I wrote a post some time ago about overcoming writer’s block, but this post is a little different. What do you do when want to write, you’ve got plenty of ideas, you’re excited about your WIP, but you just don’t know what to do next?
This is the position I’ve found myself in a lot lately with the historical fiction that I’m writing. What’s got me stuck is figuring out what the next few scenes should be and how to get my characters to the place they need to be by the end. As I was jotting down thoughts, I realized that I have come up with several ways of getting myself past these stuck points – and so I now want to share them with you.
Determine how you want the story to end
If you’re a complete pantser, you may not like this suggestion – but if you’ve ever tried even a little bit of plotting, then this could be helpful. You don’t necessarily have to know exactly how every little plot thread ties up, but establish a basic concept for the ending of your story. Does the hero get the princess in the end? Does the wicked queen die, or does she survive? If you know the final destination, then mapping out the path to get there is a lot easier.
Write ahead, or write a vignette or a character study
One of my favorite things to do is to write a scene that doesn’t have anything to do with the main story. It could be a side plot, back story, or even a character interview. Or if I know that I want a certain thing to happen later on the story and I just haven’t figured out how to get to that point yet, then I’ll go ahead and write that scene. Let’s say you’ve decided that you want the wicked queen to be dead by the end of the story, but you haven’t figured out yet how she’s going to die. Try writing a scene where the hero and the princess and the entire kingdom are celebrating their new-found freedom and honoring their new kindly monarch. You may or may not wind up using that scene in its original form (or at all), but it can help solidify characters in your mind or reveal important themes in your story.
Write out bullet points of plot elements that you know you want to cover
This is the main one that I’ve been doing lately to get myself past my stuck point. I know the ending, and I know some of the important things that need to happen in the story – I just haven’t figured out to tie everything together yet in a way that makes sense. Continuing with the fairy tale example, let’s say that you know that the hero will be fighting a dragon in the climax of the book. But you haven’t decided if he should go to the dragon’s cave to confront it, or if the dragon will attack the castle. Put “hero slays dragon” on your list of key plot points. As you start listing other points, like “hero and princess kiss” and “wicked queen dies,” you’ll start seeing how these points can connect in a way that will make the story flow.
Do you have other techniques for getting unstuck or working through trouble spots in your plot?
5 thoughts on “What to Do when You’re Stuck”
One of my best tips for writer’s block and/or when you feel your writing mojo waning is to throw yourself head first into another (at least largely) unrelated creative endeavour. Spend a day baking pies, knit a scarf, create a scrapbook page, take an art class, gather leaves in the wood to press, whatever your heart desires, so long as it’s something you really enjoy. By tapping into one’s general pool of creativity, it often works wonders to job other areas of your life where such is needed and in the process to help relieve writer’s block.
Big hugs & happy start of November wishes,
Great tip, Jessica! I sometimes do that if I’m super-stuck. I have periodic fits of general craftiness, and I usually work on a craft project when my storytelling brain is low.
Happy November to you too! 🙂
The plot points are where I’m at right now with book four “No’va”. That in itself has been a very good way to “fill in the blanks”. When I first started, I just wrote down a bunch of stuff I wanted to happen, then cut them out on paper and rearranged them in the order I thought they might come. Of course, things change as I started to fill in the gaps and rearranged a few points. But it most definitely works!
Ooo, writing down points of pieces of paper and physically arranging them is a great idea. Truly like putting together a puzzle! I’ll try that. 😉
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