Saturday, November 4

Getting Stopped Cold


A couple of Mondays ago, Liz wrote that she was happily writing along, the words flowing nicely, until she was stopped cold when she realized her characters were doing things that were totally out of character.

I know the feeling. At least, I know the feeling of being stopped cold in my writing because of a loss of belief in the story. As Liz can attest, it’s heart-wrenching, and worse, it’s difficult to get interested in the story again and continue writing. Fortunately, after a few days away from her WIP, Liz says she had a good day and began writing again, so hopefully she made it over the hurdle her characters threw up in front of her.

I’m facing a similar hurdle. I had this completed manuscript laying around that I hadn’t done anything with in over two years. Originally, I wrote it as part of a series my publisher put together, but then I decided I’d rather write my own series. That way I can control the setting and the characters, and every other aspect of the story. I’m a bit of a control freak that way. I hadn’t looked at the manuscript in a while, but I remembered I liked it and thought it was a good story. I decided it was ridiculous not to do something with this manuscript. It was time to submit it somewhere. All it needed was a quick going over.

And then I reread it. And realized it needed more then a bit of lipstick and mascara.

Maybe my writing has changed since I wrote this, or maybe my perspective changed because I’ve recently been through some extensive edits on another series. Or maybe it was because I’ve been reading some really good books by authors I admire and I’m comparing myself to them. Whatever the reason, I’m disappointed and a bit disheartened. And I’m stopped cold.

I still think the story idea is a good one, but I’m not sure the writing does the idea justice. I have to figure out a way to revive this manuscript. I’m afraid it might need life support.

I believe I need a two-pronged approach. One prong to tackle the writing/editing problems I see in the book, and one prong that addresses getting myself interested in -- no, I need more than that. I need to be PUMPED UP about the book again. I need to believe in it.

So, my writer friends. What do you do when you get stopped cold? How do you get yourself going again?

12 comments:

  1. What I'm going to say sucks, so I'm sorry ahead of time. (I don't know what is about being my age that makes giving advice a compulsion...) If you're stopped cold and aren't on contract for that book and have given it a little bit to re-kindle, I think you should walk away--for now, at least. Find a new story and cast of characters to play with. OR, talk it over with some CPs or friends--they might see in a heartbeat what you need to do.

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    1. I might have to set it aside for a while, though I'm not ready to throw in the towel completely. I'm going to think about it for a while and try to come up with a plan for fixing it. I hope. Thanks for the advice, Liz. Sometimes these things can't be fixed.

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  2. I've got a story that I absolutely love - it's the first book I ever wrote - but I've tried to fix it to make it publishable about 10 times and I just can't do it. That book, those characters, for whatever reason, are beyond my reach...at least at this point. So I try, and get stopped, and move on to something new - as Liz advised! :D One of these days, the stars will align, I think, but that day isn't here just yet.

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    1. That's frustrating, Kristina. I've got a manuscript or two that I wrote when I first started, but they will never see the light of day. Even I knew they couldn't be saved! But I still think this one can. I sincerely hope the start align!

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  3. I was in the same boat with a story I started while Liz and I were on writing retreat in MI last summer. Loved the characters, loved the concept, loved the start...it lost steam after two chapters...or I did. Not sure. Anyway, those characters have been recast in a new story that's working so far. Sometimes you have to do what Liz said and just let them go and begin again...and it's fine to do that. Hugs!

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    1. Sometimes a story loses steam for me because I really don't have much of a plot and not near enough conflict. I'm working so hard to make it work that sometimes I don't realize that nothing's happening! I'm glad you're making the characters work in your new project.

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  4. Jana, how frustrating! All I can think to suggest is scrap everything but the plot and rewrite... but that’s a daunting and not overly thrilling prospect either. Best of luck to you!

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    1. Oh, I think I just felt an arrow through the heart! No, it's not a thrilling prospect at all, and I'm not ready to go there yet, but...I'll see how this plays out.

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  5. I find when I hit a wall like that, it's usually cause I've tried to take the story/characters someplace it or they don't want to go. Take a step back, be away from the story for a bit, then pick it up again. Talk it over with your crit partner/group, brainstorm it out. Play a verbal round of "what if". You'll get back into your groove

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    1. Sounds like really good advice Annie. Thank you for weighing in.

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  6. I've been known to backtrack and go back to where I think it went off the rails and see if there's a different road to take. Sometimes it works or sometimes it makes the way I was going more clear.

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    1. Yes, if I can identify that point, that would help. I've used that device before. Thanks Margie!

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