Oh, it happens, and it’s horrible. It’s like being in a maze when you can’t find the way out, and you keep passing the same point over and over again.
Nine times out of ten there will be something wrong with the last section you wrote. There could be any number of issues here, but usually it’s just one, especially if you have an idea of where the plot is going. You need to re-read what you’ve written, as objectively as possible. This means making a note of the timeline – can everyone get to where they’re meant to be in the time you’ve given them to do it? It may mean making a map of the terrain.
Some characters seem to come from nowhere. Others have a starting point with a real person, but very quickly become themselves. If a character stays too close to someone you know, you’re always thinking, so-and-so wouldn’t do/say/ think that. The character must always serve the story, rather than the other way round. But yes, a few of the more eccentric characters in the Divide
Once you’ve isolated the problem, dealing with it can be agonising. There may be a piece of writing of which you are particularly proud, but if it doesn’t further the plot/develop the character/expand the theme, it has to go. Everything you write has to be there for a reason – better still, all three of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. You should be able to defend every single sentence if challenged. So – have another look at the last section you wrote, and be prepared to simply cut it out, go back, and re-write. The tenth reason is that you've over-planned it, and nothing comes as a surprise any more. Synopses are all very well, but they can kill something stone-dead. I need what I'm writing to be an adventure for me, too. If that's the case, change something. Raymond Chandler would have a man burst through the door with a gun in his hand… Another method is top open the dictionary at random, shut your eyes and stab, and then try to incorporate the word in the next sentence. If you do it three times you nearly always come up with a completely new slant.
Fictional ideas are re-combinations of experiences you have already had, so the more places you go and the more things you try, the more likely you are to come up with ideas. I usually start with a setting, and I’ll use the places I’ve visited to inspire me. Sometimes I actually go somewhere to find out more – I went to
research things for the third book, Jinx on the Divide. The setting came in very useful later on for Ice Feathers, even though I had to re-imagine it for prehistoric Antarctica. I try to build up a mental bank (as well as photos!) of places that I've been, and I sometimes return to them in the same way that I use random words to get me out of a plotting hole.
There are several of my books that have been completely re-written when things got sticky. Fury
And sometimes there’s just too much going on in your life to devote the sheer energy required to do the necessary. Currently I have three books that need surgery. I know what has to be done to each of them, but getting round to it is another story… and it’s always much easier to start a new one than it is to go back and tackle creaky nuts and bolts.