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15 Tips to Combat Writers Block

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

So the blank page is staring at you. What can you do? Here are some original ideas I use.

If you have one word on a page, it's no longer blank.

1. Pick a favourite verb. Write it down. Examine how it makes you feel. Build around it to help create a first sentence.

One of my favourite verbs is drift. But there are many, many other great verbs.

I love the peaceful feeling 'drift' evokes in me so I've used it as an example.

'The sound of saxophone drifts lazy with jazz through our neighbour's window and entices us out of bed and into the street.' Taken from 'Sunday,' Copyright Deborah Arthurs. 2019

Some other verbs I like are: ease, ooze, smear, flutter, scrunch, beam, trudge, saunter, launch, leer, gobble, scamper, scratch, scuttle, etc. The stronger the verbs, the better.

2. Choose a 'B' word to get started.

Before, behind, beside, below, beneath, beyond, etc.

Once I get my first sentence down I'm on my way. For example:

'Beyond the shadows, the world opens one eye. Like a gigantic shimmering pearl it quivers, fragments, then shatters. Rays of eerie light unspool down to me, beckoning me, "Come climbing."

I stare upward through my cold, clear watery lens and wonder...

"Are they looking for me?"'

Taken from Recluse Bay... A View to Die For

Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018

Once you've got one word on a page you can lean into your story

3. Choose a word that can be both a noun or a verb and use it as a noun... but make it behave like a verb.

Some verb/nouns could be: kiss, kick, leap, scream, shiver, slap, etc.

My example: Shiver:

'A shiver crept under the door, across the floor, up my leg to the small of my back, where it lived for the next three-and-a-half months. On some days it was satisfied just to breath its icy breath, on the back of my neck. But on other days, it bit into my spine and hips, like a bear trap.' Copyright Deborah Arthurs. 2019

4. Recall the smell of someone and describe them.

This example is by a mother describing her four year old daughter, Rosie.

"She smelled of fruit salad and toast, and tasted of smeared honey."

Taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018

She smelled of fruit salad and toast, and tasted of smeared honey...

5. Use a verb as an adjective and build a story around it.

For example: "Across a screeching sky they flew in ominous formation."

Taken from Justice Takes Flight, Published by Deborah Arthurs. 2017

6. Try viewing your story from a different perspective and add a paragraph or two of fine detail:

'Shrouds of decaying vegetation and algae embrace me in gloom. And while I have no company, I’m never alone. The constant crackle of the bottom feeders see to that. My body has become a home for a variety of tiny shellfish, worms, crayfish, crabs and a kaleidoscope of hungry fish. And while they flit between my bones I lie in the ooze imagining the conga lines of women entering my front door, all feigning sympathy yet veiling scheming hearts.

The neighbourhood casserole ladies will be circling like sharks, smelling my blood in the water... '

Taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018

7. Alternate, a big picture view, with a personal view

'My liberators spirit me upwards through clear moonlit water, like a queen on a pyre, towards the surface.

It’s the chicken wire that keeps my bones together...'

Also taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018

Assuming you've gotten this far and none of the techniques above have worked we'll move away from the computer. You will need a note pad and pen/ pencil.

8. Go somewhere outdoors where you can watch people move (preferably not a shopping centre.)

I find a great place to go is a promenade near a beach. I sit at a table, have a coffee, and watch from somewhere I can see people of all ages walking, running, sitting, surfing, swimming and talking.

And I also get to view their many facial expressions which give insight into their internal dialogue.

I aim to record three points that indicate what a character could be like. For example below:

'She bobbed along, mid-riff firm, ponytail flying.'

Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2019

Some assumptions: Young, healthy, female, capable, doing what she wants, heading somewhere.

9. Try making your verbs really strong, and unusual if possible. Build a picture of a character around your verb and use the rule of threes to drive home your point.

For example: "He oozed along the pathway. A slug in a suit. A skid mark on our societal sidewalk, for the naive to slip upon. " Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2019

Dawn Dancers

10. Go somewhere beautiful, take off as many of your clothes as socially acceptable and see, hear, touch, smell and taste the environment around you. Record it in vivid detail.

For example: Kayaking at Sunrise.

'One lone gull heralds the day... and disappears into the darkness of heath. My paddle stilled, I drift on a tide of liquid glass.

