Read more Let’s Write writing tips in Andi’s Attic >>
Sarah asked me a great question t back in 2013. I’m reposting it so can share with other authors-in-training.
Mrs. M. – I am twelve years old and want to be an author someday, but I suffer from writer’s block a lot. How do I fight and overcome it?
Choose Your Own Adventure
Brainstorming “what ifs” helps to jumpstart your ideas. It’s like one of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular years ago. You’re reading along and at the bottom of a page, you can choose which direction you want the character to take. Then you turn to the page where that outcome takes you.
You can use this idea to generate all kinds of fun ideas. Take your main character and begin a list of “What ifs?” Then, for each “what if?” think of two or three outcomes. For example, in Dangerous Decision, Andi is taken hostage by an outlaw. I list a couple of “what ifs” about this plot event. Then I think of outcomes. It doesn’t matter if they make sense or not. One is bound to trigger even other ideas.
- What if Andi wakes up and tries to sneak away from her captor?
- Outcome #1 – Jed catches her.
- He accidentally shoots her and she loses her memory.
- Or . . . He takes her to Mexico with him.
- Outcome #2 – She sneaks away undetected.
- She gets lost.
- Or . . . Wild animals chase her.
- Or . . . She grabs Jed’s pistol while he sleeps and shoots him.
- Outcome #1 – Jed catches her.
- What if Jed ties Andi up all night?
- Outcome #1 – She loses feeling in her hands and feet and can’t walk.
- Outcome #2 – She manages to free herself and sneak away.
I think you get the idea. Brainstorming even crazy things for your character gets your mind working. You probably won’t use most of your ideas, but if even one idea gets your writer’s block “unblocked,” then it’s worth it.
Write in Someone Else’s Universe
Another trick to help overcome the “nothing to write” syndrome is to write stories using another author’s or screenwriter’s universe. As as a young teen, I liked to read books and imagine a different ending or different characters . . . or put my own characters inside of a story or TV adventure (or movie). Doing this helped jumpstart my imagination.
This kind of writing is called “fan fiction.” It’s what a lot of you do. You use my “world” to create fun new characters and include them in Andi’s world. It’s perfectly fine! You make up fun adventures without having to create every little detail of of a brand-new world. It makes writing a bit easier and definitely helps with writer’s block. Sometimes, I watch on old western and think “Andi” thoughts. Soon, the episode has sparked an idea that I use to create my own ending or other events. It works great!
I once read a book called Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. I liked the idea of a couple of kids stranded on a desert island, so I got all excited and wrote my own version (without the babies). I called it Castaway Island. But the reason I wrote it in the first place was because I’d read that other book!
You can read this story (and others) by clicking this link. Suzy’s Stories >> Once there, scroll down to the Suzy’s Stories section and click the link for Castaway Island. (It’s kind of a silly story, but I’m glad I kept it!) There is also a Martian story (yeah, as in the planet Mars), since I liked outer space when I was a young teen. Other stories will be added as I get them formatted. I wrote with pencil and paper in those days and it takes a long time to type them out to upload on the website.
I also liked the old TV show Star Trek when I was a young teen. I wanted to live on a starship, so I wrote a bunch of Star Trek stories for me to read and dream: “fan fiction.” I believe not having to come up with my own world during the beginning of my writing journey helped me focus on character development, plot, and story. You can read my Star Trek stories under the Suzy’s Stories section >>The point is . . . you don’t always have to write a story from “scratch.” That’s why there are thousands of Fan Fiction stories on the internet. It’s okay to expand an already created universe to get your writer’s block under control. Soon, like me, you’ll be making up other stories all on your own.
Do you ever write fan fiction? If so, which books or shows are your fan fiction stories based on? You can share in the comments.