Lover of cats, slash, and far too many tasteless puns. Provider of far too many Avengers-related reblogs. Has recently fallen into Pacific Rim and doesn't know how to get out again. Feel free to talk to me about anything! And if you must refer to me by name, either Lise or Gala will do.
1. You can’t come up with an idea.
This is the kind where you have a blank page and you keep typing and erasing, or just staring at the screen. You can’t even get started because you have no clue what to write about. You’re stopped before you even start.There are two pieces of good news for anyone in this situation:
1) Ideas are dime a dozen, and it’s not that hard to get the idea pump primed. Execution is harder.
2) This is the kind of creative stoppage where all of the typical “do a writing exercise”-type stuff actually works. Do a ton of exercises, in fact. Try imagining what it would be like if a major incident in your life had turned out way differently. Try writing a scene where someone dies and someone else falls in love, even if it doesn’t turn into a story. Think of something or someone that pisses you off, and write a totally mean satire or character assassination. (You’ll revise it later, so don’t worry about writing something libelous at this stage.) Etc. etc. This is the easiest problem to solve.
2. You have a ton of ideas but can’t commit to any of them, and they all peter out.
Even this problem can take a few different forms — there’s the ideas that you lose interest in after a few paragraphs, and then there’s the idea that you thought was a novel but is actually a short story. Ideas are dime a dozen, but ideas that get your creative juices flowing are a lot rarer. Oftentimes, the most interesting ideas are the ones that peter out fastest, and the dumbest ideas are the ones that just get your motor revving like crazy.
If an idea isn’t getting any traction, it’s not getting any traction. Save it in a file, come back to them a year or ten later, and maybe you’ll suddenly know how to tackle it. You’ll have more experience and a different mindset then. The reason you can’t get anywhere with any of these ideas is because they’re just not letting you tell the story you really want to tell, down in your murky subconscious.
3. You have an outline but you can’t get through this one part of it.
Some writers work really well with an outline, some don’t. For some writers, the point of having an outline is to have a road to drive off, a straight line to deviate from as far as possible. Plus, every project is different — even if you’re an outline fan usually, there’s always the possibility that you need to grope in the dark for this one particular story.
There are two different reasons you could be getting stuck:
1) Your outline has a major flaw and you just won’t admit it. You can’t get from A to C, because B makes no sense. The characters won’t do the things that B requires them to do, without breaking character. Or the logic of the story just won’t work with B. If this is the case, you already know it, and it’s just a matter of attacking your outline with a hacksaw.
2) Your outline is basically fine, but there’s a part that you can’t get past. Because it’s boring, or because you just can’t quite see how to get from one narrative peak to the next. You have two cool moments, and you can’t figure out how to get from one cool bit to the other.
In either case, there’s nothing wrong with taking a slight detour, or going off on a tangent, and seeing what happens. Maybe you’ll find a cooler transition between those two moments, maybe you’ll figure out where your story really needs to go next. And most likely, there’s something that needs to happen with your characters at this point in the story, and you haven’t hit on it yet.
4. You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.
Sort of the opposite of problem #3. Either you don’t have an outline, or you ditched it a while back. Here’s what seems to happen a lot - you were on a roll the day before, and you wrote a whole lot of promising developments and clever bits of business. And then you open your Word document today, and… you have no idea where this is going. You thought you left things in a great place to pick up the ball and keep running, and now you can’t even see the next step.
If it’s true that you were on a roll, and now you’re stuck, then chances are you just need to pause and rethink, and maybe go back over what you already wrote. You may just need a couple days to recharge. Or you may need to rethink what you already wrote.
If you’ve been stuck in the middle for a while, though, then you probably need to do something to get the story moving again. Introduce a new complication, throw the dice, or twist the knife. Mark Twain spent months stuck in the middle of Huckleberry Finn before he came up with the notion of having Huck and Jim take the wrong turn on the river and get lost. If you’re stuck for a while, it may be time to drop a safe on someone.
"MAN THIS STORY I’M WRITING IS GONNA BE SO GOOD I’M SO PUMPED"
"I CAN’T WAIT TO DEVELOP THE SHIT OUT OF THESE CHARACTERS"
"HOT DAMN THAT ONE SCENE NEAR THE MIDDLE IS GONNA BE BITCHIN’"
"THIS PLOT TWIST IS THE SINGLE BEST IDEA I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE"
~one hour later~
my favorite thing in stories is when the antagonist doesn’t die, but instead they realize they were being kind of a stupid dick (maybe because the protagonist saved them or something) and then they have to kind of awkwardly tag along with the heroes in order to make up for their mistakes and gradually become slightly less evil