Two Tips to Get Past “I Can’t Write”

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By Beth K. Vogt

I’m on deadline.

Being on deadline means writing is mandatory for me. I’ve signed a contract that includes a due date to submit my manuscript to my publisher, which is an author’s ticking clock that creates tension in our lives, just like we create tension in our characters’ lives. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, such as an alien invasion or Godzilla rampaging through Colorado Springs, I’ll meet my deadline. (I’m not even thinking about any realistic disasters that happen to writers everywhere.)

But let me honest with you: Deadline or no deadline, there are days I don’t feel like writing.

I write anyway.

Then there are days I got nothing.

I write anyway.

And then there was this one certain Sunday.

I woke up facing my deadline, just like I had so many other days.

And I ignored my manuscript. All. Day. Long.

Why? Because I needed a break from the story. I’d written hard, day after day, sometimes getting up early and sometimes staying up late.

But taking a break didn’t mean I wasn’t writing anything at all. Even on “ignore the deadline” days, writing happens. If you’re a writer on deadline like me – or even if you’re a writer working on a manuscript to submit to an agent or editor – there are probably other writing projects in your life. What do you do on those “I can’t write” days?

1. When you can’t write big, write small.

Sometimes you need a brief break from your manuscript: a few hours or even a day. Write something else. On “I can’t write” days, I work on my regularly scheduled blog posts for my personal blog, In Others’ Words, which is all about quotes. Or my monthly Novel Rocket post or a guest post – like this one.

2. When you can’t write, rewrite – but just a little bit.

I’m an advocate of fast-drafting: write forward, write fast. Fall in love with your story. Discover things about your characters by the end of the story that you didn’t know at the beginning, and then weave those elements through the story during your rewrite.

If I have a day when I stall out on my novel, I reignite my creative spark by rereading one or two chapters. Sometimes I read on the computer or I might print the pages out. And yes, I allow myself to pick up a red pen – or maybe a fun purple one – and mark up the scenes. I’ll ask myself questions like:

• What’s my Story Question?
• What’s the main emotion for this scene?
• Have I used all five senses?
• Where’s the spiritual truth?

Before I dive back into my manuscript, I weave the new developments back into those scenes and make notes to rework them into the entire book. Taking time away from the full-length manuscript refreshes me so that I’m ready to write again.

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A women’s fiction novelist with Tyndale House Publishers, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, as well as a 2016 ACFW Carol Award Winner and a 2015 RITA® finalist. In 2016, she continued her destination wedding series published by Howard Books with You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and Almost Like Being in Love (June). Visit Beth at

Comments 0

  1. Great Advice Beth.

    I love taking a step back sometimes. Do something to get excited again for my book. Letting characters and scenes play out in my mind and find the core of why I wanted to write that story in the first place.

    It is an important part of the process I think. But also is the fact tat we just need to write. Get it down so we have something to work with.

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