IWSG 34: Novice Enthusiasm vs Crafting Rules

New IWSG BadgeThis post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



Tamara Narayan | Patsy Collins | M.J. Fifield | Nicohle Christopherson


Some writers visit old fairy tales. Others do fan fiction when the muse hits. I look back at old works of mine and wonder if it’s worth tackling.

I’ve dabbled in middle grade and adult fiction in fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. Sometimes I’ve surprised myself at the skill of my old work. It has passion and life that is all instinct, but it’s also full of clumsy mistakes.

By studying the craft, I’ve learned the mechanics of story structure, testing the outline for holes and increasing tension as it progresses. I can do this before I write a word.

Then there is the execution.

That all natural passion that was full of wide-eyed instinct seems to be harder and harder to find. I’ve lost it and to be honest, I’ve been struggling to get it back.

Then there is the flip side.

The first chapter of my middle grade mystery is off. Some feedback was too many characters introduced at the same time. As I’m choosing who has to go something else niggles in my bones.

All the enthusiasm in the world doesn’t hide the fact nothing is happening. All my hero does is sit at the counter of a pizza joint drinking pop and drowning his woes. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

vintage-1849411_1280So there it is. I need to find the balance between what I can do when I let loose emotionally and following writing rules to create work someone will actually want to read.

What would you do? Should it go back in the drawer?


68 responses to “IWSG 34: Novice Enthusiasm vs Crafting Rules

  1. Ah, finding balance. It’s something I strive for every time I wrote. I let my characters have free reign in the storytelling so the story seems more alive. At the same time, I exert some semblance of control in order to write something readers will both enjoy and follow the writing rules, in particular to story structure, that make a story compelling. Sigh, writing is like walking a tight rope.

  2. Fascinating perspective about the positives of one’s early work (natural passion etc) and of one’s later work (more polished). It will be interesting to look back on my own early work in a few years and see if there’s any evolution.

  3. Two good issues: No action; too many characters. Me, too. I wonder how many other of your blog readers have the same complaint in their early drafts.

  4. If I’m really feeling the story/characters, then I feel like it’s worth revising. It’s good to read old work because we can see it through clearer eyes.

  5. Nope keep writing, just writing so what nothing happens i’ts a first draft does not mean you want get a lot of jewels for the real storytelling in the rewrite. You are the only one who knows. Tell your edit to let your muse free to play and he will have plenty to do once you have a finished story told to spruce up. Great post.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  6. You’ve only tipped your toe into the story. Don’t judge it by the first chapter. Keep going. You can always write a brand new first chapter after you’ve finished the story. I always go back when all my raw emotion is finally released on the page and re-write the first or second or third chapters of the first draft. Remember, it’s called the “first” draft for a reason. That means it’s not the only draft. Second, third, fourth and more drafts will follow. Hang in there and let your muse play. Enjoy. Don’t worry if it’s right or wrong. Have fun!!

  7. I think you should keep working on it. It could really be fun Anna. I recall an old 90s show set In a pizza shop with Ryan Reynolds. I have faith you can turn that pizza into a really intriguing mystery 🙂

  8. Once, I worked on a story that started similarly: my heroine was sitting and contemplating her woes for the entire chapter. I wasn’t happy with it and didn’t know how to fix it. Someone said to me then: cut it off and start with the next chapter, when she finally goes somewhere and does something. The best advice I ever had.

  9. Yes to JQ and Juneta’s comments – even though they’re very different.
    If you keep writing, that may be what you need to get to the sparkly bit that’s buried deep. On the other hand, if you feel you’re getting nowhere, jump on to the next exciting bit – that may give you the answer if the reason it’s exciting is because of something that just happened….
    Ok, confusing myself now…

  10. The trick is to marry the passion and the instinct with the skill and the knowledge. I’m not exactly sure how you do that, though. I think it’s another thing we end up learning as we go. Good luck! 🙂

  11. You know, I so agree with JQ Rose. You’ve just started. Keep going. Don’t be rule by your feelings.
    All the best and good luck.
    Shalom aleichem,

  12. I’d sit back and think about the scene for a while. Is there somewhere else you could put the MC, someplace where’s there’s some action going on? Think about what can happen in the scene that foreshadows his mystery solving skills. If you hit the write combination of things, your creative juices will suddenly start flowing again and you won’t be able to help but to work on that story.

  13. I like going back to read old stories, if not for bringing them forward with new ideas, for seeing how far I’ve come as a writer. Keep on pushing on!

  14. I’d mess with where the story starts. What is the inciting incident? Can you jump in a chapter later? Do you need a prologue?

