Two Kinds of Writer’s Block

I’ve discovered as a writer that there are two kinds of “blocks” I come up against developing my fiction. They’re really kind of interesting in that they are, by nature, more or less diametrically opposed. It’s an interesting concept, so I wanted to explore it today, to see what I can discover by picking this topic apart.

  • THE BARRIER. The barrier is just what you can guess by its name. This block occurs  when you have nowhere to go with the story–at least, nowhere that you can see, or no simple, obvious option at hand. Perhaps you thought you knew where the story would lead, but you realized you have a plot hole that cuts out that possibility–or at the least, necessitates major rewrites of what you already have. All doors are locked and, not only are they locked, but the little face-like image made by the keyhole and the screws holding the knobs in place are more or less laughing you into insanity as you plead with inanimate objects (faced ones, no less) for mercy.
  • THE CROSSROADS. Sometimes, the possibilities are so endless that you just can’t pick one. You don’t know which one is the RIGHT one, after all, and you don’t want to choose wrong. So you sit there like Dorothy Gale in the scene when she meets the scarecrow, only (thank goodness!) there’s no animate straw man to give you instructions or direction. You sit meditating and wondering and NOT WRITING.


I’ve written before about the question that breaks my writer’s block. Interesting enough, it’s a question that can help you solve either type of block: What would the characters do? Good fiction is character-driven. So, how would your characters react to the situation in which they find themselves? Thinking about that question is a great way to either find a path when you don’t see one, or narrow down your choices when you have too many. One other great point that has occurred to me, and that is equally applicable to either situation:


Rewrites and edits are an inescapable part of the writing process. It’s just possible that the miracle door you find unlocked in a dark, gloomy corner you didn’t see at first means you’ll have to go back, delete things, and change whole sections and subplots of your work. If that’s the case, it’s not fun, but your choice is to do it or start over from square one with a different novel.

On the other hand, one of the major causes of my stasis when I’ve found myself trapped, unable to pick one of many possible directions for my plot, is that I don’t want to have to scrap what I go on to write if I end up changing my mind about where to go. Well, sometimes it’s necessary, and it’s not that huge a deal. The best way to trim you chance of erring is–like I said above–to really consider your characters. Consider what choices ring true to their souls and exhibit the depths of their personalities. Take some time to ponder such things, because truly, it is not time wasted, even it isn’t time spent writing. Just don’t spend days and days. An hour or so should be enough, unless your characters are underdeveloped in your story and your mind; if that’s the case, you should take longer to get your characters fleshed out before you continue no matter whether you feel blocked or not. Because, remember….

LESSON ONE OF VICTORIA GREFER’S WRITING PLATFORM: Character drives fiction. Character drives all good fiction. If you take nothing else from any of my blog posts, ever, and you’re an aspiring writer, remember that, because I learned it the hard way.

Outlining is always an option, too. Even if you’re a panster, you can go ahead and outline the next few scenes ahead starting from different options, and see what works best before you actually flesh anything out.


9 responses to “Two Kinds of Writer’s Block

  1. Oh man, I had the worst case of writer’s block a few months back. I’d written my characters into a literally inescapable situation — well, inescapable unless I incorporated some major deus ex machina. And since I didn’t want to go down that road, I hemmed and hawed for weeks over what to do. What did I end up doing? Scrapping the entire plotline that led them to their inescapable situation and starting from scratch. Frustrating? Yes. Necessary? Also yes. Sometimes you just have to backtrack, whether you like it or not.

  2. Pingback: Authors: Take Brainstorming to the Next Level. Let It Help You EDIT. | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  3. Pingback: Two Frustrations Authors Face (That Mean GOOD Things Are Happening) | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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