Owl: I say, are you stuck?
Winnie the Pooh: No, just resting, and thinking, and humming to myself.
Owl: You, sir, are stuck. A wedged bear in a great tightness. In a word, irremovable.
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, 1966
I’ve been stuck in a rut with my writing for a while now. Currently, I have one first draft done of a manuscript, which is being critiqued as we speak. I have three other story ideas percolating in my head. One has about 5,000 words written, another has about 7,000 words written, and a third has about 1,000 words written.
The 7,000-word manuscript is the sequel to the manuscript that’s out for critique. I really should work on it, because if I ever get it out to editors, and by some miracle, it gets accepted, I’m going to have to continue the series. I love the series. I love the premise and the uniqueness. I love the characters. I can see the whole series in my head. Getting it down on paper is a different story, however, because try as I might, I’m not inspired by it right now. I think part of the problem is that I’m disappointed by the first story in the series and I need to get that into better shape. Maybe when I finish the second draft, inspiration will strike again. So in the meantime, other than a few sentences here or there, I move onto other stories.
Like the the 5,000-word story. It was inspired by a house. I walked through a gorgeous 1873 Victorian mansion that’s for sale in a nearby town. They had an open house and my daughters and I went for fun. We all fell in love with the place. If I had a few million dollars to play around with, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. In the meantime, I dream about it. And in my dreams, I came up with a great storyline. So I started to write it down. I’m 5,000 words in, and I’m stuck. There are pivotal scenes that I have down and running through my head, but I can’t get past them, even though I’ve written them out—the 5,000 words are not necessarily the first 5,000 words. I know the whole plot, the character arcs, the GMC. I know the who and why and everything! But I can’t get past this one scene in my head and when I sit to write the rest of the story, I get frustrated and walk away. So, I move onto story number three.
Story number three has only 1,000 words. It’s going to take a huge effort to write. It’s a story I’ve always wanted to write because it’s based on my family’s history. It’s got a bit of a mystery in it and I’ve come up with a solution that seems plausible. The problem is, it’s going to take a ton of research. I’m talking library research. College-type research. Just the thought of it exhausts me. So I move back to the first completed draft to work on corrections.
The problem is, that draft needs a lot of corrections. The little stuff is easy. Deleting and changing words, adding commas, all the little stupid things—those are easy. It’s the revising and rewriting and filling in that I keep putting off. I know I need to show more emotion in chapter four and I need to further develop the characters in chapter six. But I’m not sure I can do that. Or that I even want to.
Like I said, I’m stuck in a rut. What I really need is some inspiration. Either that, or a swift kick in the butt.
So tell me, what do you do to get unstuck?