Regaining Your Writing Momentum: Tips for Getting Unstuck
We’ve all been there: our fingers flying across the keyboard as the plot unfolds beautifully on the page, the characters’ dialogue racing through our heads so fast, we can barely capture it. And then all of a sudden—in the middle of a chapter, scene, sentence—it evaporates. You’re stuck.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve written a twenty-page outline or if you prefer to follow the characters wherever they lead you. Every single writer, newbie or seasoned, has faced that dreaded moment in a draft where it feels as if you have nothing left.
Of course, hearing that everyone gets stuck doesn’t help when in the midst of a stall. In this post, we’ve gathered our favorite tips to help you get the words flowing again!
Tips for regaining your writing momentum
Make a habit of journaling
If possible, try journaling by hand— the physical act of writing uses a different section of your brain (but typing or dictating will work, too!). The important thing is to focus on not writing the actual words of the story. Think of it more like writing about writing. Write about where you are in the story and where you want to go next. Did you just hit the Midpoint? Describe the twist. Why did you pick this direction? Are you unsure if you’ve picked the right narrator for your novel? Jot down some notes about what would happen if the secondary character is the one who found the body instead. If you keep writing about the characters and the world and answering the questions you have, you will eventually spot what’s really keeping you stuck in that chapter/scene/sentence.
Try rereading previous scenes
Typically when fast drafting, you want to avoid rereading to maintain momentum, but sometimes you may need to go back to before the moment you got stuck. If during a writing session, you find something isn’t working and is forcing you to a standstill, it may help to figure out what led you to this point! As you read, jot down any new ideas or potential solutions that come to mind. Analyze the structure, character development, or logical progression of your work. This process can help you identify gaps in your narrative and allow you to find the best path forward.
And this doesn’t just apply to pantsers. Plotters may find themselves with writer's block, too! There’s always something unexpected in a draft. So go ahead and reread as much as you need to in order to find out why the story is snagging. Maybe the protagonist’s decision to date Character A instead of Character B in the second half of Act II has made it impossible for the protagonist to slay the dragon. As soon as you see that, your brain may explode with ideas for how to keep going.
Use placeholders for momentum
Just as some writers need to reread in order to get out of a hole, other writers must keep going, or they’ll end up lost in the weeds. One of the best things about fast drafting is the ability to skip a scene that’s not working the way you want. If you find yourself stuck on a specific section or unable to find the right words, don't let it hinder your overall progress. Instead, use temporary placeholders like "[insert description here]," or "[expand on this point later]." This technique allows you to keep the momentum going without getting bogged down by perfectionism. It also helps you focus on the broader outline and structure of your work, giving you the freedom to return to those unfinished parts with a fresh mind later on when the draft is complete. Using placeholders will also free you from the urge to edit, which is a common cause of getting stuck when writing your first draft!
Read a craft book or take a class
Sometimes the reason we get stuck in a draft is that we’re trying a new technique, or the way we’ve written our past twelve drafts refuses to work for us any longer. Every single book is different. It doesn’t matter if you have written two or twenty! It’s one of the magical mysteries of writing: it’s difficult, and it works differently for everyone. There’s a reason authors get asked about their processes so often.
Let’s say your characters are falling flat. Try a book on character arcs, or check out one of Writing Mastery Academy’s courses or webinars. Seek out world-building information if your setting isn’t doing its job. Even if you’re on a tight deadline, it’s better to take an afternoon (or two) to expand your knowledge. Learning from the wisdom of experienced authors can be a wellspring of motivation and may offer solutions to challenges you've encountered.
Talk with other writers
Sometimes, just being able to share your struggle with people who have gone through the same thing will help get you back on track! If you're a member of a writers' group or community like the Writing Mastery Community, you can get advice or inspiration directly from other authors. Having a buddy to hold you accountable is another way to stay on track to your goals.
Do something else to overcome the block
When the words aren't flowing, sometimes the best strategy is to take a break from writing altogether. Staring at the computer for hours on end, working yourself up into a frenzy over the wasted writing time, will not make the words come out faster. Sitting in a chair will not automatically solve the dilemma of how your character is supposed to rescue their little sister from space aliens.
Take a walk. Clean your house. Call a friend. Read a book. Watch TV. Take a shower. The possibilities are endless! Stepping away from your writing allows your subconscious mind to work on the problem in the background. You might be surprised how often solutions come to you when you least expect them. Returning to your manuscript after a mental reset can bring newfound energy and enthusiasm to your work.
One caveat: you must give yourself a time limit. It’s far too easy to let one afternoon away from the computer turn into two and then three. If you don’t have a specific external deadline for finishing the draft, it’s even more important to set a timer. And it often helps to let another person in on your self-imposed deadline. Accountability buddies can be a lifesaver. So tell yourself you can walk away, but you have to be back at X hour.
Ready to regain momentum in your writing?
Being stuck is no fun. But next time you find yourself frustrated with the smug cursor taunting you, try one or more of our tips. You’ll be winning the war with the blank page before you know it!