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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Starting Over

by Normandie Fischer

A recent post on Writer Unboxed quoted Donald Maass: “Since this proposal has been so hard to write, ask yourself whether you are telling the right story.”

Sometimes our best laid plans falter. We assume we’re to focus on one thing, one plan, and then it implodes, fizzles to nothing. And we stare at a blank screen.

Has this ever happened to you? Has a critique partner or the voice in your head suggested you might not be telling the right story?

Just to keep things interesting in my writing world, I’ve spent years writing in one and a half genres (thinking they were two separate ones) with two series and a stand-alone. Right now, my Carolina Coast novels seem to be my sweet spot. The characters of small-town Beaufort wave their hands to grab my attention just so they can introduce me to new neighbors. Neighbors with problems for the crew to fix. Good, right? So, after Heavy Weather (Book 2) connected with readers, I knew I had to finish the love story I’d begun in it.

So, enter Book 3. Six chapters in, three new characters and another big issue wiggled into the story, screaming for attention. That made three plots, which was at least one too many. The new wiggler became the genesis of Book 4 and caught my attention long enough for me to write eight chapters and imagine that Book 4 might actually morph into Book 3. Who cared? Flip one for the other. But then my daughter arrived needing help with her babies. Life intruded.

Two months away from writing may be nothing to some folk. I thought it would be nothing for me.

I was wrong. When I once again sat staring at my screen, Book 3/4 had stalled. So, I reclaimed Book 4/3. Two more chapters in, and that one screeched to a halt. Oh, I could write about 100 words a day, at which rate I’d finish one book in two years. Two. Years.

Yes, I’m a slow writer, but that was absurd.

Then came the push for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month, and the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. With time off for the holidays, right? My head hurt, but what if? I'd done it before when trying to finish Sailing out of Darkness. Could I do it again?

For someone who had been slogging away at 100 words a day, this would mean an increase in production that made me jittery. But a goal is a good thing, right?

I signed up.

And on October 31, I woke to an idea. What if one of my problems with Book 3 had to do with the clutter of too many story lines? What if I nabbed the most pressing one (that holdover from Heavy Weather) and started an entirely new book with it? And what if I tried writing a Christmas novella using those characters? The thought caught my interest. I pulled those chapters out (8K words) and… then?

Oh, my, look what I found! Two new characters! Kids in need of rescue!

Which is a favorite topic of mine. I want to rescue all children. As I can’t do that in the real world, I do it in my stories.

I had found my sweet spot. And just like that, the book wrote itself. I went from 100 words a day to 4000 words, then to 5000 words. Every day. Add these to the 8000 words I’d already slid into place and I had the first draft of a 35K novella completed by Day 8 of my marathon.

That has never happened to me before.

But it happened because I was willing to change direction. To imagine a new plan. To pay attention to the voices in my head whose story cried out to be told.

Suffice it to say, my team rallied. My crit partners dug in. I rewrote and polished and honed and sent it off to them again. Their edits were swift and brilliant. I polished once more. And from my fantastic street team, four angels offered their eagle eyes for proofing. While the manuscript was out with them, I designed a cover, made a book trailer, and formatted the thing for print and ebook. (I love Vellum, which formats ebooks for me.)

And on November 27, Twilight Christmas released.

Have you ever done that? Reversed course? Quit what wasn’t working so you could shake off the cobwebs and create something that actually did work?

I’d love to hear what process you used when you felt stuck. Did it involve a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo? And how did the shift work for you?


Starting Over by Normandie Fischer (Click to Tweet)

It happened because I was willing to change direction~ Normandie Fischer (Click to Tweet)

Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather (2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two from Isaac’s House. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into Fire, will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother. You can find Normandie on her website,Facebook, and Amazon.


  1. Good food for thought. Maybe why I have about 11 ms started and stopped cold 1/4 to 3/4 finished. Will take a new look at them and see what I find. Right now I still feel like I'm on a carousel horse, sometimes up and sometimes down. Hope I can get off the horse and onto a bench so I can depend on being able to write everyday ready or not. Good Luck with writing and grandbabies.

  2. Thank you, Jo, for your kind wishes.

    Sometimes we start something and discover it's not ready to be written or we're not ready to write it. And sometimes we just need to glue ourselves to our desk chair and write something, anything, so that we can finally, eventually, type The End. That finished work may not end up being THE ONE that nabs that first contract, but there's something about finishing the first that encourages us to get going on the second. My first fiction contract didn't come until I'd completed three manuscripts, and the first to release was the third to be written.

    Just keep at it! Let those ups and downs propel you somewhere. I believe you can do it. Really.

  3. I enjoyed the Christmas story. Loved the fact that two orphans found their place! A HEA for me

  4. Sometimes I have to skip to another part of the story to jumpstart me back into writing. Then I close the gap later - and usually it's not as big a gap as I thought it would be. Lately my writing has been sidelined by attempts to sell what I've already published. To me, marketing is 1000x harder than writing. :-(

  5. Lilaskid, I'm so glad you liked Twilight Christmas!

    And Kristi, I completely agree with you. I hate marketing so much that I tend not to do it, which doesn't help sales. I keep hoping they'll take on a life of their own without my direct involvement.

    I also love that there's usually someone begging for attention in another part of our story. Good for you that you've found your way out of a stall by shifting your focus.


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