Getting STUCK and Strategies to Cope

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by Coragem, Nov 22, 2011.

  1.  
    Coragem

    Coragem Believer in flawed heroes

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    Hi there:

    As noted in another thread, I'm 80,000 words into my current project, with another 160,000 (approx ... I think) to go.

    Unfortunately I've just had rotten three days, generally feeling stuck and looking at sentences and paragraphs until I'm not even sure what I wanted to say anymore! Those of you who've been there (all of you?) will know how horrible this is!!!

    It's not that I don't know where I'm going (I have a thorough blueprint for the work as a whole, and a chapter plan), but I haven't been able to find the words.

    Thankfully I don't suffer this TOO often. Also, I've learned a few ways to minimise it. For example:

    ** While trying to keep drafts "tight"(ish) I'm letting it "go" more, letting inspiration come (and for me the best stuff normally does just "come" in a moment). I then slow down and really hack away at the text in editing.

    ** I try to remember that I HAVE written well in the past, which tells me that I CAN (and will) do so again. (The danger, I think, is a self-fulfilling prophecy – if we tell ourselves we can't write, we can't.)

    ** When I'm reviewing sentences or paragraphs I try to remember that I stop seeing them clearly after 4-to-5 read throughs (maybe 5mins or so). As such, if I'm really trying to review in short stints, and if a solution doesn't come fairly quickly I move on. I go back later with "fresh eyes". Stare at a section too long and I get mental paralysis!

    Anyway, ANY OTHER TIPS, STRATEGIES, SUGGESTIONS?

    Coragem
  2.  
    AnyaKimlin

    AnyaKimlin Active Member

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    When I'm stuck I ask the following questions?

    Why did this happen?
    How did this happen?
    What is the worst/silliest/most emotional thing I can do in this situatuion ?
    Now how can I make it a little better?


    But be warned they have potential to seriously mess up an outline.
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    hopewrites

    hopewrites Happily Ever Aftering

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    I interview the characters. starting with the ones involved and moving out, because sometimes it is a character involved in a different part of the story that is holding my mind hostage. I would go back over your blue print and see if there are any plot holes that might be leaking your creativity out (if this is the case for me the key turning point is the part where I am stuck).
    its not the season for long walks but maybe a short one rambling and out of your usual way. odd things will spark ideas for me.

    hope that helps
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    David B

    David B New Member

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    If it's a loss of momentum, give yourself permission to write a looser first draft, leaving editing/tightening until completed.

    If its a plot/scene problem, try thinking about it before you go to sleep and letting your subconcious work on the problem overnight.

    Either way don't get discouraged. We all hit problems. Perseverance wins.
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    Nik

    Nik Speaker to Cats

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    Only three days ??

    Be glad it isn't three months, then having to rip up the last several thousand words save for a few, barely adequate phrases...

    One trick I've found is to go back *beyond* the text leading up to the block and re-do the chapter in manuscript. Your memory being fallible, different text will emerge. Rinse and repeat. Then collect the best bits from each and try again...

    I'm told pulp-fiction writers would fill a gap by having some-one burst in waving either a news-paper, a telegram or a gun. I let a bear wander into 'P for Pleistocene's gorge...

    The good news is the 'black dog' released my muse after three miserable months. The fog of futility gradually lifted and my writing slowly came back up to speed. FWIW, I've since finished the novel-length tale...
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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Move on - do something else.

    Sometimes I think a block comes because we haven't thought of something important which needs to be covered - therefore if you try and force it before you think it, then you just end up with a stressed mess.

    Yet you can't think it because you're missing an important piece of inspiration, possibly requiring some external event to trigger it, but hasn't happened yet.

    Try working on the sequel, and see what happens? :)
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    seaside

    seaside New Member

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    It does depend on why you're stuck. I hit a wall months ago when I couldn't decide how to proceed. I had ideas, but it was a matter of picking the best idea. Each option had different long consequences. Eventually I just had to go for it. The worst that could happen is having to try the other option/s. The best is you were right.

    If it's just writing, sometimes you just have to dive in and go for it. On my most recent chapter I ended up stuck for a while but finally just started writing, even if it was the a quick play by play of what happened. Eventually the scenes get finished and there's material to work with. It isn't great writing, but thankfully it's editable. For me it feels good to have a basis there.
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    Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    I'm sure you've probably seen this, but if not, I do recommend reading the whole blog that J-Wo linked - it has helped me enormously, not increasing the daily word count (I rarely have a problem with that anyway) but as a way of re-focusing me, when I'm dithering. Can't remember who said it, but 'there's no such thing as writer's block, there's only imperfect planning' something like that. Try the exercise she suggests, and see if it helps. Good luck.

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    Jake Reynolds

    Jake Reynolds Wordslinger

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    I've said this before on the forums, so apologies to anyone who has read this already...

