Craft,  Creativity

Five Things You Can Do If You Are Stuck In Your Story

Maybe you can’t think of what to write next, or you’ve gotten your main character in a hole, or you are just plain out of ideas?

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.

 Tip #1: 

Go back and remember the requirements of your genre.  So this is a romance? You need a misunderstanding. This is fantasy? There’s something magical in his pocket and he doesn’t know how it got there. This is science fiction? You just lost all your oxygen. Do something, fast, or everyone is dead! This is Young Adult? You’ve either been inspired by your favorite poet or your Emo sister thinks she’s Emily Dickinson. This is a mystery? Oh, someone needs to drop dead. Right here. Under mysterious circumstances. Even if it’s a red herring, do it anyway. My point is that sometimes we get too close to stories and we forget what we are trying to accomplish. If you go back to the “rules” you may be inspired.

 Tip #2: 

Have your character take a rest. Pull back a little. Let the main character sit down and eat or sleep or rest and rethink all of what they’re up to. Remind the reader of the mission that’s at stake. Why? If you have a lot of drama, action or intense scenes, your main character needs a breather unless his name is Jack Bauer. He needs to process all the action and so does your reader. You can always cut this later, but you may find that this helps you see the big picture and give you an idea of what to do next.

 Tip #3:  

You may need a good tornado to shake things up a bit in your story. Not seasonal? Not the right part of the country? Then an earthquake! A hurricane! A blizzard! A freak thunderstorm! And with every natural disaster, you could have power outages, flash floods, injuries, and deaths! Never underestimate the power of the earth to cause some great drama for your story!

 Tip #4: 

Bring in your antagonist’s antagonist. Someone is out to get your bad guy. He’s a bad guy, he’s made an enemy or three, right? Your bad guy owes someone money. Your bad guy or gal is connected romantically with the wrong flirt. Your bad guy or gal is getting a little too big for his britches among the powers that be. This is a force that can stir up some interesting trouble in your story and maybe can be used for your protagonists’ advantage.

 Tip #5: 

An innocent needs help and needs it right now, like say, a small child. An unwed mother. A hurt puppy. Have your main character stop everything, because they have that streak of goodness in them and help them. And in the middle of the helping of them, they realize the clock is ticking or opportunity is missed, or they dropped their gun or THEY SAW A BEAR something happens that will keep them from accomplishing their ultimate goal. They need to not only be delayed but also regret, even for just a minute, thinking about someone else when they needed to care for themselves.

Even the most experienced of writers get stuck. If nothing else works, take a break and come back to this. You’ll get it. It’s worth fighting for. 

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.