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#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop - 20 Writing Exercises to Get Unstuck

From time to time, it's inevitable that in between those days of ever-flowing creative genius, writers are bound to hit roadblocks. Whether big or small, tiny bits of dialogue, or entire scenes and chapters, sometimes it can feel like an impossible task to carry on. We're just stuck. And while we will eventually work through it, I've discovered through my bouts of feeling stagnant, that there are often ways to accelerate our creative process.

For this month's Author Toolbox Blog Hop topic, I'm compiling a list of 20 creative writing exercises to get unstuck.

1. Try another scene and come back later. A number of things could be affecting your ability to write a certain scene, including your emotional state, health, sleep, etc. Sometimes the answer is to simply take a break and return when you're in the right frame of mind.

2. Take out a sheet of paper and write by hand. Writing by hand is known to engage the entire brain, which is why journaling is so often recommended by mental health professionals. It helps you work through problems that you're struggling to resolve. This is probably my #1 go to when it comes to getting unstuck in my writing.

3. Look at your Pinterest board (or make one). Images are a great way to spark your creativity and inspire lots of various emotions, characters, settings and themes for your novel. If you're looking for some inspiration, check out my Pinterest boards here.

4. Listen to your music playlist (or make one). Music is another favorite of mine for getting inspired to write. How is it that an artist can write something so personal, often with lyrics specifically crafted from their experience, and yet so many relate to them? Music touches us in ways unspoken, which is why I feel it's such an incredible tool for inspiring our own thoughts into words.

5. Set a timer and free write for 20 minutes. Most likely, by the time it goes off, you'll want to continue writing.

6. Pick a writing prompt from Pinterest, Twitter, Google, etc. 

7. Invent a new character. If you're feeling compelled to mix it up, see how this new character might inject new life into your story.

8. Ask yourself if your POV character(s) were someone else. Is it possible that your story needs to be told through the eyes of another character?

9. What if the hero was really the villain? Or vice versa.

10. Talk to a confidant about your story and get feedback. I've learned from experience that when I've hit a wall, sometimes a fresh perspective is exactly what my story needs.

11. Ask yourself what is the most exciting thing that can happen right now. Author James Scott Bell refers to this as the "chair through a window" method. What if a character were to suddenly pick up a chair and fling it through the window? Sure, it might be overly dramatic for the given scene. But by brainstorming exciting scenarios, you can always scale them back until you've arrived at a solution.

12. Pick two characters that don't naturally interact and force them into a scene together (stuck on an elevator together, rely on each other to get out of a dangerous situation, etc).

13. Journal about what specifically is getting you stuck. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly why you're stuck. This is when I find it the most helpful to journal. Start by asking yourself how you're feeling and why you're struggling to continue. You'd be surprised how effective this exercise can be.

14. Refer to books on writing to help. I've compiled lists of my recent favorites here and here. Click here to watch my Top 5 Books on Writing video.

15. Ask yourself what you love about your favorite book. Can you find a way to incorporate some of those magical elements into your own story?

16. Write out your scenes on flashcards and lay them out in front of you. Sometimes it's easier to get hands on and identify the problem with the right visuals.

17. Skip over it. Whether the problem getting you stuck is dialogue, description, or an entire scene, try skipping over it until your creativity is flowing again.

18. Draw or dictate the scene instead of writing it. If the words aren't coming to you, consider if there's another way to collect your thoughts and get a better sense of what you're really trying to say.

19. Is this scene even critical? What would happen if you took it out? Consider if one of the reasons you're struggling is because it doesn't really fit the story you're trying to tell.

20. Ask yourself what inspired this story in the first place. Returning to that initial feeling could help ignite that creative spark and get you back on track.

What's your favorite way to get unstuck in your writing? Let me know in the comments!

This post is part of the March 2020 Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Be sure to check out the rest of the awesome bloggers here!

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  1. Some great reminders here - particularly about Pinterest. I’ve created it but done nothing with it. Thanks.

    1. Pinterest has been such a helpful tool for me, I hope you enjoy it!

  2. I'm particularly fond of #4, listening to music.
    One of my favorite techniques is to browse soundtracks that are popular, but I haven't seen the movie, show or game that they relate to.
    Then, pick a song that seems provocative to me, and write a scene to match it.
    What I really like about this technique is I already know the song was used in conjunction with a scene, but I have no prior knowledge of that scene, so I have no preconceptions when I start to write.
    In the past I used to attend writing groups where people would select a song and share it without any context, and it was really interesting how one person might immediately see images of a desert, while another saw a lush jungle forest.
    Songs without lyrics make such good writing Rorscachs.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. That's a great point that I hadn't thought about, that scores are created with certain scenes/stories in mind. When you listen without that context, it is so interesting to see what images and emotions our minds conjure. I have a couple of go-to instrumental soundtracks that stir a lot in me. You've inspired me to share them in an upcoming post! :)

  3. I don't think anyone's ever explained the purpose of journaling to me in this way before. It all of a sudden makes sense to me. I've used the chair-through-a-window method, and I didn't know it had a name. Marvelous! Great post, Christy!

    1. Thank you so much, Raimey. I'm so happy to hear the journaling idea struck a chord with you. I find it extremely helpful. Somehow the visual of someone randomly throwing a chair through a window in an otherwise low-key scene always makes me giggle. But the concept definitely helps me when I get stuck. :)

  4. So many good tips :D I love writing by hand and making Pinterest boards. When I'm stuck I go back to my scene list to tighten the plot, or sketch my characters. The focus drawing needs refocuses me on my story!

    1. Thank you, Louise! My mom used to be a teacher and has always told me if something isn't clicking for you or someone you're trying to teach, try it another way using another one of the senses. It's always worked for me! :)

  5. I like going to writing manuals to get some inspiration. Funny how that works for me. hehehe

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    1. Yes, I find a lot of inspiration from those as well. :) Thanks for reading!

  6. Love these tips! I like to go for a walk to clear my head. It almost always helps me.

    1. Thanks, Charity! I agree, walks are a great way to get ideas.

  7. Great tips! I'll have to remember these the next time I get in a bad spot!

  8. Hi Christy! I like your website. It's funny, I can't listen to something else while I'm writing, whether it's music or podcasts or my children and husband chattering to each other or trying to get my attention. And as for skipping around in the manuscript? I do that all the time. Sometimes I work forward and backward in story and skip around scenes to keep moving. Thanks for these great tips. I've jotted many down. All best to you!


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