10. Finishing

Page 4 of 5 | Unfinished Work | Procrastination | Believe in Yourself | I'm Stuck | Do or Do Not |

But Stuck Is Stuck. And I'm Stuck.
Everyone gets stuck sometimes. It happens. You're putting together a lot of different elements of story — just think of all we've talked about, and we've really only scratched the surface. It's a big challenge to fit them all together and make it work. Sometimes it feels like trying to fit that proverbial square peg into a round hole. The thing is not to let it discourage you.

There are ways to move the process along.

Solve the particular problem

Sometimes there's some thing you need to come up with — a plot twist, or a way of revealing something about your hero, or a way to get her into trouble, or out of it. Sometimes you just can't go any further until you get that problem solved. When that happens, you must listen to your subconscious, pay attention to your daydreams. I've found solutions to such problems in the shower, while driving, while listening to music, while working on something else, while falling asleep at night; some people find them in their dreams. The important thing is to be alert to possible solutions as they float through your mind. And if they do come to you, write them down at once. What could be more frustrating than to think of the answer you need, only to forget it before you can use it?

Work on something else

Sometimes, if you're stuck, it helps to put your story aside and work on something else for a while, and let your unconscious mind attack the problem. But don't leave it too long, or use this method too often. Overused, this method leads to that drawer full of unfinished stories we mentioned earlier.

Write anything

If nothing else works, try planting yourself at the keyboard and simply writing something, anything, stream-of-consciousness if you like, just something to get the juices flowing and you don't pay any attention to whether it makes sense and has good sentence structure or whatever the heck it is, because at least you're getting something down and you know you can always change it later, but maybe you'll jog something loose in the meantime and stumble your way toward your elusive goal. Sort of like that.

Talk out the problem

If you're stuck on a particular point, talking it out may be helpful, if you have someone willing to lend an ear and brainstorm with you. If you don't have anyone, talk to yourself. Talk to your characters. Let them talk to you. (You might want to close the door first.) When brainstorming, anything goes: nothing is too crazy or outrageous to consider because any wild idea might put you on the scent of your answer.

Caution: Don't talk your story out before you write it.

This can rob you of the energy you need to set it down on paper. Many stories never get written because their would-be authors talked about them instead of writing them. Unless you're discussing a project with a collaborator, you're probably best advised to save talking for specific problem areas.

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Writer's block

I've Got All But the Ending

Endings are tough for many writers. Remember, a story is like a tapestry. All the threads must come together into a satisfying whole — which means that the ending must grow out of the middle. If you're having trouble coming up with an ending, that probably means you have problems in the middle. Go back and ask yourself: are these events leading toward a resolution? Are they pointing the way to something — or are they meandering like a ship with a broken rudder? If the latter, you might have to fix that rudder before you can find your way to port.

If you understand where the middle of your story is going, chances are the ending will suggest itself.

You just have to write it. (Did I ever promise it would be easy?)


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