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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Help . . . I'm Stuck!

Posted by Michelle Griep for author Sarah Ladd
Author Sarah Ladd
Has this ever happened to you? You are writing a novel. You love the characters. You are excited by the plot. But WHAM! You hit a wall a few chapters in, and you don’t know what to write next.

Some call it “writer’s block,” but whatever you call it, it can be discouraging and frustrating. Every writer struggles with this at some point, but there are certain things you can do to get yourself out of a writing slump. Here a few ideas to help you get “unstuck” and get the words flowing again:

Have fun with backstory
Is a character in you novel causing you to stumble in your story?  Take a few minutes and write a scene about the character’s early life … a scene from their childhood or an interaction with his or her parents. Chances are that this scene will never make it into your final manuscript, but occasionally just getting back to the basics with your character and learning more about his or her motivations can add spark to your story and keep you forging ahead.

     Point of view switch
If you are having trouble getting a scene to flow, why not try switching the POV of that particular scene?  Sometimes, taking a look at a situation from another character’s viewpoint can shift the scene’s momentum and get you back on the right track.

     Get inspired with setting
If you write in a historic time period or specific setting, watch a movie that takes place in a similar setting.  Or, if you are a Pinterest user, consider taking a few minutes to create a visual board for your book. This is a great way to engage other parts of your brain in the creative process.
Make the time to read.

Read, read, read!
Stephen King said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  And that is so true! If you loose your inspiration or can’t figure out where to go next with your story, read a book by an author you admire. Read a classic. Read a book on the craft of writing. Sometimes, just getting your head out of your own story and spending some with other words with jump-start your creativity.

     Talk it out
Have a good writer friend?  Give them a call. Meet with them for coffee for a quick brainstorming session. Sometimes, just talking about your story out loud can make you think about your novel in a different light. Who knows, you and your brainstorming partner might even come up with a fresh idea or two to get your book moving in the right direction!

     Take a little break
     Tight timelines and busy schedules make us feel like we need to be writing during every free second we have. But often that can be counter-productive. Take a walk. Exercise. Go shopping. Take your mind off of the words. Sometimes, giving yourself a little space from your project can renew your vigor for your story.

Do you have a tip for getting “unstuck” when writing?  Share it with us in the comments section – we’d love to hear it! 

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). That title was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance and is a finalist in the Debut Author category of the 2014 Carol Awards. The second book in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere (2013), was on the ECPA best-seller list for several months. Her upcoming release, The Curiosity Keeper, will release in July 2015. Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever.
To keep up with Sarah E. Ladd, visit, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author) or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor). 


  1. Excellent tips, Michelle.

    Here are five that help me get unstuck.

    1. Change point of view, but not from one character to another. Try changing the point of view from which the story is being told. I have one story that's written in first person past tense, but when I got stuck on a chapter, I wrote it in second person present tense. That gave the chapter a much more immediate feel and cleared up the problem holding me back.

    2. Change colors. I'm an artist as well as an author, so this is a biggie. When I don't know what to write--or when I don't want to write--I change the font color. Sometimes, I also change the background color. There's nothing quite like writing a nighttime scene with light blue text on a midnight blue background.

    3. Open a fresh document for each day. I've done this a couple of times and have found it beneficial. There's nothing quite like starting fresh.

    4. Try a timed writing. Write or Die is a great tool for this. I open up the online timer, set a time (10 or 15 minutes), then just start writing. The writing isn't usually all that good, but it is writing and it can be like unclogging a drain.

    5. Rewrite the scene or chapter from the beginning and from scratch. Couple it with a timed writing (as described in #4) and the solution to your problem can appear as if out of thin air!

    There are other ways I get past writer's block, but these are the five I use most often. I hope they're helpful to other readers, too.

  2. When this happens to me, I find it useful to stop trying to write what happens next, and instead write what happens later. I find this helps because there's no pressure to make the later scene fit with the continuity of what I've already written. It doesn't matter if it makes no sense how the characters wound up in the later situation (Trapped in a mine-shaft! Hiding under the Queen's bed! Masquerading as circus folk!) because my brain automatically tries to fill in the blanks and figure out a logical way that the characters could have got from A to B - giving me ideas of what could have happened "next." And what's more, the "later" scene that I pick on the spur of the moment gives me a pretty good idea of what I'm really interested in writing. Often I discover that I'm having troubling writing what happens next because I'm focusing on the wrong aspect of the story.


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