Getting Stuck

Getting stuck at some point in a story is a pretty common affair for writers. We don’t generally have all of the elements worked out or more often than not, something happens along the way to send the story in an unexpected direction that wasn’t planned on. Characters develop along with the story and you realize they would not do something as originally thought. Basically, things can and do get off track on a regular basis. For me, hitting a roadblock in the middle of writing the story is one of the worst things. I hate having the flow interrupted, because figuring out plot issues is a very different thinking process than putting the story down on the page. This is one of the reasons why I plot the entire book out before I start writing. I don’t want to get stuck. I do however, get stuck in the plotting process.

I’m currently trying to finish my plot outline for Deadworld 3. I had a decent idea of what the main story would involve, what the major character development arc would be, and the fact that I wanted to continue a plot element briefly raised in book two. This plot element came into being as I pondered this series on a long term basis. Where did I want it to go? It could easily turn into a case to solve per book sort of series, which could and likely would be just fine. But, I like bigger things than that. I like epic stories. So, an idea spawned that I thought could turn into something great. It was vague and murky, but I decided it was something I wanted to run with. As you can likely figure out by the title of this post, I got to a point where it needs to be figured out. I can’t finish the story until I do. Frustrating. I need to know what’s going on long term, beyond this book, in order to figure out how to end this one.

Lots of ways to go about this challenge. Many writers will dive in, write up to that stuck point, and see if something comes up to solve the issue. Because of the way my brain works, I can’t do this. Not knowing the entirety of the story disrupts my creative energy for a story. I need the entire skeleton of the book laid out so I can see how the whole thing will be in the end before I dig in. Might just be me and my odd, little brain, but there you go. So, what do I do? I stare at the computer screen a lot. I look through my outline over and over again. I play around with possibilities, trying to see what grabs me the most and will work within what I’ve constructed thus far. It looks like a whole lot of nothing and feels very unproductive, especially when I’m very ready to dig into this story. I’ll talk to my wife who will spout out ideas or problems with my ideas, which helps churn the wheels. It’s a very all-over-the-place method and time consuming, but eventually small pieces will eventually fall into place and I’ll figure it out. I just wish it would hurry the hell up. I’m ready to start.

So…what do you writers out there do to figure things out when you’re stuck? I’m curious.

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5 responses to “Getting Stuck

  1. When I get stuck. I discuss it with those closest to me. I pray about it. I ponder, ponder and more ponder. I read other books on writing fiction. I give it a break, ponder some more. Then, then, then it all floods in one day, and I sit down and finish the plot. I wish. I do all the things you mentioned, except talk to your wife.
    Sometimes giving things a break and not trying so hard, I find the idea will come. Take a break, relax, go watch the Saints win, and all the while the wheels are still spinning and lo and behold, the plot unfolds. The End.

  2. I’m a “visual thinker” and my story unfolds like a movie in my head as I’m writing. When I get stuck I do the ‘pretend I’m on set behind the scenes’ thing (guess you might call that the critical angle?). If that doesn’t help I go into R&D mode as if I were developing a film instead of a movie but focus on the visuals/atmosphere – color clumps, moody set-ups/staging etc then I hit pause in my head and zoom in – I usually find a clue in there that way. Guess it’s really just a different form of concentrating (thinking sideways – sort of) without getting distracted from the book. Sometimes it’s a quick process, sometimes it’s not but it keeps me interested in my project and the resulting writing is always richer for it. Good luck.

  3. I’m not a plotter. I put my fingers on the keys and start typing. That doesn’t mean I’m not immune to getting stuck. I started writing a story and seven pages in I got stuck. I wasn’t sure what to write. I knew how to write the middle and the ending, those parts I saw clearly. The beginning…. not so clear. I stare at the computer screen a lot, take breaks and if all else fails, I work on something else and think about the story as I’m laying in bed (because that’s the best time I get ideas to come.)

  4. I totally feel your pain right now. Last week, I hit a major speedbump in my rewrite, which *forced* me to ignore my writing and do other, more productive things, like watch the latest two seasons of my fave TV show. Well, I have no more episodes to watch, so now it’s back to figuring out what to do about this block.

    Sometimes, I just skip it, make a note, and continue the story. In your case, that probably won’t work. Another way to do it, which I’m probably going to employ this time around, is to just plug on through it, even if you write the shittiest prose known to man and the ideas are all jumbled and garbled. At least that way, it’s on paper and you can move on. There’s always revisions.

    Since you’re working on the plot outline and not the draft, I recommend just fudging the point and moving on. You may be able to figure it out as the outline unfolds, and you can go back and fix it to a more intelligible idea. Just a thought.

    I hope you’re able to overcome this snag. I’m pretty sure they are the bane of every writer’s existence.

    • Forging through would be great, except the resolution of the block determines the direction for the last quarter of the story. I won’t write quarter of the book not knowing for sure what I want to do. Can’t do it. So, have to figure it out. It’ll get there. I’m just ready to write, so it’s annoying the crap out of me, but that’s the way the words roll sometimes. Thanks for the comment, Brooke.