Writing Advice: What To Do When You’re Stuck

When you started your writing project, you were flooded with inspiration. It seemed like the words couldn’t come fast enough as your descriptions, characters, and plot spilled onto the paper and came alive.

But now… not so much. The sentences trickle, and the dialogue is cliché. You’re not really sure how to move through this sticky part of the story into something more energetic and interesting.

If this is you, it might be time for a self-edit!

The biggest misconception about editing is that it’s just the service you pay for when you have a completed manuscript. In fact there are editing processes at work throughout all stages of manuscript creation, including self-editing. When it comes to self-editing and revising, some experts recommend waiting to self-edit until your writing project is finished, while others suggest stopping often to ensure consistency.

In my mind, there’s a balance to be struck, because too little self-editing can result in chaos and more rewriting down the road. Too much self-editing can lead to perfectionism and stop your progress in its tracks!

Think of it this way: You’re hiking in the woods. There are times for keeping your eye on the path five feet ahead, and there are times to stop, look around, check the time and the weather, and see how far you’ve come in order to decide whether to keep moving and which trail to follow.

Here are 3 times to pause on your writing and self-edit:

  1. When you get stuck in the “messy middle”. This part of any writing project can feel sticky as both you and your characters settle into a routine that feels like it’s dragging on. The energy and life of the first part has faded, leaving you to wonder where to go next. This “stuck” feeling exists for a good reason– it suggests that you’ve lost a sense of purpose and direction.
  2. When you begin to doubt your flow. As the initial creative excitement gives way to a routine, this is when doubt starts to creep in. Not all of your words may be inspiring confidence. This conversation is so boring, you might think, or this description is so cliché. A committed writing practice is great for getting words on paper, but if it feels more like drudgery than fun, this signals a time for self-editing.
  3. When you start noticing gaps and inconsistencies. Maybe one of your characters is starting to act at odds with their original personality, or the timeline doesn’t fit anymore. Perhaps you feel like you’re trying to fit an event that seemed so important into your plot like a square peg in a round hole. It becomes harder to ignore these gaps and carry on.

If any of these three descriptions resonate with your writing journey it means you’re ready for a deep breath, a stretch, and a review. There are two ways you can self-edit:

  1. Start at the beginning and make sure to read your words out loud as you review your manuscript, to feel the tone, rhythm, and catch big errors. Maintain an attitude of kindness to your words and remember to acknowledge the strengths in your writing.
  2. Join a group of writers at similar stages of their manuscript journeys. In my Energizing Editing series starting on November 2nd, you get to choose parts of your project and read aloud to the group. This helps with accountability and clarity (I find I self-edit as I go!). As an added bonus you get to hear what is strong in your writing from all the listeners Everyone is coached in how to give respectful feedback regarding gaps that caused confusion and possibilities for expanding ideas.

By the end of Energizing Editing you’ll feel inspired and purposeful. You’ll put your head down and keep writing with renewed clarity and delight in your words once again.

If this calls to you, learn more and save your spot in Energizing Editing! It’s only one week away!


Energizing Editing

Creatively Yours,

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