I have writing friends who meet a roadblock in a short story they’re writing and sit for days struggling with how to get through to the end and I always wonder - why? Why waste all of that time looking at a blank page? This doesn’t happen to me because I believe either a story has legs or it doesn’t. Why would you force a legless story to walk? It doesn’t make sense.
I might start a story with a perfect sentence that developed in my head over night, or the most fantastic paragraph ever put down on paper, and then nothing. Nothing. There is nothing else I can write. Many writers might stop there, clean the page with the press of ‘delete’, and start over. Again I ask - why? Why waste those bits of good writing? When it comes to my words - I’m a saver.
If I get to a point in a story where I can go no further, I immediately stop and save what I’ve done. I give it a name and place it in a folder called ‘story stems’. Then I go on to another idea. If I get to the end of that one, the story has legs; if I get to a road block again, that story joins its friend in the story stem folder and I start again.
But don’t jump to the conclusion that the story stem folder is the graveyard for good bits of writing. The story stem folder is the mine to dig from when your brain is not forthcoming with new ideas and the muse has taken an unplanned holiday. I go back to the story stem folder and check if any of those gems have managed to grow some legs during their time out. I pick one, mess with it a bit, and see what happens. Those story stems can surprise you! Once leg-less story stems can grow into perfectly lovely stories with quite sexy, workable legs and I have the stories to prove it.
So- Save all good writing - let that be your new mantra!
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer living in Botswana. She writes radio and TV scripts, short stories and novels, magazine articles and newspaper stories… well - basically anything that comes her way. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana, starting from approximately the same basic premise.