The Anti-Stresser

I don’t know about any of you, but I write all my novels/stories/poems longhand.

That’s right. Old school.

So naturally my insides churn and I become increasingly disgruntled when I near the end of a journal/notebook in which I am writing a story and I do not have a subsequent journal in which I can continue said story. What will I do when I run out of room? What if I’m in a middle of a particularly dramatic scene? What if I’m in the middle of a sentence? What if I have to leave my protagonists hanging (literally as is happening right now) in the clutches of the villain? How will I extract them from it?

Because you see, even though I do outline and plan my stories, if I let them sit for too long, little details in the outline and plan alters. Sometimes it only means changing the initial idea for a scene or two. Other times, as the days and weeks go by and a particular story is left unwritten for longer and longer and longer, the small scene changes add up to a small chapter change which escalates to a medium few chapter alterations and snowballs into a giant different ending.

Needless to say, though exciting, this can cause one a bit of stress.

You see, now that I’ve completely changed the ending, I’ve got a totally different story on my hands. This is not a bad thing. Where I get worried is when I try to incorporate the old idea into a subsequent story. Here is when I trip up. More often than not the old idea does not fit the new characters. Then the new characters seem too much like the other characters, and I feel like I’m writing the same book over again. And what reader wants to read the same plot and characters every time? Answer: no reader. So then the only way I feel like I can make the old plot work is to return to the original story and change the new ending back to the old one.

And hence I have not yet been published for I have not yet truly finished anything.

Most of this stems from the inevitable feeling every writer feels that their work is never complete. I’m sure published authors sometimes pick up their published book and feel that certain things could be altered. A man could have said something different to his woman. The woman could have responded differently to the man. That character shouldn’t have died, or if he was still meant to, the scene could be reworked and improved.

But I have to stop this. No, nothing I am working on is finished and ready for submission and publication yet, but I know that there will be a part of me that will never think my work is done. There comes a point where I need to stop thinking of scenarios for characters in a story that’s finished and apply them to new characters. I need to stop giving myself time to second-guessing myself and just write what I’ve planned and what’s in my head.

The only way to do that is make sure I have a new journal at the ready.

Don’t worry. I do 😉


About Miss Rosemary

is a recent college graduate from NY hoping to complete her novel of ten years. Stop by her blog, Miss Rosemary's Novel Ideas at or contact her at with comments, questions and suggestions. She'd love to hear from you! View all posts by Miss Rosemary

14 responses to “The Anti-Stresser

  • krisceratops

    That is the dilemma of storytelling! There are infinite stories waiting to be told, so how do you decide which one ends up on paper?

    In my film studies class we discussed an older movie with a pivotal scene that occurs with heavy rainfall. My prof asked us how this rain contributed to the story. One student asked whether the rain was supposed to be there, or if it happened spontaneously. The prof answered: “It doesn’t matter whether the rain was the director’s intention or not. What matters is that there is rain in this story. Had it not been raining, this scene would have a completely different meaning.”

    I think this applies equally to novels. A novel is what it is in its completeness, and although there are things that we may want to change later on and perhaps even after publication, the fact remains that any change we make will transform the manuscript into a completely different story. It can only be what it is. 🙂

  • Sharmon Gazaway

    As writers we are ever-learning so it only makes sense that by the time we get to the end of a long MS that can take a year or more to write, we want to write it differently from the original vision–we’ve grown, learned and so that organically come through our writing (whether we really plan for it to or not).

    I was amazed that you write novel drafts in pen on paper. I wrote my first 3 novel (attempts)in pen and could not imagine doing it any other way. Now w/ the edit in progress on my first finished novel, I am making plans to begin the next one, and I will absolutely compose it on the laptop. Why? There are many reasons, not the least of which is that the MS looks more like what the finished product will be. A page of penned prose looks so much beefier and longer that it really is once it is typed. It feels lengthier (having taken longer to write) and gives a false sense (to me) of being more than it actually is.
    On the flipside, I can only compose poems and short stories in pen.
    Of course the authors who still compose drafts in pen are numerous so you are in good company!
    Thanks for sharing your process.

  • Barb

    I’ve started using those notebooks where you can add pages… as soon as they’re finishing, I buy a new refill! 😉
    But I know exactly what you mean…
    back to handwriting that first draft, yay! 😀

  • Sangu

    Nope, you never feel like your book is ever truly ready. There’s always something you want to tweak or change or you feel isn’t quite there yet. It’s a struggle for me knowing when to stop and let it go 🙂

    My creative writing tutor at university was a successful novelist, and I remember asking her a couple months ago about her books (three of which have been published for years) and when she felt they were ready. And she considered for a moment and then said “I still don’t feel that way”.

  • aloysa

    I like to write the old way – pencil and paper. But now computers are so much more convenient. But something is missing though when I use computer. Maybe I miss the interaction with paper? There is something more intimate about it…

  • amkuska

    I know this is an older post, but in reading it I felt obligated to open my big fat mouth and comment. I -hate- it when authors reuse their plots and characters. Take Nora Roberts.

    I was forced to read her one day. Well, I wasn’t forced, but I was at a required session for my playwriting class where we listen to someone else read their play. An old guy, a self-proclaimed ass (we never called him this. I’m just repeating how he introduced himself. My name is [censored] and I’m an ass.)

    His play was about 5 hours long, and even though he was only supposed to bring the first 5 pages, the teacher let him go with the first…50. It had something to do with lambs and had lots of words like “spittle” and “abhor” in it.

    Needless to say, someone passed a book under the table to me, and I gladly delved into Nora Robert’s world, though I had never met her before.

    I LOVED HER. Her characters were so charming, so real, so vivid. (It was the key trilogy if your curious.) So I read the book, and then I bought the entire amazing series, and then I bought another series by her, the sisters trilogy.

    And this is where she lost my early, budding fanhood. The sisters trilogy had the EXACT same characters, but with different names. Right down to them all being singularly wealthy, and one of them owning a dog. Even the dog had the same personality.

    The plot was very, very, very similar. The only thing different was the setting and a few little tweeks.

    Alas, while I did later find her other books were unique, this ruined it for me. I don’t eagerly snatch up the first Nora Roberts I see and read the back cover anymore. She’s a great author. Great enough to make me read romance, but sadly, she’s a copier. >_>

  • amkuska

    I agree with Sangu. I just reread an old short story of mine, published, “The Good Unicorn” and found myself mentally reordering words so that they sound better. If they’d just let me edit it one last time…. *sigh*

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