5 Life Savers For Desperate Authors

Don’t Abandon Your Broken Book – 5 Life Savers For Desperate Authors


Writers Write is a writing resource. In this post, we talk about why you should not abandon your broken book and offer five life savers for desperate authors.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. In life, we put up with this – we bear the disappointments, we try something new, we get over it.

Don’t Abandon Your Broken Book

When writing a book, it’s different – we know that we can find a way to make it work.  Why? Simple reason: as the author we have complete control over the story world. We’re not lying on the operating table – we’re the surgeon with the cool brow and gleaming little scalpel.

Point of incision

I’ve been working on a story for a couple of years – to the point where it’s not so much a labour of madness, but a stoic pilgrimage. While I’ve admitted the story doesn’t work, I’m reluctant to abandon it like broken car or a baby on the orphanage steps.

Recently, I’ve come up with some ideas that may work – or at least worthy trying.

5 Life Savers For Desperate Authors

  1. Find the beating heart. You need to find the essence of your story’s theme. If you lose that, you lose the thing that keeps it beating. In my story, it’s about the internecine tensions of a long friendship. I didn’t see that because it was hidden among a lot of pretentious symbolism and pretty scenes.
  2. Listen to the only advice that matters – yours. I’ve had a lot of feedback on this story from great writing friends and my mentor. I’ve taken the advice to heart and made changes that have indeed made the story stronger. But when something is suggested that doesn’t click with you – don’t do it. Find your own true answer.
  3. Be open to a new direction. At the same time don’t hold on to your story out of stubbornness or ego. Accept that your story could be different – not perfect, but one that makes more sense. In my story, I realise I want to hold on to a bohemian setting because I like it too much to let it go. My story could be set in the suburbs – as long as my characters and my voice remains.
  4. Get real. Unless you’re writing escapist genres like romance or fantasy, your characters are not going to be caught in the rain in Paris with a stranger offering a sheltering coat. (I blame my addiction to old Joan Crawford movies for my over-the-top scenes). Make your characters real 21st people – make those stand-out moments more realistic. My hero doesn’t have to be a tortured artist – he can be electrician or unemployed.
  5. Remember it in real time. Once you start re-writing, start on a blank page. Don’t refer to your existing manuscript. Let yourself remember the stuff that’s important for your new direction. If I open my manuscript, I get too close to my original story – and get lost all over again.

Maybe these methods won’t work for you – find some that do work for you. It’s never a good idea to abandon a story simple because you broke down in the middle of the desert. Especially if it’s a story that haunts the corners of your mind and feels, well, like unfinished business.

TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Truth About Memoirs – Four Primal Connections And Their Universal Appeal
  2. The Truth About Memoirs – Seven Simple Ways To Find Those Lost Moments
  3. The Truth About Memoirs — Six Ways To Write A Memoir
  4. The Truth About Memoirs – What took you off the desire line?
  5. The Truth About Memoirs – Is yours a brave confession or a book of lies?

This article has 6 comments

  1. David

    My character in a story I’m working on is a janitor at the local jr. high his nieces attend. He is also a dragon. It’s complicated.

  2. Mia Botha

    Brilliant advice. Thanks, Anthony.

  3. Amanda Patterson

    I like 3 and 4 the most. Thanks, Anthony.

  4. Christina

    I like what you’re saying here. This is good advice.

  5. Doris Swift

    Thank you for this timely post. I’ve been working on a manuscript for almost three years, and cannot let it go. I’ve stalled,possibly in fear the climax won’t live up to expectations. I’ve got to move beyond the fear and finish it. You’re right, it does haunt. I see people and think, she looks like Jane. I might see something else that reminds me of another character or scene. Perhaps it needs fresh direction, and I especially love #5. It’s like a baby I haven’t allowed to grow up, Peter Pan syndrome perhaps. Thank you again.

  6. Nambozo

    This is life saving. Thanks so much.

Comments are now closed.