Writer’s Block: Stuck on What’s Supposed to Happen Next

canstockphoto12444307For me, writer’s block hits for one real reason: I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen next. I generally have a clear outline, and I know I want to take the murder mystery from point “A” to point “C.” It’s “B” — or the murky middle — that either veers off path or writes itself into a corner.¬†When this happens, I have to go back to that outline and take some time to plan.

One surefire tip I use to get back on path is to give the Protagonist a backseat and focus on another character. Returning to the outline, I pick a supporting character (often one of the key suspects) and plot out his story. What was he doing when the murder occurred? Where was he when the sleuth began the murder investigation? I take it scene by scene and explore what this character was doing. This will often reveal bridges from points where the narrative veers off path to the critical scenes that lead to the climax.

Plotting a supporting character’s story arc will hopefully develop into an exciting sub plot, one that leads the sleuth and the reader on a wild and bumpy ride away from the true murderer. However, if the supporting character’s story turns out to be just outline material, where very little of it is actually fleshed out and written into the story, that’s okay. It will still help strengthen the continuity of the mystery as a whole.

So, if like me you find yourself reluctant to to even think about your mystery novel, it could be you’re not thinking about it enough. Instead of forcing yourself to write the next scene, let the keyboard sit idle and invest thinking time in plotting a supporting character’s story. You may be surprised where it takes you.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Block: Stuck on What’s Supposed to Happen Next

  1. For me, writers block is usually a strong hint (read: a boot to the behind) that I messed up the stuff that is already written – I don’t know how to proceed because what I *think* should happen now doesn’t work with something that happened before.
    Sometimes it helps to get a new perspective on such a scene by plotting out another character. And more often than not, I have to dump a couple of thousand words and rewrite them.

    • Great point. There’s been times that I have to hit the pause button, put the story down and work on something else for a few weeks. I’ve got something like 25 partially written manuscripts. Thanks for posting!

  2. Pingback: Index of A to Z Blog Challenge Articles – April 2014 | JC Gatlin - Author

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