The official blog of Jane Domagala


So you think you might have writer's block. You can't start that story, or are stuck in the middle of one, or struggling to finish.

We've all heard the term writer's block, but what does that actually mean? For me, it's just a nice way of saying, "I've got no frickin' idea what I'm trying to say or where my story is going."

If you're having trouble starting a book and can't write, it usually means you having spent enough time getting to know your story, and/or your characters. You may need to do some more Preproduction. If you're stuck in the middle, then you've possibly come up against a situation where you don't know how your characters would react. Stuck at the end, obviously means you don't know how your story should end, which again comes back to not knowing how your characters will react.

The best way to get the creative juices flowing is to brainstorm. What I do when I'm stuck is open up a new word doc (you could use a notebook if you prefer to hand-write) title it Problems, and then ask myself lots of questions.

What is the consequence if my character does this....?
My characters need to be here, how can I get them there logically?
Why would my character save the world, when she wants to go to the pub?
What motivates my characters?
What are my characters' worst fears? How can I use that in the story?
Where do I want my characters to be emotionally/physically at the end of the book?

Tailor your questions to the problems your facing in your story. In fantasy, problems can also arise with magic and world building.

What are the rules that magic must adhere to?
Are these rules made by civilisation or physics/nature?
Is having magic a good thing, or a bad thing?
Does having magic make you powerful, or are you shunned?
What is the social structure of the world?
Where do my characters sit in this social structure?
Is the world modern, medieval, ancient, or futuristic?

I find it also helps to look into your characters' pasts. Write up a summary of their life's story.

How did/do they relate to their parents?
Do they have sibling?
Was their childhood a happy or horrible experience?

Most of this information won't end up in your novel, but it can help to understand how your characters will react in different situations. It also helps to know if your characters are proactive or reactive. A proactive character goes out and finds trouble, while a reactive character waits for trouble to come to them. See my blog on Is the World Inherently Lazy for ways to get reactive characters out of their chairs and up saving the world.

So, next time you get stuck go into brainstorming mode and you'll soon find yourself untangling the problem-knots that have been keeping you from progressing in your story.


I don't mean to rub it in when I say that keeping myself motivated to write is not usually a struggle. For me, writing is a bit like breathing; I need to do it to survive. That's not to say I don't have my moments when the words aren't flowing and everything I write is crap. For new writers, it can be difficult to know where to start. For those already writing, sometimes being unable to write is an indication that you need to take a break. However, if you're break has been long enough that it's almost a break-up, here are some tips I've picked up over the years that might be useful to get you writing again.  

Writing groups – find a group, or start one yourself with like minded people, where you can critique each other's work, talk about story ideas, grammar, characters, plot, and other general writing topics. Regular meetings and emails are a great way to keep you inspired, and sometimes it's easier to be accountable to someone else than just yourself.

Writing/critiquing partner – this is like a group, but on a smaller scale. You can spend more time discussing your individual story ideas in one on one situation than you can in a group. It can be invaluable to have at least one person who knows your work as well as you, to help you unravel knots in your story. And vice versa.

Social writing – try getting together with other writing friends and have timed writing sessions in between socialising. You can set writing tasks, or work on your own stories, and then afterwards spend time reading or discussing what you wrote. This is great a way to make yourself write, because everyone else is writing too.

Soak up the creativity of others – by this I mean read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, visit an art gallery. Do something to help get the creativity flowing. Be careful not to use this as a distraction to keep from writing. My suggestion is to tailor your activity around your story. For example, you're writing about dragons find books and images about dragons, go to the museum and study dinosaur bones (I've heard they were related), find music that makes you soar, and so on...

Change your environment – is your house or writing space uninspiring? Charge up your laptop and take it to a park, or the library, or a coffee shop, or anywhere that makes you feel creative (the pub!). If you don't have a laptop (or prefer working on a desktop), surround yourself with inspiring images, changing them regularly if you need to.

Change your style – if you're struggling to write a piece, maybe you're writing in the wrong style or genre. Or maybe you need a break from the style in which you've been writing. If you write in third person, change to first. If you write fantasy try horror or historical romance. Write only novels? Try short stories or poetry.  

Pen and paper – sometimes putting the computer away and going back to basics can help change your thought process.  For many of you reading this post, handwriting has been your friend longer than typing. You have to use different muscles in your hand, and I've read that it's good for your brain. Almost all of the books I've written have an accompanying exercise-book in which I brainstorm and draw maps (badly) and come up with character names. 

Write – my last tip may sound counter-intuitive. You're trying to find ways to help you write, right? I've found that starting can be like pushing a boulder up a hill. Momentum is very important when it comes to being creative. When you stop, you lose momentum and the boulder slips down the hill. The longer you leave it the harder it gets to stand back up and push that boulder. But the only way to get the boulder up that hill is to start pushing. It's going to be painful at first and you may think every word you write is crap, but the longer you write the more you increase your momentum and the easier it gets.  

Good luck, and please feel free to share any tips you may have for keeping yourself motivated.
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