Q&A

How Can I Get the Same Obsession I Had With a Previous Story?

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Hi,

I’ve been working on a writing project for some time now, but because it wasn’t working—well, I liked it, but the amount of storylines and characters, among some other stuff, finally persuaded me to set it down for the time being.

Now, I’ve started on a new one, one better suited for my current writing abilities. But, I don’t… like it as much? I mean, I’m satisfied with several characters, and that there’s one overarching villain, and the world building is okay but I’m still working on it. But, I was wondering, how do I get the same almost-obsession that I had with my previous one?

Thanks,

Lisa

Hi Lisa,

I understand, I’ve been there.

Most writers are drawn to specific kinds of moods, themes, characters, or relationships. If you figure out exactly what draws you in, you can probably replicate it in another story. Everyone’s different, so you’ll need to do some experimenting. I have an article related to this with some tips that you might find useful. Looking at stories that you’re a big fan of can really help. Sometimes it comes down to stuff that may feel a little cheap at first – you loved that character because she was badass and she reminded you of yourself, or you were into that love interest because of all the angst. We like what we like.

Another possibility is that the previous story drew you in so much because of all the investment you put in it. I still don’t have a world that feels as deep and intriguing as the one from my abandoned story, but the world got that way because of all the time I spent thinking through it and adding details. It made it feel real to me. Your new story might just need time.

Some variation in interest level between stories is also normal, and it doesn’t mean no story will ever pull you in like your previous one did. I try to give my stories the right length for my level of interest. So if an idea is just fun but not emotionally compelling, I make it a short story if I can. If it’s really compelling to me, I’ll consider making it a novel.

I wish I could just give you surefire steps for recreating your obsession, but this is such an individual thing. Regardless, I’m sure you’ll figure it out with time.

Chris

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Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    One thing to ask yourself might be why you liked the other story so much. What motivated you to work on it? Which aspects of it did you love so much? What was challenging? What did you keep thinking about? Those are the things which fed your ‘obsession’ with the story.

    It might also be possible that you need to gain a certain ‘inner distance’ from your last story. That it’s still too fesh in your mind and, thus, you can’t get really enthusiastic about the other story you’re now writing.

  2. Armenian_Trope

    One of the common pitfalls of writers with a drawerful of unfinished manuscripts (✋) is that we are very engaged early on in the process because we are ‘discovering’ the story for the first time. And part of our obsessiveness is because: it’s good. But as we work it and work it, 1) it becomes so familiar we tend to see it as ‘common’ and no longer ‘ingenious!’ or 2) when we hit a roadblock (ie the muse seems to have left us) we tend to blame the story or see the roadblock as evidence that the story wasn’t ‘that good’ (because weren’t we just ROCKING it until this happened?).

    Every successful writer in the universe has great advice for this inevitable situation: you HAVE TO DO THE WORK, and that includes sticking with the story you once loved and not abandoning it because it’s just stopped being fun 24/7.

    Because I, too, tended to abandon stories I was no longer infatuated with, I now WRITE MYSELF A NOTE at the peak of my infatuation, explaining to my FUTURE SELF WHY this is A GREAT STORY, why it is unique and different, how I might market it based on its unique qualities, how much editors are going to LOVE it—then sternly warn my future self NOT TO GIVE UP ON THIS.

    I also remind myself that, TO A READER, the story will be as fresh and new and exciting as it was for ME when I was first discovering it. Unless you’re not writing to be read, this can be an effective motivator.

    I usually have very short stories or other short project ideas (like a picture book, or a novelty book) that I may turn to for a few days to keep the act and habit of writing going if some aspect of my novel has cast me into a lack-of-solution despair) and to get that satisfaction of a job ‘done’ but I DO NOT GIVE UP, and I go back to it within a few days.

    There are so many tricks.

    If you’ve ‘clevered’ your story into a twist you can’t unknot, hire a consultant (the folks here at Mythcreants seem capable) and get it worked out.

    But you have to do the boring, tedious, work and work through the terrifying, chaotic blackout of writer’s block and you have to at least be COMMITTED to your story even if you don’t love, or even like it, right now.

    Yes you can also put it away for 20 years, and discover 20 years later that it is actually wonderful and clever and unique…except it won’t be anymore. Someone did it 18 months ago, to great fanfare and wealth.

    For this reason (read Emerson on how your rejected ideas look back at you from the great height of another’s publication ‘with a certain alienated majesty’—oh burn!) another thing I’ve done lately is pull old old old pieces out of my file and declare: ‘finish, or burn!’ I give myself 3-5 days to produce a reasonably good rough draft of short pieces (or reasonably good finished draft if it exists finished in a bad draft form) and if not completed, I burn it.

    For a neglected novel idea that’s been worked and worked but never solidified, it’s TWO WEEKS to 3 chapters and an outline (which is often enough to get a publisher interested). They can be shitty as hell, but it’s 3 chapters and an outline, or the paper burns (it also gets deleted but burning is cathartic; at least it’s not around to make sad puppydog eyes at you anymore).

    There are exceptions (Confederacy of Dunces) but all those brilliant ideas you leave half-finished in a box in your basement will NOT be revived by dedicated relatives and forced onto a big publisher who will, much to their surprise, find them riveting. They will burn, anyway.

    And if you are thinking: ‘Oh, I am only in my 20’s I have plenty of time’, hear ye well my old hag’s cackle!
    .

    • Kody

      This is probably one of the best replies to any thread I’ve seen in the two+ years I’ve been devouring Mythcreants content. Excellent advice on multiple points throughout. Would that I could pin it to my Pinterest of writing advice, because I’m sure I could benefit from a re-read of this once in a while.

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