Write It Sideways

The Bride’s Guide to Manuscript Monogamy

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:

Get nostalgic

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

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?