12 key steps for getting unstuck as a writer

Trapped in the middle of your manuscript? Here’s how to move forward.
By Susan Breen | Published: September 4, 2018


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Car Stuck in Mud

Image courtesy of Dmitry Natashin/Shutterstock.

You started your manuscript with such enthusiasm. You wrote 20 pages in ONE NIGHT. Your brain was popping with ideas. Scenes flowed. You were sure you’d be done with the whole thing in a month. And then, one quiet morning, you sat down at your keyboard and nothing happened. Your fingers felt heavy. You started reading over the last few paragraphs. Awful! You clicked back a few chapters. Dear God. What were you thinking? You don’t know how to go forward, you can’t bear to go back. You’re stuck.

It’s a terrible feeling, and it’s one that almost all authors confront. As a longtime teacher for Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City, I see this phenomenon a lot, and it can be devastating. Some writers just quit and take up needlepoint. Others spend years revising one chapter, trying to get it just right. Everyone who’s been in that rut, myself included, feels frustration and self-doubt.

But the good news is that being stuck is not a permanent situation. There are a number of techniques for propelling yourself out of that sinkhole. Here are 12 of them.

  • I used to get all sorts of ideas for my NaNoWriMo stories while I was walking my sister’s dog Emma every day for five years. My sister used to joke that Emma was my muse. And you know, after the dog died, I haven’t completed a NaNoWriMo entry since. True.