Amazon Bestselling Author Theresa Ragan on “Say NO to Writer’s Block”

You wake up feeling good about the day ahead. You enjoy your morning ritual and then sit down at your computer and BAM, all you see in your mind’s eye is a big blank screen.  Suddenly, scrubbing the kitchen floor sounds more appealing than squeezing a coherent sentence out of your brain.

What do I do in that situation?

I ignore it.

I write something…anything… maybe even skip to a scene that sounds more appealing.

If the writing looks disjointed and clichés abound, that’s okay, I’ll fix it later.

This is my job. It’s what I do.

Being a writer is great when you feel like writing. There’s nothing better than finishing one brilliant exciting scene after another and then writing THE END! But writing novels is not a career for the faint of heart.  Writing is difficult and challenging.

Great writing is in the revisions.

Say NO to writer’s block and finish that first draft!

How about you? How do you kick writer’s block in the butt?

The Best of WG2E Writer’s Block Butt-Kicking — Theresa Ragan

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  1. Before I stop for the day, I decide what scene I’m going to start with the next day, so when I’m ready to begin, I know where my starting point is. I often already have a first sentence or two to begin with! This seemingly minor habit helps me tremendously to stay focused.

    Here’s to not being blocked!

    • Bettye, this is a great idea. Whenever I do get ready for the next day of writing, even if it’s just a one sentence setup, it’s SO helpful and really helps me focus. Thanks for the reminder to do this!

    • I’m having trouble with a book right now. The first two (two-book series) went very quickly — book one almost wrote itself. This new one is a re-write to make it “funnier” since the first version wasn’t funny at all and I’m trying to stick with romantic comedy. I’m thinking of skipping to another scene and maybe making this book a novella instead and combining it with another idea I have — two novellas in one book.

      Good idea, Bettye, except this book is really giving me a hard time.

  2. Julie Day says:

    I don’t get it nowadays because I briefly plot out my work. But when I first started writing, I did get the block, half way through writing the book (which is still to be seen). How did I overcome it? I think I began writing other bits such as letters and stories, and after a while I got the idea how to continue it and finished it.

    • Hi Julie! For years I never got writer’s block, but once I did, I realized I really had to ignore it or I was never going to write the damn book! Thanks for the comment…yes, I really do think skipping ahead to a different scene or letters and stories as you did is helpful.

  3. Adan Lerma says:

    great reminders, thanks! ;-)

  4. D. D. Scott says:

    Right on, Theresa!!!

    Just Say “No”!!! :-)

    I’ve found that writing every day keeps my muses in shape and ready to crank out pages. I write at least 5 pages per day and many days 10 to 20 pages. I actually feel restless if it’s noon and no new pages are “out” yet. LOL! :-)

    Some days, those pages are written by hand in notebooks or on cocktail napkins because that’s all I have with me, but they’re out of my head and heart, and that’s all that matters and what moves me forward to the next THE END.

    • D. D. Scott says:

      I also do what Bettye does and always leave off so I know right where I’m going the next day. I write a note to myself and highlight it at the end of each day’s work so I can pick right up the following morning.

      • Hi, D.D.!

        I am a 5 page a day writer. I LOVE when I hit 10 for the day! And I do think writing every single day helps keep the muse flowing. Love all the helpful and insightful comments.

  5. Ruth Harris says:

    Theresa, Thanks for writing this—I totally 1000% agree! Sitting down & cranking out pages is for professionals. Procrastination is for amateurs.

    I just wrote a blog for Romance University called Hold Your Nose and Type: the Up Side of Writing Fast.

    • Hi Ruth, I just read your blog post about holding your nose and writing fast! Love it! Everyone needs to go read that post. I was nodding my head all the way through. I believe Susan Wiggs once did a talk about powering through the first draft all the way to the end. Great post!

  6. Patrice says:

    I also like to leave in the middle or beginning of a new scene/chapter, so I have a starting point. And like DD, I try to write every day and that really helps the words and thoughts flow. I was flying through my new rom/com and then had to babysit for 4 days last weekend, and it has been difficult to pick up the momentum that I had going. But I’m still plugging away until my creative muse kicks in! Love the line that great writin is in the revisions. So true.

  7. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks for the post! Yes, I’ve also found that you just make yourself do it. Even if the writing is awful, at least you can come back and work on it another day.

