Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, we all have times when our stories aren’t working and we’re not really sure what to do about it. It can be really hard to put into words because all you know is that something isn’t right but it could be anything. I had this with the Christmas book I’ve just written and with my summer release from 2020 Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay. Whilst a good editor can work wonders, you want it in the best shape it can be before you submit. So here are my top tips for figuring out what’s going wrong so you can figure out how to fix it.
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1. What’s the point of it?
Take some time to think about your overall theme/message/feel. If you’re writing a Christmas book, like I was, you want it to feel Christmassy. Maybe you want your novel to be about a particular theme, for example, friendship, community, second chances. Having this in mind can help you identify where you’re straying.
2. Check your plot
Be honest now, is it dull? If it is, then take some time now to figure out what needs to change and where. Even if you’re a panster, taking some time to think about where your story is headed can really help you identify the aspects that aren’t sitting right.
3. Check your characters
One of the things I felt as I was beginning to write my Christmas 2021 book was that every other character had more personality than my main character. That definitely had to change! Once I’d made those changes I felt much more on track.
Take each of your characters in turn. Are they dull and two dimensional? Are your minor characters only there to move the plot forward? Do you need to round them out? If you don’t, great, but if you do, it’s worth spending the time now to figure out their stories rather than carrying on and having a squillion things to edit later.
4. Brainstorm with a friend
This helped me so much and I’m absolutely indebted to my friend and writing sister Belinda Missen for her support! Having someone to talk to about what wasn’t working helped my get creative and come up with new scenes that fitted the story much better than the ones I was planning.
If you’ve got another writer you can talk too, that’s brilliant. If you haven’t though, it doesn’t matter. My hubby is often my sounding board when I get stuck. Anyone whose opinion you trust is worth talking too.
5. Put it aside and do something else!
Read, watch TV, let your brain relax and give yourself time to think about it. Often ideas come and problems are solved while they’re working away in our subconscious. Don’t be afraid to take some time out and let your creative brain re-charge.
6. Something’s holding you back
This is a really tough one because it can mean shelving manuscripts or totally re-writing, but I’d remiss if I left it out.
Ask yourself, is this the novel I actually want to write? Are you holding back because you’re scared of something? Maybe you want your protagonist to be a bit more complex but you’re scared she won’t be likeable. Perhaps you want to use a different hero who others might not connect with. Maybe you really want to write an outlandish plot but you think people will criticize it. If any of these worries are niggling in your mind it’s going to affect your writing, especially when you feel like you’re holding back and watering things down.
Try and be brave and write the book you want. Beta readers, editors and friends can all help you edit later, but it’s important that you’re proud of what you’ve done. Writing a book is no mean feat!
8. Figure out the ending and write backwards
If you’re really, totally and completely stuck and nothing else listed here has worked, I’d definitely recommend writing the ending and working backwards. I much prefer working chronologically, but I know lots of writers who jump around writing the scenes they want to first. Sometimes trying a different approach can be just what you need to free up your mind!
Have you got any tips to share for getting un-stuck in your novel writing process? Let me know in the comments below!
The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse – my latest read is out now!
Amelia loves her life in Paris. But with the surprise inheritance of her childhood home, she has no choice but to return to the small village of Meadowbank to restore her great-aunt’s old farmhouse. However, returning to Meadowbank means she has to confront her past, including old flame Adam, the one thing she regrets leaving behind.
When Amelia discovers a locket hidden in the farmhouse, containing the picture of a mysterious World War Two soldier, she starts to uncover the secrets of her great-aunt’s past.
With Adam on hand to help restore the farmhouse, she’s shocked by his generosity after so many years apart. As her feelings for her first love reignite, Amelia is suddenly confused as to where she truly belongs.
Can Amelia finally find where her heart truly calls home?
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