Posted On January 25, 2016 by Print This Post

Flashing Through Writer’s Block – Silver James

Help me welcome author Silver James to Romance University with her post on how to break your way free of that writer’s block!

We all bash our heads against the dreaded Writer’s Block at one time or another. One school of thought insists we stay at the keyboard hammering out words because we all know you can’t fix a blank page. At the same time, we stare at those words, faces puckered like a toddler who just sucked a lemon for the first time.

moonstruck - secrets 680Several years ago, I was part of the standing-room-only crowd at Candace Havens’s Draft Dirty panel at RWA Nationals. I was a National Novel Writing Month pro so I knew about pushing through to get words down but the one thing I brought away from her presentation involved writer’s block. “When you get stuck, write the next scene you know is going to happen.”

Talk about a light bulb moment!

Not only did Candace give me a powerful tool, but she helped me develop my process. I was neither a plotter nor a pantser. Not a plantser nor a plotser. I discovered I was a puzzler. I create a framework for a book, much like the straight-edged pieces on a jigsaw puzzle. Then I find pieces that fit together—characters, setting, backstory, scenes, etc.—and fit them into the framework.

So, you ask, what the heck does this have to do with Writer’s Block? I write disjointed scenes. When the inspiration hits, I write that scene. I should mention here that Scrivener is my saving grace! I know a particular just-written scene is going to happen at some point. I just don’t know where. Yet.

Sometimes, inspiration is harder to find than a chocolate bar the day before a deadline. That’s when flash fiction—and the prompts—come to the rescue. For those of you unfamiliar, flash fiction is the title for a loose designation of writing short fiction usually based on a prompt or a theme. There is no widely accepted standard for the word count. Some “contests” want one sentence. Some up to 1000-3000 words. Chuck Wendig often uses Friday’s on his blog to post flash fiction challenges. There are others around, included two I participate in, #FlashMobWrites and #ThursdayThreads, both hosted by authors on their websites. Flash Mob offers musical inspiration in the form of a YouTube video and two prompts taken from the lyrics. Threads picks a phrase from the winner of the previous week.

Yes, I use these pieces in my books. I have readers who will recognize a passage from a flash fiction challenge. In fact, I have project that I’m about 7,000 words into and every one of those words came from a flash fiction challenge. Eventually, I’ll have a book from it. The project is part of a series and is “future” book in the story arc but it will very likely be ready to fit together and edit by the time it comes up in active rotation. Why do I use prompts for it instead of my current WIP? I don’t always, but some themes lend themselves to that book.

Okay, so, that covers future projects. What about the current WIP and that ever-looming deadline? What about staring and the last paragraph and not having a clue where the story goes next? This is where the creativity of writing flash fiction becomes very handy. Consider it a writing exercise to jump-start your Muse. Do it for fun, thinking you’ll never use those words. Do whatever it takes to get new words down that have something to do with your WIP to move the story along. In essence, you’re writing the next scene you know is going to happen.

book cover triptich

Where do you go to find flash fiction prompts? You can Google (I still laugh that this has been a verb) flash fiction prompts. You can check Facebook and Twitter for announcements. You can make up your own. You have iTunes, Spotify, or similar sites? Do a blind shuffle. Use the title, or part of the lyrics of the song for a prompt. Then sit there and free write. Let your imagination lose and tell a story, using your character(s), set in your world. You might just surprise yourself. It works for me every time.

Have any of you written flash fiction? Think you might want to try? Need a prompt to flash through the block? Leave a comment and I’ll give you a prompt.


Join us on Wednesday for regular contributor Rayne Hall!


Bio: Silver 300 long bio

MOONSTRUCK: SECRETS is available in Kindle and print at <a href=”” target=”_blank”>AMAZON</a> and at these other digital retailers:

iBooks | Kobo | Barnes and Noble | Scribd | Page Foundry

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26 Responses to “Flashing Through Writer’s Block – Silver James”

  1. This is awesome! I usually write scenes that occur to me, even if I don’t know exactly where they fit, knowing I’ll figure it out later. But this is really a great way to keep the whole thing moving along when it feels like you’re stuck. Thanks for the great advice. Coffee’s on me! 🙂

    Posted by Donna Cummings | January 25, 2016, 4:34 am
  2. Wonderful advice!! I usually find myself stuck quite a lot, so this helps tremendously!! Also, I have never tried the flash fiction and would love a prompt. Thank you so much!!

