I wrote this post, then five minutes later realized the irony of writing about how/why I struggle with writing. So I'm back here, just making you aware that yes, I'm aware of the irony before we go any further!
This must be crazy for someone who's published to suggest, but writing is not a natural talent for me. For smarter people, it probably does come natural, and you need only look at the sheer volume of published works to determine there are of course those who have a flair for it. For the others, they can just about grasp it. I definitely fall into the latter and if I weren't so invested in the story, I'd probably give up. So when you're lacking in natural talent, writers block can be a real problem. As you might well imagine, I've considered quitting writing altogether many times, but by the same token, I'm also learning from experience the best ways to dig myself out of a funk. Below are some of my recommended tips:
1. Write something else.
Up to now, my most common tactic has been to set aside what I'm working on and writing something else (why I ended up already 80% through novels 2 and 3 before I'd even finished one) That way, I always come away from a 45 minute coffee session feeling lile I've at least not spent the entire time on asos or procrastinating.
2. Read instead of writing.
Sometimes simply reading is the antidote to a mental block. For one it's relaxing and I suppose if you're wrestling for ideas, the last thing you want to be is stressed. In fact, I'd wager that being in a calm, relaxed state of mind is probably a bigger factor than writers care to mention. Another merit to reading is that it's a great way to re-familiarise yourself with existing writers prose. What works? What doesn't? What is it about this particular author that makes me go back to them? Its not always easy because if I'm really into a book, I don't necessarily focus on why a particular phrase or description might work. This is true to films too. As a graduate of film, I don't ever pre-occupy myself with the elements of mise-en-scene first time around, and only really look at this stuff on second viewing. Anyway, I've wandered off track here. The point is, I tend to re-tread books I'm familiar with when needing inspiration. For example, when looking to describe the fire toward the end of my first book I revisited T.M Logan's The Holiday. Reading is like muscle memory for the brain. It's also unavoidable that there'll be an element of replication from existing novels so don't get bogged down with this.
3. Take a break.
This can be a tricky one, but if its just not happening, take a couple of weeks or a month off and attack things with fresh eyes. Just on the topic of breaks, definitely do this between finishing a first draft and the editing process.
4. Consider why you're struggling
My process is definitely 'get it down' rather than plan every detail from the off. This can make things particularly challenging when i come to certain plot points. If things aren't gelling smoothly, it's usually (for me at least) because I've either haven't fully established certain elements integral to plot or because I've changed tack half way through and now the earlier stuff feels incongruous with what's come before.
A real example of the former is in my second novel. Here, a good chunk of the backstory involves heavy industry and civil engineering (I'm not saying any more) and I need to be humble about this. I need to send more emails/pay more visits to the appropriate people.
Concerning my third novel 'Incursion' I'm admittedly stuttering with things like timeline. Since I want this to read as a whodunnit, I'm also considering whether I can throw a few extra 'red herrings' in whilst avoiding undercutting what's already on paper. This is why I call it novel #3 rather than #2. This fourth point is definitely where i am right now and why I've not so much as made a dent in things the last month. Consistency, continuity, and credibility. Ultimately, having the wherewithal to know there are people way smarter than me that fall into the same traps.
Any thoughts are always welcome.