Frustrated Writer – Help Needed! #wwwblogs #IAmWriting #WritingTips



What I imagined…


The reality…

So another week of solitude in Devon (read why here) and another attempt to get back into the writing.

This time though, I’ve hit a bit of a crisis.

When I began this second full-length novel (absolutely ages ago) I sort of knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted it to go. But, as often happens, when I came to write, it went off on a tangent and I’m not sure, at this point, how to get back on course. I’m not sure, anymore, exactly what this book is.

I do know that I’m not altogether happy with the direction it’s taken, or the way some of the characters have evolved. But 50,000 + words in, I’m a bit loath to start all over again.

So, do I give it all up as a bad job, or do I persevere and potentially waste more (precious) time?

The thought of ditching all that work, particularly as I find it so hard to fit in time for writing as it is, fills me with horror.

So where do I go from here?

Part of my issue is, I think, that I’m a great list-maker. I like to be organised and to have schedules and time tables and deadlines. And when, more often than not, I fail to reach those deadlines or stick to those schedules, it can feel like there’s no place left to go. And when a story, or an idea, or 50,000 words refuses to stick to my original idea, I find it hard to move on.

But 50,000 words is 50,000 words. I can’t and won’t ditch it all. I need instead to go back and read and read again, and evaluate every word, every twist, and every change in what I’ve written and try to get to the whys of it all. And perhaps too, I need to let go of that original idea of what the book was, and of what kind of writer I am.

I’m not starting again though.

So advice please, all you lovely writers out there – what would you do if you were me?



  1. Ooh, I love Barb’s idea! I think we can get too close to the story to be able to see the escape route sometimes. I’ve just scrapped 20k of my non-fiction WIP because I wasn’t feeling it! I can relate to your anguish, Alison. Good luck X

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Right –

    1. Try Barb’s solution. It’s highly possible that you’ve been looking at it and doing Virgo-angst-stuff for too long. It’s imperative that you discuss it with someone else who understands, though. Like you (I imagine) I am a solitary writer, but sometimes another pair of eyes/opinion/or just reassurance can really help.

    But if you still aren’t happy:

    2. Sometimes you just have to face that you’ve had a better idea and that you have to ditch some of what you’ve written. It’s the finished product that matters, and ***you want that to be the best it can possibly be***. Thomas Wolfe spent 2 years editing his second book from his original first draft (I know, I saw ‘Genius’ a few days ago!). I’ve just woken up with a much better structure idea for my WIP, after writing a plan and 2 first draft chapters for the whole first book in a series. I’m doing it!
    3. If you do decide to change it, you won’t have to ditch it all. I re-wrote The House of York 30K words in, but I still kept loads of it. If I hadn’t done this, I am sure it wouldn’t have got the reviews, sales (and, thus, sales for my other books) that it’s had.
    4. I think all books evolve as they go along – all mine have, because you often find that your original ideas don’t work, and you get new ones as you go. There isn’t one of my books that ended up exactly how I originally planned it to be.
    5. In my experience, characters evolve too. The most unlikely ones often ‘work’ the best, then you might decide to give them a more prominent role, etc.
    6. As to what sort of writer you are – you are the writer that writes whatever comes out of your head. In my mind, I’d love to be a Norah Lofts, Susan Howatch or Ann Swinfen type literary historical epic writer. Or the writer of serious family saga-epics that cover a hundred years or so. I’m not, though, because what I write best is quite fast moving, contemporary fiction. Not to say I won’t give the serious histfic a go, but it ain’t happening yet.

    Hope that helps!!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s easy for someone else to tell you something about your work but you’re the one who has put a tremendous amount of effort into it. Sometimes another person can just say a few words that helps to put you in the right direction. Also, can you move the chapters around. Start with a different chapter—just a suggestion.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks Terry – great advice (as usual!). And yes, I think the Virgo-angst stuff is probably a big part of it! Reading everyone’s comments and thoughts has really helped and I do think I need to persevere and see how things go for a bit and then pass it on to someone else for a fresh look.


  3. I feel your pain Alison, I’m going through similar but my frustration is in only finding the odd window of 30 mins or so to look at it and I’m not getting the full picture. I agree with the above though, getting someone else to look at it I have found to be extraordinarily helpful in the past. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Everyone has such good ideas but in the end… I would go with barb’s suggestion -give the work to a trusted and competent/ imaginative author friend whose writing you admire and who you can trust . If they have the time to read the ms – ask them

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I usually go back through the story to the point you feel it started to go wrong and start there, leave the old story and just start a new page from that point and see what progresses. Sometimes that fixes it for me, and I can go through the old version and pick up parts that I think will work. It usually kills my writers block too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There’s this neat little writer’s forum called CritiqueCircle. Should be easy enough to find on the Google. I highly recommend joining and not only having your work critiqued, but critique the work of others as well. You can post a chapter a week, and critique their work between submissions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Alison,

    You said that you keep going over your pages and analysing them again and again. Maybe you’re letting your inner editor have too much power over you. It might help to just let go and not be tempted to reread so much. I know you have to know where the story has been so you can take it from there. But if those characters are insisting on being different than you imagined or are going down roads you don’t know about, it could help to let them go there and see where it takes you.

