What To Do When You’re Just Not Feeling Your Story

I give a lot of advice on this blog. Most of it, like most good advice, is based on failure. I’ve messed up a lot, so I know what I’m talking about.

Let’s say you’re a few chapters into your story, or maybe even 75 or 100 pages… and you’re just not feeling it. At all. What’s more, you have this new idea for a story. It is so much better than the stupid, lifeless thing you are working on! What should you do?

You should finish your story.

Okay, hear me out.

It’s actually fine to toggle between a few projects. It’s okay to set something aside to marinate, begin a new thing, and come back to your first thing.

But if you’ve never finished anything? Finish. You can study and read up and write all you want, but there are things that you can only learn by finishing a story.

Don’t be like I used to be, and write 100 pages of a bunch of novels and then abandon them. Yeah, I told you this advice was rooted in failure.

If you don’t finish things often, or you haven’t finished anything lately? Again, finish. You need to know you can do it, and not just once or even twice.

The old adage, Finished is better than good, is an adage for a reason.

I’ll give you an example. I will admit to not being a fan of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey. (I’ll pause while she dries her tears on one of the thousand dollar bills she uses for Kleenex.) In general, I tend to appreciate popular things, but there are several reasons why I dislike this book, and the mild kink is not one of them. I didn’t read the other two books in the trilogy.

But here’s the thing. She did finish a damn trilogy. Have I finished a trilogy? No, I have not. So I have to respect that effort, and I have to give myself a chance for some success — by actually finishing what I start.

If you keep on chasing after one beautiful story concept after another, it can make you like a person who’s terrible at committed relationships. You can’t stop wondering if something better is out there.

Sometimes stories are excruciating for most of the first draft. Soulless, cheesy, cliched, or all of the above. Maybe you think there are a thousand stories like it. Maybe you realize there are no stories like it, and you wonder if it will have a tiny audience. You might tell yourself: This story is awful. Why the hell did I even start it?

Trust the instinct that led you to the story in the first place. Don’t overthink things. Just see it through. As you plug away, you’ll encounter new insights into the characters and new plot points. It will get better as you go along.

The thing you don’t like about the first draft isn’t your story. It’s just your writing. If you start a new story, you’ll have the same problem.

But if you hang in there and take it to completion, your writing will become better and better all the time.

Anyway, nobody wants to buy your unfinished book. Editors don’t want it. Agents don’t want to represent it (unless you are already a bit famous, in which case, will you write a gushing quote for the cover of my next novel?). Readers do not want to read it.

So finish the thing you’re on. You’re going to be so proud of yourself.

 

 

40 thoughts on “What To Do When You’re Just Not Feeling Your Story”

  1. Pingback: BLANK PAGE TO FINAL DRAFT, WEEK 6: Chapters Four and Five « Bryn Donovan

  2. Pingback: BLANK PAGE TO FINAL DRAFT, WEEK 6: Chapters Four and Five – Bryn Donovan

  3. Pingback: ReBlog – What To Do When You’re Just Not Feeling Your Story – Bryn Donovan | Brickley Jules Writes

  4. I came to this post two years late, but enjoyed it greatly. Fortunately I learned the slogging lesson early on. Didn’t like it, never quite mastered it, but I did finally know my enemy/friend. It was 1965, I was 22, and was selling door-to-door in rural Michigan. Occasionally I’d have a hundred dollar day (the Fuller Brush man’s holy grail back then), but mostly I floundered. Most frustrating was seeing the other salesmen – guys I considered hacks – bringing in $40-$50 day after day. Compared to my results, they were all succeeding, or at least earning a steady income. That’s when I realized that “the secret of brilliant success is slow stupid plodding.”

    Of course it’s not really the “secret” of success, but it is one big-a$$ major ingredient. And now, more than five decades later, I still find I need to review that lesson from time to time.

    Thanks Bryn for the great reminder.

  5. This gave me some encouragement thanks 🙂 I have a hard time finishing my last chapter. It’s stupid I know, it’s the last chapter, I can see the finish line but urg I can’t seem to get it right! He already confessed, their misunderstandings have been cleared, they made up, they had a heated sexy night in a rented room and now… Now I need to write the following morning, the return home and tie the last loose ends and I just feel like it’s boring… And to make matters worse I haven’t touched the story in more than a year… or any story for that matter :S I feel like I have lost my writing style in that year and it bugs me to no end! Buuut your posts are of great help guiding me through those hardships and headaches, thank you 😀

    1. Hi Myriam! You know, endings are tough. And I know what it’s like to pick up a story you haven’t looked at in a while. Sometimes it takes some time to get back into the groove! I’m sure you will, though, and I hope you have great luck with it!

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