The Elusive Plot

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How many authors or aspiring authors have a pile of unfinished manuscripts stacked in a drawer or on their computers? How many of them were so sure each one of these would be their best work yet, only to lose interest after a few thousand words?

I’m in danger of becoming one of those. A serial discarder.  A quitter.

Experts say it’s hard to get back to writing fiction when you’ve been away from it for some time. In my experience, I find that the opposite is also true. I spent so many years writing the same book and now that it’s finally published and I’m ready to move on to my next one, I find that it’s more difficult than I had anticipated. I’ve been hit with the infamous writer’s block. My problem, though, isn’t not being able to write; it’s not liking what I write, which probably amounts to the same thing, some might say.

In planning my second book, I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want Misty Dreams to become the first of a series. I didn’t want Richard and Clare to be secondary characters in someone else’s story. I wanted them to be unique and memorable, their happily-ever-after immortalized in that one book. My next one, I decided, was going to be another standalone. I stood firm on that conviction.

The new novel I set out to write had all the fixings for another heart-wrenching love story:  strong, believable characters, emotional tension, a sensitive subject matter, the works. I was completely invested in it. That is, until I hit the 4,000-words mark and realized I wasn’t feeling it. Though I loved my new characters, I wasn’t connecting with them as I had connected with my previous ones. It wasn’t St. Isabel Island. It wasn’t my happy place. I had spent so much time there in my head I couldn’t distance myself from it. Perhaps I was meant to write another St. Isabel Island book, after all.  Someone else’s story, not necessarily featuring past characters.

Armed with renewed purpose, I worked on a new plot outline. What better heroine than Clare’s childhood friend, the one who had moved to New York with her family? I even created the best soul mate for her, a dashing young widower with a small son. It would be an emotionally driven second-chance romance with enough drama to hold the reader engaged all the way to the obligatory happy ending. My fingers were flying off the keys; I was on a roll.

Until…bam! I hit the brakes again. This story wasn’t going anywhere either, and the characters fell flat. I set it aside, hoping that in a few days inspiration would hit again.

Photo by Bick Tran from

“Just keep writing,” a good friend wisely suggested when I confided in her. “It doesn’t have to be another novel. It can be a short story or even a prequel.”

Her words sparked in me a much-needed confidence boost. A prequel! Immediately the idea set the wheels in my head spinning. Why hadn’t I thought of that? When I was editing my first novel, I had to cut out a good chunk of the backstory to reduce it to a marketable size, an extremely painful but necessary process. Bringing back my beloved characters’ past might just do the trick. It would give me closure.

So I’m back at the keyboard, yet again finding my creative muse. Whether a prequel is the answer to my predicament is yet to be seen, but at least I’m writing. One thing I’ve learned about writer’s block is that it helps to talk about it with people who understand and appreciate the craft. Most experienced writers will tell you to continue writing, to not lose your momentum, that the more you write, the more you improve and build confidence. It inspires new ideas. It doesn’t matter how many unfinished manuscripts you pile up. The important thing is to write and feed your creative urge. It doesn’t have to be great. First drafts never are.  

Happy writing!

Author: Josephine Strand

Josephine Strand was born in Italy, grew up in South Africa, and is a long-time resident of the United States. She discovered her love of books when she was introduced to her town’s public library at the age of eight. At nine, she gained her English teacher’s praise with her short story The Library at Midnight. She hasn’t stopped writing since, though Misty Dreams is her first published novel. Her travels between the three continents have strengthened her love for the sea and the outdoors. When not writing or absorbed in the latest gripping page-turner, she loves to cook and enjoys long nature walks.

7 thoughts on “The Elusive Plot”

  1. Great post, Josephine, and it is very necessary to just keep writing. Sooner or later you will find the characters and story that need to be created and told by you. As Lisa Howeler said in her post earlier this week, a writer writes because they have to. I have read Misty Dreams. You are a talented writer, and I have faith that you will create another wonderful story with engaging characters. Just keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with what has been said. Keep writing. Even writing flash fiction pieces, or ten minute word challenges, it all helps hone the process of writing. Like any craft, the more you work at it, the better, more polished it will be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember you need to give up on certain things in order to not give up on others. 🙂 For the goal of creating a novel you may need to give up a certain novel to write a different one, for creating stories you may need to give up on novels to write short-stories, serial fiction, or something else, for the goal of creating you may need to give up writing and do painting.

    It’s something I see come up in a lot of places; for example, here’s a tactical martial artist applying the principle from martial arts to business:

    It was in another thing I read recently too. It’s a very freeing perspective. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (The specific spot in the Youtube video is at 6:11, sharing the link to the specific time didn’t seem to work, and apparently I’m not able to edit or delete/repost the comment. 🙂 )


  4. Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement. Right now so much ‘real life’ stull is coming between me and my writing that even a 60 word challenge becomes hard, but I’m determined to forge ahead regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

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