    Posted by Kimberley | January 25, 2016, 9:49 am
  3. Donna, we owe each other so much coffee we should buy Starbucks stock! 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

    Posted by Silver James | January 25, 2016, 11:42 am
  4. Oh, and I apologize for the typos. I REALLY need to learn to proofread better. 😆

    Posted by Silver James | January 25, 2016, 11:48 am
  5. Hi Silver, great post! I’ve never tried a flash fiction challenge but I love the idea of writing down the next scene that comes to mind if you’re stuck-brilliant!
    I also started writing in a different genre so that when I’m stuck on one I can switch gears with the other #WIP

    Posted by Jacquie Biggar | January 25, 2016, 12:29 pm
  6. Good tips on writer’s block. I think my next novel may be an inspirational historical romance with a marriage of convenience. I’d like to try flash fiction, so please send me a prompt.
    Ruth Collins

    Posted by Ruth Collins | January 25, 2016, 3:58 pm
  7. Thanks, Silver, for confirming that what I do is actually a “thing”. As a new writer, validation is music to my ears. I’m a plotter to the nth power. No seriously, I use an excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs. So whatever mood I’m in, I can pick a scene and get jiggy with it. I’ll admit, writing scenes out of order creates the need to adjust them once you get to that part of your story but oh how joyous to open that scene file and see that it’s already written. (Harps are playing now)

    I shall have to try this Flash Fiction process you speak of.
    No, not now! I’m having a latte! Don’t you send me a topic!
    Don’t do it!!!

    Posted by Leigh Ann Lane | January 25, 2016, 4:20 pm
  8. Okay, now I’m not weird for writing scenes out of order. Writing the next scene helps me map out what needs to be done in the previous scene. I’ve written endings first, too. The ending may change when the story is done, but having an idea of how the story ends gives me something to shoot for.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 25, 2016, 4:46 pm
  9. Evening Silver!

    I always thought I was doing it wrong if I wrote out of order. =) Something to try next time I’m inspired to write!

    They used to have something like that on the Harlequin boards, not sure if they still do….it was 1000 words and a different writing prompt every week or two I think. I loved those….I should go look up some of those stories….lol….it might inspire me to write again!

    thanks for the fun post!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | January 25, 2016, 6:43 pm
    • Most welcome, Carrie! I find prompts to be very inspiring. Makes me want to write even if the snippet isn’t meant for the current WIP. New words are always a joy. I didn’t realize HQ did that. If they aren’t doing it now, I might suggest it to the HQ social media folks. 🙂

      Posted by Silver James | January 25, 2016, 7:55 pm
  10. Great post about a tough subject. Since I’m a pantser, I have a hard time skipping ahead. I’m trying to become more of a plotter, so wish me luck. If I can pull that off successfully, I will definitely try your suggestion of skipping to another scene, one where you know where the scene is going.

    Thank you!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 25, 2016, 11:49 pm
  11. Hi, Becke. I understand totally. I really thought I was a pantser. Beyond having an idea of who my characters were, and a vague idea of where the book started and where it ended, I was nowhere close to being a plotter. I wrote linearly, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Until I’d get stuck. Then I’d fret. I have way too many books that were abandoned in the middle because I was convinced I had to write the next thing that happened. It’s like Candace gave me “permission” to jump ahead. At first it was usually the next scene. H/H had a big fight? Well, they had to make up, right? Yes, eventually. So I wrote that scene. Eventually, I relaxed, understood–for my process anyway–that certain scenes needed to be written so I knew which direction to take to get to them. It’s worked out well for me. 🙂

    And sometimes, you can take a prompt which will finish out the scene you’re stuck in because it gives you a new direction. I’ve had that happen, too. 😀 Thanks for stopping by!

    Posted by Silver James | January 26, 2016, 8:52 am
  12. Oh wow, fantastic post!!! So sorry I’m late. This is very enlightening and most definitely worth a try. Sounds like fun!

    Posted by Alicia Dean | January 27, 2016, 7:54 am

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