When Nothing Goes Right

You plotted correctly and it the story is wonderful. You drew from deep within and created the perfect characters to carry your story to conclusion. You kicked everyone out of the house or went to your special hiding place to write. And you put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and get started.

And nothing comes out as it should. What’s worse, you can’t figure out why not so you don’t know how to do things differently in order to get it right. What to do?

Don’t sweat it. Write a few words or sentences to remind yourself later where you are in the story and what’s happening and then go on to the next part. Or to the end. Or to whatever scene in the story you can wrap your mind around at the moment. And write.

Don’t worry about the part you couldn’t do. Come back to it later when you’re in a better mood. It’ll most likely go right then because you’ll have filled in what happened before and after that particular scene.

Hint:  when this happens to me, I highlight the scene that didn’t work so I can find it easily later. For some reason I can’t figure out, just passing over those highlighted words when I’m on my way to the scene I’m working on at the moment does something. It gets the creative part of my subconscious mind working so when I do return, I find that I know exactly what to do.


In a previous tip, I said you are in every story you write. That’s true and knowing and using that fact can make your stories better.

Whenever you character gets into a difficult situation… and they always do because stories are about characters in difficult situations… and you are considering various ways for said character to deal with said difficult situation, think what you’d do if you were in their place.

You might not be a Navy Seal if that’s what your main character is, or have magical powers or whatever other special attributes you’ve given your character but I’m absolutely certain that you know how you’d take care of business if you were a Seal or did have extraordinary powers. And, knowing that, you know what your character should do. What you’d do if you were your character.

That action makes that character believable. Makes him or her real. Gives your writing honesty. And makes your story one readers will remember long after they’ve put the book down.


Deus Ex Machina

Coincidences that get characters into trouble are great. Coincidences that get them out is cheating. It’s the deus ex machina of the fiction world.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Deus ex machina is, almost literally, the ‘machine of the gods.’ It a device used by opera composers of old when they wrote their characters into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get them out. They simply decided that the gods had been watching all along and had them drop down to Earth long enough to solve everything. It’s a device that’s phony in operas and it’s phony in fiction.

Today I see deus ex machina used most frequently in paranormal stories that have one or two paranormal characters for most of the book. Then, as the climax approaches, suddenly all kinds of other paranormal characters come out of the woodwork and form an army and vanquish evil. Good wins, of course, but even before the battle begins I’ve lost interest.

So whether it’s in opera, paranormal fiction or any story at all, or whenever you’re tempted to use it yourself because it would make things easier, there’s only one thing to say about deus ex machina. Don’t do it!

The Fire Within

You’re a professional writer. Or you want to become one. Either way, the payoff is people reading what you write and paying money to purchase it. It’s a business, right?

But it’s more than a business. It’s an extension of yourself. If it isn’t… if each story you write doesn’t have some part of you in it, then no one will read it, no one will pay for it, and it won’t be a business after all.

So, how do you make sure you write stories people will want to read?

You dig down deep inside of yourself and then you dig deeper and deeper until you find the fire that burns in you so hotly that it drives you. And drives your writing. It might be something so basic that until you conduct that search you didn’t even know it existed. But it does and it’s what shapes you as a writer.

So you look as long and as hard as is necessary and you don’t stop until you find that one thing that defines you. That you want so badly that it’s past want. It’s need. And you figure out a way to put that into your writing. If it doesn’t go into your stories directly, then make sure it’s in them indirectly, driving the writing process.

Because there is a fire within you and when you find it, it’ll bring readers to your stories.

Change Things

Stories can be boring. Or interesting. They can be perfectly right. Or terribly wrong. Sometimes the only difference is in the mind of the writer during the act of creating said story. If you have any reservations at all about your own story, there’s something you can do to figure it out and fix anything that might be wrong.

Take it apart. Rearrange whole chunks. Tighten the timeline or lengthen it. Change the locale, the weather, the writing style. Maybe even the genre. Do you like the new story better than the original? If so, then go with the new one because more often than not, your story will be better for the rearranging. That goes for characters as well as plot. Change their roles and see if they fit better somewhere else. They just might.

If nothing about the new arrangement grabs you, then stick with what you have because it’s probably the best arrangement for that story. If not then keep rearranging until you know it’s the best possible way to tell whatever story you’re telling.

And when you have a spare moment or two, think of a story you didn’t like. Movie, book, whatever. Take that story apart and change it until it’s the way you think it should be. The practice will show you how easy this technique is and how valuable.

And maybe you’ll have found a new story in that old awful one you’re using for practice that’s just waiting for you to write it.