How to Break Writer’s Block

cameraOnce you admit that you listen to the voices in your head and write out what they’re saying (aka that you’re a writer), the inevitable question is: where do you get your ideas?

Most writers will facetiously-yet-sincerely reply, “Everything.”

Because getting ideas isn’t the hard part. Not the initial ones you’re thinking of, anyway. The hard part is when you’re mired in the middle of your novel, with no idea how to get your characters out of the mess you made for them. When you go to write and your mind is a complete blank.

Now, there are tons of ways to get the juices flowing again. You’ll find advice everywhere, from amateur and experienced alike. It really just comes down to the individual author. The method that usually works for me is a stream-of-consciousness brainstorm. I basically write out a conversation with my Muse, tossing ideas back and forth. Alternatively, I do the whole “do a rote activity and let your brain churn in the background.”

But sometimes, like over the last few weeks, neither of those methods work.

Now, you probably don’t remember, unless you creepily remember everything I post on social media, but several weeks ago I had a really cool Supernatural-inspired dream. And I woke up before I found out what happened next. So, being the cool person I am, I decided to find out by continuing the story. Ever since that dream, I’ve been running the story in my head, creating new monsters of the week and even establishing a season-long arc. (Over-achiever, much?)

It’s been pretty great, watching the story unfold. Even better, I found that it’s a fun way to pass the time during otherwise boring activities, like my commute or daily walk. I throw different situations at the characters and let them react however they want — and since the characters are so well defined, it’s pretty easy to set on auto-pilot. Everything just flows so seamlessly.

The other day, I realized I should try this with Narrator.

I had one troublesome scene where I only vaguely knew what I wanted to happen. I’d managed to figure out things up to a certain point, but anything past that was just wide brushstrokes. So I started at that point and encouraged Calder and the others to play it out like they were in a movie. No delving into thoughts or anything, they just needed to be actors for a while.

That immediately made the action flow better, and I just let the story unfold the same way I let my Supernatural fanfic unfold. I did have to “rewind” a couple of times to fix some logic or increase the tension, but that wasn’t too difficult.

And it worked!

I was able to see how the situation played out, in a way that made sense, and I got some great ideas. And I mean some great ideas. I wanted to take a picture of my notes in triumph, but if you managed to read my chicken scratch you’d unwittingly see spoilers. (Sucks to be you, I guess.)

Anyway, this particular writer’s block seems to have broken. The next hurdle is going to be trying to write everything down and hope the Muse doesn’t make a sharp left turn and throw all of this under the bus. *crosses fingers*


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Fun Fact: Train of Thought

Inside-Out-Train-of-Thought-HeadquartersBefore middle school, I didn’t think in words. I know, I’m a writer, how can I not think in words? But so it was. I thought in pictures, emotions, abstract thought — basically anything that wasn’t a word.

But in middle school, I began to notice how book characters’ thoughts were written. For example, “Wouldn’t it be cool if a train of thought was steam-powered, she thought.” This type of structure made me believe that other people thought in words, and that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t.

So what did my impressionable young self do? Trained myself to think in words.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t done that. I feel like I’ve limited myself for no good reason. Lately I’ve been trying to encourage my old thinking process, to hopefully reach a more balanced stream of consciousness. But I have no idea what effect that would have on something like my writing. So I guess we’ll see how it goes.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

It’s Not Going at All, Thank You

Remember when I listed 10 Things Not to Say to a Writer? Here’s #11: How’s your novel going?

stitch-frustrated


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

10 Things Not to Say to a Writer

I’ve enjoyed the #10thingsnottosaytoawriter conversation on Twitter this week. Thought I’d join in the fun. The comments I’ve seen seem to range from annoying to rude to atrocious — my entries are mostly in the “annoying” category.

  1. You write young adult fantasy? So your book’s like Twilight, right?
    Right. Because there are no other young adult fantasy books.
    mortal-gods-cassandra
  2. (Relatedly) Hey, you should write romance. Those writers make so much money.
    Maybe, but I can’t stomach romance novels. If I can’t read one for even an hour, what on Earth would compel me to spend months or years writing one? There’s a reason I write what I write, and it’s not for the money.
    thisiswhatpeopleliketoread
  3. Your book sounds…interesting.
    You don’t have to lie. You’re allowed to not be the right audience for my book.
    gaston
  4. So you’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling?
    …What? No? Why is this even a question?
    killing characters
  5. Who do you want to star in the movie?
    Writers have no control over whether a movie is even made. Casting for said movie is so far off my radar, it could have just passed Pluto…But since we’re on the subject, I prefer casting unknowns for main characters. If Jennifer Lawrence played Saydie, for example, I would just see Katniss behaving strangely.
    I-wish-they-would-turn-this-book-into-a-movie
  6. But isn’t the publishing industry dying?
    No, actually. It’s not. It’s just going through the biggest upheaval since the invention of the printing press. Enjoy the innovation. Also, STFU.
    gutenberg_11358_md
  7. Writing sounds like a nice hobby.
    Yeah? So does your job.please do not annoy the writer
  8. I’d write too if I had that much free time.
    Yeah, free time. Wonder what that’s like.
    f6cf649f12680f28f1daf8008201d16c
  9. So you’re not published.
    Actually, I am. But there’s no need to be rude.
    18188359
  10. When will you finish your book?
    days-weeks-months
    ‘Nough said.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.