When it comes to missing something, as in a scene or the plot lacks something that needs to be added, I always know that. It's a gigantic black hole that threatens to drag me into despair if I gaze at it too long. Kinda hard for me to escape that feeling.
However, if it's missing something as in something that I have is not right, that's way more subtle, and feels like the problem you describe: no progress for weeks. I've had this problem with scenes at the wrong point in time, with the wrong emphasis, characters with the wrong background, wrong profession, and most recently, a character that had no business being a main character, let alone the POV character.
When I hit that wall, I don't question anything's function. I'm constantly doing that anyway, so doing it again is just doing the same thing and expecting a different result. There's a word for that, it starts with M. "Macaroon." Plus, when I question what something is doing, I come up with all sorts of justifications for it, which is counterproductive. So, I skip the questioning and go straight for the execution.
That character that I have so much riding on? Never was born. That scene that I've fallen in love with? Not happening. Now, how does the story cope? Sometimes, it falls apart and thrashes about, screaming about its missing arm and making a mess on my floor. But, other times it thanks me for removing its inflamed appendix. Surgery with a battle-axe is an art, not a science, after all.
On occasion, the element that I deleted will crop up later, phoenix like, and it will actually work in the new context. So, I like to keep the medical waste around, just in case.
This relates to the recent thread, 'How do you plot'.
I don't usually get those problems as I don't start a piece until the skeleton--the plot--is worked out. Therefore writing is simply about putting the plot pieces together and covering it with detail. I never know the detail until I write it (except the first scene).
Occasionally when I am writing a plot improvement idea occurs to me--then I try and incorporate it.
I would suggest writing out your plot point by point. Now, I am not talking about great detail, just pivotal moments that result in the unfolding of the story, e.g. Jack suspects wife is having an affair with Pete; Jack goes round to confront Pete; during argument kills Pete; Jack hides knife; Jack calls police.
If you do this, you should be able to see the structure of your story clearer, rather than being caught in descriptions, characterisations, environment, dialogue etc.
If you can't do this, then you are writing by the seat of your pants; whenever I have tried that I have never finished the story, so I'm not qualified to help you.
I agree with Skadder. I highly recommend finding a plotting method that works for you.
For me, it worked to literally write out the questions I had about my plot. I found that, while I write the questions, I am forced to think about them.
My newest method of plotting is to never even touch a computer. I do everything by pen in the initial stages, and I do very little writing. It's mostly figuring out how all the pieces get put together. This works for me, as it forces me to 'think' about things as I'm writing them. Whereas, I can type much faster than I can think, and thusly don't answer things as I write them (This is the same reason I could never type notes in college; only handwritten ones stuck in my brain).
But then, this method won't work for everyone.
I think the reason so many have trouble with plotting, is that it's somewhat unique to everyone. Some of us do light outlining on whiteboards with big markers. Some write incredibly detailed outlines in thick notebooks.
There is no right answer, as it's very personal to you.
This might not be the answer you were looking for, but perhaps it will be useful regardless.
Back in the early 80's, while still in high school, I had aspirations of becoming a computer programmer. However, the only computers to which I had access all used a form of programming called "basic" ("real" programmers used machine language).
Basic computer language worked like a flow chart, where one had to create loops that required specific conditions to be met before the program could continue.
Your problem reminds me of one of those loops. Interestingly, I find writing, as a whole, very similar to my earlier efforts in creating basic programs. I have a specific result I want to attain (the climax and ending) and so I start writing with this in mind. I often used flow charts to give myself a visual representation of how the program would work - I've done this with stories as well.
quote:How do you break out of weeks like this, how do you figure out what's wrong, or what's missing?
My suggestion would be, first, to decide what condition needs to be met for you to move on and, second, to decide what you want as an end result.
I, too, dreamed of doing computer programming up till the course in college. It involved punch cards---which were obsolete then. I suppose I could find something more up-to-date right now, but, well, I have other things to do.
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I'm having a moment like this now. I have written most of the first draft of a story, and I'm at the climax of it, and I'm stuck. I know what is supposed to happen, I just can't seem to write it for some reason. Its the last scene of the story so I really want to bang it out, but it is also the climax, so I need to get it right. I feel like if I just slog it out, it will come through as uninspired in the writing.
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quote:Back in the early 80's, while still in high school, I had aspirations of becoming a computer programmer. However, the only computers to which I had access all used a form of programming called "basic" ("real" programmers used machine language).
Ooh! I am SO tempted to hijack this topic, especially since there is already a topic on plotting. But I'll resist.
Osiris, let it be bad. Get it down and then rewrite it until it is the way you want it.
As long as it's still in your head, it's going to be perfect. It will never be that perfect on paper, but before it can be anything at all on paper, it has to get down on the paper (or screen, as the case may be).
So write it, write it, write it. And then you'll have something to work with.
No harm in rewriting. Though I hate that people are generally right about the whole if the story is fighting you something is wrong. My current WOTF story fought me every step of the way. I switched to first person and now when I manage to sit down and write, it flows so easily. I did 2000 words last night. So now the fight is just to sit and write. Once the file is open, the words are coming. And the first version is a nice outline.
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Yikes! Remind me never to go into your cellar!
I usually have to stop what I'm doing, turn off the comp, and take a long two or three day walk around the block, or something. That way I'm totally exhausted and my mind won't keep thinking of that story issue anymore. So when I come back to it later, I can look at it with fresh and bewildered eyes.
quote:I'm having a moment like this now. I have written most of the first draft of a story, and I'm at the climax of it, and I'm stuck. I know what is supposed to happen, I just can't seem to write it for some reason. Its the last scene of the story so I really want to bang it out, but it is also the climax, so I need to get it right. I feel like if I just slog it out, it will come through as uninspired in the writing.
This happens to me all of the time. I think I have a climax phobia. I feel that climaxes can make or break a story, so whenever I get to writing one, all my insecurities come out, like my entire novel hinges on what I write next.
I just have to force myself to slog through it and keep telling myself that if it bombs, it can be fixed.
I'm not sure it this is your problem, but it sounds a lot like mine.
I'm happy to say I finished the first draft tonight. Thanks for your support, I felt like the idea of being stuck is what had me stuck, and once I got it out there and out of my head, I was able to write again.
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