Craft,  Creativity

Five More Things You Can Do If You Are Stuck

Oh no! You’ve painted your main character into a corner! You have no idea how to get him out! 

It’s okay. There’s a way out, somewhere. 

If you’re stuck in the writing of your novel and you need a clue on what to do next, this list is for you.

Below are five suggestions on what to do if you can’t think of what to write next, if you are out of ideas, or if you’re just tired. 

(A previous list was published on March 20. Click here to read it!)

 Tip #1: 

Someone from your main character’s past shows up. The ex girlfriend/boyfriend, the one that he thought he was going to marry, shows up and has a really good reason to talk to our main character. Maybe she misses him. Maybe she’s changing her mind. Maybe she’s really a psycho who just likes toying with him. It almost doesn’t matter what genre you write, everyone has a past. Use it to mess up your character’s plans!

 Tip #2:  

Your sidekick has second thoughts. You know how in The Return of the King when Gollum tries to make it look like Sam at all the lambas bread and then lied about it? Frodo, understandably because he was a complete basket case at that point, kicks Sam to the curb and is willing to go on without him. Sam’s explanation is harder to swallow than lambas bread. Of course, if this hadn’t happened, then Sam wouldn’t have been able to save Frodo’s sorry butt yet again, but this little bit of drama was awful. Can you set up a situation like that where your sidekick either disagrees with your main character, or speaks the truth when it’s not welcome or sees something your main character doesn’t see? This will add to your conflict beautifully, especially when sidekick comes up just at the right moment and saves the day.

 Tip #3. 

What is your story’s big finish going to look like? Why don’t you mentally jump ahead and list a few necessities. Like, what kind of trap will your hero have to be in? What kind of mutually exclusive choices will he have? What pressures will he have? What will the antagonist have at that moment to make life miserable? How can you get our hero out, without it making look too easy? Once you’ve answered these questions, work backward. (Here’s a hint: your reader has no idea in what order you wrote your scenes in!)

July 15-17, 2021, 10 Minute Novelists is holding a Writers Conference “Spark Your Passion, Ignite Your Story” with Tex Thompson, Angela Ackerman, Eric Smith, and Steven James in the greater Cincinnati, OH area!

 Tip #4:

Think Third Act. Even if you don’t have your climactic moment all sculpted out, ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? Every good ending is a permanent one that makes sense to the reader. What do you want your ending to be? If you can write out in a paragraph what you want from the ending, then you can think backward from this point too and try to see the steps necessary to put your protagonist in that situation. Your antagonist needs to be foiled. How will you foil him?

 Tip #5: 

In a couple hundred words or so, tell the story from the point of view of another character. This may give you fresh insight into the conflicts. It may reveal a misunderstanding or hidden motive. It may clarify something that’s been bugging you.

Still stuck? Think about going for a walk or taking a shower. Physical sensations often stimulate our brains into behaving. 

And did you come up with a solution? Tell me about it in the comments! 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.