Blog

Bust writer’s block: the flowchart technique


Every writer knows about the dreaded writer’s block. Whether you’re working on flash fiction, a short story or a novel, there are times when you just hit a wall.

Those words just.

Will.

Not.

Come.

Well, that’s not a problem for me any more. Because I’ve come up with a way to beat it that has been 100% effective for me.

I know! 100%!

But there’s no need to hate me – because I’m nice and I’m going to share it with you.

Writer’s block: my amazing true story

When I was writing my short story for the Carnival Of Cryptids ebook anthology I found myself blocked.

I felt that I was about 80% of the way through, and I’d just plunged my protagonist onto the horns of a nice juicy dilemma, but the problem was that I didn’t know which choice he’d make (or rather, I suspected that I did – as I know his character and motivations – but I didn’t know where that would lead, or why, and what the end point of it all would be)…and as a result I didn’t have an ending.

Bam. Just like that. Writer’s block.

So I did what I imagine many writers do: I engaged in avoidance tactics. I threw myself into promoting my [shameless plug alert] Slender Man horror ebook, because promoting stuff is much easier than actually writing it.

But eventually I realised that the Carnival Of Cryptids deadline was sidling closer and closer, and that I couldn’t avoid it forever. So I sat down and decided to force the issue, and I came up with a technique for overcoming it that I found to be really effective.

The flowchart writer’s block technique

Here’s what you do. Open up a Word document (other word processing tools are available), write out the two alternative choices of action as two bullet points, and then add “so what” bullet points underneath them, then add “so what” bullet points underneath those bullet points, and so on.

Like a flowchart.

For example:

  • Vampire horse sells Hitler’s car*
    • Vampire horse uses money to buy new car
      • Vampire horse dies of kidney failure
    • Vampire horse uses money to buy new kidney
      • Vampire horse marries celebrity renal surgeon and lives happily ever after
  • Vampire horse keeps Hitler’s car
    • Vampire horse enters Indy 500
      • Vampire horse beats animated corpse of Clement Attlee to win race
        • Vampire horse uses prize money to buy new kidney
      • Vampire horse loses race

…and so on.

The idea is that you ask “then what?” or “so what?” at every decision point, which enables you to chase down all possible courses of action and then decide which one leads to the most interesting/satisfactory conclusion.

In my case I had four courses of action that were three or four bullets long each, and then one that went to around seven and incorporated a violent and tragic conclusion – and as a result it became quite clear which would be the most interesting ending.

And with that, my block was gone!

I don’t know if this is a really obvious or well-established technique, but I hadn’t heard of it and I found it useful, so I wanted to share it in case it might be helpful to others. So this is me doing that.

Try it – if it works for you, I’d love to hear about it. You can let me know in the comments below.

*Sadly the plot points I use in my example aren’t part of the story that I was blocked on, but I have to say that if they were then it would be the awesomest story ever.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s