Writer's Block by Claire Merchant

Brick by Brick: Building Ideas and Breaking Through Writer’s Block

By Claire Merchant

I love to write and I have tons of ideas....but none of them relate at all! Once I get one idea down on paper, another one pops up. And the second one always seems better than the first. Sometimes I am able to write two or more chapters, but by chapter five the idea evaporates and I have no idea how to continue! Does anyone have any suggestions?”

Submitted by moseso on Mon, 09/14/2015 - 6:09pm

This question was written into the LitPick forum a few months ago and was brought to my attention recently. So, moseso, and anyone else who has similar trouble breaking through that brick wall, I wanted to offer you my advice!

The first thing that I will say is: don’t be discouraged. It is fantastic to hear that you’re writing, and let me tell you—ALL writers experience the feeling of being stuck at one time or another. When I first started writing, I wrote pages and pages of paragraphs that weren’t linked at all. I wrote stories that were never finished because I ran out of steam. I actually was convinced that I would never write an ending for a story because, to borrow a term, the idea evaporated. But I didn’t stop writing and eventually, it paid off. Actually, the first story that I started writing, I kept it going for years—and I mean YEARS. Like, I would add to it over about a decade, and then when I finally finished it, it was over 283,000 words (I recently split it into three novels and need to get around to editing it).

The second thing that I will say is: don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s natural that as you continue to write your ideas and writing style will improve. That’s the beauty of editing and proofreading. If you get stuck then you can always build on ideas at a later time—which I do a lot. I have three stories at the moment that I’m a bit stuck on writing, but I know there’s a story in there that I want to tell. So I just take a step back and plot out points. Sometimes I’ll write a couple of sentences and plan out the direction of the story, which will change on occasion. In my experience, writing is something that you can’t force, so sometimes you need to allow the ideas to percolate. Some stories I’ll sit with for months or even years, and then in a week or a few, I’ll write the whole novel. It’s a process, so be patient with yourself. Ideas might fly away, but sometimes something better comes back.

My third piece of advice is: don’t delete anything, it still may be useful. Even now there are times I go back over some little excerpts or paragraphs that I’ve written and weave them into my story. Sure, sometimes this doesn’t work, but sometimes it adds the perfect little twist in your plot. Build on your ideas and you’ll make them stronger. Sometimes they just need a little extra TLC and attention.

The fourth and final pearl of wisdom is: don’t be afraid to rewrite and/or change your stories. If you find that you’re always getting stuck on where to go next, consider changing the direction of it. I did this when I was writing South Coast Son. I was at the end of chapter eleven, which is just over half way through, and I stopped and went: Nope, Sam wouldn’t do that,” so I hit Save As” and went back to rewrite approximately ten pages to change it. It hurt a little, but it was the best thing for the story and opened up a whole new discussion for the characters. Story unstuck!

Well, I hope this helps you, moseso, and anyone else out there who has been in a similar situation of runaway ideas. Just remember that the next time you’re tapping away on the keyboard and that story idea evaporates, don’t be afraid to start on another idea. The best thing that you can do is keep writing because it’ll expand your imagination and keep your creative juices flowing. Plus, even if you think that one idea isn’t as good as another, you might still be able to use it in another story or build on it at a later date. So, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing…


Claire Merchant is the author of Mistry by Moonlight, Midnight Mistry, Forever Ruby, South Coast Son, Knowing Nora, and Foresight, with more books coming out in 2016!

Pegasus Publishers