Writer's Block

There are about as many suggested reasons for writer’s block as there are stars in the sky, but one of the biggest causes is actually quite simple: boredom.

Today we’ll be exploring boredom as a cause of writer’s block and how to combat it by adding conflict to plot fillers.

How to recognise boredom as a cause of writer’s block

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When you’re trying to write a certain scene, have your characters fallen quiet? Many authors develop strong voices for their characters, and one of the biggest ways to tell when you’re getting bored with your story is when your characters are.
  2. Do you have no idea what happens next, and not in an exciting “can’t wait for it to happen” way? When you reach a point in your story when you literally can’t visualise a way forward for your characters, you’re probably bored with the way the story is progressing.
  3. Have you written all the “candy-bar” scenes? Holly Lisle describes your best scenes as candy-bar scenes. They’re scenes that you’re excited to write, and that flow quickly and easily because they’re filled with delicious conflict. If you’re a pantser, then chances are you’ve written all the exciting scenes you can think of and have no idea how to link them up or move past them.
  4. Is the story just not flowing? On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a planner, you may be struggling to write certain scenes because the words just aren’t flowing even though you know what you want to happen.

If any of the above sounds like where you’re getting stuck, then in all likelihood, your writer’s block has a simple cause: you’re bored. It’s important to note that just because you’re bored with your story, doesn’t mean it’s not good or that you need to scrap everything you’ve written. On the contrary, it’s when you’re bored that the most exciting process in writing begins!

Breaking the boredom block

If you’re worried that you’re never going to get back into the flow of writing consistently and regularly, don’t panic! There are several ways to break through the wall that’s got you stuck, depending on why you’re stuck.

The following exercises relate directly back to the causes above, so use them individually, or mix and match to shake off that boredom and get inspired by your story again.

  1. Interview your characters. Grab a pen and paper and write in first person from your character’s point of view. Focus on the scenes where your characters have fallen quiet, and ask them questions that can’t be answered with a simple response. The best questions for characters answer the questions who, what, where and why. A good start is: Why are you bored with this scene and how would you do it differently? Set a timer and write.
    A character decision tree.
  2.  Create a decision tree with different outcomes to the conflict that took place two or three scenes before the one you’re stuck on. Put yourself in your characters’ shoes and ask them what route they would have preferred to take and what they think the outcomes would have been had they chosen differently. Write down their answers and see if you can work it into the current scene without making major revisions.
  3. Every story has places with “filler”. Fillers are the exposition scenes that take place in between all the fun candy-bar scenes. They may not be super-exciting to write, but they are essential to the story making sense. One of the ways to make them more intriguing, is to throw some minor conflict into the scenes that are purely designed to get characters from Point A to Point B.

    Are your characters on an epic journey across the country? Throw in an obstacle they have to find a way around, and if they’re in a group, they could argue about the best route to take. Does your character have to go to class before they get to meet their crush after school? Have their teacher give them detention for something they didn’t do. It won’t throw them off the course of reaching their ultimate goal, but it will make their mundane tasks more interesting for both you and the reader.

  4.   If you’re a planner, one of the best ways to get out of the rut of knowing exactly what will happen in your story is to throw something unexpected into the mix. This doesn’t necessarily need to make it into the final draft, but it can get the flow running smoothly again.

    Search Google for fun, absurd or interesting writing prompts, and find a way to use them in your next scene. Don’t be afraid to use them because they don’t fit with your story – that’s the whole point. Set a timer and use the prompt in any way you like to get your characters interested in the scene.

Do you struggle with writer’s block? Share your methods for getting past it in the comments!