Have you every had one of those “can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees” moments, where you are so involved in wordsmithing on a micro-level, that you lose the thread of your story and find that your main character’s arc is sagging instead of rising? Well, I have. In fact, I was plunged into one recently. Luckily, I had an antidote, a secret weapon: my sister Steph, who’s a fabulous editor and also one of my biggest boosters.
So when I found that I was losing my way, I called Steph, hopped on a train to NY and spent a super-productive day with her getting myself back on track. In a nutshell, we came up with a road map for my revision that’s going to help me do a better job of accomplishing two major goals: highlighting my little heroine’s emotional journey and developing a structural spine for my story that really pulls my plot together more tightly.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an gifted editor on tap, but there is probably someone in your writing sphere who could provide a helpful sounding board for you. While it’s important to choose this person with care, taking the time to do it may be far more fruitful than floundering around because you’re lost in your story. In my experience, having a sounding board offers two major benefits:
First, it makes you feel that you’re not alone. Now, I’m the first to say that the love my solo relationship with the page — it’s hugely satisfying. But sometimes, I hit a rough patch where I feel that I’m so word-hungry and obsessed that I’m in danger of sinking my story. When I hit a major patch like this, it really helps to get outside input.
Second, it forces you to focus on the big picture: When you’re lost among the trees, you can forget that there’s even a forest out there. And when this happens, even a story that’s been progressing consistently can get mired in detail or detoured — when either of these problems crop up, stepping back and looking at the big picture is key. And I’ve found that it can be very hard for me to do that without outside support — maybe it’s just me, but I think this is true for many writers. A critique group can help, but I think a one-to-one sounding board session can be much more efficient.
What’s your experience? I’d love to hear from you. Write on!