I ran into an interesting problem last week, and I hope that by talking it out with all of you we can figure out the solution.
Several times in the past, I’ve mentioned my hatred of outlines. Sure, to an extent, I know where the story is going (except for when I don’t and have on occasion written a chunk of a story without knowing some rather important details) but I tend not to write detailed outlines.
The story I’m currently working on is one where I figured out a rough idea. I know the who, what, where, when, why, and how.
But still, I find myself stuck.
It’s like I’ve hit a wall in my writing and I can’t see my way around it. I know where this story is going, but I can’t make it go there.
I’ve heard the advice, especially around NaNoWriMo, that you should just write, it doesn’t have to be perfect (in fact it won’t be perfect) but get words on the page.
Yet this time, I sit here finding myself unable to do that.
Here are some things I’ve tried, they didn’t help me this time, but they have in the past so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share them with you in hopes that you can use them next time you’re writing feels as if it has slammed against a wall.
1) Put Some Space Between You and Your Writing
I’ve done this several times with this particular story. I’ve taken days where I’ve worked on other things and then tried to come back.
The thing with writing is we often get extremely close to what we write, especially if it’s longer work. The amount of hours planning, researching, planning some more, writing and editing, cause us to miss some of the flaws because we are too close to see the ultimate design. We become lost in the individual threads, not seeing the full tapestry.
We have the privilege of knowing things our readers might not know, which hinders us in seeing how the whole forms for the reader. What we see as the ultimate design while working individual threads, may not be the ultimate design we’ve created.
Sometimes, by taking a few days, you can put some space between you and the project, allowing your head to clear a bit which might allow you to see what’s wrong.
The downside to this is that sometimes you realized what you wrote before is a giant pile of crap and you want to start over but sometimes time will not allow you that luxury.
2) Come From A Different Angle
This one was my latest attempt to make this story work. I had an opening partially written but I wasn’t even remotely happy with it.
With “Midnight” I found myself extremely happy with the opening and felt like it allowed the story to have a solid foundation to stand on.
This story however, has a flat opening that feels forced. And I’m not sure how to fix it. I rewrote it again but still it feels forced.
That just means I have to try again.
3) Take Another Look At Your Outline
Maybe there’s a plot hole, maybe something is missing. Maybe there’s something there that can help you figure out where to go from where you currently are.
When I use outline here, I do mean it in a vague sort of term .Some people don’t outline (yours truly is one of them) and instead have a vague idea of “here’s point A and I’m going to point B.” Other’s have pages upon pages of outlines.
I was reading a screenwriting book the other day and it had an entire section on how to draw up the outline, before it showed you how to format the script itself.
Maybe that outline holds the information you need. Or, at the minimum, it lets you try and avoid plot holes early on.
4) Return To Research
As previously mentioned in a post, research is highly important to any writer. I spent over a month doing research for Badge City: Notches before I even wrote the first sentence. I watched documentaries covering similar material, I read books on police procedure, I read report after report on serial killer psychology.
Maybe that’s the problem, you haven’t researched enough.
Hit the books, watch a movie (or television show) that covers similar subject matter, read reports from experts. Find blogs (for crime writers, I suggest DP Lyle’s blog https://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/).
I think that’s what I’m going to try next. See if it helps me.
If you’re like me and stuck on your current writing project, I wish you the best of luck.