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When You Don't Know What to Write by Janalyn Voigt for Live Write Breathe

When You Don’t Know What to Write

You have all the time in the world to write but can’t seem to start. You stare at the blinking cursor with a growing sense of frustration. The plot that seemed brilliant only yesterday now strikes you as flat. You wrack your brain but can’t figure out what to write.

What’s an author to do?

Don’t feel all alone. The posts at this website stem from my own experiences, including this one. I don’t lack story ideas, but I’m still facing down the question of where next to focus my time and energy.

As an author building a writing career, I can’t afford to spend my time dithering. At a guess, you feel the same. All right, then. Let’s figure this thing out.

When You Don’t Know What to Write

Lack of Overall Focus

It’s impossible to make progress without knowing which direction to go. Most writers hate being asked to define their audiences, but that’s the first step to take. I don’t suggest, as some do, that you lovingly detail your average reader’s every wrinkle. However, if said reader’s face is a blur in your mind, well—it’s time for a little introspection. Yes, it starts with you. Readers your writing will most resonate with are bound to have similar tastes as you. Who are these people? If you don’t find them as part of your actual or projected audience, think about making adjustments to line up with them.

Matching the writing genre and topic of your book to what your audience wants to read gives a better chance of success. Writing to market, while often wise, can be overdone. You, as well as your audience, should be equally fascinated by the stories you write. If not, you won’t do your best work. To solve this problem, either redefine your audience or adjust your genre and topic.

Learn to Set SMART Goals You Can Live With

Chasing Market Trends

Which genre and story will further your goals in the current market? What dynamics do readers likely to purchase such a book share? Which tropes should you include to lure them? Maybe you should write a novel that drafts heavily from a successful work and then bill your book as the next version of that story. Would that make your novel seem derivative or part of a new genre? On and on the questions go.

Attempting to align to fluctuating market trends is like trying to catch a butterfly unprepared. By the time you decide which net to use, it’s gone. Give your audience the enduring topics that interest them and your success or failure won’t depend on market trends.

If you write in more than one genre, read Will Writing in Multiple Genres Kill Your Writing Career


Striving to create a bestselling novel that becomes an enduring classic is a lofty enough goal to intimidate any author. Breaking a big goal into manageable chunks helps remove the roadblocks erected by fear. This, in turn, frees your creativity. Unlocking your ability to dream just naturally leads to story ideas.

For more on freedom from fear, read Overcoming Fear in Spite of Yourself  


Lack of confidence can stymie an idea before it has a chance to grow into a story. Writing a story calls for a lot of decisions from an author. If you often second-guess yourself, you might suffer from impostor syndrome, the irrational and self-fulfilling belief that you don’t deserve success. The good news is that this syndrome is curable.

Read Do You Suffer from Impostor Syndrome? 


Writing seems like play except when it doesn’t, right? Let’s face it. Writing is no different than other businesses when it comes to burnout. Constantly working without taking time to rest will eventually erode a writer’s creativity and possibly lead to health consequences. Take time to feed your soul. After you finish a book project, reward yourself with some down time, by reading a book someone else wrote, indulging your other interests, or going on a retreat. When writing becomes fun again, you’ll thank yourself.

Read Writing Retreat (Why You Need One)

Final Thoughts from Janalyn

If only I could work at the pace of a machine, I’d throw out books rapid-fire while maintaining a healthy home life, working another job besides writing, and nurturing myself. That’s not the case, however. I must view my human frailties with grace and expect less from myself than my competitive, ambitious nature demands. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I am tattered but real.

When You Don't Know What to Write via @JanalynVoigt | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

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