Story Problems? Go Vacuum

If you write fiction, chances are you sometimes feel stumped about some aspect of your story. How do you get past a fiction roadblock?
Writing Tip for Today: If I encounter a plot or story problem, the more I try to solve it, the worse it gets. I often must step back, take a little time away from the keyboard before I can move forward once again. Try these things:

  • Do some mindless activity. It really does help to garden, vacuum, wash the car or something similar. While my hands are occupied, my sense of story can take over. Some people actually get answers during their dreams.
  • Read. Because we’ve been talking about analysis, it may help to read several novels in the same genre as your story and map out how different authors dealt with your problem area. Take a day or so between the analysis and your next writing session on that problem to avoid copycat syndrome.
  • Consult the Experts. As a last resort, consult writing books. The reason I say “last resort” is that often writers will understand the writing advice on a logical level but still feel frustrated when it comes to applying the advice.
  • Know Your Characters. For me, a better plan is to know my characters more intimately. Listen to their wants, needs, frustrations. Sometimes I let the character speak to me in a letter I write to myself.
  • Be willing to rewrite. If I cling to what I’ve written previously in hopes of saving time and energy, I’m short-selling myself. Be willing to start over again. Gotta run–I’ve got vacumming to do.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

7 comments on “Story Problems? Go Vacuum

  1. Great ideas, Linda! I particularly like the “Know Your Characters” one because I usually find that when I’m stumped, it’s because I’ve forced the characters to do something they wouldn’t normally do, go down the wrong path, forced something to happen that really didn’t happen so my characters shut up. And I’ve actually written a letter to Alexis, my MC. lol

    And if all else fails, a walk or a shower always does the trick. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these!

  2. I do the mindless activity – reading is too engaging and I don’t want to stop.

    For mindless activity I include a walk – on the treadmill or the real world – it seems to stimulate my mind.

  3. Hi Linda, I have only recently started following your blog and I must say, your posts are extremely helpful for a newbie like me… As for the mindless activities, long, long walks help, but surprisingly so does doing the laundry. Also walking away from your story and characters help, although you can leave the story alone, it sometimes feels like the characters don’t leave you alone…

  4. For me, answers often come in the bath tub. I try to put myself in that character’s skin and think about how they would feel, react, and do in their situation. Remind yourself what else is going on in the story that would affect things. I often get ideas from news stories too, so watching the news every day is helpful.

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