Monday, 2 November 2015

Asking For Help

I’ve been a right pain in the neck to some friends recently ;-). I asked for some help. Eighteen months ago I had an idea for a short story, and I sat down and drafted the first 500 words. But then I got stuck. The resolution wasn’t there, so I didn’t know what I was writing towards.

For several months I returned to the story, re-reading it, trying to work out what the actual story was. What was the conflict? What was the resolution? Whose story was it? I changed the character viewpoint. I changed the setting. I even changed the time period. Yet, still, despite having some sort of resolution, it wasn’t right. 

Then, a few weeks ago, it struck me that a completely different structure might be the solution. And it was. Sort of. The story is much stronger, more emotional and the resolution is there. But I’m not happy with it. There is still something that isn’t right.

Which is why I asked a couple of friends to help me out. When you’ve been this close to a project for such a long time, you are too close to it. You need fresh eyes to look at a piece. That’s what those friends can offer.

And their feedback has been great, so far. I say so far, because that’s why I’ve been a pain in the neck. They’ve given me some more ideas to consider for this story, which has been a great help. I now have plenty of angles to work on: points I hadn’t considered. But now these friends can’t get the story out of their heads. They keep having thoughts and ideas (which is brilliant for me, but not for them when they’re trying to get on with their own writing).

We all need help from time to time. Our projects are special to us, but sometimes we’re just too close to them to see any potential improvements. 

So if you get stuck on a project, ask for help. If people have the time, they usually will - especially if there’s an opportunity that you can reciprocate for them in the future. And also, if you have an idea for a project, pursue it. Sometimes these ideas need time to evolve. Perhaps I started work on this one too soon. But one thing I do know is that with some help from my friends, it will be finished. And then I can start submitting it. (And if it gets published, then the next round of cakes and coffee at the tea shop will be on me!)

Good luck.


  1. As I often say to students - writing is a team sport!

  2. I'm at that point in my third Fred Cooper novel now Simon. I fear it really needs a full re-write but sadly, I don't have much heart to do it these days. I may have to start a new one again and add in bits n bobs from the stalled one ... ah well ... ... ...

    1. Actually, ROn, sometimes it can be just as useful to start a completely different project. Then, when you go back to the old one you are looking at it with fresh eyes.