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Getting Stuck and Unsticking Tactics

That’s probably my biggest writing hurdle right now, so close to the end of editing and modifying Draft 2 (squee!). I always get stuck somewhere in the plot, big or small hurdles. Either the character or the story or something isn’t going the way I want it to go to get x result, and for whatever reason my exhausted little bean of a noggin can’t process it correctly. It’s not exactly writer’s block, since I know what I’m trying to accomplish in the big picture, but the little picture details are getting too precise and I need to put them into some kind of logical order for the big things to happen the way they need to.

Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with manipulating characters to do what I want when they don’t want to do it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I’m trying to figure out what would be the most feasible thing that would happen in a given situation based on which characters are there and what they would do. And if I lose patience when I’m stuck and just throw something down, and it still doesn’t feel right, it will keep rubbing me the wrong way, and I need to go back and fix it until it moves smoothly.

So what are my tactics for moving past the mental plot roadblocks?

  1. Keep going. When I get really stuck, I just have to knuckle down and get through. Unless I’m absolutely exhausted. Sometimes a brain break is what I need, but often I’m far too stubborn and know I can climb out of this rut it if I sit there long enough and fight it out. Sometimes a little applied pressure is all your brain needs to get results.
  2. Think, “What would the characters do?” and write accordingly. Getting in their heads and putting yourself in their situation REALLY helps you get a feel for a scene that you wouldn’t get as an outside observer. This is a very important step, because as you write and think about your character’s personality and motives, the brain works its deductive alchemy and things can manifest that you never thought of before.
  3. Use your best learning skill to your advantage. You know, are you an auditory, tactile or visual learner? In my case, I’m primarily auditory, so it really helps for me to talk out my ideas to people (or to myself, but it helps if you’re aiming your thoughts towards something, even a wall!), and sometimes just the act of processing it out loud lifts you up and out of your hole, and you get a brilliant idea that takes you the rest of the way. It works all the time for me.
  4. Give your scene some attention! Turn off the TV or the music (or AIM) if it’s distracting you from thinking clearly. If you’re trying to climb out of a rut, the last thing you need are lots of things vying for your attention. Don’t divide your concentration. Sometimes a clear head is the most powerful weapon a writer can have.

These aren’t magic rules, but they work for me. It’s a place to start anyway, but every author has to forge their own path and tactics. As for me, I’ve been fighting the good fight the past few weeks and it really has been paying off!