Tip #1: "Give in to the dark side."
Get over the fear of being wrong, doing wrong, saying something wrong. The world will not come to a halt if you split an infinitive. Mrs. Allen, the toughest English teacher the sixth grade has ever seen, does not stand behind you, her red pen in hand ready to slice and dice your manuscript.
You can’t fix something that isn’t there. Write your words, the good, the bad, and the grammatically questionable. Just write. Don’t worry about too many adverbs or “to be” verbs. Forget misspellings or vague word choices. You can pull out your dictionary or your style manual later. Just get the words on paper because words are like rabbits and tend to multiply when placed in close proximity to each other.
Tip #2: "Don't throw the baby out with the bath."
When you're revising or editing, keep a "scrap file." Instead of deleting paragraphs or pages, cut and paste them into the scrap file, just in case there's a hidden gem in there that might come out with a little extra polishing. Maybe that line is simply in the wrong place or that scene isn't bad. It just needs to be shown from a different point of view.
If you simply hit the delete key, your words and ideas will be gone forever. The scrap file lets you have the opportunity to reconsider your words later if you need too.
Tip #3: "Get physical."
If you find yourself with not only writer's block, but also editor's block on a project, try something drastic. Print out everything you've written, the manuscript, the scrap file, even your notes. Make sure everything is double-spaced and has wide margins for your notes and rewrites. Grab a pen and go through your manuscript the old-fashioned way, line by line.
You can take it a step further. Instead of making notes or drawing arrows to move lines or paragraphs, cut your manuscript apart. Grab a legal pad and some tape or glue stick and put the manuscript back together again in the new order. The extra inches of a legal pad (8.5x14 v. 8.5x11 inches) as oppose to printer paper give you more room to work. You can leave spaces to write in new transitions between the cut-outs.
Why does this work better than cutting and pasting on the computer? Maybe it makes the manuscript more tangible rather than lines on a screen. The manuscript has length, has weight, has a form you can't feel on the computer. Or maybe the change in situation stimulates the brain to think differently. Who can say? When you're in a rut, doesn't it make sense to climb out of it any way you can?
~~ Amy Munnell
Amy is the Editor of The Purple Pros, and has been an SWA member since 1990, serving on the Board of Directors from 1993-2007 and again from 2011 to the present. She has been a freelance writer and editor for 25 years with her work appearing in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart, Points North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine.