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When inspiration just isn't striking, perhaps it's time for you to court it. Think of the things that usually inspire you and write about them. If that's also a struggle, think of the last time you had a super productive writing-session. What inspired you at that time?
There’s one powerful motivator that led your reader to your book — curiosity. Our brain doesn’t stop asking questions because it knows that’s how it learns and evolves. Questions raise uncertainty. Unknowns. And if there’s an unknown, then humans want to make it known. There will be a big question that drives your story, so take a couple of minutes to consider the mother-question that propels your book from beginning to end.
Your manuscript also needs to be powered by lots of little questions. Your book will need a variety of whos, whens, whys, and wheres to keep your reader engaged. In fact, every scene in your book needs to have a question define it. It’s what will keep your reader turning those pages. Review each of your scenes and identify the question/s hanging over it, because once you nail that, their mind will be asking the most important question of all — what happens next?
Open a dictionary, close your eyes, pick a random word, and write about it. Go on, see how much you can write about one word in thirty seconds. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s great or silly or you think it’s a beautiful word that everyone should use in every conversation. Write it!
Memorable characters are ones that mirror real people: their feelings, experiences, needs, and goals. Challenge yourself to get real with your character by first getting real with yourself. Grab a notebook and answer the following questions as they pertain to you:
What emotion do you struggle with because you feel it so deeply?
What type of situation makes you feel vulnerable or inadequate?
What past mistake causes you the most regret?
What core moral belief is so ingrained that you live it every day?
These questions require a deep look within and put us in touch with our authentic selves. This is what readers come to the page for, so answer these again, this time as your protagonist. When you finish, think about how you can incorporate some of these vulnerable moments into your story to show readers the deeper side of your character.
When describing your setting, consider who’s looking at it as well as what they see. For example, an ex-con is likely to view (and describe) a restaurant hosting a police officer’s retirement party differently than the daughter of the retiring officer. Take the point-of-view-character’s world view and personal judgment into consideration. What details would they specifically notice? How would they feel about what they see? What emotions or thoughts might those details trigger? This allows you to craft richer settings that reflect both the character, and the world they live in.
At the root of all writer’s block? Fear. You’ll recognize it by the questions you ask yourself when you sit down to write: Can I really finish an entire story? Am I a good enough writer to pull this off? Will this story matter to anyone? Or am I wasting my time? And what if I sound dumb?
But the specific fear doesn’t matter if you know how to soothe it. Here’s what to do: Lie down. On the couch. In bed. In the tub (Hey, don’t knock it! Sometimes it’s the only place writers can find some time alone!). Lie down where it’s comfortable and quiet, and write fifty words.
Either the exercise helps you break through the anxiety, and you keep writing. Or you have fifty words more than you had yesterday, and you try again tomorrow. Either way, lie down and write fifty words.