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.
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.
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