My blog for Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Starting today, I will be blogging about tips and techniques you can use when you get to a point where you and your writing are stuck. We all know the feeling. You’ve run out of ideas, words, and you’re ready to walk away from your project. Each Tuesday for the next several weeks, I’m going to help with some suggestions of what to do when you find yourself in that predicament.
In today’s entry, I want to look at a new thing I’ve begun to do when I’m sick of my current project for any reason.
I open the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet and grab the folder marked, ‘Old Stuff.’ As much as I wish it were more, I have just about everything I wrote from the time I was in my mid-thirties. The earlier stories and poems are lost.
The lessons to be learned from something I wrote long ago are many. First of all, there are outlines of book projects I never brought to fruition. When I read the idea for the storyline, I’m either excited or dumfounded. Why did I ever want to write about that? Or This is something I could do a great job with now.
I put what I deem ‘good ones’ into a separate pile, and they come out of the cabinet to my desk where I put them in the three-ring binder labeled, ‘Story Ideas.’
Within the day, I will take one of those new (old to me) ideas and work on a short story. The plans for new novels go on a list on my computer. I only work on one book at a time so that the idea may sit there for a while.
In addition to my writing abilities growing over the years, I’ve also developed a sense of what will work to carry the thought through characters, plot, beginning, middle, and end.
It’s easy to see where I got stuck on these projects. The common problems are
Too ambitious. I can see now that some of these plots were too advanced for me. At that point in my writing career, I didn’t have the knowledge and skills to work through such a complex piece. When I revisit these stories, I may try to build the story they deserve, or I might revise the plot or use parts of characters
Weak characters. With a new critical sense, I look at the characters and realize they are not three dimensional, and they aren’t capable of driving the plot. It’s nearly impossible to build a stable story arc without an energetic MC.
Silly things. For instance, I’ve noticed silly things that I have learned to avoid. My female MCs tend to have names beginning with the letter, J.
Setting. Whenever I come across how I tried to write an environment in pieces of the past, and quite often in my new work, I tend to tell rather than show. Consequently, I spend a great deal of time writing settings over and over. If I’m stuck, this is always a good spot to return to and work the piece once again.
Back in the early years of my writing, I would let these thoughts and stumbling blocks keep me from writing. I didn’t just stop where I was with that project; I might put everything away for months.
If you have a file of old writing, or the false starts of projects of the past, get them out. Take a look at your older work and see what you can learn.
Until next time,