There isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t had at least a passing encounter with the dreaded writer’s block. Whether it’s something you face often or once in a blue moon, the worst time to face writer’s block is in the middle of completing your manuscript. One minute you’re in the zone, feeling super confident about your work. Then you have one moment of doubt and the next thing you know three months have flown by and you haven’t so much as picked up a pen. When you’re attempting to diligently complete your manuscript, writer’s block can put a huge wrench in your schedule if you let it win. Here are some common spots during manuscript writing where you may face writer’s block and a few tips on how to overcome it.
Getting started can be one of the toughest parts of writing. You have this huge idea in your head, one that is going to have so many twists and turns and heartbreaks along the way. You’ve built up the anticipation, you can’t wait to get started on it. You sit down to write and…wait… what is the first page about? For that matter, what is the first sentence? Having a strong intro can put a lot of pressure on you and, of course, cause the dreaded writer’s block to rear its ugly head.
Instead of getting hung up on the first sentence or how the beginning sounds, focus instead on where you’re starting the story. It should be a point of action and answer the question ‘why does the story take place now or today?’ Once you know your starting point, simply begin writing with little regard to how it sounds. This will make you hate yourself for a few minutes, but once you get into a groove you’ll knock out the first few chapters and feel a lot better. Then, afterward, you can come back and clean up the intro. You’ll be able to figure out the perfect starting line a lot easier once you have an idea of where you’re going and what the tone will be.
For some writers the beginning is the toughest, for others, it’s the middle. You were chugging along for a good while in the beginning, feeling confident and excited about your idea. Then you get to the middle and have a sort of ‘mid-life crisis’ about your whole book. Do you even like what you wrote anymore? Where is it even going? What if you just wasted months or years on something you barely even like? Should you go back and rewrite everything? Should you just trash the whole thing and start an entirely new idea?
The strongest instinct you’ll have here is to put down the project and either start something new or take a break from writing for a bit- don’t. Doing this will only make the idea of coming back to this book scarier and scarier the longer you’re away from it. We do recommend taking a break, but only momentarily to do a short-form writing exercise. This will help you feel more relaxed, looser, and therefore kinder on your work. It may also help to make a fresh outline for how the rest of the book will go. This way you’re taking a break from actually writing the book while also getting organized so the task of finishing doesn’t feel as daunting.
Before the Climax
Another common spot for authors to face writer’s block is right before the climax. This is another common spot for an existential crisis as it is when a lot of pieces need to be coming together. If they aren’t coming together as well as you’d hoped, you’ll likely be in a cold sweaty panic. There are a lot of threads that need to tie together so if certain things aren’t making sense, you’re likely getting frustrated and dejected at all the scenes you’ll have to go back and rewrite in order to make one thing or another make sense.
First of all, take a deep breath in… now out… there you go. Now, we firstly recommend going and taking a walk just to help calm yourself down a bit. Go to your favorite park or somewhere that relaxes you and makes you feel inspired. Secondly, try to clear your head of thoughts about rewriting because guess what? That’s not your job yet. You and your editor will find problem areas and work through them in the editing stage of your writing, that’s what editing is for. Leave those problems to future you, right now concentrate on writing an epic climax and resolution for your manuscript.
The ending of your manuscript can lead to writer’s block for different reasons. This is because it’s hard to put a period at the end of your entire book that has an almost equal amount of pressure to your opening. What do you want your protagonist to be doing in the last line? Should you leave some things open-ended or make the ending more sweet and satisfying? You likely know a lot about what happens in your characters’ lives even after the story ends, should you give them an epilogue? This version of writer’s block can be strange because you know you only have a few paragraphs left to write but you can’t seem to pick up your pen and write them. Perhaps part of you doesn’t want to. Our recommendation if you get stuck here is to write a little excerpt, just for yourself, about what happens with your characters after the ending. After that, when you go back to your real ending, it won’t feel as much like you’re saying goodbye.