Monday, July 5, 2010

3 Ways to Get Unstuck

We've all been at that point where you know, long term, where the story is going but between you and long-term, there is a vast wasteland of white page and you can't get word one written. What to do? Here are three things that might work.

1.Get to the action.
Right to it. Your current chapter ends with the action looming on the horizon and you're dying to get to it but there's all this other "stuff" that has to be explained and set-up and prepared before you get there. You know what? You're probably going to wind up cutting all that stuff anyway, so why not skip it now? Get to the part you're dying to write. Now, I'm not a fan of writing the action scenes and stitching them together because those winding paths between high points can take you in some interesting directions, but if you're itching for action, your reader probably is too.

2.Start a conversation.
When you're stuck in a plot line, your wheels tend to spin. You want forward motion but everywhere you look is nothing but mud and walls and plot-drop cliffs. Your characters are standing around looking nervous and/or bored wondering why you're not letting them do what they want to do. Ask them. Put two characters together and let them start talking. See what's on their mind. I once discovered the reason a scene was stalled out was because a secondary character was seriously pissed that his best friend had blown him off for a woman (and the plot) and was therefore refusing to do his part to continue the story. I set them down over a few beers and let the friend lose his cool and, lo and behold, my main character had the unhappy realization that he could be a self-absorbed prick. It was a nice touch of dimension that I wouldn't have really seen if I hadn't let them talk it out.

3.Write something completely insane.
True story: a friend was stuck deader than dead in the first third of her book. She could think of no logical way to jump start the next phase so she had a monkey fall out of tree onto her main character's head. In the middle of a city street, no previous mentions of monkeys, no apparent reason it happened. The character, understandably, screamed and swore and the monkey peed on her and ran off. After that, the character recovered and the story continued. Needless to say, the monkey scene was cut (after many hysterical readings of said passage) and the story continued. It may not work for you, but throwing in something nonsensical can take the pressure of deathless prose and breathless plotting off of your mortal shoulders.

We've all been there. I'd love any tips you could share.