Feeling Stuck Writing Your Novel? Try this Novel Writing Refresh!
How to keep your perspective when writing longer narratives
How often I have heard, “You are starting a new chapter in your life…”
How often I have thought, "It's time to begin a new chapter..."
Fiction echoes our world.
Although difficult in the moment, it is necessary that one sees outside oneself. Applying this idea to novel-writing, it is important to give yourself some freedom, and get perspective.
Here are a list of ideas to try if you are stuck in a rut, your novel feels static, you are sick of your novel, or you are having trouble seeing the future of your manuscript. Hopefully this list will help to shape your story, and you will be on your way to finding the right words...
One week. Two weeks. Don’t open that file! Perspective needs time and space. To see clearly, you must have distance.
Cut a character/add a character
Don’t make your work too “precious.” Ask yourself: are these people really necessary? It is a way in which fiction is NOT like life: you will not hurt anyone's feelings if you delete them, and you might find that certain characters can be combined.
Change POV for a paragraph or a chapter.
See what happens! Learn about your characters through your characters.
Print out a hard copy
Just like the old days! Read it on paper, and edit with a pen! Seeing the words on the page is a different experience than reading them on the screen.
Is there a part of your book that needs you to leave the document itself, interact, or simply Google? Maybe you need to do an interview. Get outside the narrative and acquire more material. Then sit down again with your new knowledge!
Take a jog!
Fresh air, nature, endorphins, ideas...
Listen to music
You might want to make a playlist for your character. Check out the awesome blog Largehearted Boy for some examples of other writers who have scored their novels.
Give your character a new memory
Think of a place in which your character will never go in your story, and write him or her in a scene. Sometimes seeing an old face in an unexpected setting brings new light.
Challenge yourself and use the dictionary or other visual media, such as film, to discover new writing prompts. Write down your dreams. Keep a journal. Keep your writing exercises short and sweet so you can keep the momentum going.
Give it to a (trusted) reader
It's very important that your readers have similar sensibilities to your own, and yet will be able to be encouraging and critical of your work. This is not always an easy find. Although it's great to hear how well you write, try to find a reader who is not a friend or a family member but a peer.
Try it in another tense
Sometimes the present tense raises the stakes. Sometimes the past tense makes everything more clear. Remember: you can always go back to the tense from which you came...
Write a short story or essay
Put your longer piece aside and write something completely new!
Publishing is not a part of the initial creative process, and because of this, it can work as a distraction, a tool, and a goal. It can also work to motivate you: getting good feedback or the validation of publication can give you the confidence to go forward with your longer work.
Re-arrange your scenes
This one I got from the amazing Lee Houck. After you print your work out, separate your scenes and then put the pages in a new order. Everything changes when you choose to reveal (or withhold) certain stakes.