One reason why I was so blergh yesterday was because I'd been stuck on a certain scene in my novel since last Friday. I know what happens after that scene, but I somehow just couldn't get the characters where I needed them to be. Then I read Robyn's post on what to do when you get stuck, and that got me thinking about writing methods I've used to get over the hump.
- Identify the problem: For me, I typically get stuck right before something big happens. For example, in my current WIP, I've got a murder mystery (set in space!) and I was stuck at the point where the protags get together and discuss who they think dunnit and why. But sitting around and talking = boring. Hence, I was stuck.
- Figure out what needs to happen next: So, the next thing I did was brainstorm where I needed the characters to go after discovering this. There's a lot of layers of mystery in this one, and I had to be sure to drop certain clues: I needed one character to start to show signs of depression, one character to add an emotional level to their motivation, and I knew I couldn't have them sit around and talk for too long or it would be boring.
- Figure out the logical next steps based on character motivation: One problem I think many writers have--myself most definitely included--is remembering character motivation. We know we need the characters to get to point B from point A, but we sometimes forget about the why in our hurry just to get them there. So if you're stuck, evaluating your character's motivation always seems to help.
- Go back to pacing: Typically, when I'm stuck, the pace is too slow. Blow something up, make someone cry, drop in a ticking clock, something to ramp up the pace and just get them going. (Side note: ironically enough, I usually have to look at the opposite--slowing pace--when revising, to make sure the charcaters shine through the plot.) More than likely, if you're stuck, you're stuck because either something that needs to happen hasn't happened yet (so make it happen already!) or so much is happening that you've lost the storyline (so slow stuff down and let your characters breathe).
This method may not work for everyone (I don't think it'll help Robyn, for example, as she's stuck on a beginning chapter, not a middle one...so if you've got advice for that, drop her a line), but it certainly worked for me! I've left the blergh behind and wrote two new chapters last night!
...now if only progress reports weren't do tomorrow...