When the Writing Stops Working – Three Tasks

Workout Wednesday – 7.3.2019

Appointment book on desk.  Photo:  Theresa Duncan

You have kept your writing appointments.  You have kept your butt in the chair and cranked out the work.  When you go back to read a section, though, it falls flat.  You read it a few more times, but can’t put your finger on the problem.  You are discouraged.  Suddenly, the laundry is calling, which is weird

because you hate doing laundry. You jump up from writing and editing and head to the laundry room like you are escaping to your favorite café for an Italian soda.  What is going on?

When we are stuck like this, when the walking away for a few minutes or hours or even days doesn’t help, what can we do?  These three tasks help me move past this quicksand.

Task 1. Start at the Beginning

If you are far into your work, this may not mean the beginning of your novel.  But, it might.  When a piece isn’t working, it often means we have gone off-track somewhere.  The only way to find that place is to read the whole thing.  Sometimes, it just occurs in the chapter you’re on.  Sometimes, it’s farther back.  The only way to find your deviation point is read until you find it.

Task 2. Locate the deviation.

Your story has an arc and you have been on point for a long while.  Somewhere, though, you added something that is extra, something that doesn’t belong in the story.  The event or detail may well have happened, but it may not need to be in your story.  Maybe it does need to be in your story, but not as a main point.  Until you decide, you, and subsequently your readers and editors, will trip on it and your book will fall from their hands. Locating this event or detail is essential to stop that from happening.

Task 3. Make a decision.

How important is this point to your overall story?  Whatever you have done with it at this point is obviously interrupting the flow.  You must decide whether you need it at all, or if you should cut it completely.  But wait!  Remember, you have a document of cuts for things like this.  That folder is full of things you may use later.  If you must cut, paste it into that folder.

If you decide it’s important enough to keep, consider placing the event somewhere earlier in the story and adding in references to it along the way.  Consider that perhaps you introduced it in the correct place, but didn’t give it enough importance at that time and in such a way that now it trips the reader up. Whatever you decide, you will be right because it’s your story.

Once these three tasks are complete, you are ready to go back to writing or editing. Just keep going! Until next time…

Happy writing… ~T

At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing.  Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here.  Thank you!

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