Write This Way Wednesday: Help! I’ve Written Myself Into a Corner and I Can’t Get Out!

I think this is something that we’ve all done at one time or another. You’re banging away at the keyboard, having finally found your momentum for that day’s writing session, and you’re feeling great about where the story is heading. Everything is moving along swimmingly then suddenly, BAM! You hit a brick wall. It could be that you just don’t know where else to go from that point, or it could be that you reach a point where you begin considering the scenes that you’re currently writing in relation to previous scenes and realize that there are about two dozen plot holes now that you’ve gone chasing after that crazy plot bunny that decided to toy with you today. Just recently I dealt with this very same issue while working on Sunstone 2. I’d written this real jewel of a scene and it was taking me to a great place in the story, a place I just knew I really wanted to go. Then I began thinking about where the story was going in relation to where it has already been and I realized that with this amazing scene I’d written, I’d created two very large plot holes. Not to worry, though. I mused and mused, fussed and mussed, worried and fretted over those two big plot holes for a few days and the solution finally came to me. Crisis averted. For now.
I recently read an article in Writer’s Digest, “Creative Under Pressure: How to Write Yourself Out of a Corer,” regarding this very issue and what to do to fix it. The author, Steven James, looks at writing himself into a corner as an opportunity. He feels it’s an opportunity to “allow for twists that the readers never see coming, stretch you as a writer, increase reader engagement” and one of my personal favorites, “help you avoid cookie-cutter stories” (of which make my eye twitch). However, he does remind us to keep them believable. One thing he suggests to help get you out of that corner is to narrow your focus. Instead of looking at the story as one big picture, he says to focus on one thing at a time, beginning with the timing of the plot events and the effects that each has on the following events. Then go back and look at how it fits within the bigger picture.
Next he suggests finding the twist in what you’ve already written. This is where he reminds us to keep things plausible, informing us that twists are completely different from gimmicks and games. I love how he explains to do this, telling us to “point their expectations in one direction and then reveal that you’ve really been taking them in another, entirely different direction.” The four points he gives for creating a good twist are making it believable, surprising, inevitable, and escalating, moving the story forward.
I love that he was so adamant that we keep it believable, and I know exactly what he means. I think we’ve all read that ONE book that has that ONE plot twist that completely makes the reader shake their head and say “No way.” I don’t know if it stems from my years in college and having to analyze every single thing I read, but I am now such a critical reader, that sometimes I have to remind myself to just stop and enjoy a story for what it is.
I guess, in a nutshell, in order to beat the dreaded corner we need to look at it with a different perspective. Rather than being a travesty out to ruin our beloved masterpiece, we need to see it as an opportunity to make our work even better. If you’d like to read the article in it’s entirety, you can find it in the July/August 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest.
I hope these tips help you get out of that corner. Now off you go!! Make words!!

(Source: James, Steven. “Creative Under Pressure: How To Write Yourself Out of a Corner.” Writer’s Digest. July/August 2015.)