Overcoming Writer’s Block

Most writers at some point struggle with writer’s block. Overcoming the block can take many forms.

For screenwriter Ramona Taylor, writer’s block is a sign that she doesn’t have a strong enough story. For Mary Burton, writer’s block means she has a problem with her character.

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Don’t let cupcakes distract you from writing. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Fortunately for these writers and Greer McAllister, they have developed ways to overcome writer’s block, and they shared their tips at a James River Writers’ Writing Show.

Burton, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense author, said every book “hits a stage where the authors thinks she can’t write and is a fraud.” Burton’s approach is to not focus on the first draft, which she called her “sloppy copy.” The real story, she said, happens in the editing.

McAllister’s novel The Magician — a USA Today bestseller, Indie Next pick, and Target Book Club selection — has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain. She finds it helpful to write a synopsis first. “I discover what the heck is going on in my book,” she said.

Taylor, whose films have screened in festivals across the country, said she visualizes her screenplay and writes the bullet points. As she is writing, she places asterisks where she is stuck and needs to come back and rewrite. By leaving the writing for a bit, she said she will be inspired later and is able to clean up the bad spots.

All the authors stressed that research is not writing. “Research is fun,” Burton said, “But research is not writing!”

Added McAllister, “Research and writing can really be frenemies.”

When they are truly stuck, she said she will write the copy for the back cover, write social media posts or write to other authors. Her writing continues but not on the book.

Burton recommended creating something or exercising to reset the brain.

One author noted, “You can tell how the writing is going by the number of cupcakes on the counter!”

If all else fails, Burton recommended a “plot nap.”