When A Story Doesn’t Come Together

I’m one of those writers who has a book writing plan. That is, I sit down every December and plan out what books (and hopefully short stories and essays) I will be working on during the coming year. This usually involves a bit of note-taking, rough outlines, the whole nine yards.

Now do I stick to that plan?

Until the year of Covid, yes. Oh, I’d modify the plan every quarter. But the books that I wrote every year fell into a nice neat little sequence. Perhaps not quite in the order I originally…


An example of my latest table setup

Selling craft items at bazaars isn’t something new for me. I started the bazaar sales dance as a side gig during the 90s. At the time I had a young child, was trying to break into the writing world, and worked some other side gigs as a political activist (not canvassing, never canvassing, thank God). A friend got me started in making stone bead jewelry (shades of the Portlandia segment “She’s Making Jewelry Now” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBPT1pgByqc) which expanded to sales on eBay and early Amazon. …


Me and Mocha ready to go on the roads

We’re gonna die, teenaged me thought, as the combine roared onto the blacktop side road in the summer dusk in front of me and Sparkle. She jerked her head high and cantered backwards three steps as I kicked my feet out of the stirrups and bailed out of the saddle before she could either run further or start bucking.

“Who — a — a,” I breathed, clutching the reins. The dark bay mare stopped, snorting at the unfamiliar metal monster. We stood there until the machine passed, Sparkle dancing against my tight hold on her reins. Once the beast had…


Mocha on one of the roads

“We used to do club rides to the rodeo grounds along the highway,” my barn owner said as we drove along the route I planned to ride my horse along to her new pasture. “Too much traffic for that now, but it’s a good wide ditch.” I studied the ditch. Would it be a safe ride? I wasn’t too worried about the rest of my ride, but that highway exposure was problematic. Still, as long as Mocha cooperated, we could handle the half-mile distance.

Two days later, I cussed as Mocha balked at a short length of picket fence with…


Over the past few years I’ve devised what I thought was a pretty reliable novel-writing process. I’d spend some time in Scrivener outlining the relationships between major characters and each other, major characters and events, plot beats, and other worldbuilding aspects. Then I’d create a scene-by-scene matrix chronicling viewpoint characters, what each character intended to do in the scene, and where they were. The technique worked peachy-keen for a fast-paced set of cyberpunk thrillers, the second book of the fantasy series, and then a cozy paranormal book.

Then I started the process with Choices of Honor, the third book of…


Eleven years ago when I started writing seriously again, tracking word count was all the rage. It seemed like everyone on LiveJournal was reporting word counts, talking about word counts, agonizing over word counts. Maybe it was also a factor of the energy of the times as well. Self-publishing hadn’t yet become the big thing it is now, and Nanowrimo was just starting to take off. The notion of writing 50,000 words in a month was HUGE. Thinking about doing that much involved…well, it involved 5000 word days! OMG! Could we all ever produce that much work?

Keep in mind…


On Saturday I took a little break from incessant writing to participate in a saw training workshop operated by the US Forest Service in coordination with our local trail maintenance volunteer association. Shameless plug here: if you love to hike and live near a National Forest in the United States, please, PLEASE volunteer with your local trail maintenance volunteer association. It doesn’t matter where you are in the US; right now funds and staffing are low for all national forests. Even a couple of hours helping to brush, trim, and stabilize trail makes a difference. Not sure who your local…


The elk in the horse herd, before Mocha adopted her

Interacting with wildlife can lead to some interesting situations. Urban wildlife, of course, tends toward possums, raccoons, and the occasional interloping deer, coyote, cougar or bear. Many years ago, when we had our first rabbit, he woke us in the middle of the night by thumping loudly on the wooden floor of his hutch. He hadn’t done it before and didn’t do it after that.

But that night his thumps were loud, carried quite a ways, and I could not find a reason for it — until the next morning, when I heard that a bear had swum the Willamette…


So Choices of Honor has let me know that it is a combination of plotter and pantser this time around. I sat down earlier in March to fill out my traditional plotting matrix, along with noodling in Scrivener to do some worldbuilding and character stuff. Well. The darn book cooperated with me for the first third of its planning, and then thumbed its nose at me and said, “Read the damn notes, woman. I don’t want to be tied down scene-by-scene like you did with the Netwalk Sequence novels. I’m not gonna work with you that way.”

Okay. Fine. Whatever…


Normally, I’m not a beach person. Not sure why it’s that way — perhaps because my parents were never beach loungers but preferred to go lake fishing in the mountains when I was young. Or perhaps it was due to growing up on a small hobby farm where summers were packed full of growing and preserving food. Goofing off and playing? Heaven forbid — unless it involved foraging for food in some way.

Besides, I don’t like rain. And wet. And mold. …

Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Author. Teacher. Horsewoman. Liberal country girl split between urban/rural life, writing science fiction, fantasy, poems, and essays from the wide open spaces.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store