Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z Challenge: Stuck

Hi all! Just want to wish you all a blessed Easter! X

Also, Brooke did this sweet little interview with me for the Second Crusade.

When I was pondering possible topics for S-day, one of the first things that popped into my head was the word Stuck.

The Heavens know that getting stuck is one of the afflictions I suffer from most while writing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Stuck is a bane endured by pantsers everywhere. I mean, we don't plan (much?) and as such, we don't have contingencies for every turn the story takes.

And some turns will lead to dead-ends. Of course, I know from my plotting days that planning ahead doesn't save one from getting stuck either. I mean... I can't plan for everything, can I? The only thing is, when there is a plan, I can go back to it and continue from there.

Not so when pantsing. There, going back (in my opinion) doesn't feel like an option. Besides, what am I supposed to go back to? The previous scene that leads to dead-end? Or the previous chapter that leads to the chapter that contains the dead-end scene? Yeah... While pantsing is great for spontaneous creation, it's also a bit murky on the fixing problems end.

So... what do I do when I get stuck?

Step one: Stare at the blinking cursor.
Step two: Stare some more.
Step three: Make coffee.
Step four: Sip coffee while staring at the cursor.
Step five: beat head against table to beat of cursor blinking.
Step six: delete delete delete.

Of course, one deleting session can (and did) wipe out about a quarter of what I'd written. At that rate, I'd never finish, so I bought a pen I liked and a notebook that I enjoyed touching. I wrote the entire first draft of Doorways by hand. With no cross outs when I didn't like what I wrote. I just had to live with what was down on the page. So when I got stuck, I got really stuck, because there were no shortcuts. I had wade my way through.

I stopped writing for almost four months. After all, I had university and other responsibilities. I didn't have time to stare at the empty page.

Well... that was the best thing I could do. While I was in a conversation with a friend, a 1000 megawatt light bulb went on in my head. I rushed to a quiet(ish) place and started writing. I wrote pages and pages worth of story.

When I was done, I came to the realization that my brain just needed some pressure-free time to get all its ducks in a row.

So... the next time, I... went into frustration mode yet again (and again... and again. It's a weakness. I get annoyed with things that prevent me from doing something I want to do.), but once I settled I asked for some advice on the blog. Got a lot of advice, but I find that nothing works quite as well as just letting it be.

What works for you when you get stuck?


  1. I outline but I still get stuck. Stuck at how I'm going to start the scene. Stuck at what my character is going to say next. But it all works out into the end. And if it doesn't, I go for a run and the answers come to me then. :D

  2. SOmetimes I just have to take pause or try a different project. You're right, sometimes we just need to step away.

  3. I do a writing prompt. That helps me a lot because new ideas often come to while I'm writing. Taking a break to read a good book or watch a good movie also helps!

  4. That's what I do too, just let it sit, return when the inspiration hits again.

  5. Giving it some time and space works well, and talking with someone who knows what I'm writing so I can bounce ideas off of them.

    I'm a total pantser and so yes, I get stuck, but I've found that a lot of times writing myself into a box can be the best thing for my story. Yes, it's frustrating, but oftentimes the solution to getting me out of the box isn't something I would have written otherwise. I've been introduced to new characters who end up being vital because I wrote myself into a corner.

  6. I am like you. I have to just let it be. When it's ready, it will come. The more I try to force it, the more stuck I get. Usually it comes when I least expect it and am not prepared to write.

  7. Me too - I go away and leave it alone. Something usually hits me a day or two later (such as change the secondary character or turn the whole thing on its head and begin at another beginning). Have you tried the "What if...?" question. It works for some.

  8. When I get stuck, I hope someone will come along and lube me up so I can get unstuck...

  9. Sorry to hear about your stuckiness, Misha. :(
    I have deadlines for school, etc., so when I get stuck I just make myself write something, anything. Giving myself permission to write something really horrible helps. (And when I come back it's usually not that horrible). If it's a plotting issue, sometimes I skip over the troublesome section. Good luck!

  10. I'm so excited you came over. We are a very rare species in bloggerville so we must rally together. I wish more South Africans would blog. Drat...
    Happy easter to you too. I hope you're not travelling. Dit klink soos a nagmeri en a half.

  11. For some reason I don't get stuck. I think it is because of the type of writing I do. Humor for women. Everything in life is fodder for my writing and I just have to write it down and remember why it appealed to me. I have plenty of inspiration. Don't know how I would do with fiction....I think that is another whole ball of wax.

  12. Really I try to reach down and find something in my life I can draw from, but because I write mostly poetry that may be easier to do. I don't know what I would do on a novel.

  13. I am the delete, delete, delete queen! lol I get so stuck, then for some reason every time I take a shower I get some briliant idea that makes me really wish I had a piece of paper in there! Life! lol Great post. :)

  14. Reading a good book, listening to music and going for a walk get me un-stuck!
    I'm mostly a pantster too. (=

  15. I try to push thorugh it and just keep writing even if I might have to delete it later. Deleting too much has caused me to lose some good flow and ideas. If pushing through fails, how about a gin and tonic?

  16. I read an interview once with Dave Eggers where he said he always has multiple projects working at once. That way when he is procrastinating or feeling stuck with one of them he can work on a different project. That's what I usually try to do, but when I'm really burnt out I put all writing away and spend a few weeks pleasure reading. I consider it time spent refueling.

