For my fellow writers: The Beauty of a Creative Writing Breakthrough

Breaking through, like the sun through the clouds

Breaking through, like the sun through the clouds

Today’s post is a bit of a celebration, a bit of an update, and a bit of a reflection. This rambling is one I hope my fellow writers can relate to, because it concerns one of the best possible moments that come to you as an author.

I should start by remarking how hard it is to fix a problem with your work in progress when you’re not sure–or you’re wrong about–what the problem is at core.

That was my problem with the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. I read through the draft, and I knew something was off and would cause me trouble down the line. But for four months I’ve been trying to figure out how to fix things.

I have finally had a break-through.


This book is the first in what I’m hoping will turn into a new series set in my fantasy kingdom of Herezoth. A romantic subplot had lots of issues in terms of credibility, and my major plot was leading up to a war that for various reasons did not seem viable.

I somehow managed to solve both isssues–BOTH–with a simple realization that I had the kingdoms at war wrong (more on that below). That moment of realization is simply: it’s the best part of writing. SUCH the best part.

  • It’s realizing all the months I’ve sunk into my project aren’t wasted time like I’d feared (and almost had come to accept).
  • It’s understanding that I won’t have to bid new characters I really do love an early farewell.
  • It’s calming and peaceful, like a sweet purring kitten greeting you at the door and climbing onto your lap to snuggle after a really rough day.
  • It’s joyful and full of expectant hope, like the sweet love in the voice of my toddler nephew when he pulls on my arm and says, “Aunt Vic, Aunt Vic: you want to come in my playroom with me?”

All of a sudden, everything just feels right. The plot and the characters finally mesh, and it all make sense.

Of course, I’ll need to make some serious changes to the plot as I have it right now. More changes than I’ve ever done before, actually.

I’m excited for this upcoming edit because it means a big development and a totally new experience in my writing career.

I’ve started a novel over after 50,000 words, but I have never altered the main plot of a completed first draft to the extent I’m about to overhaul “The Esclavan Abductions.” Not even close.

I’ll be changing the “outer scenario” in which the major events of my novel take place, if that makes sense. They’ll be more believable now. I’ll have to rewrite the book’s final chapter, but beyond that, just minor tweaking of the major action scenes.

The new context makes me so much more excited about my favorite moments in the novel…. I feel amazing. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt good about things ๐Ÿ™‚

I am so ready for the challenge!



For those who are interested, I’d like to break down exactly what I had wrong and how I fixed it.

There are three island kingdoms in my fantasy world.

  1. Herezoth is the main kingdom, known for its sorcerers.
  2. A long way off (about a month by sea) is Traigland. Traigland is an ally of Herezoth.
  3. The third kingdom, on Traigland’s far side, is Esclavay. Esclavay is an enemy state of the other kingdoms and runs on a slave economy.

“The Esclavan Abductions” sets up for a war between Herezoth and Esclavay and a romance–almost an impossible romance–between the king’s sister and one of her guardsmen.

I had a lot of misgivings concerning that war. First of all, Herezoth has magic on its side, which would make a war with Herezoth pretty one-sided and enslaving its citizens a very dumb idea.

Second, the kingdoms are just too far away, given the lack of modern technology, for a war to really make sense in a way that’s engaging in fiction or could involve the characters I’ve developed.

And then, the romance subplot has always driven me nuts. (Read here about how I pulled lots of strings just to keep the dang guardsman alive).

What I realized–finally!– is:

It’s not Herezoth that needs to be the focus of war with Esclavay. It’s Traigland.

Traigland will need Herezoth’s support (because Herezoth knows Esclavay can take Traigland, and with Traigland’s resources, Esclavay would come after Herezoth next.)

I’m smelling arranged marriage now, involving the king’s sister and a Traiglandian nobleman. I’ve never written about an arranged marriage in my Herezoth novels, but the plot point will open tons of possibilities for the romantic subplot that felt forced to me before.

I have no idea if the arranged marriage will come to be or not, or what the heck is going to happen where the princess and her guardsman are concerned, but I think it definitely needs to be an option my characters consider. So….

LOTS of new possibilities.

Have you experienced a serious breakthrough in your writing before? How did you celebrate? What made the breakthrough so significant?

