Ever have that gnawing sensation that what you’re doing just isn’t good enough? Ever wanted to give up? Well, that was me right around December 2020. I was feeling exhausted, burnt out, and drained of all creative ideas. My work on the sequel to Chaos Looming had slowed to a crawl and I kept telling myself that it was just because I was busy. Once the holidays get here, I’ll feel more motivated, I told myself. That’s when the words will come.
Weeeell, I bet you all can guess how well that went. The holidays came and went in all their exhausting fury and I was still left feeling completely uninspired. Where had I gone wrong? I still cared about these characters and wanted to see how their stories ended up, but what I’d written just didn’t feel true enough to those stories. Then I stumbled across The Heroine’s Journey, an absolutely incredible book (check out my review here!) that made me realize what had been the problem all along. I was telling the wrong story. So I did the hardest thing an author ever has to do . . . I started over.
When the words just won’t come and your motivation drops to a zero, it’s easy to feel defeated and at a loss. So read on to check out my tips and tricks to start from zero on your WIP and rediscover your love for your story! Plus check out these sneak peaks of the revamping process for my next novel Haven Enduring.
Start from Zero: Question your Assumptions
As I mentioned earlier, The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger was absolutely an eye opener for me because I realized that I was trying to squeeze my character into a plot mold that really didn’t fit her all for the sake of adhering to “classic” storytelling technique. As Carriger explains, The Hero’s Journey is not the only way of telling a story and in fact, is tailor-made for specific character types (namely independent, lone-wolf, go in guns blazing types).
In the Heroine’s Journey, success is defined not merely by defeating the big bad, but by the networks and alliances that are built along the way. The heroine doesn’t always have to resort to self-sacrifice, but in a seemingly no-win scenario can often find compromise. Not all endings have to be bittersweet and happily ever afters aren’t just for romance.
Now obviously you can take the Hero’s Journey or any other plot archetype in a lot of different directions, but if you’re stuck in your story sometimes it’s helpful to question some of the basic assumptions that got you there -including what makes a good story.
Start from Zero: Bring it Back to the Characters
When I can’t help but feel that my story has gone off the rails somewhere, the first thing I do is bring it back to the characters. They are absolutely your foundation and if your story isn’t true to who they are, what they want, and how they’re capable of achieving it, then the story is doomed before it even starts.
Enter Faye Kirwin’s Writerology blog, an incredible resource that focuses on the intersection of psychology and storycraft. When I was struggling with how to tell my character’s story, I found her Mind of the Character section absolutely invaluable in exploring themes of love and loss, the complexities of forgiveness, and the ever-present weight of guilt. When you can’t decide on the story you want to tell, sometimes focusing on the story your character’s need might ultimately surprise you.
Start from Zero: Don’t Lose the Spark Amidst the Plan
I am absolutely a plotter by nature. I find nothing more satisfying that sitting down at my desk in the morning and knowing exactly what scene to write next. I like knowing the characters that will be involved, where the scene will take place, what generally will happen, and loosely what my characters’ goals are for the scene itself. Personally, I find this makes me not only more efficient but also more excited about the journey ahead.
But sometimes there comes a point in my writing where I lose that excitement. Sometimes I over plot to the point where all the excitement is gone. I know exactly what will happen and the lack of mystery inevitably leads to a lack of interest.
That was most definitely the case in December and so desperately searched for a way of overcoming this mental block and becoming excited about my story. That’s when I discovered E.A. Deverell’s One Page Novel method. For me, this was the perfect balance of detail and creativity. Using this method, I was not only able to ask fun “what-if?” questions that took my story down new and unexpected paths, but the actual creation process itself was fun and artistic – much better than the endless spreadsheets I’d been compiling up until that point. This method gave me a plan with enough detail to know where I was going, but not so much that it took all the excitement out.
Everyone’s process will be different. The key is to find something that strikes the right balance between organization and creativity.
Check out my finished One Page Novel for Haven Enduring below!
Start from Zero: Once More Unto the Breach
At the end of the day though, starting from zero requires conquering your own fear of the unknown. It’s killing your darlings in the most final way possible and letting go of control – or at least loosening that death grip. It’s scary and exciting and nauseating and freeing. But most of all? It might just save your story.
To clarify, this isn’t always necessary. Often a story can be salvaged, a plot reworked, or a character altered. But sometimes, the best course of action is to take a deep breath, go back to the drawing board.
So without further ado, go forth and restart!
Comment below and let me know how your revamp is going!