When You’re Stuck . . . and how to get unstuck!

You’ve been kicking butt and writing words. You’re sailing along and then all of sudden the words won’t come, or the plot seems to have run off into a ditch. It’s easy when you’re writing to give up. There are a million other things you could be doing. You’ve hit a roadblock in your story and you’re pulling your hair out. I get it. I’ve been there. Might I share with you some things to try when you’re stuck? Then you can get back to writing that amazing story you know you can tell.

Talk to Someone Else

diverse women talking during coffee break at table
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Historically, this is the one that’s helped me the most. Sometimes you get so caught up with all the words on your screen or on your paper that you can’t see the forest for the trees. My husband gets the brunt of this one. I go to him, tell him the scene in detail as I have it so far. What I find is that the act of talking it out will invariably put my brain in the right direction. He may not have to say a word to me. Most of the time, I’ll be in the middle of explaining something and then an idea that will fix all my problems suddenly occurs to me. I leave happy and he’s off the hot seat.

Do Something Else

woman in black leggings while walking on brown road

Again, back to the forest for the trees. Sometimes you just need a break. Step away from the computer, or the pen and paper. Just leave it. Go do something else. Do a load of laundry, read a chapter in a book, call your parents, take a walk around your neighborhood – anything but sit and try to force the scene to work. After a while, come back and re-read what you wrote. You might find something you missed.

Muscle Through It

active asian sportsman exercising with dumbbells

And in complete contradiction of what I just said, sometimes pure force of will is the only way. This one works because if you’re working on your first draft, you should expect that it will not be perfect the first time around. So just keep writing. It’s going to suck anyway. It’s better to keep writing than stop because you can’t think of that terribly clever line to write in that moment. Maybe when you come back to do your second draft, you’ll have come up with a solution, or words, that sounded better than what you wrote the first time around. Or the scene gets slashed anyway.

Construct a Story Path

I use this technique frequently when I’m having a problem with the story’s flow or arc. First, take each scene you’ve written so far and summarize with one or two sentences. I usually draw a little box around it, then continue in the story’s chronological order. Don’t worry that you haven’t written certain scenes yet. You can either leave blank boxes to fill in later or re-draw or re-arrange later.

There’s a couple formats you can use to do this. I personally like to write it out with pencil and paper. The pencil/paper method forces my brain to slow down and really think about what I’m writing. It also gives me a visual representation of my story as well. This helps me solve timeline problems or highlights gaps in the flow of the narrative.

Another way to visually represent the flow in your story is if you have the writing software Scrivener or yWriter. Both programs have a corkboard view with index cards. It can be good to use this feature if you’d prefer write the scene straight from the card. And the program can’t get lost or have coffee spilled all over it.

Brain Dumps

wood people internet writing
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I discovered this one courtesy of The Inspiration Lady (she even has a cute printable you can get). Her version of the Brain Dump is for clearing your mind, trying to organize your thoughts, or planning a project. I used the Brain Dump (BD) when I was stuck with a particular scene with my character, Phillip, from Sweetwater. I wrote this BD from Phillip’s point of view. I didn’t overthink it. I just channeled Phillip and wrote down everything that came into my head that Phillip would have written. It was extremely cathartic and I understood certain aspects of Phillip’s personality and thought processes better. I had to re-write the scene but it ended up working better in the end.

I hope this gave you a few ideas you can use to help push through writer’s block or a knot in your plot that you can’t seem to work through.

What techniques do you use to push your way through a dry spell? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!


Homesite of author Whitney Sivill. I’m a mother of three, a wife and a student. In between, I write clean romances, fantasy tales, and mid-grade & young adult fiction. I might throw in the occasional fanfiction, too.

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