    Writers Block type A:

    When plotting block hits, rather than look to my characters for answers, I look at my villains (the reason I say villains rather than antagonists is because they're not always the same thing). What is the villain doing? What activity are they planning for the hapless fools trying to stop them? Consider what your catalyst characters are doing rather than your main ones. In my wip at least, the main characters are there to react to plotting, not to instigate it (apart from a few points where one of them says screw this, and then sticks it to the man, but they're odd occurrences; typically, 'good' characters will react to what the 'evil' characters are doing. Batman never hunts people are aren't wanted or doing any crimes, for example. By looking at the villain's activities, I find the problem ofetn resolves itself, and I gain fresh perspective and focus.

    Writers Block Type B

    On 'there's no such thing as writer's block, there's only imperfect planning', I disagree entirely. I do my best writing when scenes are not planned, when I simply put the characters into a situation and see what happens. Type B block is when I sit down, know exactly what I need to do for the scene, and then...poop comes out my fingers. I'm not in the zone, and I need to do something else (world building, plotting for part 2, listening to the playsists of songs I have for each character, etc). If I'm not in the zone I'm unable to make the words come, leading to stilted, forced words that don't do anybody any good.
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    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    When I find myself stalled, it's usually because the lead up has gone wrong, or the character is no longer doing what I needed them to do to move the plot forward - there's a fairly active thread about this at the mo, all I can say is sometimes mine do appear on paper different from my original plan - so I'm of the scratch this, its not working, and go back to the last bit I was happy with and go from there again.
  11.  
    Coragem

    Coragem Believer in flawed heroes

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    Great suggestion, I like it.

    I agree. I've learned that inspiration rarely comes from a blank screen. However, words = more words. Starting to get some ideas down tends to prompt more to come unbidden.

    I can relate very much to what you say about being "in the zone". I try to be disciplined and work even when I'm not feeling so great, telling myself that I'm still capable even when not "on fire". However, I've always struggled with feeling much (much!) more able to work well on some days than on others. Worse, there's no rhyme or reason to it for me. Sometimes the conditions aren't ideal, and I haven't slept enough, and I do stuff I'm very pleased with; other times I'm rested, in the ideal environment, and my brain feels like a soggy vegetable.

    Having said that, I do think mental and emotional health is extremely important to writing. When I'm relaxed and happy my creativity is "sparky", and humour comes easily. When I'm tense my writing is awkward and forced.

    Coragem.
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    Sapheron

    Sapheron Making no sense.

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    When I get majorly stuck I drink. I find a night out with friends, getting royally smashed, and then a day spent in abject misery and uselessness tends to reset the head somewhat, allowing the third day to be one of new progress.
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    Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    Two hiccups forward and one back?
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    psychotick

    psychotick Dangerously confused

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    Hi,

    I'm in the same boat right at the moment,but in my case it's because I just finished my last book and published it, and that always leaves me a bit drained. However I'd remind you that writing a novel is a marathon not a sprint (I know it's cliche but it's true), and that three days is nothing.

    Take a little time out, enjoy yourself, let your creative juices run free for a little.

    Cheers, Greg.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Writers block is like impotence. I do remember who said something to that effect: Damien Knight. People who don't have it tend to disbelieve in it.

    I've never been impotent, obviously, but as I understand it you can't plan your way out of it.

    I have struggled with writers block on and off for years, and it is a horrible experience and it makes me furious when people equate it with a few days or hours of being stuck that you can just cure with better planning. If you can fix it with better planning, it isn't writers block. Just like if you're feeling a bit down for a day or two it isn't clinical depression.

    Oh, wait, maybe depression doesn't exist either. Maybe I should plan to be better tomorrow and the dark cloud will lift. If only I had known that these complex and life destroying problems could be solved with better planning!
  16.  
    Sapheron

    Sapheron Making no sense.

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    I note at this point that many depressed people also turn to alcoholism. It really is a cure all.
  17.  
    Coragem

    Coragem Believer in flawed heroes

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    This may not be helpful, but as I said earlier:

    "... I do think mental and emotional health is extremely important to writing. When I'm relaxed and happy my creativity is "sparky", and humour comes easily. When I'm tense my writing is awkward and forced."

    I think it's interesting to compare writing block with depression, because I wonder whether the two are very much linked. It makes you think, which comes first -- does writers block cause depression (or feeling down), or is it the other way around?
  18.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I think that writer's block is a symptom of clinical depression. Other people fall into a deep depression and can no longer function at the jobs they do. With writers, they lose the impulse and the ability to write. Unfortunately, they don't lose the desire.
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    hopewrites

    hopewrites Happily Ever Aftering

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    no more then depressed people loose the desire to live. we just get so frustrated with ourselves for not doing it the way we think we should that we think we want to give up, we wish we could want to give up.
    i suppose i should only speak for myself, but i didnt and cant be sorry about it.
  20.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I think if this thread is going to stay on track, it would be better if people remembered the original premise and stayed with that -- which is what do you do when you are stuck -- and stay away from sweeping (and misinformed) statements about writer's block.

    The topic here, as I take it, is what to do when things are not progressing for a few hours, a day, or the better part of a week.

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