A letter I received a few weeks ago asked a question most writers will have at one point or another.
I’m working on a fiction piece that I had to step away from because of a move for my husband’s job. I’m having a lot of trouble getting back into the right mindset to write this particular story. Do you have any suggestions for making this work? I love this story in the making too much to let it go.
Haven’t we all been in this postion? You love your story, you love how far you’ve come, but you’ve just been too busy lately to work on it. By the time you do get back to it, it’s looking a bit stale.
Occasionally, these abandoned manuscripts are best left where they are, but in most cases we can benefit from picking up where we left off and fighting to the finish. After all, a writer who never finishes anything is doomed to be an unpublished writer, indefinitely.
The next time you’re struggling to get back into your work-in-progress, try these six strategies:
1. Read through what you’ve written so far.
Obviously, the first way to reconnect with your writing is to read it from beginning to end.
If you’ve already spent a couple of weeks or even months away from it, you’ll have the benefit of seeing what you’ve written with fresh eyes. That means you’re more likely to see the piece the way someone else would see it.
2. Acknowledge issues preventing you from moving forward.
Fresh eyes often help you see problems with your story that you never noticed before. Is the reason you’re having difficulty getting back into your manuscript because there’s a fundamental problem with it?
If something’s been nagging you about your plot, your structure, or your characters, and you’ve been turning a blind eye thus far, it’s time to acknowledge that those issues could be preventing you from moving forward.
Think about what needs to happen before you can continue.
3. Review your goals and plans for this particular project.
When you started this piece, did you set goals for yourself? And, did you plan where you were going with your story?
If so, reviewing your goals and plans can help put you back in the right frame of mind—the frame of mind you were in when you started the project and felt like you had everything under control.
Didn’t get around to that in the beginning? Now’s a good time to create some goals for what you want to achieve, and make some plans for where you want your story to go. When you hit the next slump, you’ll be able to keep on track by reviewing them.
4. Read something similar to what you’re trying to write.
If you’re writing a novel, pick up a couple of books in the same genre and with a similar feel. If it’s a short story you’re working on, read ones similar to the type of story you’re trying to write.
Pay attention to how you feel as you read, how the author draws you into the story, and what kind of language is used. In what ways is your writing similar to these ones? In what way is it different?
5. Set aside a special time to work on the project.
Sometimes we feel disconnected from our work-in-progress because we haven’t been setting aside enough time to work on it exclusively.
Sitting down every day for a short-but-focused writing session at a pre-scheduled time, and completely devoting yourself to that piece during those sessions, can help get you back to where you want to be, mentally.
6. Plan a reward for yourself.
Maybe what you need is a little something to sweeten the deal.
What reward could entice you to devote your attentions back to this project? Is there something you’ve been wanting to buy or do for a long time, which you could use as the dangling carrot?
Think of an appropriate reward for completing your project to keep you motivated.
Preventing Future Problems
I don’t know that there’s any fail-proof method of not falling into this mental disconnect with your writing, but careful planning and goal-setting, and spending adequate time on a project, can help prevent it from happening again in the future.
What situations have caused you to disconnect from your work-in-progress? What strategies help you get back on track?