I've reached a total impasse with my WIP. I just don't know where to take it from here. It started out well, I had lots of ideas, but somewhere around the sixth chapter, everything seemed to freeze. Now I'm not sure whether to scrap it and start over, or wait and see if the inspiration I once felt for the story returns. Grrrrr....
OK, you froze at chapter 6. Do you know what's supposed to happen in, say, chapters 8 or 9? Have you plotted the story through to the end? If so, then just skip ahead and start writing another scene. You can always go back. Sometimes it's difficult to write precisely in sequence, and if you don't jump ahead, you may be tempted to give up.
If you don't write in sequence, my advice is the same. Start with a later scene (for instance, a conversation between characters discussing what happened prior...or it can even be something totally unrelated) and worry about chapter 6 another time. Often the light bulb will go off when you least expect it.
Or put that opus away and start something new until you write yourself into a corner on that one, at which point you return to Opus #1.
Repeat as necessary.
I'll venture to guess most writers have lots of unfinished masterpieces cluttering up boxes, desk drawers and hard drives. If you're serious about becoming published, sooner or later the right characters, setting, and plot will meet and they'll live happily ever after.
Just keeping writing something until that happy set of circumstances arrives.
Thanks for your help, Jena and Frank. I'll now try to apply myself. Nose to the grindstone... :-) I guess my biggest concern is that if I don't finish this book, which is my first attempt, I may never be able to do so.
Here's a solution that's guaranteed to get your creativity working. And you can do it in a few easy steps. Ready?
First, set aside what you're working on and go back in your mind to the original inspiration of your novel. Forget about the last chapter you wrote; focus instead on the bigger concepts of your novel. Remember the first thing that inspired you.
Got it? Good. Now, in your notebook, answer these six questions:
1) WHO is my story about? (Really? Sometimes we get ourselves confused.)
2) What does that character WANT? It needs to be something specific that we can visualize him or her achieving.
3) WHY does the character want it? The more primal and universal the reason, the better.
4) What does the character DO about it? What direct action does he or she take?
5) What stands in the WAY of the character achieving that goal? How do these obstacles force the character to change plans?
6) How does it get RESOLVED in the end? Does the character achieve the goal? Or fail? Or realize that he or she was chasing the wrong goal all along?
Answering these questions will give you a bare-bones plan for writing the rest of your novel. If that doesn't get you unblocked, spend time brainstorming more obstacles for the hero to overcome. That'll get the story rolling again.
So, in a nutshell, your novel is about a CHARACTER who has a GOAL/PROBLEM for a vital REASON. He or she DOES SOMETHING about it, but RUNS INTO TROUBLE. Finally, THINGS GET RESOLVED at the end.
That's it. Everything else is just fancying up that one basic paragraph. See, isn't that easy? Here's a quick cheat sheet. Just fill in the blanks:
My main character is __________. He/She needs to __________, because __________. So the character does __________. But __________ stands in the way. At the end, __________.
Best of luck to you!
short stories can be written without excessive plotting - that is not to say that they are easy to write - but longer stories especially the big fat novels that just seem to grow ever bigger (think Harry Potter Book 5) need to be plotted out well in advance, before you even start writing the first chapter or the first word. You need to know where your story is gonna go.
Some people plot. Others fly by the seat of their pants. I'm of the second variety. I don't know how the story's going to end till I write that last chapter.
In general, I find that writing the major parts of your story first -- the parts that you WANT to include -- helps greatly if you're not an all-out planned outline sort of guy. Editing and revising can always come later, and writing from start to finish often makes me lose track of the story's point anyway. So, I write the major parts that I want to associate with the story first and go from there. Traditional hand animators often do the exact same thing; they draw the "keys" (the major parts of movement) and fill in the frames between. Normally, that's how I deal with writer's block -- if I get stuck or want to stop writing about something, I linger onto something else.
I find that having something blow up usually moves things along... But seriously, everyone here has given good advice. Sometimes it's good to walk away from one project and work on another. In fact, I am just now getting back into a manuscript I drafted six years ago. Some things have to sit for awhile...like a good wine.