Writing Advice: Unsticking

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We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You’re about halfway through a story and find yourself mired in the plot and unable to pull yourself out. You can’t seem to get that perspective you need to unstick your story and turn it in a new direction. For those of us who are novel writers, I think this tends to happen around the 30,000 word mark. There’s something about that point where you’re so deep in the story that you’re not sure where to turn next. Well that moment, my friends, is when you need some advice on unsticking that story.

Chuck Wendig’s blog is an awesome and entertaining resource for advice on writing. On this particular subject, Chuck has written a post of 25 Ways to Unstick a Story. His myriad suggestions include outlining retroactively to see how you ended up in this sticky situation, adding more characters to change up the scenery (and hopefully the plot), fixing up the gaps in your story’s plotline, throwing in some flashbacks, and even deleting a block of text and just starting off from the last word that’s left. Yikes! All of these suggestions are really amazing and I’d suggest reading through the entire list — it’s worth it, trust me.

The item on this list that stands out the most to me, personally, is the tried and true method of adding more conflict. I once had a story of mine critiqued by some writing group members and they told me that I needed more conflict. They were absolutely right. My characters were standing around and discussing a lot of things, but not much was getting done and it was because nothing was in their way. Ever since then, I’ve taken that advice to heart. And adding conflict will definitely move your characters or your plot from the sticky mess they’re stuck in.

But perhaps the best piece of advice on this list is the final one, number 25. It basically tells you to suck it up. And sometimes that’s what we all need to hear. And, well, I’ll let Chuck say the rest: “So: you’re stuck? Fu*k it. Fu*k you. You’re not the horse. You’re the rider. The one with the spurs, the buggy whip, the carrot at the end of a stick. Make it move. Get it done. Your words are a battering ram: knock the door down and walk on through.”

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan