Getting Unstuck

When you write something as complicated as a novel, you’re bound to get stuck sometime.

Plots, no matter how well-developed in advance, can come unraveled as your characters interfere with whatever you had planned for them. (Sometimes characters refuse to follow directions.) In my case, the more threads I’m weaving into my story, the harder it can be to find my way through. Then, I get stuck.

For me, getting stuck is usually about connections in my brain. I get so tangled up it’s like being in the center of a big ball of rubber bands. I need ways to break out and make some new creative connections.

Here are a few tricks I use to become unstuck.

  • Take a walk. A long one, preferably somewhere green with no one else around to talk to. Something about walking frees constraints in your mind.
  • Introduce a new element into your story. You can do this if you’re not too far along in the plot, and if maybe you’ve allowed things to bog down. How would your characters react if something unforeseen happened?
  • Take your next chapter to your critique group, even if you know something’s missing. Someone else’s comments might spark new insights.
  • Go back to an old character. I just did this with my WIP. I am near the end and basically satisfied with how things will turn out. But that next chapter wouldn’t come. I was able to look to an old character for a change of pace that also happily added a new dimension to the work.
  • Put it away for a while. Do something completely different. When you return, you’ll see your work with new eyes.

I’m sure there are many techniques that other writers use. The key to getting unstuck is to step back, get away from the intense focus that can end up giving you tunnel vision. And give your creative mind a chance to do its thing.

**Image by Manuela Schwendener, from