Aphelion Issue 234, Volume 22
November 2018
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
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How does one overcome writer's block? This is a question that's been plaguing me for the last several months as I've spent nearly every day since the car wreck doing almost exactly the same thing - Sitting at my desk, randomly surfing web pages, composing blog entries, commenting on different forums, and unable to read books or write a story. I was able to turn out one entry for one of the flash fiction contests over in our Forums area, true. But that was only a thousand words. It took me all of three hours to do. Most of that time was proofreading and editing, not writing.

In my case the block stemmed from the concussion that I suffered in the wreck. My eyesight has yet to return to normal. Although it is almost back to what I had before the accident, I still sometimes get up in the morning and am able to see better without my glasses than with. Then as the day progresses my vision readjusts and I have to put my glasses back on. As part of this, I haven't been able to pick up a book and read it because I can't concentrate. This lack of concentration is also behind my inability to string together more than a few paragraphs of a composition. I have to save a file of what I'm attempting to write, come back to it later to edit what I'd done, and then add more text. So far, I've managed to cope. That said, I really would like to be able to start writing stories again. But this isn't writer's block, it's just healing from an injury. Writer's block is something different. It's something that happens to everyone from time to time.

So what is writer's block? Is it something different from the standard "dreaded blank page" syndrome that some people face? I think that those are two different things, myself. Facing an empty page and not knowing where to begin feels different than pulling up a file of an outline or a partly completed story and then not being able to compose the next scene. It seems to me that being unable to get back into the flow of composition is a bit different from being unable to think up a good narrative hook to begin a story. "Dreaded Blank Page" can be overcome by simply starting off with a number of different possible first sentences and seeing which one works best towards pulling the reader into the narrative. Writer's block, on the other hand, seems to be more of an inability to get back to work on a story that has already been started.

So, back to the original question: How does a writer overcome this inability to leap back into their composition? One standard trick is to re-read the story so far. This can sometimes spark off the next scene that one wants to write. If that works, then the writer just picks up the thread of the tale and dives back in. The story continues from the point where one had left it.

Another trick is to keep a short outline of the story as one first thought it should go, then refer back to the outline whenever one gets stalled out. The thing about outlines is that they rarely reflect the finished story except in a very general way. As the story evolves, the outline often bears less and less resemblance to the final product. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Stories should evolve as they progress. As a writer gets to know their characters better it is often difficult to force them to follow the original plan. One gets the feeling that they just wouldn't act that way, after all. Then one is faced with the added problem of how to obtain the action that the original outline needed. My advice is to think of the outline as a suggestion, not a solid plan of action. Don't force your characters to follow that plan if you've found out that they just wouldn't do "that" - Whatever "that" happened to be.

Yet another trick is to stop in the middle of a sentence. When this works it's because your mind wants to fill in the blanks that you've created. When this doesn't work, you feel pretty silly having that incomplete sentence just hanging there. Try it a few times and see if it works for you.

Other tricks can be as simple as having a set time to write every day. It doesn't matter if it is the same story that you work on during each writing period. The idea is to sit down and write. Once you've gotten into the habit of writing every day at the time that you've picked, you'll find that you produce more - and more varied - kinds of compositions. The idea is to induce a sort of OCD about writing every day. Regardless of the topic, schedule a regular time to sit and write. Then never let yourself off the hook. Don't allow yourself to skip a writing period. Once you figure out your most productive time of day to write, and your obsession is firmly ingrained, then you'll begin to reap large benefits.

Remember that every writer finds different things that work for them. Not everything will work for everyone. We are all individuals. We're only alike in some ways. But, we are different in lots of ways - That is a great source of strength.

I hope that some of these suggestions work for you the next time you can't seem to get back into your story. But for now, it's time for me to shut up and let you get on to our stories and poetry for this issue. Enjoy!

Dan