Last week I bemoaned my lack of progress on various projects, and though this past week has seen a dramatic up-tick in productivity, it’s also found me continuing to think about the subject, from various angles. I’ve been asked recently, too, for advice on breaking through writer’s block. I’ve managed to do that myself in the past, and have written about it here from time to time. But this week, let’s look at six different ways you might be able to unblock yourself and get back to writing.

In no particular order . . .

Writing prompts.

I’m currently working on a short story based on a picture. This might wind up in an anthology with that painting on the cover, and it might not. Anyway, it got my creative juices flowing and I’m writing, and having fun doing it. What other prompts can you find for yourself?

There are books and web sites out there devoted to writing prompts: little nuggets of text meant to spark an idea and set you off writing. Writing prompts can be fun, and the farther afield from your normal sense of what it is you do, the better. A writing prompt that gets you writing a mystery when you usually write fantasy can help get you thinking, and ultimately that’s the way out of writer’s block: thinking.

You can find prompts all over the place. Pick a random headline or tweet and make it the title of a story. Stick your finger in a book ten times, find ten random words, try to arrange them into a sentence, and make that the first sentence of a new story. You probably won’t actually finish that prompted story, by the way. The point is to spend an afternoon (or whatever time of the day) writing fiction unrelated to the currently-blocked work-in-progress. You may well find that that exercise unlocks some new idea that will get you back to the floundering project, even if it ends up changing that story in some significant way…

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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