Writing Narrative Non Fiction: Finessing Mid-Story Slump

October 28, 2010
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Lisa Dale Norton


Lisa Dale Norton


Your Life as Story: Writing Narrative Non Fiction
Finessing Mid-Story Slump

Lisa Dale Norton

November, 2010

". . .I came to the writing desk and felt slow and confused . . ."

It’s easy to not recognize it. It creeps up on you, like an early afternoon, post-lunch malaise. Ho-hum . . . what is this story doing? And then—egads!—you feel it, the fear and panic: What is this story doing?

Recently I encountered mid-story slump and thankfully recognized it for what it was before I invested emotional energy in obsessing over the writing, story concept, or my inherent talent—all things the mind is happy to spin when the words aren’t flowing.

I’d been an a roll, the words pouring out, the pages piling up, chapters fitting together in ways I could never have planned. Then one day I came to the writing desk and felt slow and confused and unfamiliar with anything on the desk. It would have been easy to walk away. For good.

But I didn’t, because I am stubborn, and because I had been in that place before, and I faintly remembered it; I remembered I had made my way through before. The trick is recognizing this juncture in the moment and doing something useful to shift it.

". . .you have an opportunity to reignite the compelling memories and emotions . . . "

As writers of life stories we have a wealth of material that can guide our process back on track. I got out a photo album, perused the pages, inspected family ephemera, read old letters and a journal from the 1950s. The stories were spinning again. I recalled what I had been doing. I saw the trajectory of the book. I got back to flow.

By seeing mid-story slump for what it is, a minor moment of searching for the on-ramp, you have an opportunity to reignite the compelling memories and emotions that first fueled your idea, that first charted a map into the unknown territory of story.

About Lisa Dale Norton

Lisa Dale Norton is a regular Authorlink columnist. She is nationally recognized as a writing instructor with a passion for story. Read more about Lisa.


Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR (St. Martin's Press), is in bookstores now. Lisa is the author of the acclaimed memoir HAWK FLIES ABOVE: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE SANDHILLS, a work combining memoir and nature writing. She teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the process of memoir. She lives in Santa Fe. www.lisadalenorton.com




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