4 Writing Challenges

4 Writing Challenges To Keep Your Writer’s Brain Alive That You May Not Have Thought Of Before

In this post, we look at four writing challenges to keep your writer’s brain alive.

Whether you are just starting out as an author, or are in the middle of writing book number 451, you may encounter the so-called, ‘writer’s block’. Often, we find ourselves mired in the swamp of writer’s block because we’re thinking about it too hard, we’re not listening, we’ve stopped having fun.

My personal theories about this are two-fold.

Theory Number One: The book is trying to tell you something.

The 3 Things Your Book Is Trying To Tell You And You’re Not Listening

Okay, so it’s not actually the book telling you these things, it’s your subconscious. But it sounds more ‘writerly’ to say it’s the book.

  1. Your plot is wrong. You feel it, but you’re not sure what it is.
  2. Your characters aren’t working. They won’t do what they’re told or they’re not working out the way you hoped.
  3. Your setting is wrong. You wanted to write a Viking drama set in Iceland, but the book keeps yelling ‘Art gallery owner in contemporary New York’ at you.

Best Advice: When this happens it’s a good time to try the ‘what ifs’. What if I write it in a different tense or pov, switch the sexes of my main characters, ditch the Vikings and flag down a yellow Taxi cab, etc.

Theory Number Two: You’re bored out of your mind.
The 3 Ways You Can Tell That You’re Bored With Your Writing And You’ve Stopped Having Fun

  1. Binge watching cat videos is now right up there with eating chocolate
  2. Procrastination has become your best friend and your house has never been cleaner
  3. You’ve lost your library card and you don’t care

So how do you banish writer’s block?

4 Writing Challenges To Keep Your Writer’s Brain Alive That You May Not Have Thought Of Before

Challenge Number 1: Running the bathwater – timing is everything

I have a large bath. I can sit cross-legged in it and not touch the sides. It’s also deep. Yes, I struck gold when I was looking for somewhere to rent. Did I mention that the taps run slowly? So, one night, while waiting for the bath to fill to an acceptable, but not extravagant and wasteful depth, I gave myself a challenge.

  1. Without thinking of a plot beforehand, open up a new doc in Word.
  2. Just start writing. Don’t waste time thinking of something beforehand. Just write the very first thing that comes into your mind.
  3. Try to write a short story, complete with editing, in the time it takes to run the bathwater.

To be honest, I only managed it twice. But what I did end up with were a few possible opening paragraphs for books I have on my ‘Books To Write In The Future’ list.

It probably sounds insane, but it becomes addictive. It may also have contributed to my waiting until the last moment to write pretty much anything, but the creative rush is worth it.

Challenge Number 2: Pick up random words – make etymology your best friend

Etymology, or the study of words, is one of my favourite things. Learning about their roots, original meanings, deviations over time, etc.

  1. Open up a new doc in Word.
  2. Open up one of your favourite websites.
  3. Click on any random letter of the alphabet. For example, I just clicked on ‘I’: I Ching 1876, from Chinese, said to mean ‘Book of Changes’.
  4. Don’t think about it. Just start writing.

Challenge Number 3: Beat the thesaurus – words birth ideas

This one is a little more work, but when you’re focusing on words, the neurons start firing and somewhere in the back of your mind the words coalesce, and plots start to form.

  1. Open up a new doc in Word.
  2. Open up your thesaurus at any random place. A printed one works best for this as they are usually printed in such small font that ploughing your way through them is a trial, so you won’t be distracted.
  3. Without looking, put your finger anywhere on the two pages.
  4. Type the word your finger landed on onto you Word doc.
  5. Put a bookmark in the thesaurus.
  6. Go back to your Word doc and start typing as many words as you can think of that could replace the one from the thesaurus.
  7. When you run dry, check how you did against the thesaurus.

Challenge Number 4: Mind meandering – Little Bo-Peep has lost her plot and doesn’t know where to find it.

 The point of this exercise is to a) get you away from the computer, b) to release your inner child which is way more open to creating than any adult and c) to have fun! 

  1. Lay a large piece of paper, A1 if you can, on the floor, whip out your multi-coloured, permanent markers. Assign different colours to different things ie: Blue for the Original Ideas (and ‘map’ lines and circles). Green for ‘What-If Crazy Ideas’, Red for Settings, Black for Names – Characters, Houses, Companies etc. 
  2. Write your main plot point in the centre. Keep it short. For example, ‘Modern girl finds herself living in the middle of Pride And Prejudice’.
  3. Now circle that and draw a line to somewhere else on the page. Put down ‘proper’ questions such as, ‘How does she get there?’, ‘Does anyone from the book come into her modern, real world? How?’, ‘Which happens first?’ Pick one, circle it and draw another line to a random place on the page.
  4. In this new place, start jotting down ‘crazy idea’ questions such as, ‘Will Darcy like her, hate her, have her committed to an insane asylum?’, ‘Is Mr Collins actually the better looking, richer, and generally better man than Darcy?’, ‘What if Wickham is the hero and Darcy is the rogue?’

Remember, you’re not looking for solutions to your writer’s block about the WIP you’re struggling with.
What you are doing is loosening up your creative mind, giving it a work-out, letting it play, and stay agile and inventive. When you go back to the WIP, your imagination will be ready for the challenge!

The Last Word

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, stop thinking about the book so hard. You like words, that’s why you chose to become an author. So let your imagination play!

Elaine Dodge

by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.

More Posts From Elaine

  1. Book Banning And Why It Matters
  2. How To Market Your Book After You’ve Written It
  3. How To Market Your Book Before You Start Writing It
  4. How Important Is Backstory In A Romance Novel?
  5. Setting & Description In A Romance Novel
  6. How To Pace A Romance Novel
  7. 9 Must-Have Ingredients In A Romance Novel
  8. 5 Things To Remember To Do When Publishing A Romance Novel
  9. 5 Things To Remember Not To Do When Publishing A Romance Novel
  10. What Is The Meet-Cute And How Important Is It?

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Posted on: 3rd October 2022