What should you do if you get stuck?
"I'm an aspiring writer, but sometimes my stories just bog down."
It is super, super common not to finish a story you’ve started. It’s like if you said you were going to run a marathon and ran out the door and tried to run 26.2 miles without stopping. The chance that you could do it if you were not already training for it is slim.
I think what happens when we have trouble finishing is that we let our internal editor be in our heads at the same time as our creative person. And they can’t both be in there. You’ll start feeling that everything you are writing is not very good. Or you might think up a bright new shiny idea that seems like it will be easy to write, only to find yourself stuck once again.
I think the only real way out is through. You just have to make yourself write to the end. It might seem terrible (although maybe it won’t seem so bad later), but you can always edit terrible. You can’t edit nothing.
Some things I have done:
- Used Writeordie.com to force myself to write a certain number of words in a certain amount of time. You have to type fairly fast so you can’t think too much. A lot of what you write will be bad, but some will be brilliant.
- Picked up someone else’s book and took the first sentence of dialog I saw on a random page and made one of my characters say it.
- Explained the problem to a friend. They often have some ideas of what to do. Almost always, they are wrong. But at the same time, as I thought about how wrong their idea was, I realized what I needed to do.
- Write ahead in the story, if I know an exciting scene coming up. I write out of order all the time.
- Made a list of 20 things that can’t happen next. Absolutely can’t happen. Usually around number 13, I will think of something that can happen.
- Research something a character needs to know well for the book.
- Take a break for an hour or a month, then come back to it.
- Alternatively, force it. Make yourself write it and then come back to it.
- Ask yourself what the worst thing is that could happen to your character. And then have that happen.