Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about when a story hits some unexpected roadwork and comes grinding to a halt.

The ideas and words flow until that one day, and they don’t. It’s like riding in a convertible, watching the sunset on a warm summer evening. A cool breeze is blowing the story onto your computer screen or paper. Everything is right in your world until that one moment when you see a stop sign ahead, and everything suddenly stops.

I had this happen to me last fall. The idea came to me, and I jumped right into writing the story. Several pages in, I researched to ensure I was accurately writing about a real person. The problem was I had written an entire plot around what I assumed was correct but turned out to be false.

At that point, I had to stop and rethink the entire story. The reality didn’t fit into my fictional story. I set it aside to let it rest, hoping I’d devise a better plan. In the meantime, there is a lesson to be learned to do all my character research before I start the story.

Here are some suggestions if you hit a story roadblock:

  • Trying harder isn’t the solution. It isn’t working.
  • A change of scenery might help. Have you taken your laptop to a new location while writing? There might be a fresh perspective there.
  • Research. You may have to rewrite it, but it could give you ideas about where to go next.
  • Set it aside for now. Future eyes might have a different approach. This worked for me, which led me to number five.
  • Start again. I know it’s hard to give up all those beautifully written words, but sometimes it needs a new direction.
  • Rethink the story. Maybe you’ve missed an opportunity for a great twist or subplot.
  • Don’t force an idea that isn’t working for you. Give it some space, and you never know what you’ll come up with in the future.
  • Explore. Rethink your character’s motives and dive into their background deeper. Look at the theme and conflict. Is that the problem? Rethink the ending or beginning. There are a lot of possibilities once you are open to them.
  • Is the story being told through the right character?
  • Writing in the third person, can you change it to first? How are you narrating it?
  • Is the setting right for the story?
  • Try looking at it through the antagonist’s eyes if you’ve been writing through your protagonist or vice versa.
  • Move the time frame around. Can you change when things happen or why?
  • What are the stakes? Does someone die, lose their job, or a character’s feelings hurt? Make sure there is something to be lost—or gained.
  • Read a book. Maybe you need to read a good story to be inspired.

Each story is different and will require a personalized approach.

What about you? How do you handle those moments in your story when it just stops?

76 thoughts on “WHEN THE WORDS STOP

  1. Pingback: Why We’re Content with Love to Changeas a Book Ages by Traci Kenworth – Where Genres Collide Traci Kenworth YA Author

  2. Hi Denise, I have several stories in various stages of completion on my computer. Sometimes, if I’m to busy and the story feels to long, I lose interest. That is more of a problem for me than not knowing how to proceed. It’s a lack of will to proceed.


  3. When I get stuck, I step away from the story for a bit all the while analyzing it in my head. I always think of those problems as puzzle pieces that need to be moved about until they fit together again. Taking a break and reading a book or two is also a great way for me to get excited about writing again and wanting to get back to my own story.

    Wonderful suggestions, Denise. I so sorry your had to scrap the beginning of your story. I feel your pain on that one!


  4. Example – not a novel, TV drama, Garrow’s Law – Brilliant, very well received, REdinburgh slumming as late 18th C London.
    and key legal histoiry. Before seeing this, i knew the very different stoiry, which would have made fascinating drama, including, instead of a routine charge oadultery (, the emotional, professional and psychological aspects of a menage a trois. .

    The adultery trial was, incredbly , dramatic, but not true – none of the parties married, so no adultery.


    • Thanks, Sandra. You bring up a good point that even the best laid plans don’t always work out. Eventually it tends to work itself out.


  5. Great tips, Denise. I can see how hitting a significant snag related to real-world research can bring a story to a halt, even if it’s been plotted. Fantasy doesn’t have quite the same level of danger since it’s not reality-based (phew). Because I’m a plotter, I don’t tend to get stuck since I always know what needs to happen next. But your tips are also useful for those times when writing feels like a struggle and the story just isn’t flowing. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a more current theory that threw me, but I worked it out. No matter how much I plot it out, there is always a surprise. But even with planning the story some times a resolution isn’t there… yet. Yes, fantasy has more reality leeway which is nice and offers more creaitivity to bloom in other areas. I love all the different experiences we have. Thanks, Diana 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a very interesting topic. It can be difficult to get away from the wrong track. As Priscilla writes, it may be very useful to discuss the matter with someone whose thoughts are not yet stressed by the details of the story. Thank you for the great suggestions! Best wishes, Michael


  7. This is a timely post for me because I’ve been stuck on my WIP for the past two days. Why? Because I was trying to force one scene that wasn’t really necessary. Finally this afternoon, I decided to scrap that scene entirely and now the words are flowing again. At least it was only a scene, but I tossed an entire story I’d planned to include in Menagerie. I had changed my original idea and it just wasn’t working. I’ve put it aside for a future project and going back to the original plan.

    Your suggestions were perfect. Sometimes all we need is to just walk away for a while. Fore those die hard plotters, I’ve tried and I just can’t do it. I have an idea of a beginning and an ending, but I allow the rest of the story unfold.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Stop by and say hi: WHEN THE WORDS STOP #StoryEmpire #authors #writingcommunity #writers – Author D.L. Finn

  9. I’m a plotter, and this is one of the reasons why. I used to start short stories and then I couldn’t finish them because I didn’t have the beginning, middle, and end in my mind. Only a fun idea. But I can see how if you started a story with the wrong mindset, and then the story changed, you’d have trouble keeping up. Taking a break would probably work best for me, letting my subconscious struggle with how to put the story back together. Hope you’ve found your way again. And good luck with the story!


