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Tip Tuesday #96

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

I have another great tip on writer's block this week. This one was sent in by Christine Tyler (author of past tips #73 and #79) who blogs at The Writer Coaster. Please give her a visit!

Tricking Yourself out of Writer's Block:

Ever have trouble getting past BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard)? A lot of people will tell you to "just jump in," but that sometimes seems easier said than done. Here is how I get my toes in the water first.

To start, think of where you are in your story. Whether it's "in a castle" or "at the beginning?"
Then, think of who is in the scene. "Joe" or "his frozen lizard friend" will do.
This is not an exact science. Write where you are and who is there up at the top of your page to remind you.

Then, write "what?"

Decide who is asking it and have another character answer. Or have them answer it themselves if they're alone.

Write down the answer, whatever it is.

Let it be stupid-sounding. Start with dialogue, and then jot down notes of anything you see in your head. Keep it to one or two words. Write questions down as they come to mind. Write the answers if you have them. If you don't, move on and think about it later. Personally, I like to keep a lot of white-space so things don't look too cluttered. I also feel more productive because it takes up space.

I find that when I do this, I involuntarily start writing snippets of my scene until I'm writing my manuscript with a full-blown muse.
Afterward, I just skim my "notes" off the top like cream off a pitcher of milk, and keep the good stuff.

It looks a bit like this:

Outside stupid hot-pocket factory that looks like a castle for some reason
Joe, Steve, George

"The crystal. We have to get it."
"Why don't you get it?"
"Because you're the one with the frozen lizard carcass that we need to get into the hot-pocket factory."
No really why doesn't he get it? Frozen lizard carcass?

Lizard talks.
Not frozen. Surprise!
Pink tongue. Pet fly.
Name...George? Moffit?

How do they get in?
Throw George at door.
Mahogany. Metal strip things like olden-times.
George sneaks under door.
The door creaked like the backside of Joe's Grandma after The Great Bean Picnic. Flags featuring microwaveable goodies whapped in the breeze, but the turrets were empty. Guards usually went boating on the weekend, and the weather on this particular Saturday was exceptional. Joe and Steve crept after George, his tail making silent S's in the dust..
.(and I'm off!)



  1. That's a great idea for getting going when you feel stuck. I could see from your first simple words in the dialogue that I could get something going. I'll try it next time I get stuck.

  2. This is great advice. I'm not sure how well I could apply it to my own work, because I never get writer's block.

    When you have a tip that helps you avoid diarrhea of the keyboard (drafts over 300,000 words long), please let me know. Because I have that, for sure.

  3. Great tip I'm going to have to try it. Lately I've been overthinking every idea and I've accomplished nothing!

  4. Great idea, I'm completely with Renae lately, and I needed some help :)

  5. Great trick! In fact...I think I'm gonna go use it right now...

  6. Matthew, if you have tips on how to induce keyboard diarrhea, please send them in. : )

    Love this tip, Christine! Thank you for sending it in.

  7. Thanks for posting my tip, Casey! I'm glad some people are finding it useful.

    Matt, I'll be working on that formula for a writerly-pepto-bismal!

  8. "Let it be stupid-sounding" is a great tip on getting away from perfectionism and trying to impress. It gets you back to writing for the fun of it - experimenting and seeing what sticks.

    Speaking of which, I love this:

    How do they get in?
    Throw George at door.

  9. LOL--oh wow, BICHOK--I needed that acronym for my last blogpost on writerly lingo! I missed that one. ;o) Sounds like great tips for getting out of writer's block! ;o)

  10. I loved you example. Especially
    The door creaked like the backside of Joe's Grandma after The Great Bean Picnic. Flags featuring microwaveable goodies whapped in the breeze, but the turrets were empty. Guards usually went boating on the weekend, and the weather on this particular Saturday was exceptional. Joe and Steve crept after George, his tail making silent S's in the dust
    What fabulous description. I must try this method.

  11. Casey, here are some tips for Keyboard Diarrhea:

    - Be incredibly full of yourself. Being convinced that everything you write is incredible, and describing every moment of your characters day will not bore readers, because you're writing is genius. All of it.

    - Start every scene in the wrong place. Don't just jump in at the part that actually matters. Describe lunch before class, describe the walk over to class from the lunchroom. Heck, mention a stop at the bathroom on the way.

    - Spend several pages setting the scene. Even when your characters are in a mundane location, doing something boring, the reader wants to know exactly what the wood grain on the floor looks like, what the best friend's hair is doing that day, and whether or not he smells.

    - Include whole chapters of flashbacks/backstory just because you want your book to be long. They're important to who your character is, so rather than sprinkling them in to the story organically, beat the reader over the head with them.

    Note: this is satire, sarcasm, and just general idiocy. I'm joking. I do actually literally have the problem of being a long winded gas bag (as you can probably tell from this comment), but I don't actually recommend it. I've been cutting my novel to a manageable size for nearly a year now. It's not fun.

  12. Matt,

    You crack me up. I've actually been struggling with writer's block for awhile, so I'm tempted to do exactly this just to get writing again! I particularly need to work on that first bullet point. : p

  13. Good luck, Casey. I would not wish a 300,000 word manuscript on anyone, but if it can get you through the block, then go for it.

    Try describing everything. An entire day of the character's life. Every. Little. Thing.

    You'll end up having to cut most of it, but it may get the flow going, and there'll be some good stuff buried in there somewhere.

  14. Thanks, Matt. I really do have the opposite problem. I think my writing is too sparse when it comes to details. My characters and settings suffer for it.

    I definitely won't be writing a 300k MS, though! My first reached 150k, and I haven't gone anywhere near that number since. : p