  15. No matter how beautifully written or what your characters are doing (or not doing) as long as you introduce conflict, you have story. That’s the one truth no writing rule can trump. Keep with your story until you find the conflict(s), internal and external. Once you’re there, you can go back and weave conflict into early chapters, whether directly or with subtle foreshadowing.

    VR Barkowski

  16. Loni Townsend

    I’ve ended up in the same boat too, where my character is doing nothing. I’ve had to rewrite and cut and throw in more harried situations to amp things up. Sorry to hear the passion is fizzling. I hope it pops up again.

  17. I’d say have your character doing something exciting that fits where you’re story is going. Give him life and your readers will take it from there. We all have those down times, many of us, too many. We want excitement when we open a book cause that’s what’s missing from ours! LOL

    I’m good at giving advice, too bad I don’t listen to it myself. 🙂

  18. I make a lot of clumsy mistakes, even after practicing a lot. The good thing is I can spot them these days and fix them before I stop working on the manuscript.

  19. The initial passion is definitely something we need to hold onto as we go on. I’ve been able to pick out some funny lines or good details in my earlier stuff, but as for redoing the whole story? No thanks.

  20. I hope you find the balance and solution. Keep working on it.

    I wanted to ask…you’re comment said “what happened to my festive site?” I’m not sure what you mean. My site hasn’t changed…

  21. I’m rereading an old writing book each month this year to refresh my skills. It’s been eye-opening already and we’re just in March! It’s easy to get carried away, at first, with the newness of writing and the excitement of seeing your words on page. I still have the very first “book” I ever wrote. It will NEVER see the light of day. It’s TERRIBLE but Oh, I still remember how proud I was when I wrote “THE END” in huge letter at the end of the notebook. Going back, reworking an old piece, shows me how much I’ve grown and encourages me to dig deeper and see what else is laying there, underneath my own insecurity and fear. Cheers xo

  22. putting it back in the drawer doesn’t mean forever. maybe let it percolate a little bit and then pull it back out.

  23. Ah yes, the slew of characters. I’ve had to assassinate quite a few in my second novel, as well as cut opening scenes in which nothing much happens. It was hard, but I suppose it’s a learning experience that will benefit future stories.
    Could your protag be sitting at that counter drinking soda when BAM, something dramatic happens? I often find brainstorming lists of possibilities can be helpful. Best of luck with untangling that dilemma.

  24. Write what happened before. It gives you a reason why you’re at that scene to begin with, and if you write what happened prior, your character may end up somewhere else. Good luck!

  25. I’m delighted to hear you outline. That’ll save you a lot of time. Instead of giving you advice about how to make sure your character doesn’t wind up just sitting in a pizza shop, I’ll give you three words that changed the way I write. Save the Cat. (by Blake Snyder.) It’s brilliant!

  26. It sounds like you have a clear idea what’s wrong. So if you have some ideas on how to address those, I say go for it! @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  27. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    You don’t mention in your blog post if the MG mystery is complete or not. If it isn’t, I’d try to keep going with it until you have a complete first draft. Maybe once you have that, you can figure out what opening you need.

  28. Your first draft should never be your last draft. And sometimes it takes many drafts to get it right. Keep working it. But of course, there will always be some manuscripts that must be put aside for a long while before we’re able to work on them again. And sometimes for ever. You’ll know when that happens.

    • I’m quite determined. That said, one of the IWSG posts spoke of only using the setting and characters and tossing everything else. So not all will be lost if I follow their example. 🙂

  29. No, it never goes in the back drawer! Well, it might do temporarily – for a cooling off period – but then, it comes back out again to be tinkered with again. I read a quote from some famous person somewhere once that said, ‘Art is never finished, merely abandoned.’ Right! Keep going, Anna!! 🙂

  30. If you think the story has potential then I wouldn’t put it back in the drawer. You may set it aside and work on something else, but trust me, your brain is still thinking about that story and you’ll figure it out.

  31. LOL, that is SO true!!! I am constantly struggling with that. My characters want to do one thing but I know they’re just stalling the story, so I have to constantly push them back on track.

  32. I understand the conflict. I hate having spent so much time on a book, only to let it languish in a box (or on the computer). Will it be worth it to spend more time fixing it up? Whatever you choose, enjoy the journey.

  33. It depends on whether it really speaks to you or not. If you feel a great urge to revisit that story, keep working on it. But if not, it might be best to start something new. As writers, we usually improve the more we write. Sometimes an older work is worth revisiting, but often the only thing worth keeping is the initial idea.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.