Guest Blogger: Julie Rieman Duck

23 Jan

Writing A Story You Don’t Like

By Julie Rieman Duck

There isn’t much I can’t write. At least, it seems that way. As a copywriter with 20 years under my belt, I have a grasp on just about any topic that comes my way. Concrete? I can write about how solid it is. Grape jelly? Let me tell you how delicious it makes your sandwiches. Lightbulbs? These are brighter than anything your eyes have seen before – and double your ability to come up with great ideas!

However, I wish it was that easy when it comes to writing fiction. There are more times than not when I sit and stare at the computer screen, the cursor blinking against a blank page or, even worse, thousands of words that just don’t grab me. It’s not that I don’t have a story idea to go off of; it’s that the story I am writing doesn’t hold me.

The story rarely starts out as a burden. Not at all. Like many things I write, it starts with an idea that I build a world around. Main character She would go do Event B and meet Guy #1 and Guy #2, but #1 did this and #2 did not, so what is She to do? As I put the words down, they don’t seem quite right. This is when I do a little editing, going through the chapters and figuring out if it’s the flow. No, that’s okay. Maybe it’s the characters’ dialogue? Naw, it’s good. Perhaps it’s the voice – too bossy or mousy? Um, nope. I will come up with anything to avoid facing the truth about why I am staring at the screen, my hands folded in my lap.

I do not like the story.

I also feel lukewarm about the characters. Everything seems herky-jerky and forced. Nothing is interesting and the idea that the story is wrapped around is about as thrilling as a balled-up piece of white bread around lunchmeat. No matter what I try in order to keep writing and building word count, I find myself spending more time visiting Twitter and Facebook than I do finishing my story.

At this point, there are a few things I can do to alleviate the stress and guilt of spending time with something I don’t love. Perhaps if you find yourself in the same sort of “I hate my WIP” pickle, try one of these…

1.)   Give it a rest. Put the story away for a pre-determined amount of time. A few days? A week? A month? Then take it out and revisit the story. If it still makes you cringle, shelve it for good.

2.)   Start something else and write that at the same time. This might be a bit difficult, given that you’ll be bouncing back and forth between story lines, characters and issues. It might set you straight on what you’ve been working on, and zap you back into shape.

3.)   Rewrite the first chapter. Maybe you didn’t put your idea down the right way in the first place. A re-do might be a pain in the neck, but it could save your story if you like where you’re headed with the new chapter. The con, though, is that you’ll need to adjust everything.

4.)   Throw it to the wolves. Find beta readers online and ask them for the honest truth. Their opinions might not hurt so bad, given that your own opinion of the story isn’t so grand right now.

5.)   Carry on. You can force yourself to write and get the job done. The last time I did this, I finished the story and submitted it to my agent. She liked it. Go figure.

Ultimately, how you approach your unlikeable story is up to you. It might not be a joy, it might not be something you look forward to doing at all, but know that you will grow from the experience and probably go on to write something awesome (and that you love) the next time around.



Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Idaho


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8 responses to “Guest Blogger: Julie Rieman Duck

  1. Janis McCurry

    January 23, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    Julie, you are absolutely correct. I’ve put away a story that I like in concept, like the characters, etc., but it just didn’t excite me. When I’m done with the current project, I’ll go back and see if it will work. SIGH. It’s never easy.

    Thanks for guest blogging at Gem State Writers.

    • Julie Duck

      January 23, 2012 at 7:15 AM

      Thank you, Janis. I appreciate being here!

      I have so many WIPs that I revisit at least once a year.. Most of them still give me the “blahs” and I re-shelve them. Poor stories!

      – Julie

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    January 23, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    Welcome and thanks for a great post, Julie. What I also do is save all those discarded stories and note files and if I can’t save the original, I recycle or mix and match. It’s like refinishing an old piece of furniture … you never know until you sand off all the crud what great stuff you might unearth 🙂

  3. Peggy Staggs

    January 23, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Thanks for blogging with us. It makes me crazy to be all excited about a new project then 30 pages or more in, I hate it. I tend to put them aside and if inspiration hits I go back otherwise, they just take up space on my bookshelf waiting. I never seem to be able to toss out my babies.

  4. Clarissa Southwick

    January 23, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Great advice, Julie. I tend to feel this way when I’m revising, so it’s good to have some strategies to get through it . Thanks for guest blogging for us today 🙂

  5. Liz Fredericks

    January 23, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Julie, this is great advice, and so timely for many of us. However, I especially wanted to comment on your ‘if it still makes you cringle’ – fabulous word to capture the feeling – not quite a cringe, but so much more than a wince. Thanks! And thank you for blogging with us on Gem State Writers.

  6. Mary Vine

    January 24, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    I needed to read this, Julie. Thanks for the pointers on what to do to move forward. Great blog!


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