I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Do You Do When Your Story is Stuck Going No Where?

I was seriously stuck. Can you picture it? Twenty-seven degrees--cold--and rainy in rural Texas and I'm in a big, blue Ford F150 truck ... stuck.

Okay, well not literally.

My story was stuck. You know, when something just doesn't feel right? Well, it didn't. My story felt boring. Flat. Uninteresting. I didn't feel any "umph!" in what I was trying to write. What was worse -- I didn't know how to fix it.

What to do? I called my friend Michelle Lim and she brainstormed with me. Did I mention it was after 1o:00 PM? I definitely think a Starbucks gift card will be heading somebody's way.

I looked at the plot outline until 3:00 AM. It still didn't "feel" interesting enough. So, I picked up James Scott Bell's book, Plot and Structure. I heard a couple of my Ponderer buddies mention what a good book this is. So, genius that I am, I ordered it. A real genius would have opened it and read it before now.

I've gotten half-way through the book and sharpened my highlighter twice. There is a ton of good advice in Plot and Structure. One of the things Bell wrote really stuck out to me. He recommends writing something you are passionate about. Bell's exact words were, "Find an issue that makes your cheeks red."

Hmmm, red cheeks? That image makes me think of gatherings with my five siblings and our families. We are often loud, boisterous and passionate in our arguments ... um, I mean discussions.

Ask yourself: What are you passionate about? What life experiences made you feel the way you do? Can you take those experiences and make a story out of them? Would the market you are writing for find the story interesting -- interesting enough to pick up your book?

Happy writing!

~Alena T.


  1. I know exactly what you're talking about. I received a rejection letter this week with a clause in it. "Consider overhauling the story development." For two days I stared at my computer, completely stuck. He liked the story. He liked my writer's voice. But the flow is off.

    I did the same thing and pulled out Bell's book. Viola! I found a place to start and I think I'm on the "write" track.

    Getting unstuck is one of the most difficult obstacles in writing. Thanks for the reminder to "write your passion." Thank you for sharing a part of your journey!

    Happy Writing!

  2. Bravo, Christine for staring down the rejection and getting back on track.

    I love brainstorming with other writers to get back on track. Going it alone can be like trying to push a stalled truck out of the mud all by myself. Others helping makes all the difference.

  3. One of the things I've learned through MBT came from Rachel Hauck. When you're stuck, keep asking why until something makes sense. Sometimes, if you're stuck, it's because your conflict isn't strong enough or your character isn't developed enough.

    Christine, great job! Celebrate that rejection because it shows your courage in submitting your work.

  4. Beth - Thanks for the encouragement!

    Lisa - I will keep that tactic in mind. I was watching an episode of the new Hawaii Five-O (one of my favorite shows) when I questioned why the storyline went that direction. I started rewriting it in my head. One thought led to another and I suddenly realized there was something in that new direction I could use to help fix my story problem. I started writing and discovered my "bad guy" needed to be much worse. I knew how bad he was, but I don't think the reader was getting that picture.

    Thanks again for the encouragement! It is due to all the support and teaching at MBT that I am growing and learning as a writer.

  5. Christine, I love the new Hawaii Five-0!!!

  6. Alena, love your post! I have Plot and Structure and have found it so helpful. And you're so right--passion makes the words flow easier.

  7. Bulls-eye encouragment, Alena. Love that tip to watch for what makes our cheeks turn red and then write like crazy.