After all, we writers need to stick together and share success stories as well as commiserate ๐Ÿ™‚




36 responses to “For my fellow writers: The Beauty of a Creative Writing Breakthrough

  1. Yes! I had several breakthroughs last spring when I was writing the second draft of Destiny, my first book. It felt exactly like you described and led to some of my favorite scenes in the book and added a new twist to several existing scenes. It’s all about combining characters, upping the stakes, and intensifying everything.

  2. I had a major breakthrough/ plot fix recently. Now the book feels wonderful and will be published in September- just getting all the illustrations together and my cover is already done. The fix involved a main character who was at first an antagonist. I realized the plot was shaky and by changing the antagonist to a fall-guy everything fell into place and the true antagonist rose up to be quite villainous. It was awesome. The whole manuscript tightened up and took on a life of its own.

    I enjoyed your post, big time. I can totally relate to this.

    • I’m so glad you can relate. And OH MY GOSH, that is one of the best kinds of breakthroughs I can imagine!!!!! Fall guys can be so thought-provoking and provide for such fun craziness.

      Brilliant!!! Your novel sounds like a blast.

  3. It is a feeling like no other when that breakthrough smacks your brain and asks, “Why didn’t you see this all along?” The high you get from it is celebration enough.

  4. By the way, I can’t post comments to this blog anymore with my WordPress account. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Hope I didn’t say something that offended you.

    • You didn’t say anything wrong at all! I don’t know what’s that about…. I haven’t changed any settings that I know of to restrict comments and defintely haven’t blocked you from commenting (I have never set blocks on anyone.)

      Hmmm…. that is really, really odd. I will see what my comment settings say. Maybe I changed something without realizing…. I did try to make things easier for people a few days ago and might have accomplished the opposite :-/

      Still, I don’t know how the system isn’t letting you post a comment from your WordPress Account…. That is bizzare. Super buggish!

      • Just checked my comment settings…. “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” isn’t checked and has never been checked. And even if it were, that shouldn’t stop you commenting from your WordPress account. I have no clue what’s going on…. If it’s a glitch that doesn’t go away with a couple of days let me know and I’ll report it. So sorry for the confusion and the inconvenience, Michael!

  5. I LOVE that feeling! For me, it’s like I’m uncovering something that was already there, but that I wasn’t seeing before. Like more bones for a dinosaur skeleton that change everything I had once thought about the creature, but now everything just makes more sense. Editing often feels like excavation, and I feel like I uncover more with every layer. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Most of the breakthroughs I’ve had like that have been related to character motivation, though I’ve had a few that were connections between previously unrelated story elements that just made everything a lot deeper.

    I’m so glad you had your breakthrough for this. Sounds like it’s going to make a HUGE difference!

    • thanks, Kate! I hope it does. And I love that simile you provide: it fits perfectly on a lot of levels, not least on the level that a draft is really the bare bones on your story. And even all the bones might not be there!!! Just like a dinosaur fossil ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Congratulations ๐Ÿ™‚ These writing breakthroughs are awsome!
    For me it’s Sometimes a really small thing that is rather chapter-related and doesn’t concern the whole plot, but I sometakes take a really long time to find out what was bothering me.
    Other times, something in the plot seems odd, and 1) I don’t know what and b) I don’t know how to solve it. The last time THAT happened, actually a character helped me out. I actually wanted him to survive, but he chose to die, and with his death, the things that were bothering me about the plot suddenly fell into place.

    • It’s amazing how that can happen!!! It’s always sad to have to let a character go, but I’ve had that happen to me too. I was totally bummed for a bit, but the plot did call for that character to die and there was really no avoiding it if I wanted a realistic and readable story.

      I’m so glad everything worked out in the end for you. And thanks for bringing up the concept of the mini-block, the chapter-related issue. That’s important and it totally happens to us all.

  7. Always a glorious feeling. I like the idea you came up with too. It sounds like it could help you flush out the world since you’re going to be focusing more on another kingdom. I think with series in the same world, you really need to give a new area to explore.

    I’ve had moments like those where something finally clicks. One of the supporting characters in my book recently got an upgrade. I had a villain that was very powerful for the heroes and I couldn’t avoid a confrontation. I realized this supporting character might be the key. Now Fizzle is more plot essential, stronger, and the workings of the world are a little more detailed.

    • that’s the best!!! I LOVE upgrading minor characters ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s always fun to pay them their dues and give them their chance to do their thing.

