Staying on Course

Ever notice if you look off to the side while driving that your car starts to go in that direction? At least that’s what happens to me. A quick glance is all right, but if I look to the side too long, I head that direction.  My best driving is when I keep my eyes straight ahead, on the road. That’s what gets me safely to my destination.


There’s a parallel in writing. We set goals, but if we truly want to reach those goals, we have to make sure we don’t get sidetracked. We need to keep our eyes on those goals.

Ah, but it is so easy to get sidetracked. You’re working on a story, when suddenly you get an idea for something new. Something exciting and maybe better. So what do you do?

Some people put the original story aside and start the second story, and then, at a later date, come back to the original story. Maybe that works for those people, but it doesn’t for me. I’m always getting ideas for new stories and when I do, they always sound more exciting than the story I’m working on. Why? Because those ideas usually come when I’ve reached a point in my original story where I’ve lost that initial excitement. Maybe it’s the sagging middle. Maybe it’s because I’ve discovered my word count isn’t where it should be, and I’m not sure what to add that will enhance the story rather than simply pad. Whatever the reason, it’s easy at that point to think something else might work better.

But I know from experience that if I stop and start the new idea, chances are I won’t come back to the original story. And I think that’s true for a lot of writers.

Over the years I’ve taught several writing classes and been a member of several critique groups. I’ve heard wonderful story ideas and read excerpts from many mss that I felt could easily become novels, but when I’ve met those writers at later dates, and asked what’s up with the stories, the answer usually is…”Oh, I never finished that one. I started another
story. It’s really great. In it…”

So, as this year comes to a close and you start setting goals for next year, take a look back at what your goals were for this year. Did you stay on course or did you veer off? And if you drifted away from your original goal, why? Where the new projects really something you should have followed (Could be) or did your original path simply become difficult and you
took an easier route?


One of my goals for 2011 was to blog every Wednesday. I did pretty well. I did miss a few (last week was one of those misses), and I’ll be missing the next two or three Wednesdays due to traveling. Or maybe I won’t. That’s the nice thing about laptops and the Internet. But if I don’t get a chance, I do want to wish everyone a marvelous Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and a Happy New Year. Set goals you think you can accomplish and
go forth and succeed.

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8 Responses to Staying on Course

  1. Great blog, Maris! You covered one of my downfalls this year. I keep starting the same story over instead of switching to a new project, but I’m beginning to think I need to just plow through and finish this darn first draft! Staying on track is good advice and some I intend to utilize!
    Happy Holidays!

    • Maris says:

      Yes, that’s definitely another pitfall to avoid. Starting and restarting (or rewriting) a story. I’m at fault on that. I have one on the shelf that I’m once again rewriting. I just need to do it and get it out or bury it.

  2. Wow, Maris! I can sure relate to what you’ve said on today’s blog. Staying the course is a real challenge for me, but I’ve learned if I keep focused, I can write THE END much sooner. Happy Holidays and have a safe trip!

  3. Judi romaine says:

    Thanks for your excellent blog. I, too, have those same troubles. Rewriting, reconsidering what I am doing, second-guessing myself. And the worst of all, stopping. I wrote NaNo this year and had my 50K words easily but then stopped and I am not even sure where to start back. Thanks and happy holiday.

  4. Barbara says:

    So what do you do if you fall off track? My present WIP is the first one that I’ve “lost the thrill” for. I can’t seem to get back on track. I still find the story interesting, just not enough to work on and finish it. I started it for Nanowrimo and made the 50 K, but now at 60K, I’ve fallen into a crevasse and can’t get out. Suggestions?

    • Maris says:

      Barbara, maybe it is a story that needs to be set aside. It could be that pushing yourself so hard in November caused a burnout. You have two choices (as I’m sure you already know), push on through and finish it, even though the thrill is gone. Most writers I know will tell you, after a time, they usually can’t tell which scenes or chapters they wrote with passion and which ones they simply slogged through. Also, reviews of those books they didn’t feel as passionate about are often just as good or better than those that they were passionate about.

      Your other choice is to set the ms aside and come back to it in a month or so. Pick it up and start reading from page one to the point where you stopped. With the break of time, once you reach the place where you stopped, you may find the excitement for the story has returned.

  5. Diane Burton says:

    Great post! This has happened so many times for me. Trying to finish one story when characters (sometimes, the secondary characters in the current WIP) start yelling at me that they want their story told. It is very hard. Staying the course is such great advice. Safe travel, happy holidays.