It happens fairly often, that when I get an idea, it seems really good. I start writing it, and midway or towards the end, or sometimes after completing the whole thing, I completely lose trust in the idea.

  1. Should I publish or complete something that I don't believe in anymore ?
  2. And if yes, how do I go about completing the story?

It sounds like you are starting with an incomplete story idea and discovering, half way through writing, that your idea is incomplete.

For some writers, it would seem, it is quite normal to start with an incomplete idea and for them to discover the rest of the idea as the story develops. (The tale grew in the telling, in Tolkien's phrase.)

If you are not one of those writers for whom the tale grows in the telling, then it would seem that you need to focus on two things:

  • Recognizing when a story idea is incomplete

  • Developing a story idea to completion before you begin writing

There are lots of models you can use to assess if a story idea is complete, and to develop your story idea to completion. (I would suggest looking at McKee (Story) and Vogler (The Writers Journey) to start with.)

I tend to look at story ideas in terms of desire.

  • What is the protagonist's desire?
  • What things in the protagonist's character or circumstances stand in the way of their achieving that desire.
  • What will they have to give up to achieve their desire? What is the great moral turning point that makes them either make the sacrifice to attain their desire or give up their desire.
  • What specific incidents will set the protagonist on the quest for their desire, and what incidents will force them to face the great moral turning point.

Those strike me as the necessary elements of a complete story idea. If you have those, the impetus of the story should be enough to carry you through to the end of the story. If you don't it is likely to flag at some point, as you have experienced.

If you can complete your story idea, you will probably find the impetus to continue. If you can't, continuing is not likely to reveal the complete idea to you (though it is always possible that it will).

  • Thanks for the answer Mark. I like the your method of looking at characters and story in terms of their desire. A follow-up question would be, is it always that the protagonist achieves what he desires. In other words, is it fair for the readers of the story to experience that the lead character does not achieve redemption ?
    – Arpit
    Sep 4 '17 at 15:36
  • @Arpit "is it fair for the readers of the story to experience that the lead character does not achieve redemption ?" That's called tragedy. It's a major part of all creative writing and of life itself.
    – Joe
    Sep 6 '17 at 10:26

I know you have already accepted Mark's answer, but here is an idea, from a writer that starts with rather vague story plans:

While you are in love with your idea, write down what you love about it. Why is this such a great idea? What scenes are you imagining? What funny or astounding or terrifying moments will this idea deliver? What kinds of problems does this make the characters face? Will people die? Will love be lost or gained? What is going to excite characters inside this idea, to make them move and take action? Is it money, or power, or terror, or a weeping-at-night desire to save the poor shovel-head turtle from extinction?

Before you start writing an actual scene, or thinking about a hero, write yourself a touchstone: As many pages as you can muster on why this idea grabbed your imagination. Write this to be the cheerleader for your future self.

If in some weeks or months you grow to doubt yourself, read it again. See where you went wrong. Maybe the cheerleader can convince you to back up a bit and fix the story.

If you get bored with the writing, it may be because your characters are making obvious, predictable and safe choices. They are boring to read about!

The story is not advancing, or advancing too slowly. You need to find where that started and find some dynamite to throw. Something that forces them off that boring path.

Stephen King had this problem with The Stand, he was stuck for weeks and thought he'd lose the novel 3/4 of the way through. To fix it he literally threw dynamite in there, he wove in a back-story of sabotage that blew up and killed half his characters and sent the rest reeling on a completely different path. Reading about that sabotage (without knowing it was an expertly done add-in) created a sense of dread leading up to the explosion, it kept seeming the saboteurs would get caught, but they kept (quite logically) escaping and it looked like they were going to get away with it. Which they did.

There is a thin path to walk that keeps your characters in character while sustaining the suspense of what is coming, and their journey to it compelling. It is easy to take a step off that path, and wander for a few days or weeks. If you get bored, that is what happened: go find the last bit you enjoyed writing, and try to change the game so you don't wind up in the same place.

  • Wonderful thing to do. I have a few things that I love about my stories and characters. It'll be a great idea to write them down and come back to it time and again. Thanks !
    – Arpit
    Sep 6 '17 at 8:51

Although this may be a real issue, in which case Mark's advice is excellent, it could also be psychological. I have learned that I always think my writing is amazing while I'm working on a project (particularly in the earlier stages) and that I always think it's terrible right after I complete it. The most obvious conclusion is that neither self-assessment of my work is trustworthy.

If you have a similar pattern, these things might help:

1) Committing to finishing (or to publishing), no matter what.

2) Finding a trusted reader, who can be objective about the work.

3) Setting aside the work for a while so that you can return to it with fresh eyes.

4) Knowing yourself well enough to compensate for your set reactions. For me, the false early confidence is useful, because it keeps me excited to work; the inevitable later disillusionment is just something I've learned I need to be prepared to power through.

  • There are also huge issues for many people around fear of success as well as fear of failure. Sometimes, journaling, therapy, or other inner work can help reveal and resolve such issues.
    – Joe
    Sep 6 '17 at 10:39

I too have currently fallen out of love with a story that I am midway through. I wrote myself into a corner and discovered a plausibility problem. I am taking a break from the story to consider alternate ways to tell the same story -- maybe a different sequence of events or a different emphasis.

Even though it feels like you're banging your head against a wall, it's worthwhile to struggle with a story sometime. You need to allow enough time to convince yourself that you have explored every avenue and that a story is indeed unrepairable. You need to convince yourself that the story can still accomplish some purpose and reveal some deeper truth. This sometimes is not easy. If the story is not effective or at least minimally entertaining, why bother writing it?

During this fallow period, I have managed to change the perspective of previous stories to make them work spectacularly. All the same, there have been some stories that I have decided to divorce myself from despite the initial impression that the story had legs.

By the way, I will try to write my way out of my corner, but one technique I'm now trying is to work backwards from the story end and see if each event had to proceed in the way you imagined it.

I don't know if you are having problem with narrative or character, but it might help to sharpen focus on your characters by doing exercises to see how they would act in situations totally different from the story itself.

  • As you mention, but don't emphasize, sometimes, you just need to give it a rest and think about other things then come back to it with a fresh perspective.
    – Joe
    Sep 6 '17 at 10:34

My experience and observation are this:

People tire of things.

Marriage is a famous example, but you can also try to watch your favourite movie once every day for a year. I am sure after that time it will appear bland.

The problem you encounter is a common one, and every person who chooses a profession has to deal with it: what once seems exciting and new becomes boring with habituation.

There is only one solution to this:

  1. Know that everything else would become boring even more quickly!
  2. Keep at it.

Creative jobs are just like any other jobs: they become work. Diligence, tenacity, and frustration tolerance are what separate professional writers from amateurs. Or love of drudgery.


I used to have this same problem. I now kind of stack ideas together. Of course only the ideas that relate, but your're be surprised how easy is to find links between yours ideas. Once you have stacked enough ideas, A whole story might form or you could write out a outline for the story. I find after that the ideas keep on stacking up and I then have momentum to finish the story and able to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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