When a Story Stalls


So many stories, but so little time. That seems to be the theme song of my life. Because I still maintain a full-time day job, writing, sadly, must remain a sideline. I recently decided my “little writing hobby” was worth some real time, so I took a full week’s vacation to finish my latest work-in-progress–one that’s only been in the works for over a year! And I did it. I wrote those two, little words a writer longs to type: The End.

What a glorious fantasy, to pretend for one, full week that writing was my only job. I could really get used to that routine, and fast. *sigh*

So now I’m rummaging through my notes to decide which story idea I will take off with next. I’m amazed, and pleased, at the number of choices I have. I have at least a half-dozen either sketched out on a page, or semi-sort-of outlined, or actually partially written. For some reason, all of these stories lost steam and fizzled.

What happened? And what can I do to revive an idea that I lost enthusiasm for and tucked away, unfinished?

rock-384444_1280In a few cases, it’s easy to see what went wrong. Sometimes a great story idea, a premise, is only a seed. But like a seed, without all the other elements for growth, it doesn’t get very far. Maybe my characters’ motivations were lacking, or their goals fuzzy and uncertain. Perhaps the conflicts weren’t sufficiently intense, the stakes not high enough. I couldn’t see what was missing back then, but now, after time has passed and I’ve gained some perspective, I hope I’ll be able to identify what has to happen for the story seed to germinate, take root, and grow.

In one case, a well-meaning editor/friend inadvertently put a novel of mine to death. Sad to say, her intentions were good. Her vision of my story and mine were at odds. I tried to steer it onto the new path, but in so doing, I completely lost enthusiasm for the book. It became her story, not mine. This one will be a challenge to revive because when the story stalled, I was 54,000 words in. Yikes.

And then there’s the very first idea I ever had for a novel. It came to me in a dream on a sunny, Sunday morning about 15 years ago. The idea was so exciting and so rich in detail that I clambered out of bed and dashed to my laptop to hurriedly sketch out the idea. There are at least four “versions” of that novel, in various stages of development, floating around in my Carbonite cloud (thank God for Carbonite!).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not good enough a writer to write that book. Yet.

So many stories, so little time. I’ll keep plugging away in the wee hours of the morning, before my “real” day begins, until maybe, someday soon, I will find the time to dig all of those stalled stories out of storage and bring them back to life.




About Claire Gem

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. A native of New York, USA, she now resides in Massachusetts, USA with her husband of 39 years.
This entry was posted in Cavorting With Claire!, Soul Mate Publishing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to When a Story Stalls

  1. I too have a dream story—that I’m not quite skilled enough to tackle yet—sitting in pieces deep in my laptop. Great post, Claire!

  2. Beth Carter says:

    I know what you mean about having several stops and starts on story ideas for various reasons. My first novel has never seen the light of day. I have many, many ideas for novels and novellas but will probably never live long enough to finish all of them. Well, if I’d get off of social media, I actually could write them all!!

    Now, about Carbonite…I don’t have this. I’ll check into it. Fun post, and I’m glad you took a week for yourself to finish! Mission accomplished. Go, you!

    • Claire Gem says:

      I swear by Carbonite. My brother, who is a tax consultant, told me about their service. He keeps all his client records backed up there. They back up everything about every 15 minutes. I have both my laptop AND my desktop computers backed up on Carbonite. Shall I tell you about the time I finished a 101,000 word novel, closed it, then went to open it back up and the pages were BLANK??? Thank God I had Carbonite!

  3. Belle Ami says:

    Thanks for sharing! All we can do is find that story that keeps the flame burning. Good luck!

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  5. viola62 says:

    I’m the queen of starts and stops. What I love about writing is the adventure of creating that new world or time period. Like you, I also still work full-time. I write when I can, but ideas are constantly running through my brain.

    • Claire Gem says:

      It’s frustrating, though, to have that precious hour or two in the a.m., get really going on a story, then have to stop to get ready for work Grrr!!!!

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