Getting Unstuck

— June 06, 2012 (12 comments)
I've been working on revisions for Post-Apoc Ninjas, and it's been taking way too long. I once again have questioned whether I really should be writing, whether I deserve an agent, whether Air Pirates is some kind of one-hit wonder. I keep thinking if Air Pirates doesn't make it, Ninjas will be my next shot. Which means it has to be not just as good as Air Pirates, but better. And it's not.

But that's totally unfair. Of course it's not better. I've been working on Air Pirates for 4 years. It's been through dozens of beta readers and two or three major revisions. Post-Apoc Ninjas has only been through one very rushed draft.

But that didn't help me get unstuck. Here are some of the things that did, eventually, get me through it:
Pen and illustrations
courtesy of K. Marie Criddle
  • Read books on writing.
  • Think about the story 24 hours a day.
  • Create a dozen text files full of brainstorming and trying to work things out, with titles like "Random Revision Thoughts," "More Revision Planning (Invasion-Focused III)," and "Revision, Take Whatever" (You think I'm joking?).
  • Write plot points on index cards and shuffle them for no reason.
  • Use Awesome Pen of Power.
  • Make ridiculous, masochistic Twitter bets.
  • Make even more ridiculous punishments.
  • Take really long drives alone, like say: drive your daughter to her mountain village 2 hours away.*

I did finally get unstuck, and though all of these things helped (especially putting off reading BEHEMOTH), the only way I got through it was to never give up.

Who knew?

How do you get yourself unstuck?

* For the purposes of this post, driving "alone" and "with a teenager" are the same thing.

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  1. Oh man, you have will of steel, putting off Behemoth!

  2. I usually have to do something totally unrelated and let my brain work in the background. Even if I try to force it with brainstorming that doesn't always work.

  3. With very little time to make charts or actually sit down to revise, I find thinking about it 24 hours a day to be my key.

  4. I like your ideas, especially the index cards. I sometimes do the files filled with notes, to be gone over later, though I never do. Long drives sound like a good idea.

    I usually do walks in the cold, read inspiring books, or watch inspiring movies. Usually I just sit down and make myself write, then scrap the idea because it was horrible, and rewrite a better one.

    I'm glad to hear your daughter is doing okay...I'm still praying for her and you all.

  5. This is just the post I needed right now. Thanks for the great tips!

    1. I love it when that happens. Good luck getting unstuck!

  6. I have scores of brainstorming files from past projects. Sometimes I'll take a non-POV character and write a short piece from his or her POV.

    I'm going to "steal" your index card idea, since that's how my head works in the first place.

  7. The index cards have become my go-to for major revisions. I'm working through a course on revision that has a system for putting down the entire story on index cards, scene by scene, and it's an incredible tool for taking a massive story and breaking it down into manageable terms so you can think about the plot on a macro level.

    1. Usually my outlines are good enough for that, but in this case, I really needed to "see" what it looked like if I moved pieces around. The shuffling was more out of frustration, however ;-)

  8. Thanks so much for reminding me I am not alone, Adam.

  9. Wait, my next book has to be better than my first one?

    bubble. bursting.

  10. Still working on getting unstuck. The first draft of my second book was interrupted by pub ordered edits on my first. It totally stopped my momentum & now that the edits are done, I can't seem to find that groove again. Thinking about it 24/7 is the only way it'll work for me.