The ‘stuck novel’ comes to all of us at various times. You know what it’s like – you get an idea for a story and, full of the excitement of new plots, you feverishly start writing.
For a few days, even weeks, it all seems great. You’re enjoying the story, it’s fun, and everything’s going well, but then you hit The Wall.
If you’ve been pantsing, you can’t work out how to make the story work. Dead ends crop up everywhere you turn, and you’re no longer sure where you were going with it.
Even if you’ve been plotting, characters won’t behave the way you want them to, and you can’t work out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
In short, you have a stuck novel on your hands.
You put it to one side, promising to go back to it, and you abandon it to a corner of your hard drive while you chase after the latest plot bunny to grab your attention. Thing is, the idea you had might have still been a good one, and with a bit of work, you can finally reach The End with it. You just have to go back to it, teach it whose boss, and continue.
So how do you get back into a project that stalled months ago?
Step 1 – Re-read it.
This might sound like a no-brainer but it’s amazing how much of it you will have forgotten. Print it out (to avoid the temptation to edit as you go), or email it to your Kindle, and just read it. Re-experience your idea.
The whole point of this exercise is to reacquaint yourself with your story as a reader, not as a writer. If something sticks out like a sore thumb while you’re reading, then that’s probably where your problem lies.
That’s why you ended up with a stuck novel in the first place.
You’ll probably get new ideas, or you’ll see connections between previously unrelated dead ends that will allow you to continue. Note them down. Write comments on the print out, or add comments to the file on your Kindle.
Step 2 – Give it a polish.
If you’re anything like me, your writing style will have evolved even in the space of a few months. Maybe you’ve realised the way to fix your story is to change from third to first person. Maybe it needs to be present tense instead of past.
Whatever you’ve figured out during step 1, fix it now before you go any further.
I’ve had to do this a couple of times. The Guns of Retribution started out as third person, then became first person present tense, and is now first person past tense.
My medieval apocalypse tale, The Lady Contagion, was originally third person, which just didn’t work, so I converted it into first person and it completely ‘unstuck’ the story.
Step 3 – Get writing.
Now you’ve re-read it and polished it into something resembling your idea, you can get on with writing the rest of it – but stick to any notes you’ve made along the way, and make sure you know how each chapter will end before you close the document down for the day.
You might only know the plot day-to-day, or you might have your entire structure planned, but try to avoid that feeling of helplessness that got you stuck in the first place.
Happy writing! Do you have any tips or tricks that help you rescue an abandoned project?
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