A good writing friend suggested over the weekend that I write a post about how to fix a story that sucks. She probably didn’t mean for me to actually write a post about it, but I do have some thoughts on the topic. 😉
It is a fact that I’m currently brainstorming a story that I tried to write a few years ago. Whether the story actually sucked or not doesn’t matter. You have to spend more time with the story than anyone. If you think it’s trash, there’s clearly something wrong.
And I’ll be honest with you – it doesn’t matter what’s wrong. Because that isn’t the problem. The problem is that you won’t leave it alone.
You can’t fix anything if you’re constantly poking at it. So, I’m going to tell you how to fix it. And I’m going to tell you how to figure out what the problem is, because you still really want to know even though it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve been there an awful lot, and I get it.
Yeah. Stop what you’re doing. Put the story down. Walk away. Do something else.
And I don’t mean do something else like go to the movies. I don’t mean take the weekend off. I mean work on another story. You’re a writer. You have something else you can work on. I’m serious. Hands off the story until you figure it out. Because when you’re stressed and writing in circles, you can’t stop the cycle until you step away.
And you know what else? It’s not worth it. I know we think it is. But guess what? It isn’t. If you really want to write this story, you’ll figure it out how to fix it. Your subconscious is powerful. Let it work for you. But keep in mind, your subconscious works in the background. So give it space to breathe.
I totally understand. We get excited about our ideas. Sometimes we get obsessed with them. We want them to work out NOW because we’ll feel like we wasted our time otherwise. But it isn’t wasted time. We’re discovering other ways that the story isn’t working. We’re learning what happens when we force something. We’re learning what happens when we spend too much time stressing ourselves out. They’re valuable lessons.
So, this is how you fix something that isn’t working. You set it down. Don’t be afraid to do this. You may be able to write it later, but you clearly can’t get it together now. And that’s okay. It’s honestly okay. It happens to me all the time. Just last month, I’ve tried to work on two other stories and had to set them down. Their time will come. Or it won’t. Writer’s gut knows what it’s doing. Some stories can be written quickly. Others need a while to bake. Every idea is different.
You may be struggling because you’re forcing it. Maybe you don’t know what the characters want just yet. Maybe you’re like me and find yourself trying to tackle something that isn’t really up your alley because you want to “challenge” yourself, even though there are other characters in your head with clear goals and other ways to challenge yourself. Maybe the timing isn’t right.
It doesn’t matter what the problem is. You’ll figure it out. Later. When you’re not stressed. Probably in the middle of the night. In the meantime, you have something else you can work on. Work on that. Trust me. If you keep beating this story up and yourself along with it, you’re going to burn yourself out, and you do NOT want to burn yourself out. That’s a long recovery road.
The story I’m brainstorming now has been in my head for at least four years, if not five. When I say things will work out, I promise they will work out. You’re not giving up when you set the story down. You’re giving it the space it needs to grow. It’s YOUR monster. It’s not going anywhere.
To close, there’s a Japanese study that says looking at pictures of baby animals boosts cognitive thinking. 😀