Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When You Get Stuck

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

266239576_b690cb00c1There comes a point in almost every manuscript where I get a little stuck.

I’m either bogged down by the story itself or by outside forces (i.e.—life).

It’s not writer’s block. It’s just…stalling. Not wanting to move forward, not sure how to move forward. Hesitating.

And I have absolutely no time for it. I handed in a book yesterday and I have a book due (different series) July 1. Hesitation is not part of my game plan.

The most important thing is to diagnose what’s behind the hesitation (in my case, very quickly) and order up a quick prescription. Or an emergency surgery.

First of all, figure out what is making you stuck:

You aren’t sure how to approach the next scene.

You aren’t in the mood to write the next scene.

You aren’t sure how to move forward with your plot.

You can’t seem to get the writing done during the day.

Your house offers too many other options for things to do.

Things I’ve done to treat this hesitation:

1) Change of Location. I’ve:

Written at the library.

Written at a diner way out in the country that had no Wi-Fi (and left my phone in the car.)

Written at the coffeehouse.

Taken my children and a large group of their favorite friends to the bowling alley/the skating rink/the swimming pool. I’ve put dollar bills on the table for everyone’s drinks and snacks and written until they all wanted to leave or were all arguing with each other. :)

2) Change of Story Direction (moving forward…not fixing what I’d written before that point.) I’ve:

Merged two characters into one character.

Added a character.

Killed a character.

Inserted an argument.

Turned one character’s wife into his best friend’s wife.

Changed the method of the murder.

Changed the murderer.

Listed 20 or more ways to approach the next scene. Listed 20 ways to end the story. Listed 20 ways for something unexpected to happen.

3.) Change of process. I’ve:

Skipped the rest of the chapter I was stuck on and kept going.

Written the ending of the book first.

Written the ending and then worked backward from that point.

Written the rest of the book out of order on different Word docs (and, no, I don’t recommend this!)

Written the scene I was in the mood to write (the funny scene, the scary scene, the scene when it all starts making sense to the sleuth.)

4.) Change of schedule. I’ve:

Written before going to bed.

Written when the children came home from school while they were doing their homework.

Gotten up in the middle of the night to write.

Written 1/2 a page at 4 different points during the day.

Set a timer and written for 20 minutes, done housework for 20 minutes, written for 20 minutes, paid bills and organized my desk for 20 minutes, written for 20 minutes, exercised for 20 minutes…

I think we all get stuck sometimes. But we can brainstorm ways to get through it. Maybe it’s better if we expect to be stuck, then we can have a plan in place already.

Do you get stuck sometimes? How do you work through it?