Last night while I was editing my NaNoWriMo17 novel, Baz asked me what I do when I got blocked. Pushing through was one of my key goals for NaNoWriMo, as part of ignoring me inner censor/critic, so while I’m definitely not a bestselling (or published, ha!) novelist, and this is the longest-form thing I’ve written, I thought about it and I generally used either two tactics depending on where I was in the story (Note: I was pantsing based on a strong sense of characters and goals). I’d love to hear if other writers do the same thing, or have other techniques to get through their writing.
Opening or Building the Story
Add complications. It doesn’t really matter what they are, you can tidy it all up in the editing process, or resolve it during the conclusion. The best complications really challenge your characters or create dramatic irony, and emerge from character traits. At one point I got stuck and asked a colleague, “What can happen in my novel? I need a complication.” He suggested a car crash. This would be an event that fit sensibly into the story at the time, so I tried it. It ended up having great repercussions for the characters to overcome, and drove them towards the climax they needed to overcome. When I did my first read-through when I started editing, I realised that the car crash, while well integrated after in terms of character development, still felt like an evil deus ex machina, so I needed to go back and work it into coming as a result of one of the character’s flaws.
Closing the Story
Assess character changes and loose threads. What did the characters want? Has this changed? Did they need to change? What did I introduce through the course of writing that needs a resolution? One of the things that I did when I got a bit stuck about trying to conclude my novel was to make a chart of all the major characters I’d included, noted down their starting and ending states in the novel, their wants, and what lesson (if any) they had to learn that would affect their change. If any of these things were unresolved, I made a note so that I could fix it, either in the ending or during a rewrite. Note that not all characters have to go through a transformation; meanwhile, anything that was introduced that you never touch again should probably be removed.