How to Keep Writing When You’ve Run Out of Steam in Your Work in Progress

painting of author stuck

There’s the topic of daily writing that is discussed and wrote about often to give us writers encouragement.  This is important because the more you write and read, the better your writing becomes.  But there is another aspect of writing that I’ve run into many times in the past but hadn’t thought about it until yesterday.  It was brought up in a Facebook writing group in which I’m a member.  This pertains to how to continue writing your work in progress without losing steam.

What happens when you write a few chapters and all of a sudden your mind goes blank, even though you know where you want your story to go.  Thinking about it and executing it are two different animals.  My present work in progress is a complex story in my view, as I am writing it from three different characters’ perspectives and they all tie into the main plot that strings their lives together.  Also, I’m writing in third person point of view.  I thought I wrote only in third person point of view in my teens and early twenties, but I didn’t have the knowledge of what that actually meant until my fiction writing course at SNHU and my online critique group over the past couple of years, so my stories were probably more omniscient points of view.  The fiction writing course, which I’m in right now, has helped me to understand it, but I am still in the process of practicing and trying to produce it.

writing scrabble blocks

On to the subject at hand–losing steam while in the midst of writing your novel, novella, or even your short story.  First, I want to add one more piece of information, which won’t really be novel (pun intended) to us writers, but I’m going there anyway!  Creating a story and writing it is a lot more difficult than I thought years ago.  Once you learn the elements of character, plot, setting/place, and structure, you realize it takes a lot more effort and technique and skill to write than you ever thought.  So, as you trudge forward in your chapters, you unexpectedly hit road bumps.  Those road bumps are your creative juices and ideas sputtering to a stop.  What do you do?

What I used to do and still do that sometimes works just on its own is reread the chapter I just wrote to stimulate the thoughts and continuation of the story and where I want it to go.  But I’ve incorporated something else that I believe really helps keep me on the greased tracks of continued creative writing.  I write pages of notes.  I’ve gotten into the habit of doing that.  It was discussed often in John Dufresne’s book I’m reading for my fiction writing workshop class that I mentioned I’m presently in.  So, just yesterday after writing a lot the day before, I hit that road block.  My mind was jumbled with the characters, the plot, like cut-out words from newspaper articles all haphazardly shuffled together in a disorganized heap.  How do I write the next chapter? Who is the next chapter about?  Am I continuing with the same character, or do I move on to the other one?  It needs to move the plot along.  What am I doing?

spiral notebook and pen

I begin writing more notes that turn out to be around four pages in my trusty spiral notebook.  Notes on what the next chapter will be about and who’s in it.  This expands to connected characters and what they are doing and why.  Questions appear in my scribblings, and I need to have answers for the story to make sense and to move forward, so I offer different responses and see which one sticks…which ones are most plausible and most believable.  Sometimes research is needed in this depending on the subject matter.  In any case, the jotting of notes continues until all those words about the characters, their actions, how they move the plot along, and the questions are answered satisfactorily, gives me enough ammunition to create my next chapter.  I will use this strategy/technique for each chapter if the flow of the next sequence of events isn’t happening or the gas tank of creativity is empty.

If you run into these road blocks in your writing, what do you do?  Was my process helpful to you?  Have you tried that already?  Please share your thoughts, fellow writers. 🙂




2 thoughts on “How to Keep Writing When You’ve Run Out of Steam in Your Work in Progress

  1. I talk to myself. Truly. As I work from home, and the only other residents in the house during the school/work day are my dog and two cats, I have free reign. So if I hit an obstacle in my story or run out of steam (but know I must write NOW while the kids and Hubs aren’t home to bother me), I get up, walk around the house, and talk myself through whatever issue I’m facing.

    Vocalizing my trouble and possible routes of solutions reaps the same benefits as reading our writing out loud. Something about speaking it helps me to see it more clearly, and I am able to figure out what I need to do rather quickly.

    Writing notes (or what I call Discovery) works too, but only in the beginning before I actually draft my story. So I tend to go heavy on Discovery for a long period of time, to try to squeeze out every ounce of possibility I can before I begin to put the story down. That helps save a lot of time during the drafting process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Kate,

      Your schedule sounds similar to mine. My two sons and husband are out during the day, which gives me time to get in my school work and writing and reading (except today…housecleaning took up most of it :(). I’ve never heard of the approach in which you talk it out. However, I understand the writing/notes for the story you’re going to write. I tend to just start writing whatever comes to mind and going from there, but the past couple of stories, I’ve become more organized and have started with some notes. I found out why I seemed to have a hard time pushing out what was in my head to type it out on the keyboard. This present story and the one before it, I wrote directly on the computer, whereas, my previous stories, I wrote out in longhand in my notebook. I found my creativity, thought process, and ability to write from what was in my mind to paper much more easily and smoothly via written longhand in the notebook, so I’m going back to that. 🙂 The notes help keep me on the path in plot and scenes for each chapter.

      Thanks for your response, Kate!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s