Archimedes could move the world, but could he move a story once it gets stuck? Recently in conversations with other writers the topic of getting stuck in a story has come up, and today I’m going to share some of my favorite ways of keeping myself writing. I used many of these recently when I hit a bit of a slump with my main work in progress.
Writing Prompts – I’ve done posts about Writing Prompts previously here on my blog, but they really are a good way to get back into the groove of writing. Particularly if I’ve had to take a break from a project or from writing in general for a while, prompts are a great way to get back in the groove.
Free Writing – This helped me a lot during my recent slump. Free writing, brainstorming, whatever you want to call it, putting words down onto the page is a good way to get the ideas rolling.
Re-evaluate Your Outline – Even for those of us who like to plan out our story before we start the actual writing, things will change along the way. As you get to know your characters and your story better it might be a good idea to check in on your outline. Is it still up-to-date? Should X happen instead of Y next, to make better sense? Trust your gut a little bit, and let yourself play around with your outline. Having a set-in-stone outline can strangle your story.
Research – Whatever you write, I can almost guarantee you will need to do some sort of research at some point. Whether that’s what the most popular hairstyles for men of Boston in 1880 was or how far an average person can walk in a day, fact-checking and research is a valuable part of the writing process. If you’re stuck on your story, try to go back and fill in any factoid blanks you might have left earlier in the draft. Who knows, your research may give you a new spark of inspiration!
Interview a Character – This is some fairly common writing advice. Characters drive the story, and it’s generally a good thing to know your character well. This “interviewing” process can take many different forms depending on your preferred format. My most recent tactic? Sorting my characters into Hogwarts Houses. A bit nerdy, I know, but it did help me evaluate what qualities each character prioritized in themselves and others.
Work on a Different Part of the Same Project – Often I try to write my stories from beginning to end, but sometimes a scene later along the line just demands to be written before everything else. You just have to embrace these moments of inspiration and trust that you will be able to fit it in later. And even if you can’t, the more words you put down, the better you will know your story and the better you will know yourself as a writer.
Take a Break (By working on something else!) – I wrote this post with the idea that these tips help unstick a stuck story, not necessarily solving general writer’s block. Maybe your brain needs to take a bit of a break before continuing on with this specific project. Again, writing prompts are a good way to do this, but working on a different story for a few days may give your brain what it needs to come back to your stuck project. Warning: this may lead to several unfinished stories, so use with caution.
What are your favorite ways to keep writing when your story gets stuck? Do you recommend any online resources?