Sometimes we need a few tricks up our sleeves to keep our stories moving when they stall or feel as if they’re adrift. In a lively Writer’s Digest feature, Renee Rosen, author of White Collar Girl and three other novels (ReneeRosen.com), offered a few tricks of the trade that she’s fond helpful in pushing her novels from the page to publication:
1. Talk to your characters: If you find that your story has been perking along and then sputters to a halt, here’s some advice from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Michael Cunningham: delve more deeply into your characters. According to Michael, your story is sputtering because you have given character development short shrift. As Renee puts it, “For every one detail you include about a character, make sure you know ten more that will never make it into your book. This valuable exercise has gotten my story moving time and time again. After you breathe a certain amount of life into your characters, listen to them. They have a destiny and they want you to fulfill it for them.”
2. Stop in the middle: This old Hemingway trick really does the trick. When you are motoring along and feeling great about where your story is going, stop for the day. “Stop in the middle. It’s much easier to get your butt back in your chair the next day when you know what you’re going to write, rather than facing a blank page.”
3. Use deadlines as motivators: Renee’s first book took her 17 years to write; her second took 10. Her third and fourth books both has 12-month deadlines — and she made them. Her advice: “Even if you’re not under an official deadline, set a self-imposed one and I guarantee you’ll see your productivity pick up.”
4. Create a word-count log: Sometimes it can really help to see how far you’ve come. Hemingway kept a word-count record on a big piece of cardboard and dutifully noted how many words he managed to write in the five to six hours he worked every day.
5. Do something else: Sometimes, when the juices just aren’t flowing, the simplest answer is a change of scene and a change of activity. Just shifting gears a bit allows your brain to refresh itself and reboot. As Renee says so well, “When I feel stuck on a scene or a sentence and I’ve been staring at the computer screen and coming up blank I get up and do something like fold laundry, start fixing dinner or go for a walk. I usually don’t get too far or get many clothes folded because just that act of using my brain for something mindless frees me up and gets the words flowing again.”
Simple but powerful techniques to keep the words flowing. Write on.