What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?


arm in quick sandRight now I’m in the air.

That is correct! Right now as you read this at 10:01am on the 23rd…you know, if you are reading MW posts as soon as they go live…which you don’t…but just go with me on this…

Where was I? Oh yes…

I’m in the air as you read this…

…both metaphorically and physically.

Physically I’m on a plane that will touch down in Detroit, MI, in 28 minutes. Hell, I’ve probably already been told to put my seat back up and my tray table away (if I even have those two luxuries on Spirit Air…I’m heard horror stories).  I’ve not spent Christmas with my Dad and that side of the family for a few years so I am excited to be going home to see family and friend (and meet my 2 year old nephew, Luke…yes, insert Star Wars jokes here: ______).

Metaphorically I’m in the air on a story. I’m stuck. I’m in quicksand and it’s gross.

I rarely get stuck like this so I’m starting to bang my head on my metaphorical wall. The issue? A) I’m working on a short story and I’m a novelist…a friggin’ wordy novelist at that. B) I had a plotline plan for the arc of the story. The middle and the end are written and work GREAT! However…I’ve written 3 different openings and I’m not sold on any of them. To be honest, I could use the beginning of the middle section for the top of the story, but that would change the WHOLE arc and ruin the concept.



I feel that because I don’t have this happen often (the beginning is usually my strong suit) that I’m not as adept at dealing with this hiccup. But here’s the thing: I’m not in a panic, I have a plan of action, and I have time to figure it out (due date for submission is April 1st).

Here’s the thing I got to thinking about on the train this morning to help me stay focused on the positive:

  • I’m lucky this doesn’t happen to me often.
  • I’m lucky that I have time to work it out.
  • I’m lucky that I know this character so well that I can free-write and see what happens.

But not everyone has these three lucky things on their side…and I could loose #2 if I can’t get my shtuff together soon.

'Come on!'

So today’s post is more me coming to you for your thoughts than you reading my “words of wisdom” (ha ha) on the issue.

Here’s the thing: There is no right or wrong way out of the “it’s not working!” quicksand for anyone who writes. My plan is to talk it aloud with my Dad while I’m home. The man has a BA in English/Literature (plus a Masters in Education) and when it comes to the greats (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen) there is not a man in my world who knows more on them unless they’re being paid to. LOL! ——Brag Moment: My father takes these three authors’ work, compares it to History at the time, and the Bible (if it pertains), and does thesis work on it…for fun, because he’s retired.——

So as I was saying, I’m going to talk it out…I think that’s the issue, I need to hear it all to see the puzzle piece I’m missing. I have an inkling to what it is, but I need to yap yap yap about it with a man who understands literature and the short story construct better than me. I also need to keep free-writing scenes with my main gal and her female, kick-butt, warrior guardian (because, hello? Fun…and I learn things about them too). I also need to take all the sections I’ve written and put them on one document and then use that to type up an outline with what I have so far (for I do skeletal drafts vs. outlines when I create the story, but right now I need to see the whole picture on a page or two). Then I have to stare at it for awhile…and listen to great music that makes me envision this story.

Xena in quick sandWE ALL GET STUCK…even the authors you look up to. So don’t ever think less of yourself for hitting the ball into the sand trap. You’ll find your way out and the next story you do, you’ll be a better writer because of it. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Sure, you might have to put it aside for awhile to clear your head…but do go back, trust me, it makes a big difference in your confidence as a writer to go back.

That said, I was curious…what do YOU, the Magical Words reader, do when you get stuck? And what tends to be the way you pull yourself from the quicksand? I want to hear what fly paper catches you and how you get away!! I want to hear from ALL of you!!! Why? Because, like I said, it happens to everyone at different areas of writing and we all have plans and things that work…and I think a list of those ideas in one spot would be beneficial for all readers.


In the comments below, tell me what causes that hiccup and how you get over it! I’m flying to know! (I’m not going to put a “d” in place of the “fl” because I’m in the air on a not so great airline as this post goes live.)

Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say! I promise to reply to them over the next few days when I can get on the computer at the “old man’s” house. And if I get a good group variety of things…I’ll create a blog post with them and list those whose ideas I post.

That’s it for me this time around…until next time, write hard, bathe in imagination, and may the Force be with you! (Because OMG the new Star Wars film is wonderful! Go see it! Go see it! GO SEE IT!………..you know, it that’s your thing…*cough cough*)


Kadin with Santa 2015Happy Holidays (yes, that’s my dog Kadin with SantaPaws, and my roommate’s hand) to you and yours this season! May you all travel safely, may your family be healthy, wealthy, and wise…and may you get something this holiday season that sparks your imagination to create something amazing! And for those of you who can’t be with your family, know that they love and miss you…and those who are with family who don’t want to be………well, your family loves you no matter what, so go do some shots at the bar, darlin’! 😉

Much love, Tamsin 🙂




8 comments to What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Well, my two banes are transitions and plotting, so when you put those two together you come up with my latest quicksand moment (months…). On my WIP, I’d finished one major plot point and knew what the next one was going to be except…there was a whole lot of space in between. I had great plans for lots of world building and introducing and advancing relationships but…no conflict. Hmmmm. My head is full of cool imagery – cool imagery I’ve been really looking forward to – but no conflict. Ultimate solution: make the story more complicated. It’s already a grotesquely shaped, weirdly complicated story, so why not just let it be *more* complicated. Complicated seems to be what I do anyway… Now that I decided on that, I’ve come up with some more cool scenes I’m looking forward to. Hopefully I’ll be able to string them all together…

    So, for people like me who can come up with super cool imagery but are rather less good at turning that into *story*, any suggestions? How does one figure out what a story is *about*?

