Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Writing Through Writer's Block

We all have those days when the right words don’t seem to want to come. 

During the Teen Author Carnival in NYC in May 2011, I moderated the debut author panel. I asked the panel for their strategies to combat writer’s block, and this post would no doubt be better if I recalled their answers.

What I do remember is sharing a story about how I got through my own bout of writer’s block while writing LEVEL 2.

I had been writing for 12 hours a day for weeks, trying to finish my first draft by deadline and I was mentally exhausted.  I was working on a scene towards the end of the book where the main character (Felicia) is having an argument with another major character (Julian).   But everything I tried to write just seemed wrong. I was stuck.

I share an office with my husband who works as a freelance illustrator, and he was working on some project.  He swore. I asked him what was wrong.  He told me he was stuck too, and then I made a brilliant suggestion:  I would draw something for him and he would write the next paragraph of my manuscript.

So we traded places.  I did an amazingly crappy line drawing, and Daniel dutifully typed up a paragraph.

His paragraph was … interesting.  It was out of character, written in the wrong tense and POV, and didn’t make sense in the context of the characters’ relationship or the scene.

Somehow, reading his oh so wrong paragraph made me see all the things I was doing well in my manuscript and gave me the energy and inspiration to push through and find the right words. 

Lenore Appelhans is the author of LEVEL TWO (Simon & Schuster BFYR/Fall 2012), a dystopian afterlife thriller. Visit her blog and/or follow her on twitter.


  1. Does Daniel get a co-author credit for his paragraph? ;-)

  2. His paragraph did not make it into the final draft, sadly. ;)

  3. That is hilarious! What a fun idea. If only everone had an artistic person sharing the room with them to do this.


  4. Great story! i'm not surprised 12 hours a day writing gave you burnout!

  5. Oh, dear. I love this idea, but I think I'd have better luck asking my nine-year-old to write a paragraph than my husband. Hee :) (I love him--truly)

  6. Ha! I've never thought of trying that before, but I can see how it might help reset your brain. Filing that away for future writer's block... Also, I hope Daniel wasn't offended his paragraph didn't make it in the end. ;)