How to Get Unstuck & Get Back to Writing Your Novel

How to Get Unstuck & Get Back to Writing Your Novel

How to Get Unstuck & Get Back to Writing Your Novel
Photo by Luke Stehr

How to Get Unstuck & Get Back to Writing Your Novel

Many writers are participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this month. Instead of writing a new novel this month, I'm just working on finishing the first draft of my current work-in-progress, a young adult novel. I'm getting really close to the finish line and hope I can knock this thing out by the end of the month! Then I'll be working on edits.

But in the process, I've had many instances where I just couldn't come up with the words. I'd get to a certain plot point or a particular scene and then the story would come to a crashing halt.

Has this happened to you, too?

How do you get unstuck so you can get back to writing your novel?

Every time this happened to me, I'd end up setting the writing aside for a varied length of time, and then when I'd try to get back into it, I didn't know where to take it from there. The trouble was, when I wasn't actively thinking about my story, I wasn't making any progress on it. I just didn't know enough about my story to keep up with the word count goals.

There were things I hadn't thought of before and those would pop up as I was writing the parts that I did know. Sometimes the story would unfold as I wrote it, but other times, I needed to have a plan and an idea of what scenes needed to occur to weave the tale.

The other night, I had to flesh out some plot details for the ending because I didn't know where to take it. I spent about an hour brainstorming the plot details and then I started writing. I was able to write over 4,000 words, which is more than I've written in a single day the entire time I've been working on this novel (since the end of April)! I know some of these words will be edited right out, but what really needs to happen is this first draft needs to be completed.

As an indie book editor, I'm having a hard time telling myself to cool it with the editing. I'm dying to go back through and fix the holes and the details. But I also know if I don't finish this first draft and make the story complete before I go on (and not just get to the target word count and call it good), I'll never get it published. This isn't my first novel; it's about my sixth major story. So, I know my habits already and I have to make sure I force myself to take the right steps so I can get to publication.

If you're having trouble getting the words out, you might just need to spend more time working out the plot details. Grab a notebook and a pen and get to writing. Ask yourself questions about where your story needs to go next. If a particular event happens, what needs to happen next? What are the little events that occur in between the big events? Doing this can help you get back to writing your novel. 

I discovered that it isn't quite enough, for me at least, to know the major plot points of a story. I need to have a list of scenes, or a rough idea of the minor events, to keep up with the writing. The ideas aren't necessarily written in stone, but they give me direction on where to take the story if no other ideas pop up. As painful as it is to cut out entire scenes, it's better to have *something* written down instead of nothing at all. The more writing you do, the more practice you get.

Jody Calkins
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