Q&A

How Do I Break Out of a Rut?

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Hello, I’m trying to write stories but I haven’t had much chance to interact with other writers, so I have a few questions about my writing.

  1. I always find myself writing on and off, often getting frustrated with work and either deleting it or leaving it half finished. How can I keep that motivation up?
  2. How do I get started plotting and planning a story?
  3. Are there any online groups you recommend where I can interact with other writers?
  4. I’m not sure which direction to take my current story. Should I finish it at all costs and revise later, or figure out where I’m going with it first?

-Anon

Hey Anon, thanks for writing in!

There’s a few elements at play here, so let’s break this down.

First, the question of keeping your motivation to write. This isn’t something we can’t give you a solid answer to, since every writer’s process is different, and every writer draws motivation from different sources. For me personally, I find that historical research is a great motivator, as a lot of my stories are history-inspired fantasy. Of course, I still suffer from writer’s block all the time, so that’s not a sure-fire solution even if your process is exactly like mine.

That said, there’s a lot of content out there about how to beat writer’s block. The best strategy I can recommend is searching online for some options and trying them out until you find something that works for you. We’ve got an entire article on the subject, if you’re interested: Five Activities I Use to Beat Writer’s Block.

How to plot your story is another complex topic, but this time we’ve got solid answers! It would be impossible to cover everything in a single post, but here are a few foundational articles you can check out.

As for online venues to share your work, there are lots of those. All you need to do is search for “online writers group” and you’ll find plenty. Unfortunately, I can’t specifically recommend any of them. In my experience, writers groups are really unpredictable. You never know what kind of feedback you’re going to get, or how valuable it will be. However, you might have a better experience than I did, so go ahead and try out a few.

For us, the best place to find beta readers is with your friends and family. That way you actually know the people giving you feedback, and you can account for any biases they might have. We also recommend getting content editing before beta reading. Beta readers can give you valuable feedback, but they aren’t qualified to actually tell you what changes need to be made.

We’ve also got a few posts on beta reading that you might find helpful.

Finally, let’s talk about the story you’re working on now. It sounds like you’re facing the question of whether you should push on and get the words down or if you should revise what you already have. Again, this is a question of process, and it’s different for every writer.

For me, I have to get the entire story written first. If I stop to revise as I’m going, I’ll never finish. But I also know authors who lose all motivation to work on a story if they know there’s a problem and don’t correct it. Since finishing the draft seems like something you’re struggling with, I’d recommend the forge ahead method first and then you can change your strategy if it doesn’t work.

One final option is to work on revising an outline before you go to the draft stage. That way, you can make changes to a much smaller document, and it’ll save you time later once you’re drafting. Again, this will work better for some writers than others.

Hope that answers your questions!

Do you have a question you’d like answered by Oren or Chris? Submit it here. Q&As are only made public if you give your permission and we decide to feature it. If you’d like more than an answer to a general question, you can hire us to look over your story.

 

Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    Personally, I’m one of the authors who have a problem with endings (meaning I have no trouble whatsoever figuring out how to start a story and get through the middle, but I need to force myself to end it). What I’ve found out works to motivate me to finish is to remind myself that this is only a first draft. It’s not the final product, nobody but me is ever going to see it (and I self-publish, so people eventually do get to see my stories, but never a first draft). There’s a lot of bad writing, I tell myself, and I need to get it out of the system, so first write, finish, then go over it and revise. That’s a strategy which works well for me. I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but from what you write here, I dare guess you’re looking too critically at your first draft, hence you try to change it over and over again and then abandon it as ‘too bad to continue’ and hence never finish it. Looking at it a little more relaxedly might help with that.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      This is absolutely true. For some of us, the internal critic is the worst enemy.

      • Cay Reet

        I think one problem, especially at the beginning, is that you never get to see the first draft of a bestseller or your all-time favourite books. The books you read are so much better than what you will produce as your first draft. It’s easy to assume that’s because you’re not good enough to write, even though that’s wrong. It helps to go through the whole process of first draft – revisions – final draft at least once or twice to see how much your own story changes from the beginning to the end.

    • LazerRobot

      I wholeheartedly second this. I find it much easier to get the words down so I can look at it and fix problems, than trying to sort it out in my head before it’s been written.

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