Time, To Rediscover Your Story

If you’ve written even a couple of stories in your writing life, I’m sure you’ve, at one time or another, lost sight of your story. It happens to me all the time. I’ll have an incredibly clear vision of what my story will be, but once I’ve been writing for a while, my story takes twists and turns I didn’t plan on and before I know it, it looks nothing like I originally thought it would. Sometimes this is a great thing but other times, it stops me dead in my tracks. What was I trying to say again?

This recently happened to me with my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel. I completed the novel, gave it some time to rest, read it again, and then when I set my mind to improve it and give it more depth, my characters became people I didn’t recognize, the mood of my story shifted and my original passion for what I set out to accomplish faded. I got stuck.

I’m stubborn. I tried to break through the block by doing exercises and reading writing craft books but no matter what I did, nothing clicked. Finally, I made the difficult decision to set it aside for a while.

Giving It Time

As hard as it was, I think it’s the best decision I ever made for the story. Ever heard the saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees?” I was trying so hard to make something happen that I was no longer listening to the story or the characters, only my own mind telling me what “should” be happening to make things more interesting. Of course, none of those interesting things felt true to the story.

In an age when producing and quick turn around times are paramount, it can be scary to step away from a story for whatever reason. I want to be a published author as much as the next writer, but here’s what time away from my story gave me:

I came back to my original vision. All those extra subplots and new characters I was trying to force weave into my novel fell away and the characters that first inspired me to write this story were the only ones left standing. The romance between them is what I want to write and anything I add should supplement that, not take over.

My excitement returned. I love this story. Everything about it. All the frustration and anguish of trying to mold it into something else was ruining my passion for it. Time away has renewed my energy to the point that I’m bursting to pick it up again.

I knew it mattered. I’ve walked away from stories and never returned to them. It’s one of the most difficult things to do as a writer–to let your hard work stay hidden in a drawer. That’s why time away is a tough decision to make. But coming back to it made me realize how much this story meant to me and now I’m ready to do whatever it takes to make it shine.

I found some new insights. Time creates new perspective, more knowledge of the world and of life, and more understanding of writing craft. How could that not mean new ideas for an old story? What I can bring to my story now is what makes me sure I will take it to the next level and I can’t wait to make that happen.

Starting Anew

I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m ready to get started on my story again and I can’t wait to bring all my fresh excitement to it. I could have continued to force myself to write. I could have lined my story with characters and plots that didn’t really fit. I could have started sending it out even when it didn’t feel quite right, but I didn’t. I trusted my instincts and gave myself the opportunity to grow to fit my story instead of trying to make my story something it wasn’t.

Are you stuck on your story? Could time and a new perspective be what it needs?

Photo by Kaja Kozlowska

I am an author and a writing business teacher. I am also a mother of two, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. My debut women's fiction novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017. Here, I blog about my journey in publication in the hopes of inspiring others to follow their own dreams.

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Comments (2)

  1. This is a great post Jamie. I have definitely experienced the magic of allowing a story to flow through me, and the awkwardness of trying to force it in a different direction. For me, taking some time to examine a scene and ask myself if what I had written was how the character would have responded, or how I would have responded, helped me to go back and find the story again. Thanks for sharing your process. I can’t wait to read the results!

    1. And thank you for sharing yours! I think sometimes it’s hard to separate self and character, especially when the characters have similarities to ourselves (which is pretty much inevitable). If I could master that, I’d be golden! Lol!

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