At the moment, I’m revising one of my books, trying to make the story better. But that’s not my topic for today. Today, I wanted to talk about plots and stories. More to the point getting stuck while doing them. Since I managed to unstick one story,I thought this might be a good topic that could help someone else.
Just a cautionary note. Every story is different. Just like every writer is different. What works for one story won’t always work for another. (If it did, I wouldn’t have had the problem with the fantasy story. I had a method that had worked for me over the ten or so stories before that.)
So, I have a fantasy I worked at plotting for over a month. I like to have at least one or two stories plotted out and ready for when I finish a book. This story, I had huge problems with getting the plot down at all. I had beginnings. I sort of knew where I wanted to go with it, but I couldn’t get it right. So I thought that a list of what might be holding back your plot, why you might be stuck, and a possible way to get around it might be a good thing.
- Perhaps the reason you can’t finish is fear of committing to an idea and being wrong. This happens to everyone at some point. Here are some common reasons for that fear.
- Your inner critic is bashing you.
- You have too many dead end stories. Maybe you have a trunk full of them. Maybe your computer is full of them. And perhaps you think that you won’t ever finish anything. (Honestly, I have plenty that have dead ended. Most of those happened when I was still pantsing my stories.) Writing by the seat of my pants if you’re not familiar with the term. But I also have one that I didn’t finish because I overplotted the story. No mystery. No desire to finish it.
- You think it’s not good enough. Even though you’re still writing, or maybe haven’t even started, you’re wondering if anyone would ever want to read it.
It’s hard to silence the inner critic. Mine can be a real witch at times, but during drafting which is when she’s most prevalent, I try to take the attitude of just getting the story on the page. It doesn’t matter if everything is grammatically correct. The story will be revised and probably revised again. Perhaps try music to get in the zone or mood of the story. Maybe talk to your critic. You can be nice and tell it to wait or just get rude with it and tell it to back off. It can do its critiquing after the story is finished.
As for the dead end stories, if you’re a pantser, there’s might be something you need to discover about the story before you start the story. When I was a pantser, I had to know the end and the conflict, both interpersonal and story conflict.
“It’s not good enough.” I’m pretty sure every writer has that fear. I have trunk novels that will never see the light of day. But they helped me get to the point where I realized I was better. To help with this fear, trying focusing on the process of writing. Write just to write. Or consider the book a learning experience. Mistakes teach us lessons.
2. If you don’t outline, maybe you need to get a better idea about the story. I’m not saying you need to outline. I know it’s not for everybody. But instead of going into the detail of a plot, a pantser could try getting a big picture view of the story.
3. You’re focusing too much on the big picture. The idea is too big, too disconnected from the characters. I hit this in a fantasy. Your characters have to have an immediate reason to do things. To survive, duty sometimes works- but if it is duty, there also has to be some consequence they fear so fear is also part of their motivation. Perhaps they do it to save a loved one.
3.5. Although this is related to number three, I recently had a problem with this on a story I plotted. Character conflict. Your character needs a goal, something to strive for. My character had a goal. The story still wouldn’t go anywhere. Your character needs stakes, something to lose, something to gain. I had stakes. The big stakes What I didn’t realize until I’d gone through just about every plotting method that I knew of was that I hadn’t given my character any personal stake in the book. Yes, there was what might be lost in the big picture, but I hadn’t given her anything to lose personally. That one tiny thing was keeping the book’s plot from forming.
4. Maybe you’re focusing on the wrong character at this point. I know you can fall in love with some of your characters (I’ve done it.), but maybe your favorite character’s story isn’t ready yet, maybe a couple things need to happen and your mind is going “woah” for a reason. I’ve actually had that happen. I was really eager to write Dixie’s story, but I couldn’t discover anything about it. Those characters weren’t talking even under interrogation. I couldn’t get it to a point I was ready to start. I had to write Penny’s story first. Dixie’s story fell into place with a couple things that happen in Penny’s.
5. Perhaps you have a plot hole (or it’s gone completely off the rails) or maybe missed a connection and you suspect it, while your gut (writer’s intuition, brain, whatever you want to call it) knows it. Or maybe there’s not enough conflict. It might help to read the last few chapters. If you missed a connection, you might see what you missed. You might need to know how a character arrived somewhere. Have things been too easy on your darlings? Throw some conflict in there way and see what sticks.
Sometimes, stepping back can give you perspective or fresh eyes. You could also try to write through the block and work your way back to the story.
I hope this gives you a little help.