  17. Hi Misha,
    I never get stuck. I just stick with it and before you know it, more awe inspiring words dance from my fingers and delight the keyboard with my profound musings.
    And besides, I'm getting loads of inspiration from all of you doing this amazing 'alphabet challenge' :)
    Right then, I Gary, shy and humble Gary shall now go back to his rather unknown blog. I shall sit here and have a cup of 'T' :)
    Have a peaceful Easter.
    In kindness, Gary and Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star.

  18. I speak out loud with my characters and a dialogue begins.

  19. Thanks for your visit to my blog and your comment. I'm like you, when I get stuck I have to leave it for awhile and go back. Usually that enables me to see with new eyes.

  20. I made several false starts on the novel I'm working on. It wasn't until I scrapped it over and over again that found the right start and was able to take off. One thing I do, though, is cut and paste what I'm deleting into a different file just in case there is something salvageable in there. I have been able to use a few scenes over in a better place before.

    Really, taking a break works best for me. Sometimes I can sit and ask myself questions about what I'm writing and brainstorm on a piece of paper.

  21. I'm very meticulous about moving forward, so I never really hit dead ends. But I do get stuck on the way things used to be while editing. I'll see a line and not quite like something about it, but it's been that way forever. It feels permanent, like I couldn't change it if I wanted to. But...I'm the author, I realize. I CAN change it. And then I feel this rush of power as I rewrite scenes to make more sense, taking out the trash and restoring order. =)

  22. I tend to just start some random scene, having no idea where it is going to go, when I've been stuck. As long as I'm writing something, that's what matters!

    I must admit though, when I was writing according to a plan (I am a pantser at heart) I didn't get stuck but I did get rather bored at times ;)

  23. Ahh...this would be what is otherwise known as my vortex of suckery... LOL

    It's the place that I go to every time I get stuck or start thinking things that would lead to the sticking. Ha!

    I totally go through all of steps 1-6, except that before each official step, there would be step.5 for Twitter. LOL!

  24. Fresh air really helps to get me thinking, too, Stina.

    Clarissa, I've also found that writing something else helps, but I do that as a last resort, simply because I don't like how easily my concentration can be diverted. ^_^

    I've never tried writing prompts before, Laura M. Maybe I should.

    Elena, glad to hear I'm not the only one.

    Laura J, I find that too. Once I stopped deleting, my story actually improved simply because I have to be extra creative to solve problems. And those solutions usually carry through to solve problems I never realized existed.

    Dafeena, that happens to me too. But sometimes it's good that I don't write down immediately, because then my mind tends to expand on the idea until it becomes something really brilliant.

    Lauracea, even though I never thought of it as a game, most of the solutions I get comes when something makes me think of a what if question.

    Hehehe Michael that's where the fresh ideas come in. ;-P

    Thanks Lesley. I tried the writing anything trick, but forcing myself write results in my words drying up completely. Then it's not just about writing stuff that sucks. It's about not being able to write at all.

    Hehehe Wendy, there are a few of us that I've found. I think you're number eight (including expats). En, nee, ek is nie mal genoeg om op paasnaweek te ry nie. ;-)

    Jeanne that makes sense. Sort of like me with poetry. As long as I don't limit the topic of my poems, I can whip one up in a few seconds. Never a problem. But when it comes to story lines that have to flow while making sense... That's a different scenario altogether.

    Marjorie, I do that when I write poetry too. I find it a lot easier than trying to find a solution to a plot problem.

    LOL Snakesmom sometimes my most brilliant solution takes place while I shower. That month's bill will be high, because I lose track of time when my mind goes into story mode. ;-)

    Jo, those things help me too. New music in particular.

    Tracy, I'm more of a vodka kind of girl. ;-P

    Kendal, I do that as a last resort. Usually do the writing break first. If I then get an indescribable urge to write, but can't write my main WiP, I go to something else.

    Thanks Gary! Hope you're having a great Easter. See you Penny!

    Shelly, I do that too when I have characterization or voice issues.

    Thanks for dropping by, Sharon. New eyes really can make a big difference when it comes to solving problems.

    Shannon, I also keep all my abandoned versions for in case I need something. I never do though. But I just KNOW that the day I clean up my folders, I'll need something I deleted.

    Amanda, it must be great to be able to move forward without getting stuck. I can understand what you mean about edits. I can see how I'm going to suffer with that, given that I drafted my MS with a "this is writ in stone" mentality. Giving my internal editor free rein seems like a tricky idea.

    Hehehe Trisha, having everything planned to the minutest detail gets me bored too. I like the fact that my story can completely surprise me. If I have to suffer some problems and set-backs, so be it. I also start random scenes when I don't know where to go next. That random scene invariably leads somewhere interesting. ^_^

    Lol Anime that is quite an apt description. I also have .5 steps for Blogging. Until one of my readers tell me to snap out of it. ^_^

  25. I have that problem sometimes, even though I outline first. Usually though, I just start the chapters that are more clear to me and then go back and work on the rest. When I get really stuck with a part I want to finish right away, I take a break. This break consists of blarring music in my headphones and pictureing the scene I want to do until I see it clearly.


Thanks for commenting! I love to read what you think.

Feel free to ignore the check-box saying "Prove you're not a robot." My word verification is off, but I moderate comments to posts older than two weeks.