Being stuck is on my mind right now, since I’ve had a rough time pulling together the first chapter of my YA novel. It’s still not where I want it to be, but fussing with it more at this point seems counterproductive. I’m sure you know the feeling. It hits all of us at some point in time. What to do? What to do? Here are a few ideas for handling those rough patches when you encounter them:
Work on something else: When one aspect of a project just isn’t gelling, getting overly involved in trying wrench it into shape can be frustrating and ineffective. That’s what’s happening with my first chapter. So I’ve decided to put it aside for now and keep working my way through the revisions of the rest of my first draft. Then I plan to go back and tackle chapter one with a fresh eye. Putting some distance between you and disappointing output is often the simplest and best approach. It lets your mind work on the problem while you’re working on something else.
Rethink your approach: Are your characters strong enough and likable enough to support your story? Are you in control of your plot or does it seem to be running away from you? Do you need to create an outline or revise the one you’ve already got? Is your story sustainable? Are you thinking novel when you should be thinking novella or short story? Sometimes we’re going down the wrong path and we need to step back and ask some tough questions to get back on track.
Ask for help: This can be tricky. Finding a fresh eye and soliciting feedback can be very helpful, especially when things seem to be falling apart. The key here is getting the right kind of help from the right source. You may have a trusted writing friend that you can use as a sounding board — my sister Steph is my go-to gal when I get stymied. For a different point of view, you might ask someone you know who’s an astute reader to lend a hand. Someone responding from a reader’s perspective may be able to help you figure out what’s not working without getting all caught up in telling you how to fix it.
Any other ideas that work for you when you get stuck? I’d love to hear them!