All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Being Stuck and Getting Unstuck

Everyone thinks that being a writer mostly involves the act of creation - you know, writing. This is a fair assumption, since that's kind of the name of the role. However, so much involves something other than writing. Editing, for example, is a difficult process that is definitely part of the job but not very exciting. Then there is reading, re-reading, thinking about your process, doing exercises to help develop your skills, and so forth. However, the one part of being a writer that people don't associate with writing is a fun one: Being stuck. This is an important phase, but one that we too easily get hung up on.

How many of us have been writing something - short story, essay, novel, whatever - and thought, "How do I get from here to the next step?" It might be something as simple as getting a character from one place to another, or resolving a crisis, or even starting a crisis. Any step where the story advances is a potential place to get stuck. Sometimes we can even get stuck finding the right word or phrase for a description, or just the right piece of dialogue. These things happen; they are part of the game. However, as we might discover, they can be very dangerous.

I have seen countless posts on writing chat boards with desperate cries for help. "I am stuck! I don't know how to get my MC (main character) to take the next step! What do I do?" Or, "My MC is trapped and I don't know how to get them out!" These people insist they are unable to write anymore until they resolve the situation. Well, this isn't a good, clean way to write properly. However, it works just fine when it comes to getting unstuck. 

The goal of any remedy is simple - to let you start writing again. Whatever the problem is, if you start writing again you have overcome it. Here's the most simple one: the [instant solution]. If you are writing an argument and you want the MC to say something that defuses the tension between them and the supporting character but don't know how to do it, the instant solution is simple:

Supporting character says, "How dare you!"
MC answers [says something to defuse situation]
Supporting character smiles. "Okay, I understand."

Cheap? Definitely. Complete? Hardly. Does it get you back to writing? Absolutely. That's the important part - getting yourself back to the act of creation. As you continue writing, you give yourself time to better understand the situation and just what the best response would be. My first drafts have areas where [offers explanation] is abundant. I know I can get back to them whenever I want, and they should all be gone by the final draft, but in the meantime, I am writing.

And as one note - If you are truly stuck on writing about what a character would do, ask yourself if you really understand the character. Sometimes the problem isn't having the right words, but knowing the character well enough. But that will be a discussion for Friday's post.

Until then, [add humorous ending].

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