If you’re a writer, it’s bound to happen. You’re in one of those treasured sweet spots where your story is all but writing itself! Then, without warning, it’s over, and you’re up against it. Now what? There is a way forward, a way to emerge victorious and keep your characters doing what they need to do.
Leave, But Don’t Stop
This might be a good time to leave whatever mode you’re writing in and give your mind a change of scenery. If you’ve been in front of the computer, go somewhere else with paper and pencil. Review your outline or plot diagram to see where you think your story is headed; you might find a new direction. You’re still writing, but a different location and method helps move things along. And… no guilt!
Single word or short phrase exercises are a helpful diversion. If you’re working on a scene where a character wears a gown, make a list of fabric names, colors, and styles. Hung up on a name? Baby name books, telephone books, and directories are great sources. Make a list of first and last names and try them out. Say them out loud, as if your character is introducing him/herself. Do they fit with other characters in your story? Are they appropriate to the timeline? I try to make them as distinctive as I can so readers don’t get confused between Sam and Stan.
This works really well for me. When I finish a scene, and I have a general idea of how it will continue, I make a statement or two in all caps to remind myself of how I want to start the next scene. They are just brief details I don’t want to forget. The line after the last sentence in the completed scene might look like this: SNOWSTORM COMING – GO TO GROCERY STORE BEFORE IT HITS? LEAVES SMALL GIFT FOR ROSA AS SHE RETURNS HOME. SOMETHING HAPPENS ON THE TRAIN. I don’t have to have all of the answers or have it all spelled out, but I have these phrased reminders of where I want to pick up when I return. It gives me a starting point to keep me from freezing in front of the computer screen.
Get Her Through the Door
If I’m struggling with a scene, this is how I see it to the end before giving my brain a rest. If I can get this section down, I feel like the characters will be settled and waiting in a good place for my return. I felt this about a week ago. I was getting tired, but not willing to leave my character loitering in the hallway. I literally said to myself, “Get her through the door, and then you can stop.” It wasn’t a huge task – few paragraphs, perhaps. But getting my character through that door was my way of getting to a point where I knew it would be easy to pick up and carry on.
There are as many tips and tricks as there are writers. Experiment, and cut yourself some slack. Relax, take a deep breath, and your creative mind will show you how to keep moving forward and engaged with your story.