How to write yourself out of a corner

A mentor of mine once told me that unless you will love writing your book throughout the whole writing process then you’re better off to not start at all. At the time I could see both the positive and negative of this. The positive is that if I write something I love, I am more likely to write it well. The negative is that I would never write anything.

There comes a point in all my writings over 50 pages, where I just am not as excited as I was at the start. There have even been times I purely hate what I’ve written, ehem…rewrites. Twenty years later and not only do I think my mentor was wrong, but what he should have said was, “There will be times you don’t like what you are writing, and when this happens you need to reinvent your interest.”

There will be a time when you write yourself into a corner, your mind feels drained, or you just can’t imagine how to weave your novel through the middle briars and brambles. Believe it or not, this is something that plagues new writers and novelists you’ll stand in line for three hours to get an autograph and a handshake.

Below are five tips to help you move the middle of your story to the end scene you’ve been dying to write.

A book may be chronological, but you don’t need to write it that way

In my current book Lake Norfork, I had a general idea of the plot. In my head I had a mess of scenes I thought were great, but no glue holding them together. Not knowing where to start I simply began writing the scenes without worry of how to link them. Once I had about ten scenes written, it became more of a fun game to link them together. This not only kept the book fresh for me, but almost felt as if I were writing several short stories, which kept the entirety of the novel fresh and fun to write.

Swap out protagonists and plots

I have a horrible habit of falling in love with all of my minor characters and being bored by the protagonist. So, then why the heck am I writing from the protagonist’s point of view?

In my book The Treasure at Devil’s Hole, I knew I wanted to write a story about a boy digging a well with dynamite. I wrote the scene several times, but wasn’t happy with it, and eventually became frustrated. It was when I decided to change the protagonist to a younger brother on a treasure hunt, while the older brother digging a well with dynamite became a minor subplot.

Not only was I able to write the small story I wanted, but in the background that subplot started and ended the book with primary plot a treasure hunt. That’s a wheelhouse I’d hang out in any day.

Stop mid-sentence

This is a technique I use with all my writing now. I either set a time or word count. When the time expires, or I hit 2000 words, I stop. Whether I am mid-sentence or not, it doesn’t matter. I prefer when I don’t complete a sentence because it strikes a chord in me throughout the rest of the day. I want to finish that last sentence. Life doesn’t seem right unless I do. This prompts me to think about that sentence and everything else I wrote that day. By the time I get back to writing I know exactly what I want to write and I never think about putting the book to the side.

Don’t think this will work for you? If you have a writing schedule at all, I suggest you do this. This is a great way to channel your internal OCD. Seriously, all you’ll think about is finishing that sentence and what happens next.

Introduce a new character.

One little trick of the trade, especially when you write yourself into a corner is to introduce a new character. My personal favorite is to start a new scene with a seemingly unimportant character (I like to call them saviors) who ends up playing a major role in the book. I write about that character going about their daily life and then try to imagine how that character becomes involved in or can influence the protagonist. This is my favorite technique. Partly because I have a fresh take on a new character, and endless possibility. The best thing is that you can do this almost anywhere in your novel, though I suggest within the first half of the book so you can develop the character. How many new characters can you introduce? There is no hard-rule on this, but if you give yourself 2-3 “saviors” you’ll probably be just fine.

Take out a loved one

This can be emotionally the most difficult of these tips, so I reserve it for extreme cases. Killing off a beloved character is one way to get your creative juices flowing. First, the shock will be more than surprising to your readers, it will also affect you. This type of loss will help you to first realize how you get to the shocking twist of losing a major character, but also how everyone else in the novel will respond to that. Of course, knocking off a beloved character means you can’t write a book series with that character unless the next books are in the past, are in memories, ghosts, or you’re writing a fantasy series where anything is possible.

Losing interest in your writing is something all writers face at one time or another. Finding new techniques to keep your writing fresh and fun is essential to growing as a writer and completing that novel you’ve had in your desk drawer for months.

What are some techniques you use to keep your book going when you’ve written yourself into a corner? Comment below!

If you are looking for a writer to help with your book or other writing/editing project please contact me to discuss. You can find my rates and types of projects I work on here.

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