6: Ten Tips to Keep Writing

Grinding to a halt during a writing project is a given. You get to a point in a book, an article, or your author newsletter, and you feel as though you just. Can’t.. Go. On.

I’ve been there, and so have you. But the point is to somehow—SOMEHOW—get back in the zone. Here are ten ways to reset.



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[00:00:00] Kathrese: Grinding to a halt during a writing project is a given. You get to a point in a book, an article, or your author newsletter, and you feel as though you just. Can’t.. Go. On.

I’ve been there, and so have you. But the point is to somehow—SOMEHOW—get back in the zone. Here are ten ways to reset.

I'm your host, Kathrese McKee. I own Word Marker Edits and write and produce the weekly newsletter, Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author. Writing Pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgmental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words. If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you. Let's get to it.

Hey, Writing Pursuits Authors. Welcome back to the podcast. To those of you who are new, I want to extend a special welcome. My name is Kathrese McKee, and I'm glad you're here. Please leave a comment, a star rating, and follow the show to help others find Writing Pursuits.

So you’ve reached that place in your novel when you get stuck. Maybe you can’t figure out how to write your way out of a corner or your characters aren’t cooperating or you just feel tired and unmotivated.

What can you do to keep writing? Here are a few tips: some of them are physical, a couple of them seem woo-woo, and a few are ways to work out problems with characters and plots. I have tried them all, so I know they work.

One: Stretch it out or get moving.

Go outside when you can’t write anymore and walk. Or do a tour of your house. Or if you depend on a wheelchair, cane, or walker, then put away the work, stretch, and concentrate on your breathing.

Any exercise will do. The object is to get away from the writing work and switch to a physical activity. Gentle exercise is all that’s necessary to give your brain a break.

This particular method works for me close to one hundred percent of the time, so it is my go to.

Two: Get near some water.

Being close to water has been proven to reduce stress and rejuvenate the mind. Google “blue mind” to find out more about this fascinating phenomenon.

If you don’t live near an ocean, a lake, or a river, then take a long bath or a shower or go to the pool.

Having a small tabletop fountain near your desk has somewhat the same effect. Maybe this is why my favorite soundtrack for writing is rain sounds. I love the sound of the rain.

Fun fact: Winston Churchill took a long, hot bath every day. His butler kept the water at a constant temperature (with a thermometer, mind you). Churchill’s secretary sat outside the room behind a screen, typing away as he dictated letters to various heads of state. Can you imagine?

Agatha Christie stated: "The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.”

Could it have been that having her hands in water was the trick?

Side note: Drink a glass of water. Your brain needs to be properly hydrated to think well.

Tip Three: Take a nap while visualizing.

Take a nap or go to bed for the night, but before you fall asleep, visualize part of your story. Really think about your characters and the setting you’ve put them in. Consider how they are feeling and what they are up against. Then let yourself doze off.

This approach takes practice, but it works. When you wake up, go back to your writing, and you will see it in a new light. More often than not, a solution will occur to you for whatever you’ve been struggling with.

Four: Record an interview with your character when they get difficult.

Srilani, my MC for my big series, was a hard character for me to write about. Oddly, I didn’t like her all that much when I began her story. Finally, I stopped trying to “write her” and recorded an interview with her on my phone.

I asked my reluctant MC questions, waited, and let her answer in her own words. That exercise was life changing for me as an author.

Two things happened:

1. A different part of my brain, the speech center, took over.

2. I “became” Srilani for a time.

Talking it out gave my imagination permission to run wild; when I let my character “tell me” the answers to my questions, they just rolled out effortlessly.

My MC revealed how she felt cast aside when her brother was born and supplanted her as heir, completely changing her relationship with her father. She told me about the necklace her grandmother bequeathed to her and the memories she had of the grand old lady. I learned what Srilani loved to do and what she wished for.

After the interview, my problems writing her melted away. Give this a try with any characters who are not cooperating.

Five: Boredom is a sign to stop and take stock.

If you document software for a living, it is okay to be bored by your work. I’ve done that. I know it gets boring. Otherwise, boredom while you write is a sure sign you are on the wrong path.

If you are bored while you are writing fiction, then the scene is not helping your story. What is the next exciting scene you want to write? Go there. Figure out some way to move from Point A, just before your story became a snoozer, to Point B, the next exciting bit, without boring your readers and yourself.

