So you've started your story, you have your characters, you know how you want it to end... you just don't know how to tie it all together.
Start to Finish.
Getting stuck somewhere in the middle of a project is more common than you might think. By the time you get to the middle, you and your characters both are likely being faced with a number of choices, rather than one obvious plot to follow. With so many possibilities and options, it’s perfectly understandable to get lost in the weeds.
Ideas are easy. Following through with them is infinitely harder.
Now, everyone has their own methods of writing, but if you ever find yourself stuck wondering what should happen next in your story, it might be worth considering trying a new approach.
Make the story physically real.
Try drawing maps, creating tokens to represent your characters, or even acting out scenes. Getting away from screens and notebooks and giving your story a physical presence just might help you envision it more clearly.
A useful exercise I’ve used in the past is to write out plot points and dialogue onto cards, shuffle them together, and try to put them back together in order. If you’ve written something onto a card that’s too generic or something that doesn’t serve the plot, set the card aside. This will give you a chance to see which parts of your story are lacking action, don’t make logical sense, or aren’t engaging to a casual audience.
Let the story lead.
Stories are all about context and rationality. If you already know where you want to go, it's just a matter of determining how to get there… unless that's not where the story is naturally leading.
If you find yourself getting stuck again and again in the same place, revisit previous scenes to make sure that each scene logically leads to the next. If it doesn’t, it’s time to start looking for the disconnect.
In particular, determine if all of your characters are behaving appropriately “in character” or if you have them doing something simply to move the plot forward. By spending more time thinking about how your character might realistically react in a given situation, rather than how you’d like them to behave, you might find your plot flowing more organically--if sometimes a little unexpectedly…
Step away from the story for a while.
It may sound counterintuitive to stop working on something to start working on something, but hear me out.
Too often a person can feel stuck when they've been staring at the same page or mulling over the same idea for too long, making it easy to miss narrative bread crumbs you've laid out for yourself. Taking a break gives you a chance to take a break while your subconscious keeps working on the problem.
Maybe try relaxing with a long walk or a hot shower, or if you can’t stand not being productive, maybe that time could be spent catching up on chores or running errands, although I recommend prioritizing creative consumption*. Creativity can't exist in a vacuum, after all.
The most important thing in all this is to give yourself permission not to write. Beating yourself up for not writing isn’t going to solve the problem, so go get ice cream with your friends, engage with media you enjoy, and don’t feel guilty about it. Your story will still be there when you’re ready to come back to it--hopefully, better rested and armed with new inspiration.
*AKA watch all the shows, read all the books, and play all the video games