August Round Robin – Getting Unstuck

This is going to sound weird, but I have a crystal ball. It’s not one of those clear crystal balls that you see fortune tellers use in the movies, it’s a crystal that is cloudy on the inside, full of facets and glimmering spots within the stone.

It’s big enough that it stretches my fingers whenever I hold it, and no matter what time of day, it is cool to the touch. And it’s heavy… heavy enough that I think someone could commit a murder with it if they ever wanted to.

And should I ever write a murder mystery you can be sure that I’ll use a heavy crystal ball as the weapon.

When I get stuck in my writing, my first stop is the crystal ball. I only have so many hours in a day, so the act of pausing to mull over a plot point that isn’t working turns into a real hindrance. Thus … I stop, lift my crystal ball, let it cool and stretch my fingers while I eyeball what I’ve already written.

Then, I sit back down and I write some more because if I wait on my Muse to help me get things done, I would never finish a book.

That’s just the nitty-gritty of writing, though. That’s not what I do if I’m having trouble plotting.

So what do I do when something is broken and I’m having trouble with the plot?

I go to the gym.

Or I go for a walk.

Or a swim.

Basically, I get out. I leave my desk behind and I go do anything other than think about the novel.

… That’s a joke, the novel inevitably comes with me. It clings to my subconscious while I busy myself with things. And, in the middle of doing these things, I will eventually get the eureka moment that tells me what I need to do to fix the book.

But the point is, living life tends to be the best solution when there’s a plot issue in a work. Going out to the park to play with my son has often inspired me to go in different directions with a novel. And once I’ve done that, I find that the book is stronger for it.

But one trick I’ve learned to do is ask this basic question; “What’s the next thing they (character) need?”

For example … the book I’ve been working on the last few weeks is another fantasy novel. I have an outline, but it’s already been broken to bits, and that’s a good thing. Because as I’ve gotten to the end of each chapter, I’ve asked myself that question … “What’s the next thing Cassy/Lorden/Macbyrne needs?”

Well, by the end of chapter 4 I had one very naked Lorden o’Lir with a broken arm. So the basic answer is … Lorden needs clothes. And then he needs to see whatever passes for a medical practitioner in Neargate. Which … completely messes up the outline but makes perfect sense AND makes the novel better.

I suppose it says a lot about their culture when clothes are more important than a broken limb.

See what some of my fellow authors do when they get stuck in a work in this month’s Round Robin discussion …

Diane Bator
(YOU ARE HERE) A.J. Maguire
Anne de Gruchy
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Marie Laval
Judith Copek
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGier
Heather Haven
Beverley Bateman
Rhobin Courtright


6 thoughts on “August Round Robin – Getting Unstuck

  1. I am delighted to learn we all seem to use a similar approach. Or nearly. But I say throw in some chocolate while you’re running around. Or some other treat. Life is short.

  2. I really like your question ‘what does my character need?’ and I’m going to try that next time I’m stuck! Thank you.

  3. I agree with Marie, I think your technique of asking ‘what does my character need’ will be put into practice at my desk. Enjoyed your post.

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