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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Stuck?


When my daughter Gabbey was little, she was prone to getting herself into awkward situations and then yelling STUCK! at the top of her lungs. An adult would come to her rescue, and the problem would be solved. For writers, it’s not that easy.

I’ve reached the climax of my WIP – even sent out notice to my characters requiring their attendance – and I’m still not exactly sure how it’s going to all work out. That is, I know what I want to happen. I’m just not sure how I’m going to make it happen. Those little details of location and timing and does that even make sense are still a mystery to me.

What do you do when you can’t make the details line up correctly? Here are some of the things that work best for me:

  1. Talk it out with somebody. I think this is the the most successful strategy for me when I’m stuck. Several times during this WIP, I have hit upon a solution while typing out the problem for my crit partners KrysteyBelle and Marcy or explaining it all to my husband. Sometimes, I don’t even need to involve the other person! By the time I’d finished typing up the problem for Krystey and Marcy, I knew how to solve it, so I deleted the message and just emailed them to say Never mind and thanks!
  2. Do something really boring – like cleaning or weeding. I can’t stand either activity, and my brain will usually start imagining scenes and dialogues just out of self-defense.
  3. Stream-of-consciousness writing. I open up a fresh Word document and start typing what comes to mind. I let my characters talk and think on the page. I list the things I want to happen and the things I need to happen and the things that ought not happen and see how they all mesh together.
  4. Be open to change. Often I have found that one pre-conceived notion might be the only thing holding me back. (For example, I was certain Mick’s brother would be defiant, but what if he was regretful instead …)

By the way — Was it wrong of me to take that picture of Gabbey before rescuing her? The camera was already in my hand, I swear! And this wasn’t the first time she’d done it.

8 Responses to Stuck?

  1. Sarah says:

    I love that–sometimes I wish I could yell, “Stuck!” and have someone come to my rescue. I recently had this exact issue you’re talking about, with the climax of my wip. I really just wanted to finish the book, but I sat back and took a few days to block the scene out, step by step, and then I went back and did it again. Finally, I wrote the thing out and then sent it off to a crit partner, who helped me fix it up. And now we’ll see what the agent thinks of it. I should be getting her notes today …

  2. bwahaha! that pic is too funny (sorry gabby:) Be careful Dianne- she might hijack your facebook again in revenge. I take a break when I’m stuck- make a list of things I’d like to see happen and things that need to happen and let it marinate for awhile until I come up with a plausible scene where all of it can and will work itself out.

  3. Candyland says:

    OMG hahaha. I would have stopped to take a picture too! Great tips. I’ve been in a constant place of STUCK.

  4. STUCK!!

    Now rescue me.

    I love that story. I agree with all your cures for the stuck blues. And sometimes it just takes time. Time to let the brain work things through. 🙂 I’m hoping to get unstuck any day now. Thanks for the timely post!

  5. Linda G. says:

    LOL! My son used to do that. The kid is lucky he didn’t lose his ears getting extracted from some of the places he put his head.

    Re getting stuck writing: #2 works for me, especially with ironing, for some reason. I loathe ironing, so I try really hard not to get stuck.

  6. I love the picture!

    I show the pages to my crit partners for feedback. Otherwise, a shower does the trick. Or sleeping on it. Though both scenarios are a pain because I either have to rush through the rest of the shower to write or get myself out of bed in the middle of the night to write. But worth it.

  7. The picture is priceless, so no, you didn’t do wrong by taking it. As for getting stuck in writing, I go deep inside of my head and think. It’s weird and probably annoying as all get-out to anyone around me, but I do try to limit myself to doing it after I’ve gone to bed. No sleeping for a while, just thinking. Sleep for a bit, wake back up, and think some more. Usually works for me.

  8. Shopgirl says:

    I love your suggestions. May need to bookmark this one for those times. I’ve been getting stuck more lately as the weather gets warmer. You’d think it’s the opposite.