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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What to Do When You Get Stuck While Writing Your Book

By Joanna Campbell Slan

When folks complain of "writer's block," they're often complaining that they've gotten stuck. Or that they just don't know what to write next.

That can happen to any of us.

Maybe you know how your book will begin. You might also know how it ends. But what will you do to fill three hundred pages in the middle? Ah, that's the rub. Suddenly, you are stuck.

When I get stuck, here are some ways I get "un-stuck" --

Change It Up--
  1. Change of scenery -- I revisit my protagonist's world and move her/him to another spot. I find this useful for signaling a plot point or a change of heart.
  2. Change of mind -- Most of us don't move smoothly from Point A to Point B. We zig and zag. We have conflicting emotions. Sometimes we encounter new information. Or we mull over a problem and reconsider what we know. Someone will tell us something we didn't know. A change of mind gives your protagonist a new course to explore.
  3. Change of cast -- You have to be careful not to introduce people willy-nilly, but once in a while, you need someone new to enter the fray. This newbie can tell your protagonist something he or she doesn't know.

Doing What Comes Naturally--

I've found that blocks come when I try to force my characters to twist into unnatural positions. If the action springs naturally, if the sequence is logical, it's easier to write about it.

Brainstorm Twenty Ways to Proceed--

My friend and mentor Emilie Richards told me that a friend of hers suggested brainstorming a list of twenty things that could happen. Your first five will be predictable. The next five a little less so. The next five might be outlandish. But the final five will really tax your brain. Stretching is good exercise. One of your twenty ways to proceed will probably work. Maybe even two or three of them will. Choose the option that's right for your book.

Check on a Secondary Character--

Remember the phrase, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch"? That's a nifty segue, a change to revisit a secondary character, and peek in on what he/she's doing.

Whatever You Do--

Don't give up. It's far too easy to toss your work-in-progress into the trash and start over. The process of working through your stumbling blocks is valuable. Quitting isn't!

How do you handle getting stuck?

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