It happens to everyone from time to time. Your story just isn’t working. Maybe it’s the plot, maybe the characters or maybe you’re not sure why. You just know it’s not going in a positive direction.

So what do you do?

First, I’ll tell you what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to give up. You don’t want to shred the entire thing and let go of your dream. I know you’ll be tempted. After all, this writing stuff is hard. Probably harder than you thought it would be. But let me just say this – You can do it!

Picture me with sparkly pom poms in my hand cheering for you. Better yet, imagine your muse or your very sexy hero with pom poms in his hand cheering for you:-D You can do this!

Here’s how:

#1 Note cards

I’ve often found that when something isn’t working breaking it down and looking at the pieces individually helps. Now if you’re trying to figure out what isn’t working while staring at 300 double spaced pages it’s going to be confusing.

Make it simple. Buy a package of note cards. I like to buy different colored ones so I can organize the chapters and scenes or POV by color. You can use plain white ones and different colored pens too. Now break down your entire story bit by bit.

Go through each chapter and write down a summary of the chapter on one note card. If you have different scenes or points of view in that chapter then create separate note cards for those scenes. On the back of the note card write down: purpose for the scene, conflict, character motivation, and character reaction.

If you stumble on answering any of these questions then you have a big red flag about why your story isn’t working. Once you’ve finished creating note cards for your entire manuscript you can go back and look at each chapter and scene individually.

How does it work with the larger whole? Is it necessary? Are the characters motivations, conflicts and reactions consistent?

#2 Noodle

If your story isn’t working, take a day or two off. Instead of writing do what I like to call, noodling. It’s a combination of brainstorming and daydreaming. Start daydreaming about your characters. What would they do?

How can you change the story to be more fun/interesting/consistent and so on? Just relax and have fun with this process. Oh, and keep a pen and pencil with you at all times. Great ideas come to you in the most inconvenient of times.

#3 Seek advice.

I have wonderful critique partners. If you’re unsure of where to go with your story or what’s not working ask a friend or partner. They don’t have to read the manuscript if you’re not ready for that. Simply explain the story and where you’re hung up. Ask their help brainstorming potential solutions. Often another person’s perspective will help take your story in many new directions.

A few weeks ago I also discussed mind mapping software. You might use this system instead of the note cards.

If you’re excited by your story idea don’t give up. These three simple strategies can help you see where your story can improve and how to get it back on track.

Happy Writing!