Sometimes you just don’t know what is supposed to happen next. This happens a lot to “pantsers” (writers who don’t do much outlining or planning), but it can also happen to writers who make outlines. Or maybe you’re in the middle of making an outline, and you can’t figure out where to go next. Here are a few suggestions that will (hopefully) get you going again.
1. Make a list of everything that could happen. If you do some brainstorming and you write down every possible outcome you can think of, it might help you to find the best plot for your story. Get creative and think outside of the box. Even if you write down events you absolutely know won’t happen, it may help you to uncover events you do want.
2. Write out what you don’t want. This goes hand in hand with the above suggestion, but if you know you don’t want your protagonist to end up with the first person in the love triangle, you can start to think about the other person. (This is a cliched example, but you get it.)
3. Go back to your characters. If you are stuck, you may not know your characters well enough. Go back and do some exercises to get to know your characters. If you know your characters inside and out, you may be able to figure out what they would do in whatever situation you have placed them in.
4. Listen to music, watch a movie, read a book, or look at art. What has inspired this particular project? Perhaps a certain band or an old silent film you once saw? Forget about your project for a moment and immerse yourself in other people’s stories, other people’s art. You’d be amazed how often this will get you unstuck.
5. Look at the plot structure. Can you describe your story as a “hero’s journey”? Can you answer basic questions like “what does your protagonist want and what gets in the way”? It might be worth it to think about the plot structure and jot some notes down so that you can figure out what comes next.
6. Take a break. Sometimes what we really need is to just clear our heads. Step away from your notebook or your computer. Go for a walk. Grab a sandwich. Play some video games. Some people need to put a project away for a day or two. Some people need to put it away for a week and work on something else. But you will often find that when you come back to your story after some distance, you will be able to see what needs to happen.
There are a lot of different ways to get “un-stuck.” The important thing is that you keep going. Even if you have to put your story aside and come back to it, don’t give up on it. The right plot is there, just waiting for you to uncover it.