So, you have reached a dead end in your story and you seek ways to write yourself out of a corner.
What luck! You’ve come to the right place to write your story out of its rut.
I congratulate you for choosing to stick with it rather than quit. And now I caution you that writing yourself out of a corner may require some serious work.
Before going further, answer this: are you ready to do the work?
Perhaps I should reframe the question. Are you ready to give your story the chance it deserves to reach its fitting end instead of its dead end?
You haven’t run out of creativity. You have just run your story in the wrong direction. And I’m here to give you a map and a helping hand.
Please Note: Aside from my first suggestion, you do not need to follow this list in sequential order. Take whichever recommendation allows you to relaunch your story. Tackle one approach, mix and match, pour them all in—this is a choose-your-own-adventure playbook.
That being said, here are five ways to write yourself out of a corner.
First, Step Away & Catch Some Zs
Don’t lose hope just yet. There’s still a chance that you don’t need to lean on ways to write yourself out of a corner. All you may need is to back away from the computer or notepad and rest your eyes.
We tend to assume the worst about our writing when we’re frustrated and/or burned out. When your story has slammed into a wall and your mind is too fried to think—it’s time to take a break.
It’s amazing how your mind keeps working when you sleep, be it during a nap or a full night’s rest. You may reach a solution while snoozing rather than staring blankly at your jumble of words.
After some sleep or a solid break away from your writing, return back to your pages. Is your story still savable with an easy fix? Or does your plot need a drastic makeover?
If the latter, continue reading.
Backtrack to the Point Where Things Made Sense
Search for the last place in your story where you didn’t feel lost. At what point did your plot take a wrong turn? And how did it go wrong?
Before you take on these ways to write yourself out of a corner, you must first define and diagnose the problem. That way, you don’t make that mistake again within your work-in-progress.
Brace yourself for this next step. Remove this section from your draft so that you can rejuvenate the story with a fresh take. What you do with that section of your story is your decision. You can trash it or delete it from existence. If that action is too much too fast, keep those pages stored in a separate folder or save this chunk of writing as a unique digital file until you’re ready to release it from your ownership.
Reassess Your Characters
From time to time, you may insist for your characters to take specific actions in order to keep the plot moving along. Sometimes, this method works and your characters cooperate. And sometimes, your characters rebel or stubbornly dig their heels into the ground.
If you find yourself needing ways to write yourself out of a corner, first explore your characters before scrapping anything. Reassure yourself that you understand their personalities inside and out, be it through writing exercises or some serious ponderings.
Next, it’s time to face the music. Is your character really ready to make this decision in your story? Why do you think your character skirts the issue? Why does your character keep protesting?
Your character is trying to tell you something. There is a possibility that your character:
- is not ready to make this decision in your story
- wants to take the story in another direction that’s more aligned with their wants and personality
Perhaps your character needs to live through an experience in order to be ready to keep the plot moving as planned. Or, your character may be onto something by suggesting a new story direction.
Abandon a Linear Timeline
Time may run chronologically within your story, but that doesn’t mean you need to write that way. If writing scenes in the order that they occur isn’t working—then don’t write that way!
Which unwritten moments in your story stand out strongly to you? Write those! When you need ways to write yourself out of a corner, turn to what you do best and write scenes that you are eager to write. It doesn’t matter that they don’t connect to your story just yet—just write!
Your first goal needs to be getting back into the habit of writing. Writing scenes later in your story can act as a guide to pulling your story out of its corner and back onto the right path.
Toss in a Plot Twist
Have you lost all hope for your pre-planned plot? Are you open to taking chances with your writing just to see what happens? Then do I have a world-shaking suggestion for you!
Sometimes the best ways to write yourself out of a corner is to force your characters into an unexpected and chaotic mess. Through this approach, you have a new challenge to tackle within your writing—which is better than beating your head against a wall by revisiting this stale setback.
How you find that plot twist is up to you. Writing prompts can be a great launching point for an updated plot twist. Lean on outrageous experiences from your past so that you can borrow scenes and solutions for your story. Or simply go with your gut instinct on where to take your story next.