We’ve all been there, chasing down some magical plot bunny, that seems to be leading us to our narrative destiny. Then, somewhere along the way, that plot bunny seems to disappear into thin air and leave us stranded on the trail to who knows where. Today, NaNoWriMo Participant K.S. Trenten reminds us that when the going gets tough, the tough… start talking to themselves:
Uh oh. You started out with a good story, it was moving forward, only now you’re not sure what to write. You’re stuck.
How do you get moving again?
Sometimes a simple solution is to move around. Get up. Cross the room and pour yourself a cup of coffee. Go for a walk. See if stirring from the spot you’re sitting in doesn’t shake up your imagination a bit, jarring something loose you hadn’t thought of. An idea may tumble free in the process, giving you the impetus to get your story going again. Perhaps you should pick up your writing tools and relocate somewhere else. Physical movement often gets my mind moving as well.
Nor is that the only way to get going.
Take up your writing implements. Start venting. Not just writing, venting. Let all of your frustration about being stuck on the page out in your words. Confide all your hopes and dreams you had for this particular story to the page. Let the character know they’re not satisfying you, exactly how and why they’re being difficult. If some other story has distracted you, taunt them about all the reasons why you’re enjoying the other story more than them. Allow the characters to talk back. Let them get as uppity as they want, letting you know exactly why they’re not behaving the way you wish them to.
Seriously, I write weekly blogs which are my characters just mouthing off. A writer can learn some surprising things if you let them talk back.
Something else which may have gotten you stuck is that all your insecurities about your writing are coming back to haunt you. You cannot shut them up. Getting stuck has only made them louder.
Fine. Dedicate a page to a major snark-off with your insecurities. Write down every nasty thing you fear. Talk back to them. Come up with a retort for everything they say. Is there any truth in these insults, really? What can you do to change your writing if something about it really is bothering you?
Don’t get upset if you’re truly afraid, deep down, that you are stuck. Writing is no different than most anything else. With time and practice, you can become quite skilled. Do it often enough and you will improve. Look your fear right in the eye and ask why? What would you like to change to get better? How can you go about it? Are you shaky at descriptions? Use too many telling words or too much passive description? (I was guilty of both and still am.)
Don’t shrink from your faults. Face them. Contemplate ways to fix them.
Look at others writers you admire. What would you like to do, that they do? Anne Rice wrote exquisite descriptions I’d drool over in envy. I made the mistake, at first, of trying to write like her, to imitate her. I studied her work closely, tried to detect exactly why I found her descriptions exquisite. She used very simple words to create complex, compelling settings and characters. I started pruning some of the big, fancy words from my prose and tried to express things in more common words. Certain descriptive passages in my own stories improved. I even started getting compliments on them!
Life isn’t always smooth. Neither is writing. In both, you’ll hit rough patches. You can’t always avoid these patches, even though you may get better at dodging them with practice. The trick is to pick yourself up out of the patch. Keep going, even if you’re sore, shaky, and your pride feels a little banged up.
You’re not alone. We’ve all fallen into potholes, been hit over the head with obstacles, or smashed our stories against a block.
Get up. Give yourself a hug. Find a way to keep going, to find your way back to your plot or for your plot to find its way back to you. Abandon it entirely if you need to go in a different direction, but don’t give up.
You’re not over yet. Not if you decide you’re not.
K.S. Trenten lives in the South Bay Area of California in the United States with her husband, two cats, and a host of characters in her imagination, all shouting out for attention. Her published works include Seven Tricks; A Symposium in Space; Fairest (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow LGBTQIA+ fairytale anthology) and At Her Service (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow 2 anthology); and The Closet (part of Queer Sci Fi’s Impact, a collection of flash fictions). She also offers weekly samples of her work on Mondays and Saturdays at the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, Wednesdays at the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron, monthly blogs at cauldronkeeper.livejournal.com, rhodrymavelyne.dreamwidth.org, and is the author of Queer Sci Fi’s Sources of Inspiration column. She can be found on Twitter, tumblr, LinkedIn, and has a Facebook Author Page, which reflects the contents of both Cauldrons.