How do you combat writer's block?

Up to this point I have relied on inspiration. I now realize what a poor tactic that is! IFComp is approaching and I want a decent story for an entry.

I wrote two story ideas but nothing substantial is sticking. For the first idea I used a story board layout, and for the second I tried a mind map approach, roughly ten days was spent on each. I think my problem-points are finding a driving motivation for the player character, and designing puzzles that are both logical and have recognizable solutions.

I have approached these issues by reading a lot about IF theory and puzzle design ( for one, and the IF Theory Reader for another) for the past week, but just feel more overwhelmed and lost in thought.

Is it just me, or is this writer’s block? Does anyone have some good advice to break out of this mental cage? :ugeek:

One thing that helped me is my research that showed that pretty much any story and puzzles, no matter how bad, can do well in ifcomp if it is bug free and beta tested a lot, responding to the testers worries.

But you can put literally anything in, as long as it’s bug free. The 7th to 20th places every year are about half cool things that are buggy and half boring games that are well tested; and it’s easier to just shoot for the second group. A lot of time a bad game becomes a good game with enough testing.

So…i would say just write anything, even if you’re not sure you like it!

Well, in answer to the question, I would have to say that nothing I do ever works to combat writer’s block. Like a painful case of hiccups, I have to patiently wait it out. It’ll get to the point where I’m convinced I’m no longer a writer at all and I spend my days playing LOTRO, pretending I’m a hobbit. But then, it all floods back to me, thankfully.

But again, no answer here because when writer’s block hits me, it sits on my head and crushes it.

Some things I’ve tried are random generators to get lots of snippets and ideas going, and I can suggest that to folks, but again, even though I do enjoy playing with the randomizers, it still takes time for me to actually put “pen to paper”, if you will. (Or even if you won’t).

Here’s a great randomizer page. It has TONS of things to randomize. But a further google search will yield more.


I am just blocking myself by being too critical about my first expectations. That is pretty good advice, thanks @craiglocke!

Ah thanks for reminding me @MTW. I enjoy generators too, one of my favourites is

I feel less pressured already :mrgreen:

If you are having trouble writing because you are being hypercritical of your ouput, you need to unblock that.

One method is to make a habit of quickly writing 1-3 pages of anything every day. Just let words flow out, even if it’s “I have no idea what to write. I’m just typing words here and I’m sitting at the computer and there’s a window in front of me…” Fill up at least a whole page or two, then discard/delete those pages.

That gives your brain permission to write anything with much lower stakes. Essentially it’s like scribbling with a ballpoint pen to make the ink flow, or warming up before you exercise.

Also don’t get in the “edit as you go” death spiral. I had a friend who wrote the most exquisite first three pages of a book I’d ever read. I asked where the rest was and he said that was all he had because he’d been working on those three pages for two years. They were exquisite because he kept going back and polishing them instead of proceeding past page three. Anything new he wrote couldn’t live up to the quality of his opening. If you don’t let what you write be a draft that you know you will come back to and make better later, you’ll never get anywhere.

Here is another randomizer generator: Note that this is documentation to write your own; there are links at the bottom for actually accessing it. (“TV PLOT” is from an old book of computer games written in BASIC, but converted into FurryScript and many options have been added; this is also why this file is in all uppercase.)

For generating names, one thing I have read somewhere (using dice) is an algorithm using d6 and d20, although it isn’t very good, sometimes you get only one letter or none at all, or very long and letters next to each other that isn’t very good, and so on (I did however get the name “Iuckqlwviv Kjugobe” for one of my Dungeons&Dragons character). However, there is also RinkWorks Fantasy Name Generator, as well as my own version, both of which are much better than the dice method.

However, the stuff you linked is very comprehensive, so that will be very good. (Although I would like to have a local version anyways Possibly we can work to such thing too.) The ones from Fantasy Name Generator seem easy enough to convert for local use anyways (since they are client side scriptings)

However, I do not have any real advice about writer’s blocks, unfortunately. (But you can try dice or any other divination method if it helps; I don’t know how well it does helps though) I think there is also some list of ideas somewhere in the ifMUD library, so that might be another place to look; I don’t know for sure though, how much and stuff like that.

Write anything that goes through your head and let it flow freely. It is necessary to find again the pleasure of writing.

Everyone started writing as a hobby and a pleasure, and ended up doing it as professionally as they can, which means it can be boring or hard or simply a chore. Just make it playful again.

Write anything, and you will edit it later. Even if by editing you mean discarding 90% of it. Whatever - the things you discarded were there to accompany the birth of the 10% you keep.

It’s like sculpture. Take a raw block and polish it until it’s a statue. You need a raw block to start. Whatever you drop on paper is a raw block. You’ll polish it afterwards.

I generally write big chunks of text without thinking too much, in order to have some material to work on. My page is never blank and thus I never have writer’s block. Then I work on this material.

It has to be a pleasure. No amount of professionalism and advices and lectures on how to write should ever erase the basic idea that you do not need to write unless you find pleasure in it. And no text is good if it has not been written with pleasure.

Have fun!

How do I combat writer’s block?

With a sword or some sort of really large bread knife.

But no seriously what I do is I write. Lots and lots of bullshit. All the bullshit. Doesn’t even have to make sense. I mean, it’s a computer. Backspace is a key that exists.
I write stupid shit. Try to make myself laugh at it. Then it usually goes away.

A lot of writer’s refer to writer’s block like it’s some kind of dreaded, incurable disease that cannot be understood. But often, what distinguishes between a pro and an amateur is just showing up and doing the job. That is, sit down and write. Admittedly, IF has additional complications of trying to figure out puzzles, maps, objects, NPCs etc, which can make the world in which you operate vastly more complicated than simply writing prose.

Nonetheless, it can help if you have a set amount of time or writing that you force yourself to do every day.

I’m with [Neil Gaiman]. There’s no thing as writer’s block. It’s just not the time now. Eventually, the fairy of the words will come back and all will start rolling again. As a matter of fact, I’m writing 3 novels and 4 IFs. All of them have been put away for awhile and from time to time they come back.
The 2 advices I like most are: 1) keep more than one project open at a time; 2) if you are not in the mood for writing (unless you do it for a living), simply don’t. A time will come when it will work again.

[reference corrected by Moderator]

I’ve found that when I’m not getting any creative ideas, that’s a good time to grind with proofreading or trickier coding. Eventually I start finding cool stuff to do.

From what I’ve read I’ve also come to believe that a lot of seemingly benign activities can sap your creativity e.g. facebook/twitter timewasting. I suppose this is general self-help sort of advice, but I’ve found myself exhausted from paging around on facebook/twitter, then I get a cool idea or two when I walk to the grocery store.

I tried a small experiment where I went to a Chicago Library branch and typed my ideas into a Google Docs file with the time I got per day. It went really quickly with fewer distractions. (They use IE so I can’t open 6 tabs w/o the computer gargling.) Then at home I tried to finish the deal and got a lot less done. (I also tried working at home first, and I got more done at the library, so it wasn’t a matter of energy running down.)

Having more than one project open is a good thing as long as it’s organized. Even just having separate text files helps. I managed to write a program that can sort my ideas into sub-sections later, which was fun & gave me a feeling of autonomy.

With a writer’s hammer and chisel.