    And that’s the pot calling the kettle black. For my second novel is also about 40 K words long, and due to another project,I haven’t worked on it in a year. Did I take that project on just to get away from dealing with my protagonist’s own uncertainty of where his story should lead him?
    I, too, have a very strong-willed inner editor who keeps on butting in when I write. Guess we need to remember to lock the study door and keep her out while we’re writing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think what DC said is good advice too – I could just imagine you (virtually) tearing it to pieces in disgust! But the first draft isn’t meant to be great. Honestly, with all my first drafts I think, well, that’s a load of shite, now the real work starts. And it does – if I published my first or even third drafts, they wouldn’t be so well received. I understand that it’s the DIRECTION you’re worried about, though.

        My main piece of advice is to choose the person/people who are going to look at it with great care. I am sure you don’t need me to tell you this! I think a few opinions would be a good idea. Right – I am offering to be one of them if you want to send me a mobi. I understand if you don’t want your fellow Mrs Picky looking at it, though!!

        When I send my books to Julia for test/proofreading, I also send her a list of what I need to know, not just a random ‘tell me what you think’. She then comes back with answers about my worries (and tells me a couple of bits she wasn’t so sure about, that I hadn’t noticed…!)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Leave it for a little while and get inspiration to start another piece, perhaps a short story. Often when you go back to the original you can see where to pick up or to change certain things to make it flow again. Keep going.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Another Virgo here. Happy birthday to us! In some ways I’m sort of jealous. I’ve never had a character hijack a project before. It might be fun to see where it goes. Perhaps another character could bring the story back to your plan.

    I like the idea of having a writer/reader take a look. What might be helpful is to ask that person what she thinks the story is about (not in a plot sense, but in a thematic or large picture way) before you tell her what you want the story to be about. The answer might provide insight. The other thing you can do with a disobedient character is to pull that person out and give him/her a separate but possibly related story to tell. It might also be useful to read Liane Moriarty if you haven’t already. (I recommend Big Little Lies.) Her characters get into all kinds of messy offshoots, but she manages to reign them back in at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. From another writers standpoint, I suggest going back and preserving it. A few minor changes can make a huge impact. It takes A LOT of time to writing 50,000 words! You’ve come to far to throw it away. I would take a break, have some me time, and clear your head. Then, I would sit back down to make your changes. Sometimes stepping away from it will bring the answer to you! Start with minor changes and weave them in. If that doesn’t help, you should make more significant changes. The novel in the end must be what you envisioned or you’ll never be happy with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Definitely do not ditch! I think you have resolved how to proceed yourself. Though you are not happy with it at present sounds worthwhile to follow the new direction and see what you can do with it. I sometimes find a new direction opens up ideas I had not thought off. Keep your original idea to perhaps use in another book. I have come up with a whole list of ideas I intend, or at least hope, to use in the future.

    Yes, it is frustrating but you may be in for a nice surprise. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If it were me, I’d keep going and let the characters take it where they wanted. My characters hijack my stories all the time and they usually take it where it needs to go. I’ve learnt to trust them and now I really love letting the characters lead the way. Some people hate not having a plan though, so it might not work for you.

    I agree that getting a trusted reader to take a look is a good idea, though. And if you still feel it’s not going in the direction it needs to, perhaps they could help pinpoint where it went off the rails and you could rework from there, rather than ditching the whole thing.

    Whatever you choose to do, good luck with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Alison, I think you may need a break and some distance from this one. Getting other people’s eyes on it may help, but it seems to me that this is not about does the story work, but more about some kind of shift away from your vision, and that’s not something anyone else can help you with. Sounds to me like you need to do some soul searching… is the new direction exciting enough that you want to keep on with it? Can you let go of your original idea, or does it still call to you? What is your writers inspiration, your instinct telling you? Is it just fear of the unknown or lack of control that’s holding you back? If you like lists, you could try the old advantages v disadvantages exercise… sometimes the simple old techniques are really helpful in clearing your mind, I find. 😊 Whatever you decide, good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If you’ve got any notes you made at the beginning of this writing journey, it might be good to have a look over them and remember why you started writing this story. It will refocus you onto what you originally wanted to achieve and may excite you all over again. If its structural, write all the big moments on flash cards and lay them down on the floor. Sometimes it helps to strip the story to the bones and see it all in front of you. Don’t give up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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