For my writer friends – When you’re stuck


Every once in awhile I get an email from one of my writer friends asking for advice. Sometimes I feel ill suited to answer the question because I feel I’m still a beginner in this writing game.

I kind of hope I always feel like a beginner. I hope I’m always learning more and more about this job I have.

Well, yesterday my buddy – let’s call him Paul – sent me a message I feel well equipped to answer. It went something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.37.41 AM

Okay, okay. So, his name is Nathan and I just screen shot his question. Oh. And, Nathan. Is it cool that I used a screen shot of your question? Thanks.

See, Nathan is participating in NaNoWriMo (the month in which writers write 50,000 words of a novel). He’s a gifted writer. And he isn’t afraid of the hard work. Mark. My. Words. Nathan’s got what it takes to make it as a writer.

Here’s my answer to Nathan and to anyone struggling to get the words out.


Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.43.01 AM

Here’s the thing about writing a first draft: It’s going to be garbage. Rubbish. Trash. Junk. Poo Biscuits. You’ll be embarrassed by how idiotic some of the scenes play out. You’re going to feel like a fraud as a writer. You’ll wonder why some scenes flow and others are like hacking at frozen ground.

NaNoWriMo is all about the first draft. And that’s all right.

And it’s all right to feel stuck. But you can’t stay stuck. You’ve got to gnash your teeth against it, claw at it, drag yourself out. Remember how you learned that getting out of quick sand requires one to be still.

Well, that doesn’t always work in writing.

Sometimes you just have to force those fingers to move.

You know how I get unstuck? I turn on music that moves (Debussy piano music or a movie soundtrack). I make a note in the manuscript that looks like this:


And then I make things happen to my characters. I force them to go for a walk in those scary woods or open a door they’re told to keep closed. I write straight up dialogue as if I’m writing a script and see what my characters have to say.

I allow myself to screw something up. To write what I don’t want to have happen in the book. Why not? I can always slash it with my purple pen later. It’s cool.

And sometimes I get out of my chair. I put in a load of laundry or do the dishes. I run in place for 30 seconds or play piano. I stare out the window and watch the birds.

These things aren’t a distraction (watching TV is a distraction, gazing into the fridge is a distraction). No, these are brain breaks and they’re good for you.

No joke. Some of my better ideas for my novels came when I didn’t have my keister in the chair.

My last nugget of wisdom is this…come close…listen…

Trust yourself.

Trust yourself enough to let go. Trust yourself enough to know that if what you write isn’t perfect you’ll have the power to fix it later. Trust yourself enough to know that you CAN do this.

Because you can.

Oh! And, when you’re stuck, find a friend who just must be kind enough to tell you to get back to work.

At this  moment, that’s me. So…

Quit goofing off and get back to writing!

7 Comments on “For my writer friends – When you’re stuck

  1. You’re the best, Susie. Also, yes, you can use my message in your blog.

    I just realized what my problem was/is (Literally, while writing this post). I’m worried about what my beta readers will think. I usually give them my first draft, not edits, so I have been sitting in my Starbucks seat thinking “What will they want to see next?” or “How would they react to this?”

    Thanks for giving me permission to mess up. I need that at least once a day. Sometimes I forget to write for me. I forget that I’m the one who needs to enjoy the writing process.

    Just for kicks and giggles, I think I might throw a wrench in all my characters’ plans. We’ll see how it goes. After all, if I don’t like it, I can always take it out.



  2. Great advice, Susie! I’ll keep it in mind as I power through the rest of NaNoWriMo. I’m always amazed at some of the things that end up on the page when I’m just writing, writing, writing without thinking, thinking, thinking. Sure, lots of it is junk, but there are some real gems that appear, too. Keep writing, my friend, and I will, too. ~Robyn


  3. Okay, so I was reading email & blogs as a break from writing and debating whether or not I was even going to try to break through the writer’s block today. I’m with you Nathan. My word count totally stinks today, especially given how much time I’ve put in. But Susie’s right and her advice is timely. Going back to it now. Thank you, my friend.


    • This weekend I had 2 different Thanksgiving celebrations. I’m beat today. My words suffered, but I still managed to get a few poopy scenes written. I won’t use much of what I wrote, but there is this one sentence I really, really like.

      Totally worth it.

      Also, it’s hard to write with leftover pumpkin cake less than 5 feet away. Just saying.


    • Yesterday, (When I messaged Susie) I tried switching projects for a little break. I ended up writing over 2,000 words! You can do it. Write without fear. Sometimes that requires and change of outward scenery, sometimes, like yesterday, it is a change of inner or mental scenery.


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