Stuck? Borrow Techniques from Popular Authors

This is a guest post from Rochelle Melander of WriteNowCoach

It happens to nearly every NaNoWriMo participant. After a string of days when we amass an embarrassingly wonderful amount of words, laying down scenes and adding dialogue, we get stuck. We do not know what our characters want (heck, we don’t even know what we want).

We poke around in our useless outline, wishing we’d have planned a bit better in October when we had all the time in the world. Now we need to write something fast before we get behind on our daily word count.

Never fear, weary writers! When all else fails, borrow some handy techniques from popular novelists and watch the words pile up. Here are five ways to add words and move your story forward.

1. Explain Stuff—When you get stuck, give a character the opportunity to explain how something works to another character. In Scarlett Thomas’s novel, Popco, Alice Butler is a creative genius who designs toys for one of top toy companies in the world. While she and her colleagues are away at Thought Camp, Alice begins receiving coded messages. This gives Alice the opportunity to explain to the reader all about lateral-thinking puzzles, mono-alphabetic ciphers and poly-alphabetic ciphers.

2. Borrow Stuff-–In Lev Grossman’s novel, The Magicians, half the fun of reading the book is figuring out what pieces he borrowed from other famous fantasy novels, like C.D. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Though Grossman changes the name, most readers recognize Fillory as our lovely Narnia. When you get stuck, borrow a character, setting or event from one of your favorite novels.

3. Do Something Different—Sometimes our writing brains need to stretch their creative muscles. Giving our brains a different creative writing task can help us overcome writer’s block. In Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Visit From the Good Squad, she wrote an entire chapter as a PowerPoint presentation. Other novelists have used letters, poems and other narrative forms to add variety. What will you try?

4. Send Your Characters On A Journey—In the imaginative novel, Swamplandia, by Karen Russell, the youngest sister Ava must travel to the darkest part of the swamp to save her sister. This is probably the most exciting and harrowing part of the book. When you’re not sure what to do next, send your characters on an adventure. It helps them build character and provides plenty of conflict and interest for your readers!

5. Look Back!—When a novelist needs to let the reader know about some crucial information, a flashback can be a helpful addition to the story. In Popco, much of the current story line depends on the reader understanding Alice’s past. Instead of using the traditional flashback, where the character thinks back over a past event, Thomas has woven chapters about Alice’s youth in with her chapters about the present. However you do it, adding in back story can add richness to your story and help you reach that word-count goal.

What do you do when you get stuck? What plot techniques have you borrowed from other writers?

About the Author: Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at

View Image Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *