Sometimes we get stuck. The story we’re writing stops working, or the words don’t feel right (if they’re coming out at all). There’s many ways to counter that miasma, and get us producing words again.
When you’re committed to telling a story, switching to another piece of work can feel like you’re giving up, but there’s a series of valid Somethings that you can write instead, that can help to clear out your head and get your writing cogs working together again. Almost everything you work on will be one of these four Somethings, so switching between them shouldn’t feel like the guilt-ridden escape that it sometimes does.
Are you writing for the very first time? Sorry, but you can’t sit with us. At least not today. The rest of you, it’s time to close your current story and put it somewhere else. Back in the to-do pile, on the shelf, just out of the way. We’re not talking to it right now. Unless you’re a writing wunderkind, there are stories you began in the past that you either never finished, or left in a state you find unsatisfactory. The first of our Somethings is that – an old story.
Why an old story?
You’re not the same person you were when you first wrote it. The things I wrote a decade ago were produced by a different person to who I am today. We’re able to bring fresh eyes and fresh ideas to something we did before. It could be a story you remember working on, though it may be something you’ve mostly forgotten. You can breath new life into the story, and there’s also the chance that in the time between you writing it and now, your subconscious has been working on the story.
In the time between, you have been soaking up worlds of influence and inspiration, and some of that will catch against your older material. It’s almost like co-writing something, where you can approach the rampant enthusiasm of a lesser writer with the measured experience of one that knows more about what works. Some parts will impress you. Other parts will drive you mad, wondering why you ever thought it was any good. There will still be moments that will make you cringe, but that distance of time between writing it down and now will help you appreciate the good parts too.
Yeah, there’ll be good parts, though more akin to buried treasure.
If it was a story that you finished a draft or two for, you can work on it by editing. Don’t be afraid to rewrite, or cut those clever little lines you used to be so proud of. It’s always easier after your first kill. If you didn’t finish a draft, read through, and see what jumps out as potential tangents for more conflict, or even as unfinished plot-threads that seem so obvious in hindsight. Can’t find it, and were just stuck? Throw in a new character, so you get a bit of freshness that’ll change the direction your story was taking.
There’s nothing backwards about changing to work on something unfinished. It’s all forward movement.