      And you’re very right about giving readers new areas and places to explore. I’ll have to do a lot more planning than usual! ๐Ÿ˜› hahaha…. totally worth it.

      • Definitely. I flushed out my world as I outlined new stories, so some of the areas get mentioned in the current series.

        • Fun!!! ๐Ÿ˜› Makes me think of Robin Hobb taking her readers to the Out Islands in her later trilogy about Fitz the assassin. I really liked the Fitz books (they start with the Farseer Trilogy, just in case you haven’t heard of them. I hadn’t for a long time.)

        • That’s a new series to me. I’ll have to look into it some day.

        • It’s a TON of fun. Epic fantasy with mental powers (Fitz can influence people with “the Skill” as the magic’s called as well as communicate/bond with animals). Lots of swords and herb potions and intrigue. I’d recommend it for down the road.

  8. When the creative juices really start to flow on a new idea, and something that started with an idea blossoms into graphic reality through your words, there is a feeling of power in persuasion that cannot be found in mere argument.

  9. Sounds like you are on your way again. Good for you!

  10. Congratulations, Victoria. So exciting for you! I had one of those moments figuring out the ending of A Gift of Wings. I had been struggling with how to tie up a couple of plot threads and then realized all I had to do was change an object one character gives another to a different object–and that would allow me to tie up both things. The answer seemed so simple once it showed up.

    • That’s awesome! I feel that’s always the case, too. Once it hits it, you’re always thinking, “What took me so long to see that?”

      I think that’s because the solutions just make so much sense, because they’re the right ones. They’re not nearly as simple to create as they seem to be after the fact, and that’s the beauty of good art/storytelling. It comes across almost as effortless.

  11. I’m so excited for your breakthrough! Wahoo! I’d be doing a squeal dance if that were me. I can’t wait to read The Esclavan Abductions. I don’t know if I’d call what I had a breakthrough or just a major story change. It went from being just a mystery to a time-traveling mystery. I was doing a character exercise when it came to me. I’ve had minor breakthroughs since.

    • Thanks, Rochelle! A time travel mystery sounds AWESOME. I’ve never read one, actually, and I love the mystery genre. I love sci-fi/fantasty stuff like time travel. That would probably be right up my alley!

  12. Congrats on that breakthrough. It makes so much sense!!! Woo hoo!!! Glad you kept the guardsman alive. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I had a breakthrough with the novel I’m working on now. It happened over a year ago. Silly me. I didn’t have a good antagonist before. The would-be love interest was sort of the antagonist. Well, that simply wasnโ€™t working. I wrote and rewrote the same pages three times. Finally, my advisor told me to start all the way over. I had one month to rewrite. Thought about the book almost to the sweating blood stage. Finally came up with an antagonist whose story compelled me. My advisor loved him too.

  13. My breakthrough actually came to me before I even started my current WIP, 30 Days At Quenchers. My initial idea was do a story set entirely in a tavern. I had the movie, The Time Of Your Life in mind when I came up with the idea. I was using all of my old characters from my D & D days but I was missing something. As it stood it would just be an entire book of drinking and unusual characters but nothing to tie them together. The breakthrough came when I realized I needed a central character, an outsider if you will, for the reader to observe everything that went on inside the tavern. The title came about when Jarryd McCallen is release from a local jail and sentenced to a 30 day work furlough in the tavern. After his first day on the job he has second thoughts that jail might be safer.

  14. Congratulations!!!! I particularly liked reading about which islands should go to war! Have fun, xxoo

  15. Wow….That is identical. It’s amazing that you can put it into words and so concise too.

    I had this one scene, a pivital scene that would set the course for the rest of the series, but it felt so forced it made me sick. My lead performed an action uncharacteristic of him and there was so much magic power I was holding back. After working on it and brainstorming I finally figured out a solution. Not only did it neatly resolve my problem and add a bucket of tension but it trickled through the series and solved other, smaller problems, and offered new opportunities for world building. Yes, there’s a ton of rewriting to do but the series has become better for it.

    Congratulations on your breakthrough!

    • Thanks, the same to you!!! Oh my gosh…. nothing’s better than when a breakthrough like that solves other smaller problems and just makes the work more consistent and better in general.

  16. Pingback: How do you come back to writing fiction after a long break? | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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