Can’t Focus on Your Novel? What to Write Instead

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Writers write a lot. We have to. It’s how we improve. But sometimes our primary WIP – usually a novel – just blows a raspberry and refuses to play. When your inspiration has run dry, you’re too frustrated to continue, and you still need to write, what do you do? Here are some ideas of what to write when you get stuck on your novel.

Short Stories

Some say a great novel is little more than a series of short stories strung together as part of a larger narrative. Find yourself struggling to write gripping scenes between major points of action? Honing your short skills will help you refocus on the moment and coax out the magic of subtlety. Once you’re ready to turn back to your novel, you may return with a major scene or two ready to add.

Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is the antithesis of the novel. It tells sharp, clean stories with as few words as possible, leaving almost everything to the reader’s imagination while delivering a clear narrative. Unlike a novel, you can write an entire flash fiction story in a single night. Many writers crank out 1500+ words per day. The challenge is pruning excess adverbs, adjectives, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and even entire lines of thought. Short and sweet is the way of the flash fiction, and if your creativity feels stretched to the max by your novel WIP, a flash fiction makes a wonderfully productive distraction.

Creepy Pasta

This subgenre of horror is often maligned but rarely given the credit it deserves. It’s also great fun to write. Creepy Pastas are short, terrifying stories of things that go bump in the night, ooze up from the netherworld, and feast on nightmares. Originality balances with tropes over the chasm of cliché, but there are some horribly creative works hiding on major websites and in compilations.

Genre writers struggling to add their own unique twists and thrills to over-saturated niches may find their roots and reconnect with their love of the dark by taking themselves a little less seriously for a while. Some websites accept all submissions, while others follow stricter guidelines. Regardless, the Creepy Pasta publishing scene puts much less pressure on writers.

A Journal

If you don’t want to worry about what your beta readers, audience, or editor will think of your work, start a journal. Keep it to yourself and enjoy the privacy. For a clean break, revisit pen and paper. They’ve missed you, and they don’t hold grudges. Your journal can become whatever you want. Doodle, lament, or make the Ultimate Checklist. It’s all yours.

Creative Nonfiction

This is a much bigger genre than many people realize, and it isn’t just for autobiographies and self-help books. Major bestsellers, including In the Heart of the Sea and The Devil in the White City, both historical nonfiction works, have been or will soon be made into feature films. They straddle the divide between a good college essay and a bit of time travel. Good prose with a good story will always draw an audience.

What alternative projects do you turn to when your novel doesn’t cooperate? Have you found a form of storytelling you actually prefer to the traditional novel? What new techniques and styles do you suggest to friends?

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 


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