Story Worms: Reviving Dead Stories


I love that excitement of a brand new idea. It’s shiny and fresh, it’s full of the potential to be the greatest idea in the world. Maybe this is the one that will make you a millionaire. You’re discovering a new world, new characters, new adventures. It’s even a little dangerous.

But then, eventually, that moment comes when the novelty wears off a little. You feel a little lost, it’s not panning out as you expected, the characters just aren’t as engaging as you wanted them to be. You find yourself forgetting why you wanted to write this in the first place. Writing slows to a crawling pace, before stopping altogether. Even thinking about writing makes you want to do housework instead. Anything to avoid it.

What’s the most inventive avoidance tactic you’ve ever used? I’ve even found myself taking selfies of myself (supposedly) writing, just to avoid actually writing.

So how can you rediscover that love for your story? How can you kickstart it once it’s stalled? Here’s a few tips and tricks to try:

  • Remind yourself why you loved the idea in the first place. Read back over what you’ve written, read over your original planning notes. Read your favourite paragraph or piece of dialogue. Your original excitement is somewhere in your writing, you just need to find it.
  • Edit the opening. Some people will tell you to never edit until you’ve finished your first draft, but it’s a great way to get yourself going again. It allows you to have a fresh perspective on the story, to see more of the potential with a little polishing.
  • Take a break. Step away from the story, let it ferment a little. Go for a walk, do the washing up, work on something else. Take a break from it for a while and come back to it refreshed. As long as you do come back to it. Don’t let it become another unfinished project in your desk drawer.
  • Introduce a new character. A new character brings with it a new dynamic, a new plot twist, a new perspective. Bring in an antagonist, a love interest, a side-kick, a mentor. Bring in someone, and see what new dimension they can add to the story.
  • Kill off an existing character. Likewise, losing a character adds a new dynamic. Kill off a favourite character to keep your readers on their toes, or let your protagonist kill off a character to throw their life off track.
  • Write from another character’s point of view. Whether or not this makes it into the final edit, just give it a try. View your story from a new angle, view your characters through someone else’s eyes. You might just learn something you didn’t know before.
  • Share a secret. Let your protagonist discover a secret. Or let them share a secret. How does this change things for them? How does this change the plot, or the relationships?
  • Let your character fall in (or out) of love. How does this complicate their life? Does it lead them off their path or further them along it?
  • Tell a lie. Let your protagonist tell a whopper, or let someone else deceive them. How does this affect things? Look at the difference between the characters that believe the lie, and those that know the truth. What tension does this add to the story?
  • Go somewhere new. Let your protagonist travel somewhere they’ve never been before. Whether it’s into the next-door-neighbour’s garden, or halfway round the globe, let them experience somewhere new. Who do they meet? What do they see? What do they learn?
  • Start shouting. Start an argument between two characters. What gets revealed, and how does this change things? What happens to their relationship?

Whether or not these things make it into the final edit, they are great ways to inject some new excitement into your story. They change things and mix everything up a bit. Let loose, be reckless, don’t be scared to wander off course. And have some fun playing.

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