Beating Back the Stales
We all get to the point when we think, “I hate you WIP, DIE-DIE-DIE.” Well, that might be a little excessive, but we do get to the point where we start to hate our favorite characters and plot. The idea starts to seem stale, the action starts to lag, and you begin to wonder if there’s really any point to finishing the story you once adored.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to help keep your excitement for your story up, and prevent it from feeling stale.
Talking the tension out of a story will kill it quick. Talking it over tends to drain away the energy and thrill. You know how a therapist tells you to talk about your problems to make them seem less scary or stress or whatever? Well, if you do this with a story, it decreases the excitement and drains away the thrill. So, don’t talk too much about your story until it’s complete. When I say complete, I mean the first solid draft, not rough drafts 1-10, but your first solid draft.
Feel free to change things up. I don’t care how far you are in a story, or how complete a WIP is, don’t be afraid to explore new things. Don’t overwrite your drafts, just try swapping things around a bit. What if Sue finds the item she needs in chapter two instead of chapter four? What if your MMC decides to dump his girlfriend in chapter six? Switch things around and explore your options. Nothing is set in stone until you’ve sold the piece.
Plot Bunnies! Aren’t they cute? Sometimes. Other times they’re like a cool quick high. They start off great but the crash is a bitch. Make decisions over which bunnies are worth keeping and which ones to toss in the nearest stew pot. Write drafts as many as you want, exploring these bunnies. I’ll tell you what, I have three drafts of my current WIP and the subplots all came from exploring bunnies in each rough draft. Don’t be afraid to write a story again if the bunnies sound great, just don’t get frustrated when they turn out to be a cheap high. It was just a draft idea, after all.
Explore backstory. You can explore your backstory in another doc. Why is your character the way he is? Why did the bad guy become obsessed with Snickers bars? If you ask yourself how and why the people in your story are doing what they’re doing, sometimes that helps to keep the stales away. It can make them seem fresh and alive again if you find out something new.
Too much of a good thing. Accept that you can’t fit every brilliant idea into your WIP. Chop, hack and carve it down to something workable. A 100k novel is a big project, but make sure you haven’t hidden the main plot and the characters under mounts of subplot and massive info dumps. Don’t be afraid to add, but don’t be afraid to cut either. Don’t let yourself become lost in the story. Take control and make firm decisions. A story can get unruly if you let it, and leave you feeling frustrated and annoyed, so take control.
My final suggestion. Do NOT send your work to be critiqued until after you’ve completed a solid draft. There is nothing that will make you feel more frustrated than to have someone look over your rough pieces and point out the problems that fill your half-finished draft. Trust me on this. Unless you have a solid draft to work from, critiques will make you feel like you need to fix every last thing first. It’s a draft. A draft is a sketch of the real story somewhere under all the garbage you wrote trying to figure out the story. Unless you have the real story ready, sending draft pieces out to your writing friends to look over is not only worthless, it’s depressing.
I hope this helped. If not I can only say, this works for me. Good luck and good writing to you all.