Skip to main content

Stuck While Writing? Try This Brilliant Advice

Every writer knows that while there are the blessed moments where words seem to pour forth in a magical river, sometimes the act of writing is like pulling teeth. Actually, pulling teeth sounds a lot easier than attempting to write when you’re blocked. The following approaches to getting unstuck could prove extremely helpful—I know they’ve helped me.

This advice, which was posted on Tumblr and evolved into a humorous string of posts, suggests some simple, sound tactics that can dig you out of a writing rut.

Tumblr user danielle-writes, well, wrote:

Some advice for when you’re writing and find yourself stuck in the middle of a scene:

  • kill someone
  • ask this question: “What could go wrong?” and write exactly how it goes wrong
  • switch the POV from your current character to another – a minor character, the antagonist, anyone
  • stop writing whatever scene you’re struggling with and skip to the next one you want to write
  • write the ending
  • write a sex scene
  • use a scene prompt
  • use sentence starters
  • read someone else’s writing

Never delete. Never read what you’ve already written. Pass Go, collect your $200, and keep going.

Everyone writes differently, but I know one of my own personal hang-ups is that I want the thing to emerge as a perfect whole (when of course it never does). When I’m writing a story, I rarely skip around—if I get bogged down in the mud of one scene, I often give up entirely. It’s hard for me to remember that I’m the master of my own story domain and I’m allowed to jump to the end, to travel far into the future or back into the past, to suddenly switch perspectives, to ask “What could go wrong?” and then go there. And of course, a sudden sexy sex scene never hurts.

In addition, there’s no reason why you can’t look to outside resources like scene prompts and sentence starters to get the words flowing again. The best outside resource of all, as Danielle also highlights, is delving into the work of other writers. I’d recommend two approaches in this respect: pick up a book by someone whose writing you adore—there can be a kind of transference effect that seems to imbue you with their powers. Read Borges all day, or Bradbury, or Le Guin, or Tolkien, and you’ll soon be thinking and structuring your sentences with their assistance. Or else, try the opposite, what I like to call “revenge writing”: read something you hate and can’t believe got published, because you know you could do better, then prove it.

All of Danielle’s advice amounts to gentle nudges I definitely needed (and still do, and keep returning to). The first on her list—kill someone—is a guaranteed intriguing tactic in a story to be sure, but it’s also the part that turned this practical post into a viral bit of fun.

Tumblr user anexperimentallife reblogged the original post and joked,

Special note: “Kill someone” means kill someone in the story. Please do not kill random real life passers by every time you hit a block. My lawyer says misunderstanding writing advice is not an acceptable defense. See you all in 25 to 50 years.

What’re your tried and true ways to get writing?


(via Tumblr, image: Everett Collection / Shutterstock)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.