On Perseverence in Writing and Not Getting Stuck

Author Kathryn Buckley shares her struggles and her triumphs

Writer Kathryn Buckley.

The journey of writing fiction begins with an idea that a writer must commit to on some level. Getting it down on the blank page so that it endures is the most important element; otherwise, the theme, mood or sentiment behind the words can easily disappear much like a lost thought in conversation or a missed window in life.  Years ago I remember the former director of The New School Writing Program saying, “No one chooses what they write.” I agree with him in that we do not select the driving force that makes us fiction writers compelled to tell a specific story.

It simply comes from within.

We put forward what we believe is our best dialogue, our most descriptive scenes and hopefully it is something that will move readers to laugh, cry,  learn something or be entertained, the best case scenario being all of the above of course! But sometimes the dialogue is clumsy or too polished to be real, the descriptions lack sensory details that are required to offer readers a true sense of a character’s worth or their environment and the story itself is not fully told.   

None of these issues are a deal-breaker but they do require revisiting that which is already present on the page and being willing to revise it over a period of time.   I liken this concept to something my acting teacher told my summer intensive program once when she felt as though some of us were being redundant in the way we performed our monologues, a wisdom I always share with my students that I believe applies to the written word as well: “You are not married to this.” What she meant is that there is more than one way to get the storytelling right and what seems to work on one occasion might not on another especially if you yourself have evolved in some way.

That being said, when you return to your own work with fresh eyes try reading it as an outsider. Ask yourself if you would be convinced by “the” not “your” protagonist’s motives. Can you visualize the surrounding circumstances and the physical descriptions of people and places? Is “the writer” showing not telling- for example rather than saying a character is uncomfortable did they mention that a character winced?

 Is the tone of the work consistent or do you feel that the writer is uneven in his or her execution pacing-wise and would benefit from creating a more stable mood on the page? 

I have made most of these mistakes. I have also fixed them. You can’t please everyone with your work but you can be aware of yourself as a writer and begin to recognize your common literary flaws. And when in doubt read your work aloud; it’s a foolproof way to catch those awkward sentences.   Half of the battle is getting started; the rest is perseverance in your craft which on the bad days can feel loveless and on the better ones, magical.  So write first, analyze later.  It’ll all piece itself together somehow.


Kathryn Buckley lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing in New York City and New Jersey. She has an MFA in Fiction from The New School and her work has appeared in From the Heart of Brooklyn Volume 2, Toad Journal, The American, Ebibliotekos, 34th Parallel, XoJane, Eclectica, Press Play, The Chaffey Review and The Rumpus. She is currently writing a story collection.