Get Out of Your Novel Writing Rut

 I'm so sad this string of guest posts has come to a close. I've learned so much from our generous contributors. Thank you to each of you who offered your words. If you missed out, I'm planning another series for August. Got a writing post to share? You can send it ahead of time to dallenco[at]gmail[dot]com. Our last offering is from Krissy Brady at Keeping the Passion for Writing Alive. Definitely check out her site. She offers an amazing amount of resources for writers, from freelance advice, writing tools, links, and more. You won't be sorry for a stop over there.

Get Out of Your Novel Writing Rut by Krissy Brady

You've finally started the novel that has been buzzing around in your head for years. Chapter one, no problem. Chapter two flowed out of you like a waterfall. Chapter three was a challenge at first, but you carried yourself through the process like a champ. Chapter four... well, you've written Chapter Four at the top of the page... and that was two months ago.

You have finally admitted to yourself that you're stuck; unsure now of where this story is going to take you and your characters. Where do you go from here?

Step away from the screen. Disciplining yourself to meet deadlines is one thing, but pushing yourself to write is another. Sitting at your computer, fingers propped on the keys, hoping they will magically start creating your masterpiece for you isn't realistic, and certainly isn't the productive way to go. Plus, the potential frustration this brings will spill into your future writing endeavours, conditioning yourself to feel a sense of dread as soon as you sit down to write (and last I checked, we started writing to get away from these feelings in our life).

Figure out why you're feeling stuck. Stepping away from the computer does not mean that you are procrastinating or putting off your writing goals—it will have the opposite effect, giving you the space necessary to figure out why you're stuck. A novel is a deep and lengthy project, one that takes a lot of time and planning, and sometimes we need to restructure our plans to get back on track.

Maybe you know where you want your main character to be by the end of the story, but are unsure of how your character is going to get from Point A to Point B, all the way to Point Z. Maybe you know exactly how your character is going to get there, but are struggling to develop the characters around him/her to bring strength and relevance to your story. Maybe you're wondering if your setting suits the plot, or maybe the name of your character's significant other isn't quite right. What is causing you to detract from your writing could be the slightest little thing, and pinpointing your concerns will help to alleviate the strain so you can go back to focusing on the task at hand.

Read what you've written so far. One way to get back into the mindset that encouraged you to begin writing your novel, is to read what you have written so far. Familiarizing yourself with the current draft of what you've written will help you to reconnect with your characters, your story, and what you want to accomplish with it. Read it out loud too—it may help you to pick out certain parts of the story that need to be developed more, which in turn will help you figure out where the story will lead your characters next.

Declutter your desk, declutter your mind. Let's face it: writers are famous for thinking of great ideas at the most inconvenient times. Take all of your scrap papers, post-its, napkins, cell phone notes, and add them in point form to your manuscript. In consolidating your notes, you can take the point form ideas and plan where they will fit, ultimately helping you to form the shell of your next few chapters.

Create a flexible plot outline. To coincide with this idea, if you have yet to do so, create a plot outline for your novel, starting with the parts of the main plot you know are critical to the story, and then fill in the outline with the critical parts of the subplots and how you can realistically connect them. Keeping your outline generalized will give you the opportunity to mix-and-match your ideas as you go along, making it easier to enhance what you've currently written, and get rid of the ideas that no longer suit the direction you wish to go in.

I say "if you have yet to do so," because I'm hoping there are writers out there who began their novel, introduced their main characters, main plot, and subplots, and then wrote an outline for the rest of the novel to coincide with what was already written. I'm hoping, because this is what I did. The idea for my novel had been simmering in my mind for about three years before I actually sat down and began writing it, and once the introductory chapters were complete, I then wrote an outline for the rest of the novel to make sure all characters and plots would be developed according to my goals.

Outlines and planning are an important part of the writing process, but there is no one way to go about doing it. You have to find the method that works for you. This will take a lot of experimenting, but the outcome will be very rewarding.

Write what you know, then fill in the blanks. In an ideal world, we would write our novel in a chronological, organized fashion, but as in life, our creativity can surprise us with its spontaneity. Write the areas of your novel that you know are strong, and sound, and are able to stand on their own. The areas that you aren't ready to flesh out yet, you can place in point form around the sections of the plotline that are already fully formed, giving you a great starting off point, no matter the chapter.

These are just a few simple techniques to help you revive your novel writing mindframe.

What are your techniques for getting out of a creative rut?

Krissy Brady is a freelance writer located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada. If you have a writing-related question, would like to write a guest post, or have a content suggestion, e-mail Krissy at You can also follow Krissy through RSS, facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest writing-related information.


  1. Ssuch good information. I am so glad to have been part of this series. And I will be following all of the contributors for more information as time goes on. Thanks for hosting us.


  2. You're welcome, Terri. Hope you get to participate again next time!


  3. I so need to declutter my mind...a lot of the time!! I'm in the bad habit of wanting stuff done NOW...need to learn to take a step back & breeeeathe.

  4. I've been forcing myself to write in chronological order and have been on a merry-go-round trying to perfect the first chapter. I've written more but I keep coming back. Then as I write on I can't stop my mind from jumping ahead. I have a character who is itching to get on the page and he's messing with my focus! Lol! Writing out of order the parts that are strong and fresh in our minds is brilliant, not sure why I haven't done that yet. Maybe my character will finally give me a break. ;-)

  5. Trisha: if you discover the secret of mind-decluttering, be sure to let me know!

    Amanda: It's so tempting to go back and keep redoing the first chapter. I know, because I do that a lot. I do write out of order at times. One author calls the exciting scenes 'candy bar scenes'. She tells herself she has to accomplish certain goals before she 'gets' to write those juicy scenes.


  6. There are so many great tips here. And I think it's so helpful for writers to know hitting walls and using these tactics for jumping over them is a totally normal part of the process.

  7. You're right about hitting walls. The more we know why we do, the better we can get around them!


  8. I liked this post a great deal. Some wonderful advice in here that I've used many times and it's helped wonderfully.

  9. The best way to learn is from others going through the same things. That's why blogging is so fun.


  10. Debbie, thanks SO much for the opportunity to contribute a guest post.

    @Trisha I am SO in the same boat! I just finished moving to a new apartment, and my mind is going a million miles a minute with all that needs to be done. Especially during life transitions, it can be very difficult to focus, causing our writing to suffer. At least we're in this together! :)

    @Amanda I've been doing the same thing with my current WIP. I've written the first five chapters in the exact order it is to happen in, but I'm thinking as I delve into the meat of the story now that the main plot and sub-plots are introduced, it will be important to mix things up a bit as I'm feeling inspired. I'd rather write it out of order than to get stuck on a certain paragraph and then not end up writing at all. I had the same merry-go-round issue with the first PARAGRAPH, lol, so I totally feel your pain! Our inner critic can be so evil sometimes!

    @Jenn Glad you enjoyed the article! I had a great time writing it, as I was really stuck with my fourth chapter, and was very happy to share what I had learned to keep my momentum going. Every little bit helps.

    @S.M. I'm happy that the tips in the article have helped you to move forward with your writing, and I'm with Debbie: blogging is so fun! It helps us to feel less alone when we hit road blocks.



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