I think we’ve all been there. There’s a point in the novel where you get stuck. Nothing’s working or you just can’t see what’s next. For plotters, this may be a place where you have the outline but whatever is supposed to come next doesn’t seem quite right. For pantsers, it’s the same thing except we might not know what the next beat or plot point is.
What to do? There are a lot of different ideas on this. You can try to power through it. I’ve never found that works for me. I mostly write as a pantser so just trying to write something never seems to make any sense – nor does what I write seem to work in the story.
I heard a speaker this weekend and his thoughts on this were that once he realized that was where he was, then that meant something was wrong. And he needed to figure out what that something was and fix it. I can relate. I have a story that I knew wasn’t quite working but I was trying to power through it and just write. That is, until my critique partners said, “You know, you are on page xxx and something needs to happen by now.” Totally on point, which is why having good critique partners is so helpful, but that’s a different subject. So, now I am in the process of trying to figure out what is wrong and correct it.
So how do we solve this dilemma? One is to get some distance from it. Set it aside and then come back to it and read it. You may find it once you aren’t in the thick of trying to figure it out.
It may be that you are so focused on the creative side of things that you really need to let the other side of your brain take over a bit and work on structure. My story has the structure issue. I need to go back and make sure I am hitting the beats as I write, even though I am a pantser, so that my story moves along.
Still another way to solve this is to write something completely different. A short story. A non-fiction piece. Anything else that allows your brain to focus on something new. Then come back to the story with new ideas.
Finally, a character interview might be helpful. This can be a dialogue between the protagonist and antagonist in a different place like an elevator or on a desert island. It doesn’t have to relate to the story but you may find that there’s something within that interview that does work at some point. Or you may find the problem. I have also used a direct interview where I ask my character the answers. I don’t always get what I need but generally I get some new information that is helpful to my story.
So what about you? How do you move past that dreaded stuck place we writers sometimes find ourselves in?