At some point while you’re writing a story, you might get stuck. You might know what you want to do from point A to point C, but you don’t know what to put in for point B.
For example, let’s say you just finished a really awesome scene you’re excited about. As an example, we’ll say this is where your hero and heroine have just decided they never want to see each other ever again. What you know is that they will end up together because it’s a romance. But how in the world are you going to get these two very unlikely people to fall in love?
As another example, you just put your hero on another planet which is full of cities with dead aliens. You know the answer is that there was a virus set loose which wiped out the entire planet, and the aliens responsible for this are heading for Earth to do the exact same thing. But you need to go from point A (where the hero finds all the dead bodies) to point C (where the hero finds out Earth is next on the list). So you need to 1) establish how the hero finds out about the virus and 2) how the hero discovers Earth is next.
Another example, you started your book and everything is great. It’s got the perfect creepy feel to it. The woman is being stalked by a psycho who escaped from an asylum. But you have no idea how the book ends, much less how to fill up the next 100 pages of the book.
When you get stuck, there are a couple strategies to try to get ideas.
Sit down and write out all the possible scenarios. These are brief snippets of ideas such as…
For the romance:
- hero and heroine forced to work on a project together
- hero and heroine forced to a remote cabin alone
- heroine gets sick and hero has to care for her
For the science fiction novel:
- hero finds blood from an alien and tests it in a medical kit
- hero finds an alien who isn’t dead who tells him what happened
- hero finds enemy alien and forced him to talk
For the thriller:
- woman catches stalker watching her when she’s looking into her car rearview mirror
- stalker makes a phone call
- stalker pretends to be a nice guy and introduces himself
Those are ways to quickly brainstorm various ideas. When you brainstorm, don’t discard any idea right away. Even if you don’t use the exact idea, you might modify the idea so it works.
Let’s say I modify the idea that the stalker introduce himself to the woman. I’ll have the stalker meet up with her mom and have the mother introduce them as the “kind man who helped me fix my car today”.
2. Take one or two brainstormed ideas that sound the most promising and expand on them.
For example, if you liked two ideas for the romance (the hero and heroine must work on a project together and the hero and heroine are forced to a remote cabin), then take both of those ideas and write (or think through) a brief scenario of how each of those ideas will work in your story.
This process can take an hour to a week to sort through, but some of the best places to allow these ideas to work is when you’re not working on the story itself. You can work on another story or work on the book cover or maybe even write a post about the book.
3. It is okay to work on another story during this time.
Let’s say you are truly stumped. A week didn’t do it, and you can just see that this is going to prevent you from getting anywhere. Go ahead and work on another story. When you keep writing, you’re staying creative. You can work on more than one book at a time. When you know what to do, return to the story or wait until the time is right to get back to it.
As writers, we’re bound to get stuck at some point in something we write, but it is possible to press through it and finish the book. But…what if you can’t manage to finish anything you write? I’ll discuss that in the post I plan to publish on Friday (October 10).