The Fretful Dancer

Some tips for novelists:

What if you’re a novelist and get stuck? Maybe you simply don’t know what happens next. Maybe you need plot points but all the ones you’ve considered seem trite. Maybe you see a too-quiet ending coming and you desperately hope that a more exciting ending arrives without you having to “force” it. In each of these circumstances you are eager to write, willing to write, and happy to show up, but you don’t know what to write. What can you do? One or another of the following strategies might work for you:

Take a vacation with your work. The next plot point may not be available as you sit at your computer but it might become available if you took a drive in the country or a walk by the beach. At least there’s a chance that a change of venue might spark some association or open a channel to the answer. Take that chance.

Reread what you’ve written. Sometimes the problem is that we’ve forgotten where we are and the next bit of writing would be available if only we remembered our place in the novel. Rereading gets you caught up and helps you remember your place in the story.

Write anyway—but strategically. Say to yourself, “Yes, what I need isn’t available and just writing isn’t the answer, but maybe, just maybe, it is the answer, so I’ll write for an hour—and if it still isn’t there I’ll stop, so as not to frustrate myself, and try something else.” Writing may not be the answer—but it might be.

“Sleep think” in a dreamy way. When we sleep we have more neurons available for thinking than we do when we’re awake, which is why so many writers solve their writing problems in their sleep. Before going to be or before taking a nap, give yourself the following sleep thinking prompt, “I wonder what should happen next?” or something similar. Try to go to bed with a wonder about what might want to emerge next rather than a worry about the novel not working. When you wake up, and whether or not you think that anything new is available, turn to your novel and do a little writing—what you need may be right there, waiting for you.

Try one of these four strategies. One may work!


Share This