I got stuck this week, as a matter of fact. I was on a roll with this new project and I was writing and writing...And I wrote myself right off a cliff.
The ground just dropped out from underneath me. Even though I knew how the chapter ended, I couldn't write it. I couldn't even write the end of the scene I was in. Everything just stalled. My characters refused to come out to play. I could see the shape of the events in my head, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.
Now I don't believe in writer's block, not as a thing in and of itself. The feeling of being blocked is--at least for me--generally a symptom of something deeper.
So I started asking myself a few questions. And I thought I'd share them with you, in case you ever get stuck. (Your mileage my vary, of course.)
Do I need to take a break?
Sometimes beings stuck is just an indicator that your brain is tired. That you need sleep or sunlight or actual interaction with real human beings. Take a walk. Watch a few episodes of really good television. Read a really good book. Hang out with family or friends. Do something fun before you go completely crazy.
Is my story going off the rails or in the wrong direction?
Sometimes being stuck is your brain's reaction to your story traveling into the wrong territory. Like a dog refusing to go on thin ice, sometimes the story simply does not want to go in the direction you're trying to take it. Something is wrong over there! your brain screams. Danger, danger! Story death ahead!
|found at mamafrog.com|
I've found it's generally better to listen to that voice. But in this case, I wasn't sure that was the problem. Yes, I was going in a different direction then I had originally planned, but in a way that should have had a better impact on the story, not a worse one. So I braced myself and asked the third question.
Is something off with what I have written already?
This is my least favorite question, because it means more work, and breaking apart things you've already written. Nevertheless, it's important to be willing to ask it. Just like your brain will refuse to go off in the wrong direction sometimes, it will also refuse to go in the right one if it doesn't have enough support. Like workers on a high-rise. As long as the beams are firmly welded, they're comfortable. If they're not, no one wants to be up there.
|found at howtogeek.com|
Oddly enough, this question usually has nothing to do with whether or not I've been writing crap. The quality isn't an issue. (At least not for me.) What this usually means is that something is off with the bare bones of the story. There's a problem with my main character or the worldbuilding hasn't gone far enough or the plot doesn't have enough high stakes and momentum to push me into to the next part.
And sure enough, that was the question I needed to ask.
After talking the issue out with my husband, I found the problem. The part I was having trouble writing was the set-up to the midpoint, where my two main characters officially kiss for the first time. I had to get them from strangers who are attracted to--and concerned about--each other to romantic partners.
The problem was, I discovered, that my male MC wasn't pulling his weight. He'd done all right for the first few chapters, but when it came time to Make Crap Happen, he...wasn't. Instead he was letting other people order him around. And since he was a mostly passive character at this point, I didn't have a good window into his head.
(This seems like a good time for some gratuitous Tom Hiddleston)
|found at tomhiddletonruinedmylife.tumblr.com|
Anyway, there are a lot of things you can do in a story with a character you don't know very well. But I submit that writing a romantic arc is not one of them. And so my story stalled because one of the crucial components was missing.
I haven't figured out quite how to fix the problem yet, but ideas are flowing again and I feel like I'm back on track. I can feel the ground again and that's very comforting.
So that's my system for dealing with being stuck. What's yours?