by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan
As I wrote out my synopsis, I came to a heart-sinking realization—I wasn’t in love with my story anymore. When I brainstormed the initial story, I was so excited and on fire to dive into character development and plotting. And yes, I still like certain elements of my work-in-progress, but the crux of the story left me feeling a bit…meh. If I didn’t love it, how could I champion it to my agent, my editor, or most of all, my readers? So I asked a group of writing friends for some advice. I’ve compiled their responses to help other writers who may be struggling with story love as I have been.
- Make a list. Go back to the basics of your story development. If you still have your brainstorming notes, review them to see what created that initial spark of excitement. Did someone else’s feedback change the trajectory of your idea, causing you to change your story vision to match someone else’s? Take time to list what you like and dislike about your characters, plot, setting, and dialogue. Perhaps that will enable you to see what has caused your story excitement to fade.
- Evaluate your story arc & character development. Have you taken the time to get to know your characters? My Book Therapy teaches how to get to know your characters by using the story equation—character development based on a character’s dark past moment. If you’ve gotten to know your characters, but you’re still struggling, perhaps you’ve made them too perfect or too flawed. Go back to their dark past moment stories and see how you can make them more likable or three-dimensional. If your characters are strong, then consider your plot. Do your characters have strong external intertwining goals driven by their internal needs? If you’re anything like me, be careful of parallel plotting—hero and heroine’s external goals that don’t compete or intertwine with each other. Their goals need to be interwoven in order for their stories to intersect and for their story arcs to be fulfilled.
- Talk it out. Once you’ve thought through the basics and made your list, phone a friend or craft partner. Talking it out with other writers offers many benefits—they aren’t as emotionally invested in your story as you are, they may offer something you haven’t considered, and they can see the plot holes better since they are viewing the story with fresh eyes and ears.
- Talk with your editor. If you’re published and struggling with your story, contact your editor and ask for some chat time to help figure out the right story to fit within your publishing house’s guidelines. This is particularly important if you’re on deadline and the dates are flying off the calendar faster than you’d like. Your editor knows the pulse of the publishing house’s readership so she will be able to give keen insight into what works and what doesn’t.
- Fight the fear. Every writer, published or unpublished, who submits work deals with rejection from agents, editors, and readers. Sometimes we allow that fear of rejection to become a stumbling block for our creativity. By fighting the fear with a spirit of courage, you’re empowering yourself to gain the confidence in your abilities when you do submit your best work. As my agent reminds me—if you’re told no, then you move forward and submit something new.
- Take time to recharge. If you’re not under contract or meeting a deadline, take a writing break to recharge your creative juices. When writers struggle with the stress of deadlines, often back-to-back, they drain their wells of creativity, inhibiting their abilities to craft strong stories. Even if you’re on a deadline, force yourself to walk away from your computer and do something fun to relax. Spending quality time with family and friends lifts your spirits and enables you to reframe your thought process so you can return to your story with a calmer, clearer vision.
- Spread your wings. If you’ve done everything you can, and you still aren’t feeling your story, maybe it’s time for a change. Have you considering shelving and starting with something fresh? Do you feel you’re being hindered by a publishing house’s specific guidelines? Or maybe you’re feeling caged into a particular genre? Perhaps it’s time to spread your wings and explore new publishing opportunities. If you’re struggling with the non-fiction realm, consider writing a piece of fiction. If you’re displeased with a particular publisher, study other houses’ releases and see if your writing may be a better fit with one of them. Tired of stressing over publishing deadlines or long waits between releases, consider indie publishing. Yes, even with indie publishing, you have deadlines, but you have more control over release dates that may fit better with your lifestyle and schedule.
Writing for publication isn’t easy. It takes a lot of patience and fortitude in order to build a career. Even though you’re the only person to write your stories, you don’t need to struggle in silence. Reach out to other writers. You’ll find you’re not alone. And you’ll be able to gain the necessary insight to fall back in love with your characters and story. After all, if you don’t love your story, you can’t expect your readers will, either.
Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. She is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management, Lisa also serves on the My Book Therapy leadership team. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, crafting with friends and binging on Netflix. Learn more about her at lisajordanbooks.com.