• Read this: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?288931-Guidelines-for-Participation-in-Outwitting-Writer-s-Block

    before you post.

Not Exactly Writer's Block, But...

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

BRG2003

Registered
Joined
Aug 7, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
I'm sure I can't be the only one with this problem. Basically, while I'm writing something, I end up getting stuck. I have no idea how to continue the story, how to advance the characters or what do I want to do with the book in general. Then I start getting ideas for a different plot. Not a completely new story just one where the characters have different journeys and the plot and setting change a little to reflect that. I get excited, become really passionate about this new idea, start to write from the beginning... and then I get stuck again and things repeat. I could always save all the ideas to write for later but is just that I can't concentrate on what I'm currently trying to write. Anyone has any advice on how to keep this from happening?
 

Layla Nahar

Seashell Seller
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Messages
7,655
Reaction score
910
Location
Seashore
BR - this is pretty much exactly the problem I'm having. For me it reminds me of a cartoon (bugs & daffy, I think?) where the scenery is being painted as the characters are doing their thing - I think it's Daffy who tried to get out beyond the painted part to the blank part. For me it seems like my story has the painted part, and the blank part, and that's the 'barrier' I run in to. For me there's a part, pretty much the beginning (or opening maybe) which is very vivid, and then it's like the intuitive lead that has set up that beginning just ... disappears. I have the idea that the whole story is hiding in my mind somewhere, but I just can't get to it. I wish I could be more help. But I can say - there's at least one other person out there.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,182
Reaction score
4,849
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
I can only tell you what broke* me of this habit: I didn't rewrite the beginning.

When I have Plot Epiphanies while drafting, instead of throwing away what I already have, I write forward as if I've already fixed the other stuff. It's only when I have the entire story down and have reached The End (which, yes, at this point looks very little like the beginning) that I go back, analyze what I've got, and rewrite as necessary.

*Having said this, one of the reasons my current MS is taking so long - and I've finished/polished four novels at this point, so it's not like I don't know how my mind works - is that I keep doing this. I write for a while, and I start to see connections that would work better, or B plots that want to influence the A plot. But I also get stuck - I'm not sure the best way to proceed, with or without Shiny New Plot Stuff. So I end up circling back to the beginning, because I know what that bit needs to look like.

And then I end up stuck at a different part of the story, and we do it all again.

For me, NaNoWriMo has proved invaluable. The entire purpose of NaNo is to write like gangbusters. The easiest way (for me) to win is to just keep going - no worries about continuity or plot or whether you know, absolutely, you're going to chuck this bit out when you revise. If you're stuck on a plot point? Just plow through it, in any silly way that gets you to the next scene. If you get a better idea for the structure of the thing than what you've been writing for 30,000 words? Jot down the idea, pretend your 30K is a perfect version of that, and keep going.

I've been writing since I was 5. The keep-rewriting-the-beginning issue meant I had finished one novel-length book by the time I was 46 years old. Since I've adopted the Just Keep Going philosophy, I've drafted 5 (ish :)) manuscripts, and fully polished 4. (In 11 years. Not that many, but a vastly better rate!)
 

Lakey

professional dilettante
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 20, 2017
Messages
1,489
Reaction score
783
Location
New England
I can only tell you what broke* me of this habit: I didn't rewrite the beginning.

When I have Plot Epiphanies while drafting, instead of throwing away what I already have, I write forward as if I've already fixed the other stuff. It's only when I have the entire story down and have reached The End (which, yes, at this point looks very little like the beginning) that I go back, analyze what I've got, and rewrite as necessary.
This is what I did with my novel-in-progress, and I also recommend it.

I was about halfway through writing the very first draft when I realized that some changes in the life circumstances of the protagonist would allow me to ratchet up the stakes for her and bring in some fascinating social history. Instead of going back and starting over, I went ahead and kept writing as though the beginning was setting up the story I now wanted her to have.

When I got to the end of the “first draft”, I had something pretty incoherent. But I was able to go back and see exactly what needed changing and what was salvageable, and knew what I had to write in the “new” first half to set up the second half that I had already drafted.

ETA: I should add that I am a plotter/outliner, and this still happened to me! I was writing to an outline when I had the idea that made the entire story better, and I redid the outline to explore the new idea. I point this out in case anyone thinks only pantsers have this issue. You can have an idea that improves your story at any stage in the process!

:e2coffee:
 

Chris P

Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 4, 2009
Messages
19,289
Reaction score
2,901
Location
Vienna, VA
What everyone above ^^^ has said.

What could also be going on is you might have two completely separate stories in your head. I once had the plot take a major turn about halfway through, and the beta readers all got whiplash. They said the folks interested in the first half were going to be disappointed when the plot turned that much, and the people who would like the second half will never get there. I ended up splitting it into two books, and although I only finished one (and it still needs A LOT of work) and need to complete the ending of the second, I ended up with two superior products overall.
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
5,137
Reaction score
1,447
Location
USA
I'm sure I can't be the only one with this problem. Basically, while I'm writing something, I end up getting stuck. I have no idea how to continue the story, how to advance the characters or what do I want to do with the book in general. Then I start getting ideas for a different plot. Not a completely new story just one where the characters have different journeys and the plot and setting change a little to reflect that. I get excited, become really passionate about this new idea, start to write from the beginning... and then I get stuck again and things repeat. I could always save all the ideas to write for later but is just that I can't concentrate on what I'm currently trying to write. Anyone has any advice on how to keep this from happening?
My advice when you get stuck is to ask what your protagonist is acting toward in this particular scene and then make them act toward that goal.

My writing stalls when my characters have no scene goals.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,182
Reaction score
4,849
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
For me it's the beginning where I get stuck :(
I don't know if this is helpful - but for times when I'm at sea about where to head next, I keep in mind something I picked up off of a list of plotting advice:

What's the worst thing that could happen to my protagonist right now?

Sometimes what I come up with is absurd. (If I kill them off, hey, the story's over!). But thinking about disaster sometimes opens possibilities I wasn't considering before.

I still rely on this method sometimes. If my reaction to an idea is "gosh, that's over the top; that'd never work" I know I'm on to something. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: BRG2003

Layla Nahar

Seashell Seller
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Messages
7,655
Reaction score
910
Location
Seashore
Sometimes what I come up with is absurd. (If I kill them off, hey, the story's over!). But thinking about disaster sometimes opens possibilities I wasn't considering before. ...If my reaction to an idea is "gosh, that's over the top; that'd never work" I know I'm on to something.
Thanks, that sounds like it could be useful. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: BRG2003

ChaseJxyz

Writes birds and bird accessories
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2020
Messages
1,238
Reaction score
761
Location
The Rottenest City on the Pacific Coast
Website
www.chasej.xyz
I think what you might need to do is figure out where you want a story to go before you get to writing. Some people can pants their way through a whole story, others need the structure...and you're probably the latter. And that's okay!

I like using the snowflake method for new ideas that have a concept/hook but not the middle part figured out.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BRG2003

Nether

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
565
Reaction score
526
Location
New England
So instead of writer's block, it's like writer's ADHD?

idk, I think when people are stuck and they're not used to unsticking themselves, they can succumb to the temptation to either do something else or just put it aside entirely. It's entirely possible for somebody to spend years working on their first chapter because they keep starting from scratch. That's why it's useful to try to see things through to their end. Otherwise, you run the risk of never finishing anything.

Unfortunately, the only way forward is forward. It's usually just something where people have to keep writing anyway and try to work around it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BRG2003

Happy Thanksgiving

Autumn image for Thanksgiving