Getting Unstuck with a Work-in-Progress

by Kate Collier (aka Katie O’Boyle)

Several times this fall I heard the phrase, “If you’re spinning your wheels with a book, maybe you’re writing the wrong story.” Since I had made two failed attempts at Book Two, a murder mystery featuring by soulmate sleuths Lyssa and Kyle Pennington, and since I was deep into a third attempt that wasn’t going well, I set the book aside for a few weeks before my recent trip to Europe.

The huge shift in perspective brought the “right story” into focus for me. The key had been there all along, but I couldn’t see it. While Kyle’s role as technical genius was clear to me, I’d handicapped Lyssa with one unnecessary complication after another.

All along, I should have gone with my instinct about the right foil for Lyssa as she investigates the suspects. In an early draft of the book, I had brought in Natalie Horowitz, Lyssa and Kyle’s neighbor in Book One, without knowing how or even if I would use her. In fact, she’s the perfect character for Lyssa to bounce off ideas as she plots her strategy.

For anyone that’s gotten stuck with a plot, I’m not suggesting you need a trip to Europe to figure it out!  What I really needed was a mind-opening break from the book. Then I was able to accept I was “writing the wrong story” and let the characters speak to me about how they wanted to proceed. Now I wake up excited about rolling up my sleeves and getting to work!

In the few days left in 2015, please share your thoughts and experience with “getting unstuck” with a work-in-progress.


About drkatecollier

Author of traditional mysteries featuring the Penningtons of Tompkins College in Tompkins Falls, NY. Also Instructional Designer, Curriculum Developer and Professor for Online Teaching and Learning. Also romance author, writing as Katie O'Boyle, series Lakeside Porches, from Soul Mate Publishing, set in Tompkins Falls in the Finger Lakes of Upstate NY.
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7 Responses to Getting Unstuck with a Work-in-Progress

  1. deannaadams says:

    I’m a firm believer in putting a manuscript away for at least a few days when things aren’t going well. (And possibly working on something totally different in that time so you are still writing!) I also take walks and think about the characters – and yes, let them “speak to me.” Good post, Kate! Happy New Writing Year to all!

  2. aliceakemp says:

    I’ve had some forced breaks this past year with surgeries and complications and tried NaNoWriMo to get back to work. But that didn’t work. But the support kept me thinking about the story. Now I Have pages of notes and I’m inspired to Get back to work. Thanks for a useful blog. All the best for a productive and satisfying new year.

  3. Taking a break may be the answer. But I think the broader solution is to just listen to your characters. They really do know best. If you force them to be somebody they’re not, they get slovenly work habits–refuse to behave or even get up in the morning, fight ever scene, talk out of character, whatever their particular bent may be. Glad you got past it, Kate.

  4. Usually, a few minutes outside staring at the view, or just walking away from my manuscript for a few minutes “unsticks” me. But, best of all is a nap or that twilight time before sleep, for me, that’s where I usually find the answer.

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