And now, a word from our sponsor.


This episode of Writing Pursuits is brought to you by Word Marker Edits, trusted by fiction authors since 2014 to take their writing to a new level of excellence. From developmental edits and coaching to the finer points of line editing, copyediting, and proofreading, we help you “prepare your story for the journey ahead.” For more information, go to WordMarkerEdits.com.

And now, back to Writing Pursuits.


Number Six: Use the “Popcorn Method.”

Janice Thompson introduced me to her “popcorn method” in a presentation she gave for our local writers group. She is the author of well over one hundred books—can you imagine?—and is a prolific producer of several novels and devotionals every year. So, I pay attention to any crumbs of wisdom she lets fall.

In summary, she has a beginning and an ending in mind. When she starts writing, she also has ideas or “kernels” for several scenes that will happen during the story. That’s her plan, and then she dives in. When she hits a roadblock, she skips to one of her kernels and writes that scene. It’s the popcorn method. Get it?

By the time she gets through her popcorn scenes, all she has to do is connect the dots. Janice is highly inventive; connecting scenes is what she lives for. Did I mention she writes plays too? I’m sure that experience helps.

Try this. List your must-have scene ideas--your popcorn kernels--before you start writing a new story. Use those kernels to help you keep going. Don’t be afraid to skip around. The roadblocks will fade away as you make forward progress.

Number Seven: Try writing the ending first.

J.K. Rowling claims she wrote the ending of the last Harry Potter book before she began writing the series. She squirreled the last chapter away and wrote the seven book series with the end in mind.

You don’t have to write the *final* chapter but get somewhere close. Draft the final conflict or the fallout from the final conflict. Then run back to the beginning and make it happen. Sometimes, plot point possibilities will present themselves with this approach that you never would have imagined if you wrote the book in a linear fashion.

Remember, the plot can change and so can the ending or final conflict. The scene you drafted first is only a *potential* destination.

Number Eight: Know your mirror moment.

My favorite writing teacher, James Scott Bell, dedicated an entire book to this topic. He wrote: ***[Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between](https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IMIXI6U)***.

I bought this ebook in September of 2014. The concept of the “mirror moment,” when your MC comes face to face with themselves, revolutionized my writing. This is the moment when your MC goes from reactive mode to proactive mode, the moment they embrace their own agency.

Also, *Write Your Novel from the Middle* is a short read. Short but mighty! Buy it today and read it in one sitting. You’ll be glad you did.

To quote Bell:

>“When I discovered the ‘mirror moment’ it was like fireworks going off in my head. It immediately took front row center in the drafting of my own work. Then I started teaching it in workshops, and the fireworks went off there, too.”

So that’s a great tip.

Number Nine: Ask for help and brainstorm with others.

Two brains are better than one, but three are even better. Something about having multiple people take shots at a plot problem produces dynamic, wonderful ideas. Don't’ be stubborn like me; ask for help.

Number Ten: Assign homework to your character.

This is similar to the interview in #4, but in some ways, it is easier.

Have one of your characters write a letter from their point of view to someone else in your story world—maybe a stranger—about the events unfolding in your story. Let them speculate about the reasons things have happened and what they think *will* happen as a result. Let them spill their guts about what they are feeling and how this is affecting them.

*Remember, don’t let them know stuff they can’t possibly know.* Stay in their point of view. But you may discover your letter writer knows stuff you don’t, so stay open to new ideas.

You will be amazed by the story fodder that can be produced this way. AND you may be able to use letters from your characters like this as bonus material, exclusively for your readers. It’s not going in the book, right? 🙂

So today, we have gone over these tips:

Stretch it out.

Get near some water.

Take a nap while visualizing.

Record an interview with your character when they get difficult.

Boredom is a sign to stop and take stock.

Use the popcorn method.

Write the ending first.

Know your mirror moment.

Ask for help and brainstorm with others.

Assign work to your character.

It’s kind of a jumble of tips, but I hope they help.

**What is your favorite way to get past a writing roadblock?** I would love it if you left comments on this episode, so go to Episode 6, at Writing Pursuits dot com, and leave your answer.

That’s all I have for you today. Until next time …

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around here, I hope people join the Writing Pursuits Author Community for more content and to receive Word Marker Tips for Authors. That link and all the links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at WritingPursuits.com.

Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes, and keep writing, my friends. Keep writing!

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