How to Avoid Writing Slumps – Practical Tips for Authors

Are you staring at your computer screen and can’t bring yourself to type one single word? If you’re in a writing slump or have a serious case of the writer’s block, you’re in safe hands. There are dozens of articles covering tips and tricks on how to get out of the rut you’re in and jump right back on your horse. What you don’t see as often is tips on how to prevent the writing slump altogether.

As with any other serious issue, prevention is a lot easier than treatment. Take it from this author who had a six-month writing slump which threatened to never go away. I tried to analyze everything that led to it and everything other authors go through, and came up with a few ideas to keep my writing mojo going and prevent any incoming blocks.

How to Avoid Writing Slumps – Turn Writing into a Habit

Writing should be like brushing your teeth – never skip it on any given day. Be it a paragraph or a few pages, you should work on building a habit out of writing. As authors, we are highly dependent on inspiration. But if writing is the career you want to follow, and inspiration does not come knocking on your door or your muse is on vacation, you won’t get very far. Most people don’t get the day off just because they don’t feel like working. Neither should authors.

Feeling inspired is a great sensation, but you shouldn’t just give up because the words aren’t flowing easily. Take your writing seriously, power up that computer, and start typing. Besides, if you get over the first few shaky sentences and get sucked into your own story, it won’t seem like such a burden. Once you’re used to writing, no matter what, even if it’s just for five minutes, you’ll have far less moments where the words just refuse to come to you.

writing outlines

Outline Your Story

I know some of us writers like to go with the flow and pants their way through a story. However fun and intriguing that might sound, it also makes it easier for you to get stuck and not know where to take the story next. If you’re not a big fan of outlining, then try doing a very short one. Maybe just a sentence for each chapter. Or a flowchart taking you from start to finish, with a little box for the major plot points. For character sheets, you can stop at something very brief – name, age, location, interests, motivation.

Having an outline will help you push through when you feel uninspired. Instead of waiting for the muse to whisper what happens next, you’ll just take a look at your outline and type your way to the destination.

Remember to Take Breaks

This step is extremely important, so don’t skip it. Nothing kills productivity and inspiration faster than a total burnout. Breaks should be something you actively work into your schedule. It’s far better to write in twenty or thirty minute installments and take five or ten minute breaks then spend three hours in front of your computer. You’ll be stiff when you’re done and not so keen on repeating that particular ordeal the next day.

Once you have your short breaks worked into your schedule, focus on the bigger ones – a day off, time spent relaxing, a vacation once in a while. All of these will help you prevent a burn out that would throw you right into a writing slump.

Minimize the Pressure You Put on Yourself

The easiest way to end up in a slump is to crack under pressure. There’s a lot an author must do besides just writing. Most of it involves interaction with other people, which at times also entails criticism, not all of it constructive. To prevent a writer’s block, try to teach yourself not to obsess over negative criticism or bad reviews. Unless you do that, you’ll spiral down a negative descent to the bottom of despair. We all know that particular dark pit, where we think everything we write is awful.

Following the same line of thinking, don’t compare yourselves to other writers. Some people write faster, some are more successful, others have huge followings. Work on improving yourself, but don’t drive yourself insane because X author is doing so much better. Learning for more experienced authors is great, feeling like a failure when comparing yourself to them… not so much!

Another trick is to take it easy on the word count or page quotas you set for yourself. Trying to write as often as possible is hard as it is. Don’t make it even more daunting by setting high-pressure goals for your everyday writing. When I decided to write my way back out of my slump, I didn’t set any word goals for myself. I was trying to have a monthly average, but I wasn’t too strict about it. The monthly average for my first month was set as low as 500 words a day. On a good writing day, I can write that in fifteen minutes. So setting an easily achievable goal helped me feel proud of my progress without struggling to achieve it.

Find Things that Boost Your Creativity

If there is anything that helps your write better, use it. Don’t wait until inspiration dries out, use it at your peak performance. Whether is music, insane amounts of coffee, or going outside to write, put it to work! Don’t look for inspiration once you’ve lost it, fan the flames of your creativity.

A great idea is to keep folders on your computers with inspiring bits and pieces. You can have a different folder for each of your projects, or save everything in the same place. The same goes for music: you can set up different playlists that work for various types of writing. I have songs that work amazingly for sad scenes or for angst, and others that I use for action scenes.

A Little Help from Your Writer Friends

In most cases, doing something as a team boosts productivity. Most of us feel bad about letting someone else down, but rarely feel the same way about dropping the ball when it’s just us. Simply put, if you schedule a writing session with a buddy, you’ll feel worse about skipping them. A lot of excuses sound silly when you explain them to someone else.

Chat with Author Friends

It doesn’t have to be a huge group, even one author friend who wants to write with you will do. You don’t have to meet somewhere, all you need is some sort of online messenger and your computer.  Get together at a specified time, and start writing. I find it that doing short sessions of about twenty minutes works best. Use the ten-minute breaks to relax or chat with your friends about your progress, about little glitches in your story that give you trouble, or about how well you’re doing by writing.

What tips would you add to improve this post on how to avoid writing slumps? Any tricks you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments!

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A pleasure to meet you! I’m Alina Popescu, an author, traveler, and hopeless coffee addict. I write urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and sometimes even contemporary stories. A significant number of my books are LGBTQ fiction and romance.

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