Escaping from Writing Traps

by Meredith Cole

I used to be afraid of dark places and writing myself into corners. I tried to outline my books to the nth degree so I wouldn’t be caught without all the tools I needed to escape. But it didn’t always help. I would write myself to a certain point and then I wouldn’t know what to do to get out.

So how do I escape? Here are a few of my coping strategies:

1) Make a list.  I love lists. They’re so organized and satisfying. And they can be a great tool to come up with viable options. I’m even turning this blog post into a list!

Anyway–quickly write down as many possible ways as you can think of to escape. Don’t censor yourself and let the options be ridiculous (UFO sweeps down and rescues them) and practical (hero always carries a knife in their boot…). Write as many as you can and then read them over. There might be something you can work with there.

2) Take a walk. I seem to write myself into a corner every time I attempt a short story. The only solution is to set it aside and let it percolate for a while. Sometimes months. But if I have a deadline (blog post is due Monday!), a walk outside can sometimes help. The act of moving around helps me get some amazing insight that helps me escape.

3) Read something. See how other very talented writers get their characters out of jams. Don’t copy but allow yourself to be inspired by their brilliance.

And if that doesn’t work, I just keep reminding myself that there’s always a way out. I go back to taking some time to let the writing sit and repeat all the above steps. Or I do a major rewrite on the scenes that got me into the jam in the first place.

Happy Writing!

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