Help! I’m stuck!

Posted on 10/12/2009


Hey there.

Are you 50%, 75% hell 80% done with your story?  Stuck? Not sure where to go? You ever been like this before? Crackalackin through a story, then BAM! Stoppage of the highest order.  You can’t figure out how in the hell you painted yourself into this corner.  You scream to the heavens, “It’s not fair!”  You know this story is awesome, it’s just getting to the finish line that’s killing you. Maybe you already know the ending of the story, but just can’t seem to get the characters to the endpoint.  Maybe you want the ending to be a surprise, but you just can’t seem to drive the story there.

Well, I have one suggestion that might help. This is just one, there may be others.  I learned this idea from Herr Mayer again.  There are many reasons your story might be stuck, so don’t use this as a be all end all–just as another tool in your belt.

It’s called the Original Idea. Robert, (or as I like to call him, “Bobby” (but don’t tell him that!)) calls it the “heart of your story.” Your original idea is your story in 25 words or less. (Well, it can technically go over 25 words, but you need to be as succinct as you can).  Does this Idea bring some emotional reaction to you? Yeah? Sweet! Go write the novel.


You mean you don’t know what the original idea of your story is?  Hmmm…if you can’t state the original idea of your story, you don’t really know where you’re going, do you?

How do you get back to that original idea? Let me tell you, it’s not your elevator pitch (but it can be, or can be a part of it. ) It’s simply the very first idea you ever had about your story. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Can you now state it?  I can state it for all 7 of my books, and a few I haven’t written yet*.

1-3. There are three swords crafted by the gods, each one imbues different powers to the wielder–and they’ve been lost. (this is a three book trilogy based off one idea.) 17 words.

4. What if, when the aliens appeared over earth, their technology caused latent abilities in humans to come alive? 18 words.

5.  What if the mayhem surrounding us every day wasn’t merely chance, but a set of orchestrated events? 16 words.

6. a.) What would happen if a space-faring species came across one that used magic? b.) What if a magical land became too dependent upon it’s magic and never advanced technologically?  (I put those two story ideas together to create one story.)

7. What if you only had a flask of the fountain of youth–and you were running out? 18 words

8. What if the death of one god, called the attention of another, more powerful one? (this is a follow up series to my fantasy one above) 13 words.

And so on, and so on, and so on. I have plenty more. The reason for the asterisk above is this: Bob said there are really no worries about someone stealing your original idea. You’ll both write two completely different stories.  He also said, there really aren’t any original ideas any more, we’re just rehashing the ones that are already out there. It’s not the story that’s new, it’s your telling of it that is.

Notice that a lot of my ideas start with what if? That’s just how I think. I use a lot of what ifs. That’s the way I roll. You do whatever makes you comfortable.

Now, what’s the whole deal with the original idea and you getting stuck in your story? Simple: remembering the original idea, keeps you focused. If you change your original idea, you change your story.  (And that’s a helluva a lot of rewriting!)

Now sit back, close your eyes, and think about the very first time you thought about this story. What excited you? Where’s the passion? Can you communicate this to others? What if you can’t come up with your original idea? Don’t panic. You can do it. Write it down. Seriously. You’re a writer, not a thinker. Put your thoughts down on the page. Whittle, whittle, whittle.  Cut the long paragraph you just wrote down, down, down.

Okay, good. Now we’re getting somewhere. Nail this damn sentence down. Bob says this is one of the hardest parts of his entire workshop.  People just can’t seem to get back to their original idea. They have muddied it up since they first had it.

Once you grab hold of that idea, you can use it to focus your story.  It can give you a direction you didn’t know you had. Once you know the original idea, you then can see the whole story in your head, and often this will lead you to the nirvana of, THE END.