The problem with my story

Way back when I was first toying with this story, I was sitting on a blanket under a huge tree near the bank of the Hudson River. We’d spent the day touring the magnificent homes in Hyde Park, New York – the Vanderbilt and Mills Mansions – and took a few moments to soak up the beautiful and serene landscape. I whipped out my writer’s notebook and scribbled some thoughts as they came to me.

I had my heroine’s name and face clear. I knew her angst and her mission. And I felt her need to have her story told. My hero made an appearance that day, too. He told me his name but not much more since he was in a hurry. He was rushing to rescue a loved one from danger and on the way had bumped into my heroine.

I went to sleep that night with story ideas swirling in my head. I saw scenes play out, I heard my characters’ voices. I saw them struggle and I saw them sneak glances when each thought the other wasn’t looking. They were so real and excited – and in such a hurry – that I got right down to writing their story.

But first… I developed W’s for them from my W-Plot class. I soared from there, putting these two into terrible danger, pushing them ever closer to the edge, forcing them to push back.

And then I dropped them.

Why? What happened? All the forward motion and then BAM! A massive brick wall knocked us all down to the ground. Why?

Because I didn’t plan my W’s the way I should have. I cheated. Along the lines of the capital letter W are the various plot points each character must reach. Low points, high points, black moments and happily ever after. They have to travel, struggle from one to the other. They cannot simply step over one and onto the next. My mistake? The plot points were too connected, too close. There has to be time and space between them or the story ends before it gets going.

And so I’m forced to step back and review all I’ve done. I’ve already gone back one chapter and come up with a new plan, a new level of tension for my hero to work through. Now I need to go back to my W’s and see if I can shift a few plot points, sneak in a couple more and up the angst, torture these charactes just a tad more, make them earn their happily ever after without feeling guilty for putting them through such horror. 

Ah but that feeling of power can be all consuming at times.  

I might even storyboard the scenes from this point on, shifting them until they flow just the way I want them to.

When you hit the proverbial brick wall in your writing, what do you do to get things moving again?

6 Responses to The problem with my story

  • I’m so glad you’ve figured out how to tackle your story again. Yahoo.

    As to what I do when I hit a brick wall….well, I whine a lot. Sometimes I need to identify it as a paper wall that needs to be walked through. Otherwise, I guess I do much the same as you–go back and reconfigure the story.

    Good luck,

  • Linda, that is a super strategy to identify a problem and then rewrite. I read one of your books and know your plot points work well. Your characters are interesting with specific goals.
    Debbie, don’t get too hard on yourself. Books and classes on writing do a number of things for the person presenting. The presenter probably does have something of interest for us since we are always looking for ways to improve. Even those presenters take classes! Many presenters write books from their class materials, but either way, they benefit from notoriety. Believe me, they’re getting the word out that their class or book is available.
    Like masterful author Linda does, if she sees a problem (maybe she thinks she needs to unravel something slower) she makes a note of it, and fixes it.
    It is true that we need to create reasons for the reader to be curious. A senior editor at Harlequin, Leslie Wainger, advises authors to take two steps forward (plot advances) and one step backwards (a complication arises).

  • Kathleen,
    I love your comment from Leslie Wainger. I’m going to brand it to the back of my hand so I don’t forget. Nah. I’ll just try and remember it. Less painful.


  • Linda,
    I can see how mind over matter would help – a paper wall is much easier to get through than a brick wall. “I think I can, I think I can…”
    I’ve battled with this story because I’ve wanted to keep writing but something kept me from doing that. I have to learn to trust my instincts and question what I’ve already written rather than question why I’m not writing more. I think an entire chapter has to be revised. I’m not dreading it like I’d expect. I’m almost excited. Almost. 😉


  • Kathleen,
    This is perfect – two steps forward and one step back. I didn’t follow that rule, and I know that’s where I went wrong. I tried to guide my characters to the answers rather than let them find them on their own – and make mistakes along the way. I really need to step back and consider more cruel and unusual ways to torture my hero and heroine. lol. Now THAT makes for good reading, yes? 🙂


  • Debbie-
    I feel your pain sister. I’ve tried those writing challenges where you just write and don’t go back over what you’ve done and it didn’t work for me. I have to go back and add stuff as I go forward. I’m still figuring out my process and trying not to let all of the stuff I’ve learned that other people do get me confused. I too like the quote from Leslie Wainger, very helpful.

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