  • I find that I usually hit quicksand in the final text, rather than outlining, because somehow it’s too important, and my mind freezes up. After banging my head on the wall (like I have been for some minutes before this post), I manage to remember this fact at some point, take a step back, and re-write the outline at almost a sentence level, but without any pressure on making the words pretty. It makes it much easier to do surgery when I’m not fussed about how well it reads, versus how well it serves the plot. 🙂

    Best of luck!

  • adelard_brownlock

    I guess my quicksand moment comes during the first draft stage. Like you, Tamsin, I do skeletal drafts (love that term, I’m stealing) rather than outlines. But then comes the time for filling in the details. (Sometimes I do talk out any smaller problems as they arise with my sister ’cause, yeah, putting the problem into words corrals it somehow and makes it manageable.) But while dealing with all the little details, I begin to lose sight of the big picture.

    About halfway to two-thirds through, I begin to think the story is terrible, the characters are flat and uninteresting, and no one in their right mind is going to want to read this thing. I have to force myself to finish. The only way out of the quicksand really is to leave the story alone for a while and work on something else. When I finally do go back to it, I usually find that it isn’t as bad as I thought and I can then get to work on revisions.

  • […] HELP IS ON THE WAY. Tasmin Silver asks “What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?” at Magical […]

  • sagablessed

    My banes are letting the story get away from me, and feeling like a failure as a writer.
    How do i fix it? Take a break. For like a day. Then go back to it.
    Oh muy other bane? !$&;”‘$!;&_ hard drive crashes. When that happens i find I’ve lost interest with that particular story. Until i get back to writing it. Just have to suck it up and type.
    Happy holidays everyone. Safe flight Tamsin.

  • kdoylekeenan

    I got horribly stuck on my first novel, which I wrote without benefit of plot outline because I hadn’t imagined I would finish it. By the time I hit the plot snag, somewhere in the last 25% of the story, I was 100% committed to finishing, but had no plot outline to guide me. I went back and reread the entire thing and found the precise point at which the story went wrong. I performed surgery,and the rest of the novel practically wrote itself. For my second novel, I wrote a plot outline, which helped enormously until I wrote through the outline and realized I hadn’t finished the story. So I am extending the plot outline while I take a break from actual writing. Then I plan to reread the whole thing before I continue, as that helped me before and resulted in a much better story. Wish me luck.

  • Ken

    When I get stuck, it is almost always because I don’t know enough about my characters. Either I haven’t done enough work before hand or (More likely) I’ve rushed things in order to start getting words down on paper. For me, the urge to start getting words on paper is pretty powerful when I’m at the last staged of fleshing out my characters. Giving into that urge almost always bites me on the tail.

    What do I do?

    Well, I start walking and talking. My writing room is above my garage and I’ll walk from one end of that space to the other, twirling a single drumstick in my right hand–because I need that kind of mindless activity–and I’ll start talking to this person in my head. Out loud (I’m thankful for this space I have…it helps preserve the illusion of my sanity for my family).

    Sometimes I’ll get answers right away. Sometimes I won’t. On the times that I don’t, I chip away at it until my writing time is done and I give myself permission to let it go for the day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t stop thinking about it (anything but), but I let it cook in my subconscious for the day and overnight and take another crack at it the next day. Usually, by then, there’ll be a crack in the wall that I can force my way into.

  • WOW! These are all SO great!

    I did talk to my dad on our ride from Flint to Birch Run (Michigan) and he reminded me of something that has assisted me in what I was missing from the short story. He talked of how there’s a problem, and the character solves it. Then there’s a bigger problem, and the character solves that…and so on and so forth, but that at the end the protagonist has to put something on the line for others and pass that trial. There must be a sacrifice of some kind; such as freedom, love, or their life. And I was nodding along and as he gave more info I said, “If this is what you think makes a good story, can I interest you in my latest book, Mark of the Necromancer?” LOL! (Note: This is funny because my father doesn’t read the genre I write but I can hope he someday reads something I’ve written.) But seriously, I did have a facepalm moment. I was like, “Well jeez, that’s what is missing as the through-line…other than my lead character’s freedom/life being in danger, there has to be something a bit bigger that has to be sacrificed at the end to save the masses. I’m an idiot. Now I see what I need.”

    So talking with Dad did help and the skeletal draft is completed…and too long (gee, I’m so surprised…#sarcasm). But now I have an idea what needs to be more in focus and this morning on my ride to work I realized the construct was still wrong, but I think I figured out how to fix it. So tomorrow (because I always write on New Years Day. Always!) I will move pieces around and create a fuller draft. Then I’ll set it aside until February (when I’ll do draft 3) and go back to Billy the Kid and Dick Brewer. Once the 3rd one is done I’ll set it aside for 2 weeks and then come back and do the 4th draft (and probably 5th) and send off to the Publisher at the end of March. God willing, April 1 I hop on a plane again, but this time to New Mexico. But this time let’s all hope I don’t get sick.

    Yep! My family were ALL sick…trading the Flu to each other. So between flying and the migraine I got on Christmas evening, my immune system went down and said hello to Mr. Flu for about 12 hours. Ugh. Hence my delay responding on this post.

    ANYWAY…thank you all, again, for your comments! These were great! AAANND…if you are just now tuning in to our discussion of Quicksand Moments in Writing…jump on in and comment! I’d love to hear what glitches you run into and how you get out of them!


    Happy New Year, my lovelies! -Tamsin 🙂