Novel Writing

Two characters walk into a bar

Edit Ruthlessly
Don’t let that editor on your shoulder stop you from putting your story on the page. | Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

Is your story stuck? You’re trying to hack out that next scene, but all you can seem to do is, well, hack at it? Put the pen down. Back away slowly. It’s time to stop writing your story and start doing some free writing. This morning, I was sharing with a writer friend some advice that I’ve heard from my professor on more than one occasion, and I think this advice is worth sharing.

Here’s what you do: pick a minor character and try to get into that character’s voice. Pretend like that character is sitting at a bar telling the bartender about what is happening in the story… look at the story from a new perspective. Don’t worry about whether or not the character can tell the story well, just let him or her have his say. Also, don’t worry about writing complete sentences or stopping to fix typos. Simply sit down, tell that editor that’s sitting on your shoulder to be quiet for a while, and start writing whatever comes to mind.

I’ve recently learned that free writing helps me get unstuck faster than any other tactic I’ve tried. Don’t sit down to write the story. Just sit down and pick one aspect of your story that you feel like you need to figure out and start writing about it. Most importantly, don’t let that editor get in your way.

I’ve set a goal for myself to get my complete story out of my head and on paper by the end of this year. I have locked my editor away in a box, stuffed it in a closet, and covered the box in a stack of blankets so I can’t hear her until I’m done. She can come out once I have the whole story on paper. If I worry about edits at this stage, I’ll never get anything done!

The important thing is to write *something* every single day, even if it’s garbage. When your muse sees that she can count on you to be there for her every day, she’ll start to come around more often. You just gotta have faith in the muse!

How do you get “unstuck” when your story stalls? Please share your comments below.

~Mandy Webster

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3 thoughts on “Two characters walk into a bar”

  1. I learned a long time ago to never, EVER edit as I write. Not only do I lose my momentum, I also lose my excitement about the story when I get wrapped up in editing. Write now, edit later. I also like to step away from a story once it’s finished, before the editing begins. As long as possible. Couple months, more if I can. Then when I come back and get started, I have fresh eyes and catch more mistakes. Great post!

    1. Thanks! I’m doing a creative masters thesis in the spring, and my plan is to have my story down by winter break, then put it aside for about a month before spring semester starts. Then I’ll be editing like crazy all semester and hopefully have something ready to publish by next summer!

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