The air is warm, still, heavy with salt. It tastes luscious. Raw. Of freedom.

Excerpt from Dawn Dancers. Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2016

11. Play with words, expanding upon your detail, making it increasingly fanciful.

'Etchings of trees erupt into swoops of silvery sopranos. A sea-mist waltzes with eucalypts, flashing alabaster legs beneath chartreuse ball dresses.'

Excerpt from Dawn Dancers. Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2016

12. Eat something that you don't usually eat, and if practical don't use utensils. Savour the moment, taking particular care to notice the smells, taste, touch, sound and appearance. Record them.

For example: I love eating sun-warmed raspberries straight from the vine and feeling the sun on my back. Absorbing the warmth from within and from the outside. Or eating a mango without a spoon and feeling the juice run off my chin, as I strip the flesh back from the seed with my teeth.

Feel the food give way to your force and record any sensations.

Get out and about on public transport to help create characters that are real

13. Get onto some form of public transport bus, train, ferry and use commuters as models to help you to develop believable, if somewhat unusual, characters. The advantage of public transport is, you'll come into contact with a range of people you might normally cross the road to avoid. Describe them in detail.

For example, this is a tiny excerpt from a story of a train trip entitled: 'Hostages to Verbal Ebola.' (To be honest, I couldn't have made this trip up. And I haven't included the dialogue in the following example because it was too obscene, but it gave me incredible insight into the motivations of the characters, their lack of education, their high-risk lifestyle and their criminal proclivities. And it was fascinating to watch... as long as we all remained unscathed observers.)

'Facing commuters, and lounging just below the Quiet Carriage sign, a pair-of-twenty-somethings have arrogated the last four seats. One is steroid-enhanced and blonde; the other mousey, shifty; weasel-like. Both are tattooed. Six foot. Criminal. They’re wearing t-shirts, shorts, thongs... although the larger is better dressed. He has cold Nazi-blue eyes and a fashionable three-day-growth. I nickname him ‘Whacker,’ his brawler’s face, is chiselled contempt.

In contrast, Weasel looks hunted. His eyes dart about, rat-like, as he fidgets. He has a permanent leer and appears to be the intellectual inferior of the two. Their duffel bag, back-pack, and feet commandeer the remaining two seats.

A woman abandons us, lurches to the adjoining carriage. A man in a red and navy checked shirt snaffles her seat and opens his lap top...

...Whacker nods in time, as his music gangsters up in cadenced obscenity.

A middle-aged woman vaults from her seat. Charges down the aisle on bullfighter-red stilettos. Her crisp corporate suit rustles, like battledress, as she hurtles past us.

She halts. Snorts. Glares. Shakes her sagging jowls; perfume sweeping about her, like a power cape.

The two eye her … Still. Ice. Dangerously thin.

“Well.” Corporate Suit cracks the air; leaning in. “This is a quiet carriage. See …” She stabs at the sign above their heads with her red pointed nail. “You shouldn’t be making any noise. So turn that filth off. You're a disgrace.” Her eyes narrow, then blaze, at Whacker’s inaction. “Now!” she shrieks.

Whacker stares unblinking; mouth ugly. Silent... Too silent.

Checked Shirt shifts in his seat; shoves his lap top to the side. Clenches his jaw.

I put my hand on my husband’s leg and it’s rigid. Ready...'

Copyright 'Hostages to Verbal Ebola.' Deborah Arthurs 2018

14. Record the finest details of movements which indicate the character's real feelings and motivations.

For example:

He smiles, flicks his thumbnail with his forefinger, and blinks an over-long blink. His eyes flash for the briefest of seconds; so fast, I almost miss it.

'So how can I be of service?' he smiles again. But this time the smile does not extend to his eyes.

'The Concierge,' Copyright. Deborah Arthurs 2019

Your muse can have a totally different perspective to you... Enjoy the ride.

15. Invite your muse for a 'cuppa' and step back. Provide a word, or three. Sit. And see what he or she comes up with. Explore seeing the world through a different lens. Be comfortable in the knowledge that many stories are told through you. If you let your muse take over, you might be surprised at how easily the story flows.

Happy writing,


Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance.

1 Comment

This was a really original list and you've obviously put some thought into it. I thought Points B and C were really useful and I've used them already in my writing.

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