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.

5 comments:

Suzanne 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

LarramieG said...

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

William 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.

Jarrod 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.