Deep into a Skype session with a client in the United Kingdom, she threw up her hands. “Maybe I should just throw out the story and start over. What do you think?”

It was a good question. This was the start of a six book series. She and her writing partner needed to be invested in the origin story for years to come. After an initial round of rejections from publishers, her agent had sent her to me. Other clients come to me earlier in the process, with more than one idea. The question is often the same: when is it time to hold and when is it time to fold?

Sometimes it seems easier to start all over.

If you started with a great premise, but a weak desire line, there’s nowhere for your characters to go. If you start with a great character, but a desire line that gets solved too easily, there’s no one for the reader to root for. If you start with a complicated story world or too much backstory, the desire line takes too long to establish. Do you see the thread here? It’s all about the desire line.

The most important desire line is yours. What drew you to the story in the first place? Do you have passion for this character? For the situation? For the battle with the opponents? This is the passion to build on. Focus on that ace in your hand and pick a few new cards to go with it. It’s a lot easier than starting over with an entirely new deck.

The real trick is to connect the dots of your existing story elements to go deeper. You could give your hero a stronger desire line by making the problem personal. Then trigger this desire as early as possible. That will help you develop the plot.

When in doubt, here are some questions to ask yourself:

The real trick is to connect the dots of your existing story elements to go deeper. You could give your hero a stronger desire line by making the problem personal. Then trigger this desire as early as possible. That will help you develop the plot.

When in doubt, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is it that you love about the story?
  • Are you excited about how the story ends?
  • Have you seen it before?
  • Can you add skills or an occupation that will enhance the hero’s relationships?
  • Have you fully developed the other characters to add opposition?
  • Is the main opponent equally interesting?
  • Can you combine genres by adding a love interest?
  • Do you just need a good night’s sleep?

Writing is always a gamble. But if you bet more chips on the first card you drew, that will help you hold a winning hand.

Leave a Comment