10 Ways To Get Out Of Writer’s Rut


I have also interviewed more than 100 authors. Most of these writers have a plan, they have a writing routine, they are open to learning, and they know how their book is going to end. They don’t believe in waiting for the muse. They believe in hard work.

These are the most common reasons why writers stop writing.

10 things writers struggle with when writing a book

  1. They avoid writing uncomfortable or difficult scenes.
  2. They can’t get beyond the synopsis.
  3. They can’t seem to finish anything.
  4. They don’t know how to start the book, the next scene, the next chapter.
  5. They enrol for new courses but they take the same old ideas with them.
  6. They haven’t written a synopsis.
  7. They keep on repeating what they’ve already written.
  8. They talk about writing but never start.
  9. They write their characters into corners.
  10. They write, edit, rewrite, and edit the same scene instead of moving on.

Once we identify these problems, I am able to help my students.

Here are 10 simple ways to solve these problems

  1. Change the sex of your protagonist or antagonist.
  2. Change viewpoints if you’re stuck. Write it from another character’s perspective. Try writing in a different viewpoint. Write in first person if you always write in third person.
  3. Commit to the writing life. Writers write.
  4. Enrol in a writing class. Leave your old, tired ideas at home.
  5. Make to do lists for your character. Or send your character shopping for a character he hates.
  6. Play the what if? game for your character. Rewind and get the story back to a point where your character can move on with the action.
  7. Promise yourself a meaningful reward when you finish.
  8. Stop editing. Carry on writing. You can fix the draft later. You’re looking at a minimum of eight rewrites anyway – plenty of time for editing.
  9. Use a timer for the scenes you find difficult to write. Just do it.
  10. Write a synopsis. Set up a daily writing routine. Set aside a minimum amount of time or commit to writing a number of words.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

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This article has 0 comments

  1. Mihu

    Hey, this is so good! Can I take this to my blog and translate in my language? I will post the source, I don’t need any credit.

  2. Justin Thyme

    This article might have more credibility if the author either knew how to spell “enroll” or at least knew how to use spell check.
    Knowing when to use quotation marks instead of italics might be helpful as well.

  3. Writers Write

    Justin, you might have more credibility if you didn’t assume everybody used US spelling.

  4. Eunice Baliong

    Hi! I find this very helpful, as I am often times “stuck” in my writing. I would like to ask permission to repost this in my blog. I promise to quote the source and not to change anything.

  5. Jerry Durham

    I thought this would be a stuffy boring piece from some over-confident codger/writer. After all, isn’t writer’s block the same as getting stuck? However, I found the article refreshing. Some of the suggestions I have considered, but not changing the sex of a character. I have found for me anyway one of the most important parts is to write the synopsis. That has helped tremendously. @ Justin- we all make mistakes.

  6. K. M. Wilbanks

    I am very curious about what is meant by “minimum of eight rewrites.” How extensive do you consider each rewrite to be? Is it a complete reimaging of the story, beginning to end? Is it a rewrite each time you change a chapter significantly? Enquiring minds want to know.

  7. Kevin Moldenhauer

    @K.M. Wilbanks – I can’t speak for the author of the article, but for myself I go through the story at least eight times from beginning to end after I’ve finished the draft. I look for story continuity first, to make sure everything is still accurate (some dynamics change as I develop the story). I also check for scenes that I forgot (it has happened before). I make sure the characters are consistent. I then print it out and edit by hand (much better than doing it on the computer screen). Once that is done I do a grammar check and send it to the editors who find more issues and errors for me to correct. All in all, between me and editors, we probably go through the story more than 8 times. Sometimes major rewrites are needed. Frankly, it takes me longer to edit than it does to write the darn thing.

  8. Diane

    These are all great suggestions. My problem with being “stuck” is when I have multiple ideas for the plot and I am too afraid to commit to one or the other. If I use Plot A and then find out 5 chapters in that it’s not working, I would have to scrap everything I just wrote. That scares me to the point of paralysis…I just stop writing. 🙁

  9. ghaan

    1st excuse my english, I am a french native speaker
    then @diane
    I do understand what you’ve said. I’ve been in this situation often: believing that I’ve found the right plot, starting writing then realizing that everything has to be redone because of a character’s reaction I haven’t expected. I don’t believe so much in ploting. It has to be done, but at minima, just to have the strong markers of the story and avoid getting stuck, but also to start the reflexion about your world and your characters. Because, at the end of the day, they are the one who will be writing the story, not you.
    I do believe in the writing transe, the power of automatic writing and the auto emergence of a story.
    then, you could use Vogler’s and other ploting theories to rewrite.
    because you’ll be rewriting whatever the writing method you use ^-^
    Good luck and don’t be afraid of anything! Just keep writing, ploting and editing!

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