There comes a point, whenever I’m writing a novel, when I feel slightly stuck. Most of the novel has been roughly written, the main plot points have been uncovered, and my characters have experienced several exciting events. When I have reached this point in writing, I have many important elements of the story that have started to coalesce, but they don’t always feel unified. At this point, I have learned that rather than trying to remove myself from this uncomfortable position, by continuing to write in fits and starts, I should settle myself in, and ‘stew in the story.’
What ‘stewing in story’ looks like for me is different every time, but the general idea is that I make time and space by myself, to run through my story in my head from start to finish, as though watching a movie on a reel in my mind. This allows me to see the story from another perspective, and to watch, as an observer, what works and what doesn’t work in the story. I have to be careful not to interrupt this process, even if a good idea comes to me during this ‘stewing session’. Often an idea will be tied to different elements in the story, and it doesn’t always lead where I think it will, so I have to be mindful to wait until the story has played itself out before I make notes on the process.
I think a stew is the perfect metaphor for this process, because what truly makes a stew delicious, is when all of the ingredients have been added, and it sits there simmering for several hours, as the flavours meld together. By allowing myself to stew in the story, I allow the disparate elements of my tale to come together in my mind, so that I can find unifying themes, and passages, the tiny details that are so important in world-building, and write them together in a way that is compelling and enjoyable for the reader.
Do you ever find yourself ‘stewing in story’? Tell me in the comments below!
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