Friday, April 13, 2012
Living on the Wall: Not Knowing What Happens Next in Your Story
Before we dive into today's topic, you can get twice as much writing advice today! I'm over at Writers in the Storm discussing description, so pop on over when you're done here.
At some point, all of us will hit a wall in our writing. We get stuck, we don't know what happens next, maybe we know where we need to go, but not sure how to get there.
Hitting a wall can feel a lot like writer's block. It can freak you out and make you panic. But most of the time, it's your subconscious telling you you're missing something you need to move forward.
Try taking a step back and diagnosing what the problem might be:
1. Re-Examine Goals and Motivations
The plot says do X, but there's no way the protagonist would do that and your subconscious knows it. Try looking at your character's motivation. What do they want? What's at stake if they fail? Maybe they've lost sight of what they're trying to accomplish and that's making it hard to go forward.
2. Examine Your Back Story
I know, sounds crazy, but sometimes you can't move forward because you haven't laid the right foundation for it. You might need to add more information to provide the drive needed to move your protagonist to the next step.
3. Look Where You're Going
Your plot says you have to go to X, but maybe that's no longer the right move for the story. Maybe you need to adjust a plot point or change a set piece.
4. Look Where You've Been
Is there something in the story so far that contradicts what you want to do next? Are you duplicating something? You subconscious might be spotting a problem with repetition without realizing it.
5. Look Around
Maybe the setting is wrong, or the location. Would the next scene work better if you moved it? Either the place in the story or the place in the book itself?
6. Talk to Your Bad Guy
Have you been spending so much time on your protagonist that your antagonist's goals and motives are now weak and unbelievable? Maybe you need to shore up the villain's plan to get back on track.
7. Sum Up
Try sitting down with a blank page and just write out what you feel is supposed to happen. Describe it like you were telling a friend--no pressure, just casual. Sometimes writing it down before you "write" it down helps jar the sticky points loose. At the very least, it gives you the freedom to brainstorm and see how you can fix it.
8. Just Do It
When all else fails, just grit your teeth and write, knowing that it's more than likely going to suck. You have to get through it, and sometimes the only way is to just dive in. Take heart in the fact that it probably won't be as bad as you expect it to be, and you'll be able to revise once it's down.
Of course, these are the writing ways. There are also some non-writing things you can do to get past the wall:
1. Take a Break
Sometimes you need to walk away from your writing for a bit and let your brain recharge. You've probably been struggling to plot or write and your frustration level is high. Go do something fun.
Reading great books is a terrific way to free your mind and get back into the writing groove.
3. Take a Shower
There's something about hot water, washing my hair, and rubbing the brain that always seems to help. I can't tell you how many times I've figured out what to do while in the shower.
Hitting a wall is perfectly normal, so don't let it worry you. Just step back, take a breath, and find the way to climb over.
What do you do when you hit a wall?