Finding the motivation to keep writing your novel when you are feeling blocked or your inspiration has dried up can be tough. Perhaps you are preoccupied with other writing projects, or maybe you're just busy with life.
Here are some practical solutions to get back your writing mojo.
1. Pretend you're in writing class Have you ever noticed that when someone tells you to write something specific you don't have a problem finding the motivation? If you don't want to sign up to a writers' group or writing class, make a list of questions and exercises, print them onto index cards and put them in a box. Then simply take one out at random, and do what it says.
Questions should be indirectly related to your story, so if you're writing a speculative fiction novel write questions like 'describe the guards that protect the main castle' or 'describe what your characters would eat during the day, and how they would prepare the food'.
If you are writing a modern story a question might be 'if you looked in the top drawer of your main character's bedside table, what would you find?' or 'what type of car does your character drive' or 'what would your character's neighbours say about them if asked by a newspaper journalist'.
If you are writing a romance then questions might be 'describe your character's dream wedding' or 'how does your main character get ready for an important date.'
It doesn't really matter what the questions are, and they shouldn't be directly related to the plot itself. They should be designed to get the creative juices flowing, and to build your mental image of the landscape, context and characters in your novel.
2. Go into detail Novelist Bruce Russell suggests going into great detail about a character, place, scene or item. 'Details can get you over a hump' he told a class at the recent Perth Writer's Festival. By drilling down and focusing on the smallest detail (what type of café does the character buy their morning coffee from, where is it, what does it look like, what food does it serve, what is its clientele like) it can get you past the block and possibly open up a new plot or storyline.
The origin of the term 'writer's block' is thought to be around 1945-50
3. Switch perspective Your idea is great but you can't seem to get it out of your head and onto paper: maybe your perspective is wrong. Try rewriting a scene from a different character's point of view, or switch from third person to first person (or vice versa). Take a step back and write the scene from the point of view of a minor character or a stranger, maybe they will see something different that will help you over the hump.
Similarly, Bruce Russell suggests that if you are trying to write about something that occurred to you personally and are finding it hard to get onto paper, rewrite the story from the perspective of a fictional character so it is easier to get some emotional distance.
4. Start at the end
If you started a great novel based on a brilliant idea, or which has been coasting along on the back of an amazing character but then all inspiration has dried up, is it simply because you don't know what is going to happen next? Some writers don't need to know the full plot of their story before they start writing. I personally am not one of those writers.
Get a big piece of paper, box of index cards, or white board and start a storyboard of your characters and plots. If you know where the story will finish, you might find it easier to work backwards
5. Put your money where your mouth is
According to Bruce Russell advances from publishers are a bit of a dream, but that is no reason why you can't put your own money on the line and pay yourself an advance. Maybe cash is the way to motivate your writing.
Put $500 (or whatever you can 'just' afford) in the bank or hand it over to a trusted friend. Give yourself a deadline and a goal and if you achieve it, then pay yourself the advance. If you fail to meet your goal then you forfeit the money – donate it to charity (try the Australia Society of Author's Benevolent Fund) or take all your mates out for a big dinner.
6. Put the pressure on
If you work well under pressure then pretend it's NaNoWriMo and set yourself a goal such as writing 50,000 words in a month. The point of NaNo is quantity not quality. You can't re-read or edit, you just need to write. Even if most of it is inane nonsense, you might later find a gem of a story that gets you over your block.
7. Find inspiration in strange places
Children's writer Ursula Dubosarsky found inspiration for one of her young adult novels in the names of paintings by artist Charles Blackman, which she used as chapter headings to give her book structure as she wrote. Perhaps you can find your own inspiration in the creative works of others: go to the art gallery and look at paintings – one might evoke a mood or you may see a scene or character that inspires you to write.
Go to a music store and flick through the albums – a music title or band name might strike a chord (no pun intended). Even sit at your local train station or café and watch the myriad potential characters walk by.
Look for something that puts you in an emotional mood – and remember, it doesn't have to be a good mood.
What other solutions do you have for getting over writers block?
Good topic Shannon and some good options here :) I once read an article about a course that was called something like 'how to write a thesis in a week'. The participants were essentially told to sit down and just write, without stopping, for an hour at a time. No reviewing, no searching for the perfect word/s - just non-stop writing to get the words on the page. This is an approach I find helpful (although admittedly you need to have an idea of what you're going to write about!). It's surprising when you read back over what you've written in this way; it generally only needs fairly minor editing to get it into shape.