Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breaking the Barrier

What do you do when you’re stuck? You know, when you’re writing and you’re moving along just fine—your characters are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, your plot is advancing, you’re breezing through—when all of a sudden you realize that the past page and a half or so have sort of fizzled.

Despite knowing exactly where I am in my story and where I need to go, this happens to me quite frequently. It’s very frustrating. Suddenly, dialogue that was witty and had a great rhythm to it becomes banal and boring. Character’s thoughts either become too heavy and trap me inside their heads, or they become empty and obvious. The story starts sinking, fast.

When that happens to me, there are a number of things I do. In no particular order:

1.     I reread my notes for the story—where the plot is going, what my characters’ motivation may be, what I wanted to remember to add. Oftentimes, that’s enough to push me over the hump and get me on the right track.
2.     I reread what I wrote yesterday. Hopefully, yesterday was a more successful writing day and if I can find my rhythm from the day before, I can sometimes jumpstart my rhythm for the day.
3.     I read a favorite author. There is one author whose writing I love and whose writing inspires me. While she writes romance, it’s not the same subgenre as mine, but she has a way of putting words together that is amazing. Just reading a chapter or two usually gives me an idea of how to invigorate my own writing.
4.     I help author friends with their own writing. It’s so much easier to find the plot holes in other people’s writing, or to identify what’s not working and how to fix it. By helping others and not thinking about my own writing, I can usually come up with a resolution to a problem I’m having.
5.     I sleep on it. Some of my best inspiration comes as I’m drifting off to sleep. Of course, the trick is remembering it the next morning!

What do you do?


  1. If I know where the story is going, I tend to write through a difficult bit to get to the next 'plot point'. I know I can go back later and delete, amend or event rewrite completely the 'bad' part.
    With one story, though, I got to about Chap 13, and decided a lot of the early part wasn't right. I started to rewrite - and got stuck again. So I put it to one side and started another story. Now, six months later, I think I can see what to do to sort our the first story, so I'm going back to it once I've finished editing my current WIP.

  2. These are all great ideas.

    Sometimes if I'm stuck but I know what's going to happen later in the story I'll skip ahead and write the part I know and then come back to the difficult part later.

    Another thing I do is step away from the computer and do some old fashioned pen and paper writing. I have no idea why, but this helps me move on better than if I am staring at a blinking curser.

  3. I do the 'sleep on it' method frequently, and usually get a solution.
    I have shelved WIP's that I'm truly stuck on. Kudos to you all for being able to push through!

  4. I've used your no. 2 solution, and I've skipped ahead. What works best for me in most cases is to simply take a walk. The exercise seems to stimulate the neurons and I can go forward.

  5. Sorry I couldn't respond yesterday. Thanks all for the suggestions!