So, you’re a writer. You know this to be true because you have completed a novel, a series of short stories, a graphic novel, picture book, or magazine articles. (Yes, it all counts. You deserve the title.) Anyway, as all writers are aware, sometimes there are, shall we say, difficulties with undertaking our task. You just can’t think of how to make that character three-dimensional, this plot twist believable, or figure out where the next bit of backstory should go. Does this create occupational issues? Yupper.
And we have all been there. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, or how brilliant you are, eventually one of these challenges is going to smack you in the face and leave you reeling. It’s just a sad fact.
Today, however, I am going to (hopefully) provide some insights into how to overcome such obstacles. (If any of these actually work, please do let me know…)
Step away from the document causing so much heartache. Yes, truly, this makes sense. When the inspiration just isn’t striking, you simply can’t force it to appear and be amazing. And if you do attempt to force it, most likely it won’t be your best work, and your whole project could suffer.
Stop worrying about what “has” to happen, and let the story tell you where it’s going. Don’t be afraid to make those notes in your notes — that a certain character has to change his/her destiny (the destiny you assigned), because it would be too cliche, ill-fitting, or not authentic. That’s important. Change can be good.
Be productive with something else. Leave your document/notebook/laptop someplace safe and go for a walk, take your kids to the movies, or go on vacation to Shanghai. Some time and space away will help refresh your neurotransmitters.
Do some independent research. By “independent,” I mean skip the traditional routes — like encyclopedias and peer-reviewed publications — and try flipping channels or surfing fanfiction sites. I’m completely serious. This has worked in my own endeavors. While suffering from a long-lasting case of writer’s block, I sat down with junk food and the History Channel, and heard an archeological theory about a topic I was interested in that I’d never heard before — and it spurred me onwards to delve deeper, and ultimately come across a unique perspective for one of my plot twists.
Ignore whatever’s bugging you about your WIP. Remember that this is a fictional world, that you created, and you do have the ability to put it on hold (without causing it to crash into the sun). When you return, renewed and less annoyed, it will still be right where you left it (in terms of plot holes and flat characters) — but you’ll be better equipped to correct it. Realize it doesn’t matter if it takes you a day, or even a week, to figure out what to do about that potential love triangle, or whether shifting your setting in this chapter is actually necessary to the flow of the story.
Don’t try to follow a formula. For example — it is not required to write a YA novel that features stereotyped characters and a cliche plot (ill-planned love triangles, cardboard female protagonists who swoon over the first cute guy to grace their path, or an underground rebellion to squash a tyrannical government). Further thoughts — if your story is genuinely about a girl torn between two great guys, find a unique way to address it. (Maybe one love interest leaves her, but she doesn’t want to choose the other by default, so she ends up with a totally new guy 5 years later?)
Be bold in your editing. It is totally okay to decide, “Wow, that’s really crap,” or, “Hey, it’d be so much better if I…” when you’re going through your first draft again. Not only are there no laws stating you can’t change your mind about your goals for/views of your masterpiece, it’s healthy to do so. Your characters may let you down, or you realize the setting just isn’t as cool as you first hoped, or your passion for version A of the plot just fizzles out. All of this is perfectly acceptable, and none of it means you can’t hack it as an author.
Happy writing, everyone!