Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What To Do When Your Story Bogs Down


I don’t believe in writer’s block. I hear a lot of writers moaning about how the muses aren’t speaking and how all they can do is sit around and wait for direction. But I'm pretty sure that that is not how writing works. I've never been very patient, so when my story starts to bog down or I'm not sure what to do next, I don’t like to to sit around and wait for good ideas to strike. I go and start poking around my book and trying to find a way to unstick things. Because of this I've found that writer's block is, in fact, a myth. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to find ways to cajole a novel along when the plot has gotten stuck. So I’ve come up with a few ways to jump start a novel when it’s bogged down:
  1. Kill a character. This is a huge joke within the writing community. When you don’t know what to do with your novel, throw a character off of a cliff or have them be eaten by a giant worm. That’s bound to get the book moving again. Though this is a funny thought, it's completely true, but also a bit heartbreaking when it comes to actually killing off a character. But sometimes there are characters that just don’t fit into the novel anymore. Or maybe your main character needs an event to really get him/her moving. Sometimes it’s necessary to have a character murdered just to show how horrible and cold-hearted the antagonist is. So go through your novel and try to figure out if you have a character that’s death would benefit your book more than his/her life would. And then find a creative way to get rid of that character.
  2. Erase a character. This is even more heartbreaking than killing a character. You just go through and take a character out of a book by deleting any evidence of its existence. Why would you ever do this? Well, I once did this with two sibling characters. I felt horrible about it, but they just didn’t fit into the novel. Every time I tried to write something, they would get in the way and muddle things up. So I wiped them from the grid. Maybe someday I’ll reincarnate them, but as it stood then, they were just a pain. Don’t get me wrong, they were good characters, but they just weren’t good for this particular book. Does this bring to mind any of your characters? If it does, you might want to consider deleting them. Yes, it hurts and it feels extremely wrong, but you’ll get over it after a while and it really will help with the writing.
  3. Let go of that scene you’ve been wanting to add in for months. You know that scene or chapter that you’ve just been dying to put into your book? You know, the one that’s not super important, but you want to add it because it will be fun to write or maybe it will emphasize a point you’ve been trying to make. Yeah, that one. Just let it go. You’ll find a place for it someday, but until then just let it be. It’s bad for your storyline when you try to cram it in because you get so focused on that one scene that you can’t work on anything else. Don’t force it, otherwise you’ll end shoving it into chapter 3 and then it will come back to bite you in chapter 16 when you suddenly realize it would have fit better there. All good things to those who wait.
  4. Think about the worst thing that can happen to your character and make it come to pass. This seems really mean. In fact, it is really mean. But it’s 100% guaranteed to move you plot along. If you’re writing a post-apocalyptic story, have somebody steal your characters last supply of food. If it’s Science Fiction, have the hyperdrive on that awesome space ship fail when your characters are in the middle of uncharted space. If it’s Fantasy, have your characters get attacked by huge vampire wolves. Okay, maybe not vampire wolves, but you get the point.
  5. Raise the stakes just a little higher. Maybe they’re already super high. But if they are, then I’m not really sure why you would be stuck. If your characters don’t have something important that they might lose if they fail their mission, then a lot of the time the story just hits a dead end. Things only really start moving when your characters are risking the loss of something special or important. Maybe you already have pretty high stakes. Sometimes you just have to emphasize them a bit to get the plot to click into place.
  6. Make sure you have a climax and an end in mind. This may seem really obvious, but I’m writing it just in case. If you don’t have a climax and an end to work towards, you’re going to get stuck. It’s as simple as that. Have a climax, pick an end point. Without these two things you’re story won’t be going anywhere fast.
  7. Don’t try to keep your writing from sucking. Look, the first draft of anything is going to suck. You just need to keep writing, even if you know that the last few paragraphs (or chapters) aren’t written as well as they could be. You can fix that later. Right now you just need to focus on writing. A lot of the time writers get hung up on trying to make their first draft perfect and then hit road blocks because they stop focusing on actually writing the story. Write now. Edit later.
I hope this gave you some ideas as to how to get your story up and running again. If you can think of any more ways to get rid of “writers block,” comment below!

Related articles:
Challenging Creative Writers To Be More Creative
Controlling Your Plot Bunnies: How to Write A Novel From Start to Finish Without Getting Distracted

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Such a great post. Some of it is hard to swallow, but still very true!
    Thanks!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed. And yes, I write this stuff and even I have a hard time swallowing it. =)

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  3. "A lot of the time writers get hung up on trying to make their first draft perfect and then hit road blocks because they stop focusing on actually writing the story. Write now. Edit later." -- THIS really resonated with me... I have about 4 novels on the go and the most I've ever written is 7 chapters. Mostly I get hung up around Chapter 3, because I spend too long trying to perfect paragraphs - it's insane! Thanks for the tips.

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  4. I used to get so frustrated when writer's block struck that the frustration actually increased the block and made it even harder to think. Then I stumbled on a solution which was just brilliant if I do say so myself. Whenever I got blocked, I would write about writer's block. I mean I actually turned the writer's block into a character and wrote a series of stories about it. The adventures of the Evil Writer's Block (EWB to his friends) and the Unsuspecting Author have become a popular dinner time entertainment in my house. There was even a musical. Now I sometimes visit them even when I'm not stuck.

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    1. Oh my gosh! That is such a brilliant, fun idea. Now I want to try. =) Thanks for the awesome comment!

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  5. I can spent copious amounts of time thinking and daydreaming about a story, but often squirm at the thought of actually writing it. I have four stories I'm currently working on, each of which I've planned a lot and written a few chapters, but I've made little progress overall.

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  6. I've done vampire wolves lol I was told when you get wrighter block its because you've stopped wrighting for you and started to wright for some one elce

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