How To Survive The Shelved Story Coming Back From The Dead #Writers #AmWriting

writing

Your story died at 21,456 words.

It was a sad state of literary affairs when you wiped away your tears, blew your nose and decided to shelve your half-finished novel.

There were too many things that weren’t working with your fictional romance, about two emotionally broken food lovers finding each other on an online dating site for foodies. Too many alarm bells ringing in your head when your hungry love birds came together. No sign of any conflict and no matter how many times you instructed your brain to come up with beautiful and poetic ways to describe your characters kissing, it only offered you phrases such as ‘the thought of her kissing him made his stomach juices curdle,’ and ‘his snogging action was similar to her food blender on super fast speed.’

Wearing a sad writer face you closed down your documents, muttered some thoughtful words about painful goodbyes, pinned a couple of writing failure quotes on Pinterest and buried it in your writing folder titled ‘Story Graveyard.’

Time went by…

A new story idea came to you whilst in the frozen veg aisle of your local supermarket. It wasn’t as good as your shelved story but….it resulted in you tweeting some GIFs about new story idea excitement, cancelling a romantic dinner date with your beloved, so that you could create some characters, hammering out the first chapter, circulating the names of your new fictional characters, via a family email, to loved ones, to ensure they were fully briefed on who you were going to be ranting about over the coming months and enjoying many literary day dreams, involving you being hailed as a literary genius by several influential book bloggers.

More time went by.

You finished the first draft of your new story, proudly tied a huge red ribbon around it, kissed the front sheet and gently put it to rest for a few weeks. “I will be back soon, my precious,” you whispered, giving it a little wave.

As you casually flicked through your computer files you spotted the ‘Story Graveyard’ folder. The sight of it made you think about your old shelved story.

Stifling a chest ache, mumbling the words, “it was such a shame you died on me,” you carried on with your life.

Warning: a shelved story can come back from the dead at ANY MOMENT. 

You, the writer, can be asleep, eating your dinner, fiddling with a few large bulbs in your garden shed, cleaning the loo, enjoying a romantic moment with a loved one or even dancing like crazy at a party.

A few weeks later…

“I’M BACK!” screams the shelved story, from inside your head, as the party music takes hold of you.

The DJ has put on the Dirty Dancing classic, ‘I Have Had The Time of My Life’ and you are powering across the dance floor towards your loved one, who is (reluctantly) ready to lift you into the air, recreating that iconic film moment.

As soon as you hear your shelved story cry out, your head becomes awash with thoughts. 

‘My food based romance story wasn’t that bad’. 

*Gasp*

‘Maybe I was writing about the wrong type of food? 

‘Maybe healthy food wasn’t doing it for my characters?’

Maybe they could come together over another type of food?’ 

*Jaw drop*

‘OMG – I know how to get those characters in the mood for romance. A nice hearty steak and onion pie gets me going every time and a pie based first date is my idea of true love. So why can’t the inciting romantic moment be when they both confess to secretly wanting a hot pie from the local bakers. Yes!’ 

*Squeal*

‘The conflict could be that when they meet on this foodie dating site they make out they love eating nuts, berries, kale and drinking green smoothies, but both are secret pie lovers.’

*Rub forehead*

‘Kissing after devouring a fabulous savoury pie would be different for two secret pie lovers!’

*Nod*

‘OMG – this shelved story is NOT DEAD! I want to dash home and finish my newly titled book – SECRET PIE LOVE!’ 

*Fall onto dance floor in shock…leaving loved one looking relieved and party revellers disappointed*

Your first draft, with the pretty bow on it, will not see the light of day for months as you will be thrown into a new writing frenzy.

When a story comes back from the dead it does so with such force you are left a gibbering wreck for weeks. This can be a traumatic time for the writer.

So, how can a writer survive this situation?

It is simple.

Never label a half-finished story as ‘dead’.

They can come to life again when you least expect it. 

Sometimes our brains need a bit of time to work stuff out. 

Keep dancing, keep adding bits of yourself into your stories and have a great day!

Posted by

I am a blonde writer of romantic comedy fiction.

12 thoughts on “How To Survive The Shelved Story Coming Back From The Dead #Writers #AmWriting

  1. I had one of those stories – conceived as a multi-volume fantasy epic that somehow never got beyond about Chapter 3 of the first volume. I started it in 1993. It died. I had lots of ideas and eventually picked it up in 2007. It died again (got to Chapter 5 this time). More lots of ideas followed. It’s still dead, but I did write a kind of prequel to it which was published recently in an Australian fantasy compilation. I realise this probably sounds like the ‘swamp castle’ scenario out of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, but it’s actually true.

  2. Sometimes, a story that seems to have no future has to stew for a while. Let it mature and ripen, and something will usually develop… We may think we have written something off, but it never quite happens, does it?

  3. You’ve reminded me that I’ve got about five dead stories sitting in folders somewhere waiting for some attention. I think they died because the plot was more important than the characters. I took one out for a spin recently and could see no reason why the characters were behaving as they were. I liked the premise, though, and will probably sort it out one day.

  4. I know the feeling so well… I now have fI’ve ‘shelved’ manuscripts, but deep down I know, sooner or later, when the time is right, they’ll come back to me! I just hope I fInish the one I’m writing now๐Ÿค”. Fingers crossed

  5. This happens to me all the time, Lucy! My books frequently die at about the 35,000 word mark when I begin to loath them. Just bloomin’ well sleep with him/her and get on with it, I think to myself. I’d rather read a food-love story about pie eating than kale, too. Your conflict could be about the ‘does mashed potato make something a pie’? An issue that divides people everywhere. On the one side, the female – yes, cottage pie and fish pie ARE pies. On the other, your male protagonist – no way, it’s only pie when there’s pastry! Somehow, they must overcome their differences.

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