    • Good morning, Tamara, Yes, just power through it. I had a writer email me a few weeks ago, telling me that she’d been writing her book for years and just could not get to the end. I actually wrote a random scene for her and said, “Here, put this in your manuscript and go from there….keep writing to the end…fix it later.” Thinking TOO much about a particular scene can stop a writer, too. Knowing that the scene can be written five different ways…

  8. Stacy Green says:

    I’ve been stuck in marketing hell, so most of my writing is coming in small spurts as I edit my spring MS. My biggest writer’s block issue is pure laziness. I get in moods where I get so tired I don’t feel like doing anything. Most of the time, I push myself through, even if it’s only writing 250 words or editing. And I exercise regularly now, which makes a huge difference.

    Great post!

    • LOL, Stacy. At least your honest! I have heard other authors say that they just get lazy sometimes and can’t find the discipline or sitting butt in chair. I have a sign above my computer that says: BE NORA There is no way Nora Roberts can write that many books without sitting in her chair for hours at a time…non-stop. So I look at my BE NORA sign, take a breath, and dig in.

      I get some of my best ideas for scenes while I exercise! It’s a win-win!

    • If your body is stimulated, your mind will be, too!

  9. Great reminder here as I’m getting ready to start my next book in a week or two. I powered through my last one like this without even realizing that’s what I was doing. I just knew I had to get it done and the only way to do that was to write. Novel concept, hey?

    I’m home full-time as a writer since Sept. 1st. I can’t afford writer’s block. :)

    • Hi Stacey…congratulations on being a full-time writer!! That does put some added pressure on you, doesn’t it? Sounds like it does that in a good way. Powering through the book was instinctive for you. I love that!

  10. What I usually do when ‘blocked’ or the writing just isn’t flowing well, is what I call housekeeping. I rework what I’ve already written. That way at least I haven’t let a day go by without being productive. I’ve not stopped in the middle of a scene and picked up the next day. I like the idea and will give it a shot! :) Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. My goal is to do at least 2500 words per day. Some days it’s 1000 and some days it’s 5000, but I make myself sit at the computer each day with a goal in mind. I reread the previous chapter and any notes I made when I ended the day before. That usually gets me back on track.

    By the way, Theresa, I’m looking forward to seeing you in November. I’m very excited to be on a panel with you and Kristen Lamb. You ladies rock!

    • Hi Debra! I can’t wait to do the panel with you in Idaho…although I am panicking a little bit about talking for 20 minutes!? Please feel free to take up some of my time. :) BTW, I started your book, loving it, but had to put it aside to do major edits for T&M book. I might have to finish it on the plane to Boise.

      See you soon!

  12. For me, editing the previous several pages or full chapter primes my writing pump, as some others have shared (and usually “gets me in the mood”).

    When I first started writing I didn’t plot first and discovered I NEEDED to have a pretty detailed outline in order to stay on the path. For my first manuscript–I stopped in the middle because I realized I was writing slower and slower, and admitted to myself I didn’t know where the story was headed. Then I learned what a synopsis was and how to write one…and raced through to the end after that.

    Now I plot plot plot (I’m a SAVE THE CAT and Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler fan and have blended their processes to create a ridiculously detailed plotting chart so I can brainstorm a plot and “see” if the flow works within one of their structures (usually I end up using Blake Snyder’s beat sheet, which I’ve adapted to novel writing because it’s a screenwriters process; they now DO teach novel-writing using their process, though).

    I spend a LOT of time prepping (characterizations and pretty much figuring out what’s in each chapter–though there are always surprises that happen in the writing!). I end up with a clean first draft.

    Lately, though, I’ve been experiencing “marketing/promotion block” more than writing block (oh, that familiar feeling of paralysis!). The key, I’m sure, is deciding on a process for that too…and I’m workin’ on it!

    • Janet, wow, this is all great. I love your process. So by plotting out your book, you have much less of a chance of experiencing writer’s block. That makes sense. I’m not a plotter, but I do usually know the beginning, the black moment and the ending. I do use a lot of Hauge and Vogler tips. I’ll have to check out Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.

      Let us know when you come up with a way to help the marketing and promotion block. ha!

