Reflection: Getting Stuck, and Unstuck

Every writer eventually comes to that point where they really have no idea what to write next.  They get stuck: the infamous condition known as Writer’s Block.  I, like every other writer, have suffered short bouts of this here and there.

Now, there are many types of Writer’s Block – it could be the fact that a writer regrets something he already wrote, he begins to think his story sucks (see last week’s post), real life hits hard, and distracts the writer, the writer loses interest or motivation, or many other things.  But I want to reflect about my most common type of Writer’s Block.  This is when I’m in the middle of writing a story, and I just don’t know what to do next.  Quite simply, I get stuck on a scene.

I plan my stories pretty well before I start writing them, so I generally know where I ultimately want to go, but despite that, I rely on the spontaneity aspect quite a bit, and I might just not be getting the spontaneous ideas where I need them.  Or maybe I know exactly what I want to say, but can’t quite put it into words.  Maybe I even have two possible ideas as to how a scene should play out, but simply can’t settle on which one to use.

Anyway, this happens way too often, but it’s not an insurmountable problem.  It just takes a little thought.  Sometimes, if I just take a break come back to the story later, I’ll have an answer and be ready to continue.  Other times, I might need a bit more inspiration, and would take a longer break, while considering the problem.  In some cases, I’d even turn to working on a different story for a while.

While I could work on a different section of the same story, sometimes, the big decisions I make could affect how that other section would be written.  Because of this, I almost always write my stories in order: beginning to end, skipping around very rarely.

If I have several different possible ways an event could end, I have to carefully consider the implications of each possibility.  Each possible path I take, each direction I could take the story, opens up some paths I can use later in the story, but could also close others.

If I can’t think of any implications of that decision in the story later, then it’s probably not a significant enough decision to stop writing over.  If it’s that minor, I may simply decide randomly, or even just continue past it and decide later (leaving some placeholder text, or a comment so I remember later, of course!).

Sometimes, it helps to simplify the problem in my head, ignore all the irrelevant details and focus on the problem itself.  Sometimes, I might ask a friend for an opinion as to what is the best solution.

If after taking a long break, I’m still stuck, I eventually will come to the point where I have to just force myself onward.  If I take too long of a break, eventually, I’ll just forget the story entirely, and it will never get finished, or if I come back to it much later, I’ll lose all of the good ideas I’ve had on the story.  But at the same time, if I force myself onward when I’m not ready to continue, the story may not turn out as good.  The best ideas can’t be forced out.

Anyway, this is the reflection for the week, and White Rakogis is now signing off.

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