Tackling Writing Challenges: Backing Myself (and My Characters) into a Corner


Whenever I write an especially harrowing chapter, there's always one thing I fear most, backing myself into a corner. More times than I can remember, I've gotten carried away, writing an over-the-top stressful scene into existence that feels like it's going to be the coolest thing ever...and then I have to figure out what comes next.

This week, I've been working on a chapter pitting two specific characters from The MemCor Archives up against a small army. Our heroes have been tasked with defending innocents who are caught in the middle of a war they knew nothing about until it was too late. Upon arriving, it quickly becomes clear that they'll need to do something drastic if they want to save everyone before it's too late.

Our heroes quickly come up with a dangerous, but effective plan that leaves them in a very precarious position once they set things in motion. By the time they realize what they've done, they're already in way over their heads...

And so am I, because I'm stuck. Sigh...

My plan, my flawlessly executed solution to a problem has only resulted in more problems. I managed to write the characters into a position that I genuinely don't know how to get them out of, and it's driving me nuts!

Do I ex machina the moment and save them with the power of plot?

Do I cut my losses and write a tragic farewell fitting of their heroism and sacrifice?

Do I wipe out hours of writing and try to come at it from a different angle that doesn't leave things so impossibly hopeless that even I can't figure out how they're supposed to survive (Let's be honest, it's probably gonna be this one)?

The good news is, you'll likely never know. By the time I figure it out, by the time this book sees the light of day, I'll have come up with a solution (I'll have to if I ever plan on finishing this blasted series!). Hopefully it'll be one so perfect, so diabolically clever, you won't even know what chapter I'm talking about by the time you read it. Right now, however, it is one heck of a problem that I don't have a solution for.

I guess this is the danger of plowing forward with half a plan (at best). I've often considered trying to more meticulously map out what I want to do down to the tiniest detail, but that has never really worked for me. Any time I try to brainstorm and figure everything out before I write it, I often find myself inventing pit falls and dead ends in my story long before I even get to the genuine writing of it.

For me, I've always found considerable success in plotting out the big moments in my stories and then winging it along that dotted line. Sometimes it goes according to plan, sometimes I ruin my own road map and have to make a new one, but sooner or later, I find my way.

In the end, I'm sure it'll all work out. Our heroes will save the day and emerge in whatever way I feel good about. Until then, however, I'm just going to be annoyed about it.

So yeah, I guess that's my mind dump on the challenge of writing this week. I just needed to take a break from slamming my head up against the wall so I could vent about slamming my head up against the wall. Maybe by this time next week I'll have a solution. Either that, or maybe I'll just have a different problem to come here and complain about. If you're reading this, I hope you'll come back and find out.

What are some of the challenges you face when you're working on projects? Do you have a tried and true method for working through them or do you just have to figure it out each time it comes up? What's your best way of dealing with the defeating stress of whatever projects you like working on? I'd love to hear from you.

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