sabato 27 ottobre 2018

Hey! Do you have any tips for people who've reached a block in their writing? I've been trying to plan out a plot for my book, but I've reached a point where I can't think of anything else

What to Do If You Get Stuck While Outlining Your Plot

Hi! Thanks for writing. Getting blocked can happen at all stages: Before writing, during writing, during outlining, in the idea stage, etc. But since you specifically said you’re reaching a block in your plot planning, I’ll address that :)

#1 Make sure your character’s motivation & conflict are “big” enough

If your character doesn’t have a book-length problem, you can get stuck trying to fill in empty space in the plot. In order to find more events to flesh out your story, you may need to make adjustments. Is their desire strong enough to fuel a book? Is the conflict big enough? Is their problem difficult to solve? If not, how can you make their problem harder? Or take longer to resolve?

You might need a combination of a fiercer desire, a bigger problem, more problems, more obstacles, and/ or a more stubborn antagonist to reveal potential scenes and events. For help with your character’s motivation and conflict, check out the PDF “Creating Character Arcs” in my Free Resource Library.

#2 Plot your story backwards

This can help you make sure you have a strong enough ending and open up new possibilities you might not have noticed while plotting forward. I have a post about it here.

#3 Use the but/therefore method

The but/therefore method is a great way to fill holes. It tests the cause-effect connections between your plot and character and almost always reveals gaps that need to be addressed with new or stronger scenes. Use this template for each scene or chapter:

Main character wants ______, but _______, therefore ______.

What comes after “wants” is the motivation for that chapter or scene. After “but” goes the conflict or obstacle. After “therefore” is the result or action the character takes, which leads into the next goal, and so on, and so on.

Chapter-by-chapter it might look something like this:

Chapter 1: Julian wants to ask Matt to the dance, but he’s scared of being rejected, therefore he slips a cryptic note into Matt’s locker.

Chapter 2: Matt doesn’t see the note. Now Julian wants to get into his locker and retrieve it, but the principal sees him trying to jimmy open the lock, therefore Julian is given detention for a week.

You can also do this scene-by-scene. My suggestion would be to start with the chapter outline, see what it reveals, then move into the scenes if you still feel stuck.

#4 Ask questions

Classic un-sticking questions start with “what if” or “why”? Asking questions can unlock new story directions you might not have noticed were there before.

What if the main character’s ex-boyfriend came back to town? What if they didn’t achieve that small goal back in chapter 4? What if they were hiding something? etc.

Why are they avoiding their sister? Why is it so difficult for them to apologize? Why haven’t they quit their job if they hate it so much? etc.

#5 Consider creating a subplot (or two or three)

A book-length story usually needs a few side stories to flesh out the main one. Look for areas of your story that could be expanded, characters that might take the story down a related tangent, and conflicts that seem small but could be bigger with some digging.

#6 Take a break

Sometimes, you just need to give it a rest. Walk away from your outline for at least a week. When you come back, you may see things you didn’t see before and be able to breathe new life into it. In the meantime, let your mind wander. It’s amazing what creative solutions writers can come up with when they aren’t “trying.”


The Literary Architect is a writing advice blog run by me, Bucket Siler. For more writing help, check out my Free Resource Library, peruse my post guide, or hire me to edit your novel or short story. xoxo

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