C.J. Redwine returns today with a blog I feel like she wrote just for me. I’m sure a lot of authors will relate!
You know that feeling? That sinking sensation in your stomach? That awful certainty weighing down every word you manage to pry out of your uncooperative brain?
Yeah. That one. That’s the “Help, my WIP has turned against me, and I don’t know what to do about it” feeling. We’ve all been there. The good news is you don’t have to stay there. Here are a few ways to energize your story, awaken your creativity, and teach that WIP who’s boss.
1. Back It Up: Maybe the problem is that you wrote yourself into a corner. You pushed the story where it wasn’t supposed to go. You jumped the shark , and you’re only a third of the way into your story. The easiest way to fix this is to back up to the last point where the story was flowing organically and start writing new material from there.
2. List Your Options: Maybe the problem is that you’re out of ideas. You know your secondary conflict barely has a pulse. You know your plot twists have run their course even though you have another 40k to type. The easiest fix for this is to sit down and start listing everything that could possibly happen. Even those things that are remote possibilities. At minimum, come up with twenty-five options. You’ll find that ideas begin to spawn ideas until you see a thread of possibilities and you have more than enough “stuff” to finish your story in style.
3. Spend Quality Time: Maybe the problem is you don’t really know your characters, and therefore you have no idea how to put them into situations that will stretch them to their breaking points. Each of your characters must have an agenda. This agenda drives every choice (good or bad) your character makes, how he or she interacts with others, and determines how he or she contributes to the overall conflict. Sit down and either write it out or talk it through. Figure out what your character really wants (may be more than one thing), why he or she wants this, and what he or she is willing to do to get it. Then look at all the ways your characters’ agendas either align or contradict each other. Presto! Conflict.
4. Give It A Rest: Maybe the problem is that you need to let your mind wander in a different direction creatively for a while. This could mean you write on another project. Or it could mean you do something else artistic, something that allows your mind to play with your WIP in the background. Some writer friends of mine knit, paint, or cook when they need distance from their story. Some write a project that is just for fun. Before long, your story will start playing out in your head. New scenes. New dialogue. And suddenly, you’ll feel that spark of excitement that compels you to return to your WIP and lay down the words.
5. Start Over: Oh, that hurts to read, doesn’t it? If all of these other methods haven’t worked, it’s possible you need a blank page. This may mean you simply move a troublesome scene or two aside and write them from scratch. Or it may mean you open a new document and start over entirely. Ouch? Maybe not. I worked for six weeks on my next book only to realize that the reason every word felt like I had to chisel it from cement was that the book was wrong. I’d started in the wrong place. Rushed the action. Picked the wrong narrator. I finally stopped trying all of the smaller fixes and just opened a new document. Guess what? The story flowed so fast, I could hardly keep up with it.
Dealing with a stubborn WIP takes guts and creativity. Sometimes you have to try several of these methods before you unlock the story and find success. What other methods have worked for you?
Do you sometimes feel your WIP is out to get you? Do C.J.’s suggestions ring any bells with you?
*Special Notice!* This week, RU presents a 3-part mini-series called “The Other Side of the Bookshelf” by long-time Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager Linda Keller. You won’t want to miss it!
C.J. Redwine‘s debut YA fantasy DEFIANCE, the story of a girl who escapes her cloistered city to rescue her father and finds heartbreak, danger, and a new romance, comes out Fall 2012 from Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins. When C.J. isn’t putting her characters in danger or running after her four children, she creates tools designed to help other writers master the craft of synopsis and query writing. For more information on C.J., her books, or her writer’s tools, visit http://cjredwine.blogspot.com.
- C.J. Redwine – How to Escalate Conflict in Your Novel
- C.J. Redwine: New Year’s Resolutions for Writers
- 10 Ways to Create Vivid, Compelling Characters, by C.J. Redwine
- Write a HolyCowAwesome Story Part II with C.J. Redwine
- Writing A HolyCowAwesome Story, Part 1 C.J. Redwine