About two months ago I got stuck. The Dog of Pel was over half done but I could not see my way forward. Or rather I had so many possibilities and permutations I was writing scenes, changing my mind, rewriting scenes, and ripping them out.
I have three fallback techniques, which aren’t really techniques but tricks to fool myself and force my brain to solve the problem. I tried two and invented a third, which seems to be working.
The first: print out the entire manuscript and re-read from the beginning. Mark it up. Go back to the computer and do all the revisions, hoping for inspiration to move forward. (This techique is very good for wasting time; I highly recommend it if you want the illusion of progress.) It didn’t work.
The second: Outlining. I hate outlining. I have six or seven outlines of possible plot permutations and kept tripping over the alternative possibilities and unanswered questions, see first paragraph.
The third: I wrote down all the questions. I stared at the list for three days. Make that a week. Not writing for so long made me nervous I would drop the manuscript entirely, but I was reassured by my obsession with the questions. If I was that worried, the story was still alive.
This worked. Or it has worked short term, because I ignored all the outlines and notes and started a new story line for the last third of the book. Now I’m moving forward, like Jamie in the Scour, one step at time and testing my footing very carefully.
I remind myself over and over: I got stuck with The Bone Road. For a very long time. Years. I planned and wrote my way out of that, and (I tell myself) I can do it with The Dog of Pel. Never Give Up. Never Never Never.