(This was originally posted on Curious Fictions on June 27, 2018 -- I am trying to rescue my posts before the site disappears!)
When I get stuck on longer works, it's usually because I've gotten to a point where something needs to happen but I can't think of what, or I know what needs to happen later but I can't figure out how to get to that point. (Sometimes, I just deke around this by writing something like "Three days later, they arrived at the harbour." Of course, this presupposes that the story will still make sense later if I elide those days, and that it will not look noticeably lazy because I've skipped over events that needed to happen to get them to the harbour. I am not always the best judge of what events need to be there for later events to occur, and often end up going back and patch-welding them in.)
Anyway, here's a list of the ways I get myself unstuck or jiggle an idea loose!
Try to find a poem that 'goes with' the work
Read it aloud, and loudly, whilst walking around the room
Figure out a couple of comp titles and what they're comparable to. Plot? Setting? Voice?
Look for some photos that might fit in the work's world. Save them to a folder. I can't do Pinterest.
Draw a map! Get out the felt pens and figure out where people need to be. (This works great for countries, cities, castles, even houses.)
Draw some characters. Stick-figures, faces, expressions, outfits, hands
Roleplay one or more of the characters for a few minutes
Fancast the non-existent movie of the work (this can be good fun, though if I have a lot of plain characters it can be difficult; why are celebrities always so unhelpfully symmetrical and attractive?)
Write a journal entry as one of the characters ("Dear diary, why are we still on this frigging quest")
Force one of the characters to write a newspaper article about what they're up to and why people are opposing it ("Sauron spoke to the media this morning, stating that --")
Invent an animal. Just straight-up invent one. Have one of the characters mention it offhandedly. Ditto for towns, customs, charms, spells, planets, insects, machines, technology, and food. The weirder the better!
Switch to longhand if typing, typing if longhand. No idea why this works but it's awesome when I'm traveling.
Start or add songs related to the work to a playlist on my music service provider
Write a super nice review of the book and talk up all the things that are great about it
Have the characters literally discuss their options as to what could happen next. (I do this all the time and delete the conversation about 90% of the time.) Make sure they don't all agree, and that they all have valid reasons for 'their' option.
Dump the characters into another setting and see what they do. How would the cast fare in, say, Pride & Prejudice? Or 1984?
Force all the characters to write job descriptions based on what they've been doing up to this point. Tell them to justify their continued existence in the story.
Write a Twitter pitch (280 characters) for the work that explains what's happening and why it's a good yarn without giving away the ending. (I love this one. Surprisingly hard.)
Write a synopsis for the work. This really helps make clunky or unnecessary things stand out (which I often keep, because I am terrible, but it does make them stand out).
Sacrifice a couple of marshmallows over the Holy Fire of The Muses. Make s'mores.