagers are a great way to feel at home no matter where I am.

Danielle Hull said...

Wow, those are a lot of great comments for an already informative post! Thank you so much!