  10. Sorry, there are no answers to this knotty problem in this comment, just a suggestion. Just keep going, write drivel, spurious rubbish, of the flowers in your garden, the way shade creeps through the windows of your house (or flat, lol- apartment for those American) about your cat or dog or the pictures upon your wall. I was given this advice by a successful author when I was in my twenties, and it has always served me well. I have never suffered from writer’s block. It has even led to the creation of many short stories that do not correspond with my usual genres. If you cannot write what you wish to write; write anything, just write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There is no one fits all answer but many fantastic suggestions to fit needs. You got some great advice that helped you and will help others. I can see it breaking through or leading to a short story too. There are so many possibilities of you get words down. Thank you for sharing that helpful advice that was given to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Good post, Denise. Writers struggle in different ways. The suggestions were all interesting and, in many cases, worth trying. If the story is meant to be finished, the writer will find the right course on which to travel. I never write with a time frame in mind. I write when I feel the urge. I leave it alone when I don’t. The research part is something I consider an ongoing process while writing. I do as much as I need to get the story started. But, as with real life, there are moments when more research is required. A good outline (road map) will usually help identify trouble spots before you arrive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Beem:) Outlines can be handy, although I always end up changing them as I go, so stopped doing them ahead of time. So I’m backward with that idea but I still see issues in the one I create as I go. I find it interesting all our different approaches to the same destination. It is nice not to have a set time frame allowing the story to come naturally. Research is always welcomed in my writing and a great place to locate answers or direction.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jacqui. I played with a story once, trying different points of view and characters, it was a good experience and made me see all the possibilities. Although for most projects you are right when you get too far into how difficult that leap would be.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This post is timely, Denise! I’ve been struggling with a new story and did a complete rewrite yesterday, only to find I still missed my mark. Going to step away for a minute, then return with fresh eyes. These are all great suggestions! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Jan 🙂 i had to step away from a current story too. Finally I got some new insight and was able to add a secondary character that I believe is tying it all together. Best wishes for your story

      Liked by 1 person

  13. These roadblocks can be annoying, for sure. But when I hit one, I pretty much walk away and regroup. Like you, I have had research blast a hole in my plot. A redirect after resting usually does the trick. A terrific post, Denise.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Great post, Denise. Your examples are perfect, as are your solutions. When I get discouraged with my writing project, I often start cleaning the garage, digging in my garden, or repainting a room. Somehow hard physical activity helps me see the problem differently–maybe because my efforts are immediately rewarding. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Great suggestions, Denise! Setting my project aside for a week or so usually works best for me. That said, if I’m on a tight deadline, sometimes it adds to the stress knowing the clock is ticking and I’m not making progress. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jill 🙂 It is a gift to have that time to set work aside. A deadline though can take that away and make it harder to come up with a solution. You are so right!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve hit a wall with one story. The first part is fine, as as the end. I’ve written both. But I can’t seem to get the two to meet!
    It’s been ‘on hold’ for at least 18 months.
    Perhaps I will try some of your suggestions. Maybe my PoV character is wrong.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. This is an interesting topic because it’s not the same as writer’s block and I think this is the first time I’ve seen it addressed. You have some excellent suggestions here including that advice about knowing when to stop if it isn’t working. I’ve come across some hurdles like this and my first port of call with a knotty problem is to go into the garden and fight the weeds. There’s something about yanking up nettles that helps my lateral thinking and I often find a way through that way. Great post! ♥♥

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, Alex 🙂 No, it is different you are right. You are able to write just not get past a certain issue. I think that leaving our work and going and doing a project like weeding where we can see that outcome right away helps, along with some peaceful time to let our mind rest and wander. Thanks for sharing how you handle these small writing bumps 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: WHEN THE WORDS STOP | Legends of Windemere

  19. I’m definitely feeling this post with my current work in progress. I’ve been letting it sit for a little while now but I’ll have to give some of these a shot to see if I can get the gears working again. I think I’m leaning towards your step number 5 actually. And the right character issue. I usually have no problem POV hopping between chapters but it wasn’t working this time around. Might need to be a single perspective on this go. Now to just get back to it and see if the words will come to me once more. Good suggestions! Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sometimes all it takes is a change. Even if we plan it all out and it might not work out like we had hoped. I changed a story from first person to third and it opened up more possibilities to move forward, that and adding in a new character. Best of luck withe your story!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the wishes! I think you’re right. When I stopped to consider it from the new character perspective, I already came across some new ideas and directions to approach it from. I don’t think I’ll try a third to first person switch this time but I do think a singular character perspective might serve me better in this one. ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m going to assume you are a pantser – because I can’t see this happening to the kind of super-organized story I tell.

    That’s not at all pejorative – pantsers are often people who love to explore as they go. I’m an extreme plotter, and my exploring is done in setting up the steel girders for my skyscraper – before I try to hook up the water pumps and the sewer lines. My research – admittedly not complete – is done as I set up plot points or character developments, just to the depth to know it’s going to work.

    The solution is NOT to try to change yourself or your writing stripes, because you are who you are, and sound like a mature writer with an occasional problem.

    What I do when I get stuck – as happens to all of us – is to allow myself to be more of a pantser for a while; not in writing, but in thought, and to see if that brings up some missing ideas. It is possible it might help you to be enough of a plotter to find an alternative route around a plot pot-hole. And then you go back to ‘normal for you.’ Your list of steps to try sounds exactly like that to me.

    I just find it personally helpful to know what and why I’m doing, as well as how.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Good insight, Alicia. Yes, we all approach writing differently and need that fresh prospective when it doesn’t flow or the outline isn’t coming together. No, we aren’t going to change what works for us either, as pansters or planners, but a tiny detour from what we normally do can get us back on our normal path. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s