NaNoWriMo Tip #16: How to get out of “paragraph paralysis.”

Indiana Jones
You've written your hero into a cave, and he can't get out.

Or maybe he's hit a wall. Or hanging from a cliff.

In any event, you've put him in a corner, surrounded by bad guys, in every direction.

Now, you're stuck — both literally and creatively.

To quote former Republican presidential candidate and subsequently Dancing with the Stars hopeful, Rick Perry, Ooops.”

This is what I call “paragraph paralysis.

Let me put it this way: If you were Stan Laurel and I was Oliver Hardy, now is when I'd turn to you and say, “Well Stanley, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into!”


Laurel and Hardy: “The Piano” video. Click to play.

One of the most notorious solutions to paragraph paralysis that I can recall occurred on the television show, Dallas. Whereas the Season  7 cliffhanger had one of the characters, Bobby Ewing, killed off, it's revealed at the beginning of Season 9 that ALL of Season 8 was just a bad dream happening to his wife, Pam. (And the viewers, I'm presuming.)

Okay, I feel your pain. I get that you're freaked out. Like your hero, you've come to a complete stop.

Here's how you (and he–or her, as the case may be) can get out of that hole:

1. Remember: In your novel, you are GOD.
That means you can move mountains, both literally and figuratively. If he's in a cave, maybe it has a false wall, or ceiling, or floor. Help him find it.

2. Think outside of the box/cave/cliff/wall/bridge.
There is a reason why today's illustrative photo is of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom bridge. Quite frankly, my example could have been taken from any of the Indy movies, since he's always stuck somewhere. In this case, there were bad guys on all sides, and no plane or helicopter to swoop down and save him–

But he had his trusty machete.

And he knows how to swing it!

So there you go: a solution. If you just hang in there, he (and you) will survive, and live to see another chapter.

3. Rewrite your scene, so that you are more comfortable with it.
This untenable position may be your subconscious telling you, “I don't know where I'm going with this (page/chapter/story). If so, it's time that you revisit the full outline of your plot. If something isn't working now, it will affect your plot down the road. The sooner you make the change, the better. (After you've written the day's 1,650 words, of course.)





I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever left a character out on a ledge? Did you come back to save him, or is he still out there?

Yes, you will survive National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.