Pushing past the next blank page – a writers ramble

imagesI have started writing many children’s books. A few have been finished and they remain hidden in my computer or are tucked in folders on the bottom shelf in my office with all my curriculum materials that I have not given away yet. Good teaching materials – a great place to hide my writing.

But back to the topic at hand – the blank page. Here is the deal – I have lots of good ideas. Maybe even a few great ideas so I begin writing. I get about two maybe three chapters, maybe even 4 chapters in and then I am stuck. I know where I want the story to go. I have a possible ending idea but that middle section just stays blank.

This section of any book holds the twist in the story, the second layer that leads us deeper into the conflict and develops a richer emotional connection to our character/s. It might be a story that runs parallel to our beginning tale. This critical point is where I find my blank pages.

I love my story but I can’t find my way into this middle section. I have done the following

  • I have walked away from it hoping the direction would come to me on my long walks.
  • I have gone to the wild garden, the setting for this story, and just sat. I was sure it would be there among the trees and wild plants.
  • I have gone to work in my garden. I get great veggies that way but no story.
  • I have read other children’s books similar to my story hoping for a hint but they have just left me with a feeling that maybe I should quit this writing thing. I have read some great stories lately way better than I can write. (Do you hear that writers doubt yelling at me?)
  • I have done some research seeking the key to the puzzle I am in. Maybe I need to read deeper.
  • I have quit writing all together. Done – finished, no more of this story it does not have a middle I have decided. It is just a simple story of a family lost, a child struggles and relatives step in, there are a few plants in there someplace and we move on story over.

Except – it is not that simple. Except this story keeps popping up after months of refusing to work on in. Except I want to know what should be on those middle blank pages.

So – do I have an answer for you on how to solve this dilemma?  In reality NO.  I still don’t have my middle but here is what I am going to try. I am going to just write each day about the characters, the story idea, information I have read while researching, anything that pops into my head that might connect to this story but not try to write the story. I am just going to write and see what comes of a summer of writing. If there is a story there maybe it will find its way out to the clearing at the end of the woods for this story is truly tangled in the weeds and dark corners of a wild garden.

What do you do when you can’t move a story forward? What do you say to your students when they just can’t move on?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Pushing past the next blank page – a writers ramble

  1. Dana Murphy says:

    Joanne, I think everything you’ve tried so far is really, really smart. And I think your next plan is equally as smart. Just keep writing – the story will find you. I think the fact that the story won’t leave you alone means that you should keep trusting the process.

    Best of luck to you. I have complete faith. 🙂

  2. Glenda Funk says:

    Joanne, have you participated in Teachers Write, Kate Messner’s writing workshop for teachers? If not, scurry over to her blog and sign up! I think you’ll find some wonderful writers who can offer support and help moving forward. Best of luck to you.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      Thanks I have worked with them in the past – but haven’t signed up this year. I often find myself spending so much time reading the great information from authors I don’t write myself. Maybe I should try again.

  3. arjeha says:

    Everything you have tried sounds like of list of the right things to do. The fact that the story won’t let you go says to me that it wants to be written and it will be written. Good luck.

  4. Leigh Anne says:

    I agree with Dana – this story keeps coming back for a reason. I don’t know much about writing books, but I know a lot about reading them. And I agree the middle is so important. I was just reading one the other day and I loved everything about it BUT the middle. it seemed to drag on and had no real point. I also agree with Glenda about Teachers Write – some very good mentors over there! Good luck!

  5. Lisa Keeler says:

    I hope you won’t keep the finished writing hidden and I hope that you will forge ahead with this story. You have a writer’s instincts. I agree with the ideas above- especially looking into Teachers Write.

  6. Tara Smith says:

    When a story stays with you, it’s calling you. It’s telling you to continue to chip away…it’s time will come.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      Thanks – I hope so! It is like a itch that won’t leave me alone but I can’t seem to move forward. So on to new steps – write around the story instead of into it. We will see what happens.

  7. cweichel says:

    I think everyone has given you good advice and you are doing everything just the way you should. I remember a writer (maybe Kenneth Oppel) talking about his process. He set a limit of pages to write, and then the next day began by editing them. Then he wrote his required number of pages. He said sometimes he throws everything he writes away, but he still continues to write. I think the main thing is that you just keep writing..

  8. Ramona says:

    Oh, I’m in awe of people who write novels and stories. I’m just a writer who writes blog posts. I like your plan to write every day! Keep at it, and I’m sure you’ll find you way out of the tangles and dark corners.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      Thanks – I also am more of a blog writer but really want to master this thing called novels. It is funny I just keep writing myself in circles but will keep looking for the right path.

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