What To Do When Your Story Dies

P.G. Barnett
4 min readApr 11, 2019

Don’t panic. It may have only lost consciousness.

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

We’ve all been there haven’t we? That terrible sinking feeling. A heated flush of panicked sweat when we believe our story has just died.

It passed on to commune with angelic scribes in the heavens.

The story just kicked the inkwell.

It suffered a massive word stroke.

You get the point.

First, things first. Let’s perform a little triage before we call the coroner.

Checking for a pulse

Where should we start? Here’s a novel (pun intended) idea. Let’s start at the opening chapter. Did you write an opening which captivates the reader so much they’re instantly drawn into the story?

Or did you bury the lead?

(Again, pun intended)

If the start of your story is well, meh, but shows some merit, your story probably has a pulse. If after reading the opening and the first chapter you can’t feel a thing then maybe you should be on the phone right now with the coroner.

If your story has no pulse I’d suggest you start thinking about another body of work you can pal around with.

But let’s be optimistic and say your story still has a pulse. Okay it’s not dead. It’s just unconscious. Yeah, the pulse is shallow and thready but you can definitely feel it.

Okay, that’s a relief right?

But you should be concerned still, because the fact your story has a weak pulse may be a sign it has even bigger issues to tackle. Okay, so let’s see if we can get the pulse a little stronger before we continue.

Rework that opening and if necessary the entire first chapter. We’re simply trying to stabilize the patient here first. So don’t try to throw a ton of curatives by rewriting the whole story at the get go.

However, as part of your initial triage you may have to perform some minor surgery to get the pulse stronger. You may end up having to cut away a ton of deadwood infecting your story in order to make it better. You may even have to install a shunt or two to keep the life blood of your work flowing.

P.G. Barnett

A published author enjoying married Texas bliss. Dog person living with cats. A writer of Henry James' stories. Featured In MuckRack. Top Writer In Fiction.