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You’ve reached a pivotal point in your story, book, or poem, and you realize—you’re stuck. Or maybe you’re in the middle of an intense writing project like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and you’re losing steam as you approach the finish line. Just when you need inspiration and motivation the most, you’re sinking under a pile of crumpled drafts and random rewrites.
Take heart: It happens to the best of us. Before you decide that your only option is to give up, try these simple steps to get back on track.
1. Admit you’re having trouble.
The best way to begin fixing a writing problem is to admit you have one. Tell yourself, out loud if necessary, that you’re stuck on your project and you want to stop writing it. Once you’re no longer putting your energy into fighting the possibility that your current piece is going nowhere, you can focus on how to move forward.
2. Determine WHY you’re stuck.
Are you struggling with gaping plot holes? Difficult characters? A poem that doesn’t convey the message you’re striving for? When you define and pinpoint your problem, you may find it’s not the big, insurmountable roadblock it first appeared to be.
3. Go back to the basics.
Simple prewriting exercises can refocus your attention and recharge your imagination. Remember, your writing begins even before you put your hands on the keyboard. Find out more about the many prewriting rituals that are available to boost your creativity.
4. Switch to writing or revising a different part of your work.
If you’ve hit a troublesome part of the story or poem, don’t keep running into the same wall over and over. Skip it! At least, temporarily. Instead, turn your attention to a different section of your work—one you’re excited about writing. Then, when you’re ready to go back to the trouble spot, you’ll find that a fresh perspective will make it easier to break through and continue writing.
5. Work on writing a completely new piece.
When all else fails, this may be the only way to save your WIP (work in progress). Don’t discard your project, but walk away from it indefinitely. Write something else, and maybe make use of some excellent writing prompts! After you build confidence, become comfortable again with the act of writing, and get back into your creative groove, you may decide to return to that troublesome project.
But what if it really is time to quit? Sometimes, writers follow a path that at first seems promising, but ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. And that’s okay! It’s good to explore and take risks with your writing, but it’s also good to know when something you’re writing isn’t working for you. If you’ve tried one—or all—of these steps and your piece still isn’t working, shelve it. But don’t EVER delete your writing, even when you’re convinced you’re quitting a piece for good. Weeks, months, possibly even years from now, inspiration may strike and you’ll realize the perfect solution to your current quandary.
The key is to trust that your creative instincts are leading you in the right direction, even if that direction is to put down what you’re working on and write something entirely different.
Photo by marvin L