How to Stick with the Story You’ve Chosen

In the last post I talked about how to choose which story idea to write next. You narrowed it down to 3 possibilities and eventually choose the best one to write next. but I know how your brain works. Those other 2 story ideas, as well as a brand new one, is going to keep rattling around your brain begging for attention.

So what happens when you’re trying – you’re REALLY trying – to ignore all other ideas but the words just won’t flow? You beat your head on the keyboard producing nothing more than gibberish and just know the story sucks and you should move on to a different idea. What then?

If you can honestly say you’ve given this story the best try you can, then I will give you permission to take one day away from it – just one! – and play with a different idea. Write an outline. Write the first few chapters. Create character dossiers. Whatever is calling you, do it. And do not think about the original idea at all throughout the day. At the end of that day ask yourself which one appeals to you more. It’s likely that the new idea is just a case of “OH! SQUIRREL!!” and now that you’ve given it a little attention you can focus solely on the original.

But it may be that your original idea just isn’t what you thought it would be. Unfortunately that does happen on occasion. If this is the case, it’s perfectly acceptable to abandon it and move on to the next. But this is only acceptable if you have TRULY given it your best shot and are being completely honest with yourself about the reasons you’re moving on.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help make that decision. It helps to free-write the answers to these and not just think about them abstractly in your head. You’ll be amazed at what comes out when you put pen to paper. (I do all my brainstorming the old-fashioned way – pen and paper activates different areas of your brain than typing does.)

  • Why does the new idea seem more appealing than the one you’re working on now?
  • Does your character want something? If not, you’ll have a tough time indeed finishing the story.
  • Is there enough conflict? If not, throw more obstacles in your characters’ paths.
  • Are the characters realistic and engaging? If your characters are boring the story will be too.
  • Have you written yourself into a corner? If so, go back a few chapters and figure out where you can change the events.
  • Do you have plot twists to make the story exciting? If you find the plot predictable and boring so will your readers.

A word of warning, however. If you find yourself changing story ideas on a regular basis, it’s time to have a tough-love heart-to-heart with yourself. I said this happens on occasion. Not every week or month. Maybe not even every year.

This is how I operated before I got serious about writing. I always wanted to write a novel but never put any serious effort into it. I’d have a great premise in my head and would write a few chapters, then get stuck and give up. A few months later I’d start a different story, but get stuck and give up on that one too. I went through 4 years of college in this manner. It turned out that while I may have had some interesting premises, I did not have any actual stories. There was no plot to go along with the characters in my head. No conflict. Once I realized that, I haven’t had the problem of jumping from story to story in a long time.

At the end of the day, what matters is writing. And finishing what you started. You’re here to become a successful self-published author. So stop making excuses and get to it – finish that story!


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