Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Figuring It Out: Recognizing The Symptoms

by Jennifer Faye

Are you a writer?

If so, read on…

Do you have any of these symptoms?
  •         a stress headache
  •          a deepening frown
  •          a growing aversion to your computer
  •          when sitting down to continue writing your manuscript, you feel an overwhelming urge to toss your computer out the window
  •          and the most worrisome symptom of all—the urge to do housework rather than write

If you have/had any combination of the above symptoms then this month’s post is for you.

No, this isn’t a health related post.

Well, at least not your physical health. But rather I’m talking about the health of your manuscript.

As I was writing book #6, the first book in my Italian brother duet, I was going along just fine aka following my normal writing routine and life was good. Then I came to a critical juncture for my characters—the moment when the relationship changes.

Instead of getting excited and my fingers racing over the keyboard, each word came to me slower and slower. It got to a point where the writing became a struggle. Each time I sat down at the keyboard my head would start to throb. My manuscript was ill and with each word I typed it was getting worse and worse.
Panic set in. My gut twisted in a knot. I was in trouble. My book was off the rails. And it was my job to fix it. But how? And where?

Suddenly laundry and dishes looked like mini-vacations. Even dusting was taking on a new tempting quality. This was not a good—not good at all. When housework tops working on one of my stories, I know I’m in a world of trouble.

If you’re a writer you know what a scary feeling it is to be stuck…especially when the ending chapters are in sight. There has to be a way out of this. I hoped.

Tired of the frowns, the grouchiness and the stress headaches, I sat down at my computer. I backed up a few chapters and started reading. The story sounded pretty good. So when I got to the end of that chapter, I stopped reading. I didn’t want to read the bad stuff—the parts that had me drifting off course.

So what did I do?

I wrote new words. I listened to what my characters were telling me and referred to my synopsis, something I’d drifted away from doing the first time around. And I wrote some more words.

Then I stopped and read over the new stuff. And would you believe that it didn’t sound so bad? In fact, it sounded pretty good. And best off all, the words were flowing again. I was back in the groove again.

Without even reading a word of the chapters I’d written before, I deleted them. Yes, I lost a lot of word count and hard won words, but I felt so much better with them gone. It was like a weight had been lifted. I’d never been so happy to have a net loss of words for the day.

After cutting away the rotten words, I breezed through to the end. And I liked what I wrote.

The point is if I hadn’t recognized the signs, I might have thought that it was me. I was bored. Or I had lost focus. I might have chased another plot bunny. But I’d been down this road before and I remembered the feeling of dread. It meant I’d taken a wrong turn in my story.

But to be honest, I did give it a couple of days just to make sure that my diagnosis was spot on. I’m never one to make hasty decisions. Soon I was sure of my diagnosis. The solution being, chop away the misguided words and start anew.

Cutting away part of your story is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary to get to the good stuff—so that the writing is fun again and the words flow.

Happy writing!

Now it’s your turn. If you have any questions on your mind, feel free to ask them. I won’t promise that I’ll have an answer, but I’ll do my best.

 Jennifer Faye’s new release,SAFE IN THE TYCOON'S ARMS, is available now! Find out what happens when Kate meets up with New York’s Bachelor-of-the-Year. Online at Amazon, Amazon-UK B&N as well as other locations.

Jennifer would love to hear from readers. You can contact her via her website.


  1. Oh my gosh, this sounds just like me with my last novel!

    I procrastinated over it for weeks, before finally cutting out the section I wasn't happy with.

    Once gone, I started that section anew, and everything fell into place.

    If I'd only had this information a few months ago....

    1. Hi Cheryl. Sorry to hear about the lost weeks of procrastination. But so glad you got it all figured out.

      My best advice when getting stuck is going back and rereading what you've written. Hopefully your gut will point out where things have gone wrong.

      Happy writing! :-)

  2. From MarcieR

    I lost momentum because I was sick for a week, but there is 'something' that is holding me back from picking the story back up again. I started with a list of the scenes so far to get myself back on track.
    I haven't decided if I just lost momentum or if something felt off before I got sick.
    So my thought is making a list of what I've done so far and then if I come across the 'off' part, just put an X through it.

    Your post has opened my eyes that maybe there's more to my problem than losing momentum. Otherwise, why haven't I picked it back up again?

    1. Hi Marcie! Glad to hear you're feeling better. My suggestion is try reading over your ms and leave off the last couple of chapters. If you're going strong by that point just start writing fresh (and don't look at the discarded chapters) and if you have a synopsis/outline refer to it as you write the new stuff. Hopefully you'll be back in the groove soon. Fingers crossed. :-)

  3. I had the opposite problem. For the first time ever, I tackled my WIP in a non-linear fashion, choosing to write whichever scene provided the words for that day. I've been working on putting the first section of the book together. I've been having trouble making sure that information that will be important later is folded into the story without creating an info dump. I've gotten better with backstory, but placing these little breadcrumbs is proving more challenging. For instance, I need to convey that a character is reminescent of the heroine's dead sister so that the heroine's parents' reaction to her is understood, but I don't want it to be so noticeable that what happens when they meet her is too expected. I'm not even sure that made sense in print, but it does in my head.

    My question is how do you add in details you have to have, and how do you fix something that isn't working well but is essential to your story?

    1. Hi Ms.ZeyZey. :-)

      I have to admit that for the most part I am a linear writer. Though sometimes I get excited and write the epilogue early. ;-) But I have a good friend that writes out of sequence and then she has to bridge the scenes together. But you can never tell by reading her finished work. It is seamless.

      When I write my original draft, I don't like to bounce around so I keep pen and paper nearby. I make notes of the story threads that I dropped along the way and other details that need embedded. Then when I reread/edit, I refer to my list and when I see a spot in the manuscript that is a good place for that info, I sew it in. It's a lot of remembering which info you need to add as you edit.

      Best of luck with your story!!!