Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stuck - Revisited

There are two camps in romance writer land. One is made up of plotters, writers who have their books mapped out before they sit down to write. The other is pantsters, who are fly by the seat of their pants.

My process has been different for every book. However, with both methods I’ve somehow written my way into a corner and found myself stuck.

As a writer you already know there are several stages to being stuck.

STAGE ONE: PANIC – OHMYGOD! I already signed the contract and blew my advance in Nordstrom’s shoe department. If I don’t figure out what comes next, my publisher is going to sue my ass off.

STAGE TWO: WHINE – Cry to anyone who will listen. A writer friend who’s not on deadline is usually a good pick. Whining to a spouse who’s just spent ten hours on his feet at work is a bad pick. Trust me.

STAGE THREE: AVOIDANCE – Make coffee. Take a nap. Toss in a load of laundry. Clean the house. Mow the lawn. Stain the deck. Anything to avoid your WIP.


Back is September I shared my favorite method for getting unstuck. Since then I’ve tried two more.

1. Skip ahead to another scene. There’s no rule that says you have to write your scenes in order. Pick out a juicy one that you’ve been itching to write.

2. Open your computer file to your WIP, and just sit there for your allotted writing time. No e-mail. No web surfing. No computer games. No distractions. Usually a solution will pop into your head. It may not be a good one, but just go with it until you can come up with a better one.

Well, don’t hold out on me. Have y’all tried any new methods for getting unstuck?


Sean D. Young said...


Excellent post today. Wonderful tips. I tried the skip to the next scene method last night. It is very helpful.

I started to panic because I only have a short time to get my edits done. Being stuck is very scary. Thank God for author friends who aren't on deadline. LOL

Phyllis Bourne said...

Thanks Sean!

I know that panicky feeling. After you figure it out, you want to kick yourself because the solution (to your character's problem) was so simple.

I'd never tried writing scenes out of order before, but it really saved me last book.

Farrah Rochon said...

Oh, oh, oh...being stuck is the worst! It's when the chocolate comes out. I've tried to use grapes, but seriously.

I've gone through all three stages and used both of your methods for getting unstuck. Sometimes I'll switch to longhand, but most often I go back to craft books and my poster board/sticky note combo. If I'm stuck it usually means something isn't quite right with the story. I dissect the scenes on poster boards and that often helps me to work through that icky place I call Stucklandia.

Connie Keenan said...

Excellent suggestions! The first one really does work, too. We writers tend to think you HAVE to stick with that scene. But sometimes, if you jump forward to another (and more fun) scene, you can return to that sticky spot and find it's smoother sailing. Writing--the mysterious art! :D

Katrina said...

I totally agree with the not telling your spouse thing. They won't get your angst. I like the tips too, making yourself sit at the computer is a great way to get writing done. (Even if most of it sucks.) We've all been stuck before, but the difference between the professionals and the amateurs is that we get unstuck. Great post, but I would love to see these shoes young lady!

Don said...

I usually take a break and allow different thoughts to enter into my head, then form ideas, allow those ideas to manifest and WALLA!

You can probably see why I haven't been published, yet.

Too funny @ Stage Two.

Have you been reading my mail? @ STAGE ONE: PANIC – OHMYGOD! I already signed the contract and blew my advance in Nordstrom’s shoe department. If I don’t figure out what comes next, my publisher is going to sue my ass off.

I couldn't help but laugh at this hilarious stage. Brings back memories of enjoying myself at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.