Becoming Unstuck

cat-head-stuckWell, now you’ve done it. You went there. And now you’re stuck. Not just a little stuck. Bad stuck. Like, devastatingly stuck. Like, how the hell did I get here stuck. Like, I’m ready to walk away stuck. Don’t do it. It’s good work. It’s salvageable.  You just have to use your head to get back on track.

The first step to getting unstuck is acknowledging the fact that you are really stuck. You’ve gone off the rails and now you’re at a point where the story your writing is not the story you want to tell. It happens. Sometimes it’s a good thing. “The characters just have a mind of their own and they took me to this awesome new place full of possibilities.” But, remember, you’re not there. You’ve entered into a realm of aimless wandering and meandering plots. You’ve got problems.

Ok, so you’ve admitted the problem. Now, it’s time to assess the damage. How far into being stuck are you? A chapter? Two? Five? You’ve written the entire novel and realized none of it makes any sense after the first page? Not even the gods can help you, my friend. So, it’s time to read through what you’ve done. If you’ve outlined, it may help to see where your story and your outline starts to divert and why. Did you follow a fascinating plot bunny down a bottomless pit? Or did you stick to the outline, only to have it meander? If you can pinpoint where the train started going off the rails, you’re a step closer to resolving your stuck-ed-ness.

Now, you’ve identified the sticking point. Depending on where you discovered the problem, it may mean rewriting a few chapters or, gods forbid, tossing a few completely. Deep breath. It’s ok. This is part of the process. Trim a finger or two to save the hand. In this case, it’ll grow back. I promise. And, it’ll be so much better. Your story will thank you. If you’ve really taken the time to assess the situation, you’ll save yourself some work, but don’t be afraid to cut and start over. Remember, we’ve admitted to the problem back at step 1. It’s no use going forward, so taking a few steps back and taking a different approach is probably what your story needs.

Lastly, in order to avoid another sticking point, try and give yourself a solid path ahead. Create a detailed outline of at least the next couple of chapters. Stick to it… at least until you get over the hump of what stopped you before. That’s your new goal. Get past that sticking point. Then you could be off to the races. The floodgates will open and reams of smart, taught storytelling will flow from your fingers. Well, ok… maybe not exactly like that, but you’ll feel a lot better having been able to move on.

I hope this little method helps. I get stuck all the time and it can be frustrating. It can make a writer stop writing. But, we know that’s not the answer.

Have a way of getting unstuck? Be sure to share in the comments below! Thanks for stopping by. In the meantime, write on!

 

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