When Your Writing is Stalled

You worked on your manuscript for weeks, but it screeched to a halt and now you’re stalled. It may be tempting to throw it in a drawer, but that’s not what professionals do. Try some of these ideas to get your novel rolling again.

  1. Just keep writing, even poorly, and fix it later.
  2. Write about anything you want. Describe something and watch what happens.
  3. Play the What If… game. What if your character goes spelunking? What if they lose what they most love? Get what they most want? Are stalked by a sibling? Are allergic to seafood? Have a crush on a bull rider? Get a mysterious text?
  4. Read an advice column but don’t read the answer, just use the problem.
  5. Make up a wild title and write to the title like Bill Myers’s My Life As a Smashed Burrito with Extra Hot Sauce.
  6. Weave in something from your own life: The cat that slept in your fiddle case, the goose you took home from the pond, your most embarrassing moment.
  7. Put the character in a new setting: On a dog sled, at the South Pole, on a movie lot, in a factory that makes plastic doggie doo-doo.
  8. Research a weird fact and add it to your story.
  9. Write a prologue (or epilogue) to your story. For Jerry Jenkins, that developed into several prequels for the Left Behind series.
  10. Write an intriguing line.
    • “You ever killed anything?” (Dean Koontz)
    • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (Charles Dickens)
    • “Marley was dead: to begin with.” (Charles Dickens)
  11. Add a unique occupation. A modern sheep shearer. A sequin maker. A farrier who moonlights as a tattoo artist.
  12. Ask your character questions.
  13. DiAnn Mills recommends recalling your most painful experience. How did that event look, smell, taste, sound, feel? Plunge your character into a situation that evokes those strong emotions.
  14. DiAnn also forces her characters to choose between two wrongs.
  15. Have fun. Be outrageous.

Be encouraged. Stalling happens. But it’s no excuse to give up. Your readers will never know you had a rough patch.

PeggySue Wells is the author of a dozen titles including What To Do When You’re Scared To Death, and Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After.


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