      • Hi, Theresa: here are the 15 beats:

        Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet with my notes and percentages of where my impression is of where the beats go in a novel (vs. a screenplay)…

        Opening Image

        (1st impression; tone; mood; scope; starting point of hero; the “before” picture of the hero; begins the “A” external story)

        Theme Stated
        (1-5% in)
        (Someone poses a question/statement of theme to main character)

        (by 10% in)
        (hero + stakes + goal of story; show how & why hero needs to change; “6 things that need fixing”–what’s missing in his life)

        (11% in)
        (often disguised like bad news but it’s the opposite — by the time the adventure is over, it’s what leads the hero to happiness; knock down the status quo world; the call to adventure; the first moment when something happens)

        (Last chance for hero to say, This is crazy — we need to see him grapple with this; this section must ask a question of some kind & when the hero answers, he can then proceed to Act 2)

        Break Into 2 Antithesis
        (23% in)
        (Something BIG happens; leave “old” world and proceed into world that’s upside down version which is its antithesis; step must be definite & hero must make decision himself & be proactive, which makes him a hero)

        B Story
        (smoothes out story act break; often the love story within the “A” story; someone new/confidant; a bunch of new characters — often-upside down versions of characters introduced in “A” story; a place to discuss theme; “carries the theme”)

        Fun & Games
        (The promise of the premise; “the core of the movie poster & trailer”; the heart of the story; take a break from the stakes of the story & see what the idea is about; lighter in tone; if its a buddy story, the buddies clash)

        (either an “up” or a “down” : false peak or false collapse for hero–can only “get better” from here — it just “seems” everything is great because hero still needs to learn lesson he needs to learn; changes the dynamics of story; fun & games are over & stakes are raised…back to the story)

        Bad Guys Close In
        (Forces aligned against the hero, both internal & external, tighten grip by regrouping; there’s no one to help — internal dissent, doubt, & jealousy begin to disintegrate hero’s team; hero’s on his own & must endure; hero heads for a huge fall which leads to:)

        All is Lost
        (False defeat — but it’s never as bad as it seems; make false defeat the OPPOSITE of the midpoint — up or down; all looks black, but it’s only temporary; all aspects of hero’s life are in shambles — no hope; show the “whiff of death” whether real or figuratively — something or someone dies/symbolic — often a mentor’s death)

        Dark Night of the Soul
        (you’re in the middle of the “death moment” — how does hero feel about it? This question is answered in this section — can be an instant or a little longer; the point of darkness before the dawn; the point just before the hero reaches inside to find best last idea to save himself & everyone else but at the moment the idea is nowhere in sight; a primal moment — it’s then he; admits humility & humanity & yields control of events to Fate — “we must be beaten–and KNOW it–to get the lesson.)

        Break into 3
        (“A” external story and “B” internal story come together; thanks to characters of “B” story and hero’s last best effort, an idea to solve the problem emerges; a new life is at hand)

        (where lessons learned are applied; “A” story and “B” story end in triumph for the hero; it’s what hero learns in the upside-down & antithetical world of Act Two that allows him to turn over the old world and create a new world order; dispatching bad guys are done in ascending order; hero must change the world; the chief “problem” — a person or thing — must be dispatched completely in order for new world to exist; it’s not enough for hero to triumph, he must change the world; must be emotionally satisfying.)

        Final Image
        (Show the OPPOSITE of the opening image; must be a dramatic change — proof that change has occurred & it’s real)

        For more info…

  13. Christina says:

    I do the same thing, Theresa. If I’m writing and it just feels yucky I’ll make a note surrounded by asterisks so I’ll know what I did when I go back to edit. I may say something like **This is going nowhere. They need to get to the restaurant** Then I start the next paragraph with the new scene and go from there. By the time I get back to that part during my first round of edits I have the perfect way to fix whatever it was in that section.

    I may also write the ending or write from a different POV. As long as I write something it all works out.

    • Christina — I make notes if I don’t like something and either put asteriks around it or type my note in all caps and in color (THIS ISN”T WORKING — NEEDS RE-WRITE)/ I also try doing the scene from different points of view. Sometimes I will do it from the POV of a secondary–even if I don’t use it, at least I’ve written something and I can always re-cycle from my “extra” file.

    • Hi, Christina,

      Yes, the **** are definitely useful. :) Thanks for sharing.

  14. Great post, Theresa! I found that the minute I stopped waiting for inspiration to hit (no matter how lovely it feels when it does) and just put my haunches in the chair every day, then the books started getting finished! Before that, I had a bunch of lovely half-written pieces borne of beautiful inspiration but nothing else. Getting a book over the finish line is an equally wonderful feeling as the call to inspiration, and the only way to get there is to keep to a routine of “butt in chair” every day, no matter how you’re feeling. And let me tell you, the results are worth it! :)

    • Exactly, Riley!

      The end results are worth it! That’s a great point because many times I do remind myself that I’m not going to get to the end if I don’t force myself to sit at the computer and work it all out. Thanks!