Getting Stuck and Getting Unstuck

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I’m stuck. I’m not talking stuck as being fifteen and locked in your German pen friend’s bathroom on your very first evening in Cologne and the only way out seems to be climbing out of the window. But it’s on the second storey and you can’t even climb a ladder … And I’m not talking stuck as in when you get your palazzo pants caught in the wheel of a supermarket trolley and the only way out you can think of (because no one stops to help mad stuck-in-supermarket-trolley women) is to take your trousers off. But it’s broad daylight, you’re in the middle of a busy car park and you’re wearing your worst underwear and your husband’s socks …

I’m writing stuck. Maybe this is writer’s block? But I’ve always thought that meant you didn’t know what to write. That’s not my problem. I’m over forty thousand words into the first draft of my current novel and I’m loving the first thirty five thousand words. I know how the plot develops, I’ve seen how it ends. It’s the couple of chapters linking where I’ve got to and where I want to be that are the problem. It’s not that they’re bad chapters, in fact I love them. I’ve done some of my best writing in them. But they don’t work. I’m stuck in the middle of a novel and I don’t know how to get unstuck.

Strangely enough, this has happened before. The first time, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote the same section until months passed by. Each time I tried to progress the story past that being-stuck point, something stopped me. I call that something “the voices” (you know, the ones that all writers hear, the ones that shout: “Don’t write them, write me! Me! Me! Write me!” All writers do hear them, right?) By the time I finished that (unpublished) book, I must have written at least half a dozen different versions of the same novel.

With ‘Strong as Death’ and ‘Selkie’, I experienced similar struggles, but by the time I tackled ‘Selkie’, I’d managed to convince myself to plough on past the being-stuck point to finish a first draft. I then went back and fixed what was wrong, and it worked.

I’ve got to a bit of a of being-stuck point in my life. I know where I want the plot (if that’s not stretching the analogy too thin) to go, but one thing my life has taught me time and again is, though I may think I’m writing it, I may think I have it all mapped out, that is rarely the case. So, prayerfully handing over my life stuck-point to the God I trust, my job is to keep moving forward, believing that in His time and in His hands, a resolution that hasn’t even figured in my very fertile imagination, will come about. And it will be perfect. Well, that’s been my experience thus far in my story, and believe me, some of the stuck-points I’ve been in have been more than tricky …

So, back to my WIP (or should work in progress be wip, or WiP?). I’m going to ignore the voices, leave those chapters as they are, and I’m going to move forward and write the parts I know will work. Sometimes, it’s only looking back you can see how things should have been written. Fortunately, with novels, we get that luxury.

Oh, and the German bathroom incident? The host family eventually realised something must be wrong, after all even cultural differences don’t account for unusually prolonged bathroom breaks. I threw the key out of the bathroom window and someone managed to unlock the door from the other side. (That was a master piece of communication through a locked door when neither party spoke the other’s language terribly well. Good job I knew the word for window. Fenster, in case you ever need it.) And the trolley incident? Knights in armour, I find, tend to be well over sixty and don’t even flinch when their quite creaky knees complain that there are better things to do than lie down in the middle of a wet, busy car park to fiddle with a mad stuck-in-supermarket-trolley woman’s trouser leg.

I’d like to say that I’ve never again had to be rescued from a bathroom, or a supermarket trolley. I can’t, though I am beginning to learn from my mistakes.

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16 thoughts on “Getting Stuck and Getting Unstuck

  1. Timothy Price

    I’m sure you will get yourself unstuck. As for me, I’m kind of in a perpetual state of being stuck on the various stories that have characters, plots, etc. I’ve started.

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  2. I have so many stories and characters floating round that it sometimes becomes impossible to stay on track with just one idea. I know some writers can juggle several projects at once, but I wouldn’t have the capacity to finish anything if I went down that road. I find that the best thing to do is just keep going and then redraft once I’ve got a first draft down. Both Strong as Death and Selkie went through numerous drafting stages. I look forward to reading one of your stories (a collection of stories?) or perhaps a novel one of these days.

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  3. I feel your pain. For me it’s having begun my novel going on two years ago now and some of the original work is SO not what I want at this point. Not that I don’t live the story but that now I have to edit it to “catch up” to my current style and flow with the work. Good luck. Fenster eh? I must remember that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely revised Strong as Death last year and did another mini edit, rewriting some section earlier this year. I think the more we write, the better we get. Well, I hope that’s true … Took me four years to write my first novel and I won’t ever publish it.

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      • Lol! I did a very similar thing the first time I parked alone. I was so close to the car next to me, I had to climb out of the passenger seat. They’d reversed into their space, so the driver would have had to get in their passenger side. I stayed away for hours so I didn’t have to face the other motorist. Still feel ashamed. Still can’t park – writing’s a doddle compared to that 😀

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  4. I get that too, and it’s just a slog until I get it right – hope it’s easier for you!
    And getting stuck? Yep, not just writing! I recall being terribly proud of my parking abilities, newly driving, and parked in a tiny space with a fair bit of manouevring – then realising when I returned that I wasn’t going to be able to get back out again! I sat quietly in my car until the driver behind returned and moved. Then several minutes later, nice and covertly, I pulled out and went home!

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  5. Oh my…why not? I still have hope for mine although the second book is more likley to sell. First lks love lots of action…The best thing about reading my work with fresh eyes is that I see it differently and gain new perspective, writing it as I would like to be reading it. That helps a lot!

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  6. Remember when I was stuck? I felt like that. It wasn’t that I lacked what to write. I knew the whole story, could even tell it to people who’d then ask if I had written it. But when I sat down to write it nothing would appear. It’s the most frustrating thing.

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  7. I’m stuck too! But not as stuck as I once was when I found myself hanging upside down from a chain link fence and finally had to heave myself off, upside down still, and land in a topple on my head in order to get unstuck. 😂

    Let’s not do that ok?? ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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