Five things to do when you’re stuck

I have a graveyard of fallen stories on my old laptop and computer. These are pieces that started off with such promise, but they fell off my radar as I hit roadblocks and distractions. The excitement of the story dissipated. I have a hard time remembering why I wanted to tell it in the first place.

Here are five things that you can do when you’re stuck in your story.

1. Skip to the next scene
Having trouble wrapping up a scene or losing interest in it? Rather than struggle through it, just skip ahead to the next scene. Don’t worry about wrapping up your last train of thought; there will be time for that in revision. Skipping ahead keeps you motivated to continue writing instead of losing interest and let the story gather dust.

2. Take a break
The cursor on your computer screen keeps blinking, and those words you wrote an hour ago are staring back at you. Time to step away from the story for an hour or so. Go for a walk down the street, bake chocolate chip cookies, or watch a sitcom on television. Occupy your mind with something else for a while. The chances are that when you sit down at the keyboard again, you’ll have the energy and ideas to power through the scene.

3. Put your protagonist at the business end of a gun
Introducing a gun can completely throw off the plan you have for your story, and that may seem detrimental if you’ve been plotting and outlining for a while. But an unexpected twist will force your protagonist to show you new sides to his or her personality that you might never have imagined. You may even like what you see and can explain the appearance of the gun later.

4. Kill off a main character
Like the previous suggestion, killing off a main character can drastically change the story and do surprising things to the protagonist. It will also serve as a catalyst to propel the story forward. Plus you’ll have a new story line to pursue as your characters deal with the death in their own way. Maybe it will complicate otherwise tense situation. Explore the possibilities.

5. Write 2,000 words of something else
Take a vacation from your story and work on something else. Outline a novel you’ve always wanted to write or pen a pivotal scene you’ve always wanted to write. Write something fun. This will help the wheels start turning again in your mind. The ideas from one story or piece may transfer to another. And you’ll be able to return to your story refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

How do you work through tough spots in your writing? Any tricks that work best?

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