Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Well, I'm Stuck

Question of the day: I went to NYC to talk to agents about the novel I'm writing. Several requested pages when I'm finished. Guess what? Now I'm stuck.

Ah yes. That old adage all-too-frequently proves true: that it is much easier to start a novel than to finish one. In fact, while I don't have any concrete stats to back me up, I'd gander that at least 75% of people who start a book don't finish it, because, let's face it, it's a hell of a lot easier to come up with a fancy concept that can generate a few chapters than to see that fancy concept (and all of the twists and turns) to page 300.

This isn't a slam at all. Just a simple writing fact of life.

So here's what I recommend. I've found in the past, whenever I get stuck, it's because I don't have enough going on with my characters and their lives and their sundry problems. So if I'm at a literal loss for words, I try to come up with another obstacle, another problem to throw in their path. Make them miserable; make their lives fall apart. You'll inevitably generate momentum because you'll HAVE to find a way to write them out of the hole you've place them in. Put a kink in their marriage, fire them from their job, send their father off a cliff (okay, figuratively speaking). Examine your character's life from all angles and see where it can go wrong.

Exposition - chattering off what's going on inside your character's head - can sink a book faster than a lot of authors realize. Don't get stuck in an actionless plot. Create the action and the pages will soon follow.


suzanneelizabeths.com said...

Great advice. Especially the part about not allowing oneself (or the main character) to go off on a bout of navel-gazing exposition....which is exactly what has happened to me in my current WIP when I lost the plot!

Amie Stuart said...

I really think this is where learning to do at least some plotting first has saved my butt. *sigh* My general rule of thumb is, if I can't write past page 25, it's not a viable idea. That doesn't mean I won't go back later and revisit the idea or revise it, only that in it's present state, it's not going to work.

Also, I firmly believe that some ideas just take longer to "cook" than others. And I'm a huge believer in relying on my subconscious (and often, another person's brain to throw things against) to help me solve plot problems.

My 2 cents for whatever it's worth :D

larramiefg said...

A few years ago, I read 99% of those who start a novel don't finish it, but who's counting? ;)

Bill said...

This is such a useful post. Too often am I stuck with finishing stories I've begun. I also agree with Amie about writing at least 25 pages (if to be a novel). It's like I won't finished reading a book unless I have read at least half of it.

ImNotBad said...

I became stuck at the end of my novel in Part 10. I just didn't have anything happening and didn't know what on earth to do next to get to the end.

I began to keep a journal on everything going through my mind about the project. Ideas that I liked, plot points, possible characters, goals I had for the book and beyond, my feelings - anything cluttering my mind.

Part 10 ended up being so long I added parts 11 and 12.