Have you ever been writing on a story and you sort of get the niggling feeling that something’s wrong? It’s not that you aren’t writing well, it isn’t that you’ve messed up a word or anything. There’s just something not quite right about what’s going down. You decide to keep writing and see if it shakes itself out, but it just won’t. You’re five pages into this story and you just haven’t found the groove yet. Something is horribly wrong.
I write about this because it just happened to me this week. School is on it’s week long summer vacation (Korean public school gets like, five weeks, but the privates are almost completely year round.) so I resolved to write a lot. As much as I could. I was angling to get at least half way through The Cinereal Series, and I had a good lead.
But then about Saturday, I was reading over my two pages and my messy outline and realized that something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t figure it out, so I stuck a thousand words on and decided to let that settle in before I took a good look. Thankfully, I have another project going (an inbetweener story for The Athele Series) so when I found myself unable to write on the Cinereal story yesterday, I had something else to do.
But what in the world was wrong? I mean, I have my meta plot – the over arching idea of the series, and I knew that wasn’t what was wrong.
So today I’d like to share with you a list of things which could be giving you that nasty feeling of “something’s just not right here.” like when Arnold’s in the bunker in Jurassic park and you’re all ‘oh there are SO raptors in there.
#1 Are you in the correct Point of View?
Many stories are really cool, but they suffer from a distinct problem of being told by the wrong person. If something terrible is happening to Sally, I really don’t want Alan to be telling me the story. Conversely though, the point of your story might need Alan to be telling me about Sally’s trouble. So give your story a really good looksie and decide: who and what is this story about? Do you need to shift the action over to Sally, or should it really be with Alan?
#2 Wrong/Extraneous Character/Focus
I’ve told you about the time I started writing a story with two characters and then realized that it wasn’t them at all. There are other ways to pull that trick though, and find that you’ve got the wrong characters happening in your story. For instance, you might be trying to focus on one character (or a relationship) who actually has no business being focused on. You might have an extra character in there who is really throwing off the groove. Check your characters. Again: who and what is this story about?
#3 Did you start in the right place?
I once wrote a story which began with the main character staring dourly at his new teacher and wondering how he’d gotten dragged into his situation. A professor read it and said that while the story was getting there, he thought that I had started in the wrong place. Now, I was really only a sophomore in college, so I was tired and didn’t have my big writer girl britches on. I didn’t wanna write more and construct more and then fit it in with the plot. *sigh* To only have a time travelling frying pan. You have to start in the right place. You might have started too far into, or too far in advance of, the plot. Check it. Think about it. Heck, try out a hundred words in both directions and see how it feels.
#4 Maybe you just don’t know where you’re going?
It can be that simple. Believe me. Stories can start out as one thing and become something totally different. If you’re trying to force out a story about the ethics of tapeworm farming, and the plot wants to detour into angler fish loving, you are never going to feel right until you’ve done a major rehaul. Likewise, some people can’t drive into the distance and trust it’s going to be ok. You might not have a theme to write towards (one of my stories has stalled due to this) or not know the ending.
#5 It’s just not this story’s time.
It’s ok. Really. Maybe you just aren’t feeling passionate about tapeworm farming this month, and you’ve been looking at Angler fish pictures on the internet once your mother’s gone to sleep. Whatever. Maybe you just don’t know that character well enough to write their story yet (this happens to us ALL THE TIME in getting The Athele Series down.) Sit back. Do some research. Have a talk with your co-author about reasons and motivations and values. You’ll get it. But unless it’s about to publishing time, don’t force it (any more than you’d force yourself to sit down at the computer, anyway). Now, if you’re on a deadline, you’re gonna have to take that character or that story out for dinner and do a little seducing, because forcing it into anything is only going to make it worse.
Good luck with that.
So there are some tips and tricks from my last few days. I’ve got a few other blogs kicking around, but next up should be Michael’s Tidbit Tuesday!
Do you have any tips for when you get stalled out in a story? Any recent revelations? Let us know and see you soon!