Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Turn Delays into Deeper Stories by Marie Wells Coutu

This is the season of delay and frustration for me, and I’ll guess it is for you, too.

For some, November (NaNoWriMo) was a month of productivity and progress. You felt great about your new story and your ability to write every day, to kick out 1,666 words a day, day after day for a month.

Marie Wells Coutu

Or maybe not. Perhaps you didn’t meet your goal, but you still wrote more words than you usually do, and you convinced yourself you can be a real writer. Or you skipped NaNoWriMo and kept moving forward with your current project.

Then comes December. Decorating, mailing Christmas greetings, shopping and wrapping, travel, demands of family (who may have felt ignored during November) all conspire to distract you from your writing goals.

As I write this, we’re already a week into the month and I’ve had only a couple hours actually devoted to working on my novel-in-progress. And my (self-imposed) end-of-year deadline is looming large.

Of course, there’s much advice available about making time to write or negotiating a new due date. But my question is how can these delays help our writing?

Like anything else in life, those feelings of frustration or panic can fuel our story.
Is your character struggling to accomplish her goal due to antagonistic forces? Delve into your own feelings of anger and disappointment at not having time to write, and put them on the page as part of her emotional journey.

Do you have a character who is driven to succeed but is too busy for his own—or his family’s—good? Examine how your busy-ness affects your family or your health, and see if you can’t translate those struggles into your story.

Is a ticking bomb about to explode? Remember your own panic over not meeting your deadline, then triple it.

Take a few minutes today to journal about your current situation and why you aren’t working on your novel. Go deep. See if some of the thoughts that bubble to the surface also apply to a situation your character may face.

Don’t let delay be the only outcome of your December writing-wise. Strive to stay attuned to your emotional state and how you can use it in your writing. Make notes, even if you don’t have time to write an entire scene.

When the delay is over—whether it’s a few hours or the entire month--you’ll have material to add richness to your writing and give your readers characters they can relate to.

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously WriteFor more posts by Marie, click here.


  1. Great post, Marie, thank you so much! It's been a rough couple of months, but you've encouraged me today! Hugs, sweet friend!

    1. These things affect all of us, so it's not surprising that it came just when you needed it! Hugs.

  2. What a way to turn lemons into lemonade, Marie!

    1. Thanks, Sandy! That's a great way to look at it. 8-)

  3. Oh, gosh, I can relate! I've been feeling so guilty about this after a 90-day, pre-NaNoWriMo effort that held me accountable. Thank you for the suggestions!

    1. Janice, I'm so glad you found the post helpful. May your next 90-days be more productive and blessed. And don't let that guilt keep you from writing!


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