Monday, March 21, 2011

Writer's Retreat

retreat n.
    : a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director
    2  : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable

I wish that this blog post was about the former definition and that I was on my way to a rambling country estate where I could write all day and then banter with other writers while we play croquet. Alas, it is not.

Somewhere in my latest WIP, I took a wrong turn--I suspect it's about 15 pages back--and now I'm stuck. Suddenly, I don't know why my characters are doing what they're doing (at the moment, wandering around a desert aimlessly). They ostensibly have a goal, but in my heart of hearts the goal doesn't entirely make sense. It's because I've somehow lost a grasp of who my characters even are.

Usually, I like to bang out a first draft--no matter how awful it is--and then go back and revise, revise, revise. If I'm stuck, outlining is often the life preserver I turn to. But for some reason, I just don't think that's going to work with this one, because, at the end of the day, how can I outline the plot if I don't know where my characters are going at all.

I've always been a very character-driven writer. And even when I started making my stories more plot-driven (hence the adventurous Middle Grade books), the turn of events always came from the characters themselves. What they want and what they do to achieve that is what drives everything.

So I need a change of plans and a fresh perspective. I asked some of my fellow Apocalypsies what they do when they get stuck and I got some awesome responses. I think my next steps will be to do a more in-depth character sketch for each of my three main characters. And then write some of the scenes that I do see clearly in my mind, even if they'll be out of order. I'm hoping that somewhere along the way, I'll get back on track.

If you're a writer, what are some tricks you use when the story just isn't going your way?


  1. I take a step -- or several steps -- back and think about the story. Generally, a scene that doesn't work will nag at me in the back of mind at dinner, or in the shower. That's how I figure out which scene is causing the problem. Then I attack it, redirect it, sometimes delete it entirely, and make sure it's focused toward the original goal. I usually don't get stuck until about halfway in, so the goal is established, I'm just doing a very poor job of getting there. That's what has worked for me so far, anyway.

    Hope you get unstuck soon!

  2. Thanks, Brooke! Great advice. Hoping the epiphany moment of where the story is going next will hit me soon.

  3. I usually put it down for a few days and read a good, but unrelated book. It's shocking how things will reveal themselves. Also, here is an article that helped me once.

  4. Grace, we're totally on the same wavelength. I've decided to give myself a writing-free, reading-heavy week and see if that gets me anywhere.

    Thanks for the article! There is some fascinating stuff in there.