Posts Tagged ‘overcoming writer’s block’

Hitting the Plateau

Saturday, December 10th, 2016
Image Credit:

Image Credit:

For the first few days or weeks, your novel will seem easy. You’ve settled into a style, you’re inspired by everything around you, you’re writing your favorite chunks of the plot. But then disaster will strike. You know that you have to link two sections of your novel, but the effort of thinking about it, much less sitting down to write it, is too much. Plus, every time you sit down to write, you can’t get into the rhythm of your style, and everything you produce feels trite and insufficient. It will not be fun.

At this point, many people give up on their novels (see It just happens. And maybe most tellingly, you won’t think about your characters or your plot for days; you won’t notice small details in your everyday life and remember them for later. You will hit a writer’s block.

This is fine. It happens. If you’ve completely stopped caring about your seedling novel, then maybe it’s time to let it go. People do “outgrow” the stories that they once wanted to tell. But if you still like what you’ve written so far and you’re still (even abstractly) interested in seeing your characters through, then here are a few tips to get through the hard times:

Keep a notebook and pen/pencil with you always. You’ll have experienced by now the difference between composing paragraphs in your head and transposing them onto paper. A brilliant subway train of thought always deteriorates by the time you get to your stop. I know that you spent over half your life on a computer. You’ve been allowed to take notes on a laptop since the start of freshman year. But look: don’t underestimate the power of writing things down.

Make playlists. Follow the tradition of vampire/supernatural novelists (Stephanie Meyer and Kim Harrison do it) and several pop-y TV writers (The OC did this too): make character-specific playlists. It’s like making a playlist for finals. It’s a fun way to procrastinate, and thinking about specific songs also forces you to think about the specific character and how much certain songs fit into their lives. You can also make plot-specific playlists, or if you want to get super specific, cross reference the two and make a really comprehensive series of playlists for every character in every scene. Having a standard set of associations with your novel will also help you get into the same mood every time you prepare to really write.

Write. Write more. Joyce Carol Oates writes for about eight hours a day. Ray Bradbury tries to finish one short story a day. Ask any writer, fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or historical: the only way out is to keep writing. Whether you use any of the material you write during your dry spell is irrelevant. Take fifteen minutes at the beginning of everyday and just free write—don’t worry about the topic or spelling or punctuation. Write your bridge chapter badly, changing it every day until you can move on to the next bit. Write in the present. Write in the future. You know. Stick with it and all that.


Casting your novel

A friend of mine is ghost-writing a creative non-fiction book about her boss’s grandmother. She finds it easier to work when she can look at the grandmother’s photo; she imagines the woman in the photo living her life and narrates that. I’ve celebrity cast my novel (Josh Jackson and Matthew Goode are in it), and I find that putting the thoughts and actions on a physical body helps me map a logical progression of what happens next. Also, looking up photos and making pretty montages is a great way to procrastinate.

By Robin Yang

Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

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On Becoming a Writer

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Photo courtesy of cesc!

Written by Megan Soyars

I’ve loved writing since I was very small. I have a particular memory from my toddler-hood, which I believe sparked my passion. I was watching my mother at the kitchen table, playing with a strange machine. The machine was small and gray and covered with the letters of the alphabet. I remember feeling a certain pride as I surveyed the letters. I knew them all, A-Z, and I even knew how they magically paired together to form words, and those words paired together to form sentences, and those sentences made stories that I could read and enjoy. Thomas the train, all these stories were my favorites.

As I watched my mother type away on the mysterious machine (it was a type writer) I noticed she was actually creating something. Sheets of paper came out of the machine, covered with the words my mother had typed. The sheets looked almost like the pages of the story books I read. As my mother pulled the sheets out of the typewriter, I asked her what she was doing.

“Writing!” she explained to me with a smile. “A story just like the ones we read together, only this story for grown-ups.”

I was amazed. I’d never considered that my story books were created by real people like my mom. It must take an enormous amount of talent to create a story, I figured. I was proud of my mother, and promised to read her story once I was a grown-up. And maybe I could become a story writer when I was a grown-up, too.

Seventeen years later, I’m a officially a grown-up, and (officially??) a writer. No, I’m not Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer and maybe my works aren’t on the Times bestseller list or gracing the book shelves of the Barnes and Noble where I work, but I’m not really asking for fame/fortune. That’s rare for anybody to attain. But I’d like to know that some people are reading my stuff and enjoying it. I’ve had a couple writing internships (right now I’m working for the Campus Clipper), and I’ve messed around with fiction and poetry, and I’ve self-published a children’s novel. If you’re interested, you can check out my book at

Maybe you’ve been inspired to express your creativity through writing, or you’re a starting-out writer like me who needs some tips. I’ve added some that’ve helped me below:


You don’t always have to write on what you consider to be your “subject matter.” If you’re a short story writer, try your hand at news writing. If you’re in journalism school, take a poetry class. By exploring a different genre, you’re stretching different mental muscles, which allows for a better all-around workout (just like your gym teacher told you!). Then, once you’re versed in a new style of writing, you can incorporate it into your original technique.


Write (and read!) as much as you can. Take classes, seminars, and workshops. Practice on your own at home by starting up a blog or journal. Some writers set a specific schedule (such as a hour a day) that they spend writing. I don’t personally recommend the “set schedule” since it often made me feel like I was “forcing” myself to write out of duty rather than enjoyment. But if you discover you haven’t put your pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) in awhile, sit down and make time to write, even if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.


Everybody gets writer’s block at some point; sometimes the words just don’t flow. Don’t sit frustrated at your desk, tapping your pen against paper. Sometimes your mind works best when your body’s in motion. Get up, talk a walk, go jogging, whatever. Or even take a nice, long shower! It’s true–sometimes your best ideas do come to you while you’re in the shower. Just don’t bring your laptop into the bathroom with you (a la Weird Al in “White ‘n’ Nerdy). I’ve also discovered that taking a brief break helps overcome writer’s block. Put the manuscript away and come back to it in a couple days. That way, your mind’s fresh and has been given a chance to come up with some new ideas. And finally, if you find yourself stuck on a certain scene or paragraph, move to another section and start writing from there. You don’t always have to write in chronological order.

I hope these tips work for you the way they did for me. While working at the Campus Clipper, I’ve learned that there’s so many young people out there with their own distinctive talents. (For example, all the great writers of Campus Clipper’s book The NYC Student Guide.) Whatever your passion, whether it’s writing, or dance, or film, always remember to follow it 🙂

-Megan, Trinity University

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