Why is it that as soon as you get stuck into the most difficult parts of writing a novel, suddenly you have a hundred different (better) ideas floating around your head?
I’ve been working on a novel for the last nine months, and everything was going really well until about halfway through my first draft.
My outline wasn’t working as well as I thought it would. My characters wanted to go in a different direction. I was finding logic holes the size of the Grand Canyon.
Suddenly, I started getting all these insanely wonderful ideas for new novels, all of which seemed easier to write than my current one. Perhaps I was simply writing the wrong book!
Of course, that’s not true. Any novel is difficult to write, and the logical part of my brain tells me I would start something new, only to be stuck in the same position again six months later.
Every writer has moments of wanting to give up. How can you stay true to your novel for better or worse?
Take a few hints from your friendly neighbourhood blushing bride:
Remember how exciting your relationship was at the very beginning? I assure you it was, or you and your story idea would never have gotten together in the first place.
Though things might not be as exciting now, try to recapture whatever it was that made you fall in love with your story in the beginning.
Look at pictures, listen to music, read a book, take a walk…do whatever you were doing when you initially thought of your story concept.
Forget about ‘the one that got away’
Just before a wedding, people tend to look back at previous relationships and think about ‘the one that got away’–that old love interest they just couldn’t hold on to. But, we all know ‘the one that got away’ needs to be put away.
Fortunately, when it comes to staying true to your novel, you can easily put aside any other exciting and lovable story ideas, and forget about them until a more appropriate time (read: after you finish your current novel).
Start a notebook or computer folder with a few words about your story ideas, and then forget about them. If you do happen to think of material you’ll definitely want to use with those ideas, jot them down in your folder–and then leave them.
They’ll still be there when you want to reunite.
Rehearse your vows
Once upon a time, you probably made a commitment to your manuscript in the form of an outline.
Now’s the time to rehearse those vows you made so long ago. Resurrect your outline, character sketches, handwritten notes, visual inspiration file, or whatever else you initially used to plan your novel.
Make sure your plans are still solid. If they’re not, revise them until they’re coherent.
Think about the honeymoon
Who wouldn’t look forward to a vacation on the beach with the one you love?
When you’re tempted to stray from your manuscript, focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Think of the mental rewards, or set yourself a tangible one.
Contemplate the parts of the writing process you’re most looking forward to. Writing the last word of your draft. Editing your manuscript. Finding a literary agent. Scoring that publishing deal. Seeing your face on the back of your book.
Motivate yourself with these milestones, or promise yourself a [insert awesome, irresistible reward here] the moment you finish.
Make a lifelong commitment
When you say ‘I do’ to writing a novel, you’re probably not just committing to write one book. Most likely, you’re committing to writing it because you want to be a novelist. That means not just slogging through one novel, but several novels over the course of your life.
Remind yourself you’re not in this just for fun–you’re in this because of your future goals.
Giving up even this one time will set you back three months, six months, a year… who knows?
Even through the strains of your relationship, you need to see your manuscript through.
You and your novel: The happy couple
- How do you keep yourself on track when you feel like giving up?
- What makes you want to abandon your manuscript in favour of a new one?
- How do you keep track of other great ideas while you’re focusing on a particular project?
For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Till death (or success!) do you part.
Will you recommit yourself to your novel today?
Join the discussion
I am recommitting to my current WIP right now! 🙂 Something I’ve discovered is that when I want to stop writing something I’m working on, it’s usually because I haven’t planned it out enough. So I’ll often stop, take a step back, do some of the things you talked about (like re-reading my character notes), and then get back to planning until I feel confident that I know where I’m heading with it. Then I get back to work!
That’s exactly the problem I ran into, Jennifer. I had prepared a detailed outline of my story before starting, but there were a few crucial pieces I’d left out that meant I needed to re-evaluate my outline and make sure the plans were perfect before continuing. Hope you get back on track with your WIP!
Jessie pingle says
Love it!! Such a cute concept, comparing writing a novel to getting married! Glad I’m not the only one who gets distracted by other “relationships.” Ha! 🙂
Nope, we’re all distracted all the time! 🙂
This is such a great analogy. I’m also a little encouraged to see that I’m not the only person in the world to hit the writing wall.
I’m roughly at the half way point on a piece I’ve been toying with since 2006. It doesn’t help that writing isn’t the top priority in my life. Unfortunately, I have a brain stealing job (I guess, fortunately, I have a job).
I’m a pantser, as they say, so I rarely outline although I do have a rough sketch in my head of what should happen. I think the problem is much like the relationship–the honeymoon is over and now the work begins.
I guess what helps me is much like what you’d say about a spouse: There are more good points than bad points. I’ve got a supportive group to help me brainstorm the rough patches. At, truth be told, I really have a vision and a love for the thing I’m writing.
Interesting what you say about pantsing. As Jennifer Blanchard (of http://www.procrastinatingwriters.com) says in her comment above, “Something I’ve discovered is that when I want to stop writing something I’m working on, it’s usually because I haven’t planned it out enough.” That’s what I’ve found, too.
You might find that if you take a day to sit down and really work through your story’s plot from beginning to end, you’ll be itching to pick up your manuscript again. Thanks!
Susan Woodring says
This is such great advice! I know I’ve faced this moment before–when my WIP just looks like a great big mess–and you’re right: the thing to do is to press on.
Thank you for this!
I doubt there’s any writer on the planet–aspiring or published–who can bang out a perfect first draft. Every published writer I know who blogs says the same thing: first drafts suck. They will always suck. That’s what second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth drafts are for! If you don’t get through those subsequent drafts, though, you’ll never realize your ms’s potential 🙂 Good luck!
Great analogy, Suzannah. Maybe that’s why I have seven works-in-progress. I’ve never gotten past the first draft stage. I never have a problem coming up with ideas, just a problem in finishing things. When it gets tough in one story, I jump to one of the other ones that is easier. I tell myself that it’s good in one way, since I may inadvertantly finish all seven simultneously. No? Not likely? Drat!
Seven first drafts at once! Oh dear 🙂
May I ask if you’re a planner or a pantser (as in–do you plan your novels ahead of time by creating some sort of outline, or do you just write as you go?) The one thing that holds me back from finishing is not planning well enough in the beginning.
Right now, I have (what I believe to be) a really great idea for another novel–perhaps even better than the one I’m writing now. As much as I want to jump into that and abandon my WIP, I will stay faithful because I know the benefits of finishing, editing, polishing, and submitting this novel far outweigh the benefits of giving it up. Maybe it’ll never get published, but the lessons I will have learned, and the practice I will have gotten from seeing it through, will help me with my next book.
I suggest you choose your strongest draft, go back and create an outline based on what you have already and where you want to go with it, and then commit to finishing it, no matter what!