You know those times when you try to write a story and it just won’t MOVE? Or it’s moving but it feels more like trudging through three foot high mud?
This happens to me more than I would like. In fact, it happened to me three times just last year! cough
Sometimes we can figure out right away what’s going on. Perhaps we’re just tired. Perhaps we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. But other times it takes weeks, maybe even months, maybe even a year to figure it out!
But it doesn’t have to take a year. Lately, since I’ve been in poor-me-unproductive-land, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the last few times this happened, and I’ve noticed that there are certain things that help me out.
First, you identify why you’ve stalled.
Have you run into a problem or do you just not want to work on this story right now? Figuring out why you’ve stalled is probably the hardest part. After that, you can come up with a solution for it probably within days. Maybe even hours!
If you find you don’t want to work on the story right now, don’t. Be honest. It’s not a big deal. I go through an embarrassingly large number of stories every year before I find the few that make the cut. This year already I’ve had to set something aside. I might take another look at it later, but in the meantime, it’s just going to sit there. And that’s okay. However, if this is a story that you’re wanting to write so bad it’s ridiculous, let’s move on to step number two.
Second, you figure out what that problem is.
Is it a characterization issue? Is your main character turning out to be the wrong person to headline the story? Is it the plot? Do you have elements in the plot that don’t fit? Is it missing something? That spark? That creep factor? That strong emotional fire? Some mystery perhaps? Put words to that nagging feeling in your gut.
What I did the last time this happened was sit down and just ask myself what I thought the problem was. You might just surprise yourself that you already have the answers. But if nothing comes to mind, it’s time to move on to step numero three.
Third, relax and step away from the story.
Don’t think about it. Go read. Go brainstorm a plot bunny. Let the solution come to you. Because it will when your brain finally gets a chance to relax and work things out.
During this time, if there is an element that doesn’t belong or needs tweaking, it will stick out something bad. There’s your sign. Sometimes it’s because something is missing. You may not even realize that this sudden, random, highly excitable thought has anything to do with your story. Follow it anyway and see where it leads. It just may take you to Neverland, where something is lying in wait for you to grab it and implement it into your story.
When you find what you’re looking for, when it comes to you, it’s time to go back to your story.
Last, LISTEN to what your gut has to say and implement the changes accordingly.
Maybe you needed to pull something from a shelved story. Maybe you just needed to add that thought that came to you out of the blue. Whatever the case, don’t question it. Don’t analyze. Just be Nike. Just do it.
Two times now I’ve been stalled only to find what I was looking for in a story I had set aside with no intention of looking at it again. You never know. Recently, I got what I thought was a brand new shiny story idea to add to my list. But for some reason, I kept going back to it and adding little notes. Eventually, I was noticing how it was atmospherically similar to a story I had in my holding pile.
When I stepped back and lined the stories up and looked at them, I could see what the other story had been missing. And there it was, all laid out super pretty, everything I needed to make that story the best it can be. The new idea turned out to be all the things I had lost in that story from conception to when I started drafting it. Things I lost because I was afraid I wasn’t a skilled enough writer to pull if off.
Screw fear. Write fearlessly. It’s the only way to write, yes? ^_^
Sometimes when your brain is nagging you, it’s not because your idea is bad, it’s because your brain is trying to lead you to something better. Something that will push you. Something that will make you better. Something that will bring you to your knees with it’s amazingness. Sometimes it’s just about not settling for something that’s just good. Why write a good story when you can take a little bit more time to work things through in your head and make an amazing story.
Sometimes we stall on something because we just need a little more time for things to solidify in our brains. So, don’t freak out if you hit a wall. Take a breather. Relax. Talk to your story and your characters and yourself. ^_^
And if you run into a problem and don’t get a solution, work on something else. If the story wants you write it bad enough, a solution will come. The story will come and find you, wherever you are, and let you know it’s ready in that special way ideas get your attention sometimes: by sharp and constant jabs to the brain. 🙂