Blocked? 11 Easy Ways to Re-Launch a Stalled Story

I did it again. I let it slip up and grasp me in its wet, sinewy clutches. And worse? I didn’t fight back.

I thought I was going so strong in November when I started. I was done with my big NaNoWriMo project, Banquet, before the end of the month, so I started a new story. This would continue my book, The Setup, but through the ideas of a different protagonist. It was going to be great. I wrote so many words at first.

Then… it just fell away.

image of a cat on its side yawning

I could blame it on burnout, my family, freelance projects, or the nightmare that was my website transfer, but it wouldn’t change anything. I hadn’t worked on the new story, Sweat, in weeks, and every time I thought about trying, I got a dark feeling in the pit of my stomach and put it off.

But I finally came out of it, and the story is going strong again. How? Here are the 11 tips I used to get back on track and into the story some of my readers had been asking for.

Strategies to Give Your Story a Kick in the Pants

#1: Set your intention and daily goal.

To get back to writing Sweat despite my reservations, the first thing I had to do was decide to write it again. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes a little bit of willpower, and a whole lot of bravery. Decide you’re going to write your story, and figure out how many words a day will keep you on track without draining you and sending you back into the non-writing shame spiral you were in before.

I set a goal of 500 WPD, and it worked like a charm. I often write more, but as long as I’m writing that 500, I feel accomplished.

Set your own goal in a spreadsheet, on your phone, or on a site like WordKeeper Alpha.

#2: Promise it to someone.

There’s nothing more sobering for most of us than the realization that we promised something to someone, and we’ve set ourselves up to fail them (and ourselves). The only way to get out of that pickle is to do the thing. I promised my readers they would get Sweat this year, and I’m not going to let anyone down.

Tweet it, post it on your Facebook timeline, or post your cover mock-up on Instagram. Tell your followers (or even just your friends) that you’re going to have this ready for them in the next week, month, or year. Then don’t let them down.

#3: Writing prompts.

Tried and true, writing prompts will get you writing, even if they don’t immediately help you with the story at hand. The practice of writing is never-ending. The more you write, the easier it is to write, and the more likely you are to keep going until you have a finished story under your belt. Whether it’s your first or four hundredth, sometimes we all need a little boost.

Try Story Shack’s prompt generator or this great tumblr writing prompt account.

#4: Read something in another genre.

Is it possible you’re sick of aliens, vampires, or teenagers in love? Read something different. If you normally like rom-coms, try reading a mystery. If novels are your thing, pick up a short fiction anthology.

#5: Create in a different medium.

Paint. Sculpt. Write poetry or nonfiction if fiction is your norm. Build with Lego bricks. Collaborate.

#6: Talk it over with your partner/bestie/pet.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like boring them incessantly with the details of a story you’ve been writing for months. Advice helps, but often, you just need someone to sit and listen.

#7: Work on your story’s elevator pitch.

If your story doesn’t already have an elevator pitch, the condensed version of your plot that you could tell in a short ride from one floor to another, it needs one. Find out how to write one here.

#8: Write a short outline of your story.

Planners probably already have an extensive outline, and pantsers are booing the screen right now at the idea of writing one. If you’re a planner, write a more bare-bones outline than you have, or flesh out the beats in your outline further. If you’re a pantser, give it a try. Write down just a few points – no Roman numerals need apply.

#9: Click through a random generator.

I already mentioned the writing prompt generator. You can also try a character name generator, a Dungeons & Dragons character generator, or even a picture generator could help spark an idea. Don’t limit yourself to just what’s in your outline.

#10: Brainstorm the worst things that could happen to your MC.

Make them long, hurt, or beg. If the only thing that your character is living for is the relationship he has with his family, make his parents stop talking to him. If she can’t go a day without her cats, put her in a place where cats aren’t allowed. Drop a bomb on the world. Insert a war. Make his crush run away with her secret lover.

#11: Immerse yourself in silence and let the ideas come to you.

In our time-crunched world, we often try to multitask more than is necessary – or productive. The next time you’re in the car, the shower, or a doctor’s office waiting room, put away your phone, turn off the music, and let your mind make its own entertainment. You might be surprised at what it comes up with.

All it takes is a spark…

I guarantee that if you go through this whole list, you will find the spark that you need to get the ball rolling on a stalled story. Sure, you’ve probably heard some of these before, but that’s the amazing thing about good advice: it keeps popping up, and all you have to do is listen – then take action.

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