Sunday, September 28, 2014


It’s like a dirty word. You’re stuck in here—trying to write when you don’t feel like it because of rain, or heat, or blizzard. You’ve got a deadline, which means you’ve stuck working on this until it’s done. Worst of all? You’re just stuck. Totally. Halfway through the novel. Surely someone knows what’s next. Just not you. Or you know exactly what’s next. But you can’t write it!

“Stuck” seems less synonymous with “fixed, “fastened,” or “infatuated” than with “baffled,” “stumped,” even “paralyzed.” Yet like many things in life, the real meaning of “stuck” depends on perspective. No one wants to be “stuck” doing everything because your spouse is out of commission. It’s a sign of true love, but nevertheless exhausting. But “stuck” with your writing? If you’re a serious writer, couldn’t that go either way?

~ Psychologically “stuck”

So many things can cause this. A rejection slip. A pal’s success. (You’re delighted! But still…) An upset stomach. Eight days of clouds. Ten hours of lower back pain. Sometimes you just can’t make yourself write. And sometimes that’s just as it should be.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Take a break. Get renewed. Try a different project (though don’t let that become a long-term distraction). Journal. Garden. Mess around on Facebook. Play basketball. Just don’t wait too long. Set a limit—in advance. Stick to it, or you’ll really be stuck.

~ Logistically “stuck”

Perhaps you instinctively realize that you’re headed in the wrong direction. Maybe you’re not consciously aware of this, but part of you knows you don’t want to go there. Or there’s this nagging sense that what you thought would follow hasn’t been set up. It makes no sense. Perhaps you bored? If so, your readers will be, too.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Brainstorm different directions. Go wild. Alternatively, set up causality—even if that means backtracking. Raise the stakes. Cut unnecessary material. Deepen characterization. Use your narrator to explain whatever context readers need.

~ Creatively “stuck”

Sometimes you don’t feel like writing because you have no idea what happens next or why or how to make it sizzle.  You’ve lost heart.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Return to your characters. They’re home base. The characters are why you’re writing it and why readers will read it. Hang out those characters. Remember why they intrigue you. Maybe “Take Your Characters to Dinner.” Isolating them from the predictable plot is among the best ways to generate exciting possibilities.

Tip: Why not get “stuck” on the idea of finishing and revising your novel—no matter what—because you care about it so much.

It’s all how you look at it.

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