In early 2011 I started a new novel, planning to have it to my critique group by summer 2011 – something I stated in our annual writing resolutions in January 2011. As the weeks passed, I kept pushing the deadline, struggling to work through one particular plot point that kept nagging me. Summer 2011 came and went and my new goal was January 2012. I was writing frantically, trying to make my self-imposed deadline. Finally, on the last day I would need to send it to my group, I threw up my hands, burst into tears, and gave up. I could not move past this plot point, did not know what to do with it. At first I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t finish a novel in a year or a bit more? Lots of writers (some with small children) were able to do it. And why couldn’t I figure out this plot point? What was my problem?
But as time went on, I was able to give myself permission to leave the novel for awhile and focus on the release of Rock On and all of the author events I had lined up. In between I did some brainstorming a bit with my work-in-progress group (W-I-P) which helped in some areas but that one plot point remained a sticking point. Every so often I’d think about the story, then gently nudge it away, trusting that my subconscious would find a solution.
In early summer 2012, I started to ease myself back into writing with these steps (not necessarily in this order).
- Start with what you have. When I was ready to start writing again, I wasn’t ready to get back to my novel. So I pulled out some picture book manuscripts I’d been working on years ago and started revising.
- Start small. I chose picture books because they aren’t easy, but they are short and gave me a sense of accomplishment and completion, something I desperately needed. For you it might be a poem, short story, article, or some free writing with or without a prompt.
- Read good books, whether they’re like the one you are writing or not. If you were reading during your hiatus, start reading books as a writer again. When a scene makes you laugh, cry, get excited, feel tense–pause and ask why. Figure out what the author is doing right and start connecting that to your own manuscript. Not long ago I read Every You, Every Me by David Levithan (fabulous, btw). When I got to the end and closed the book, a lightbulb went off about my own novel. Holy @#$%! I suddenly knew how I needed to approach the infamous plot point that had caused me to hit that writing wall back in January. This isn’t the first time reading a book has helped me with my own book so I highly recommend this tip. (I’ll be writing more about my journey with this stalled novel so stay tuned).
- Share your work, but only ask for positive feedback at this point. You can get feedback for improvement when you’re ready. What you need now is a confidence boost, so go to writers you trust to give you what you need.
- Talk to other writers, especially those who are currently working on projects they care about. I found that being around writers who were excited about their work got me excited about mine. Also I was able to brainstorm ideas for different stories, which got my creative juices flowing again.
BONUS: Try your hand at another artistic endeavor. Pick up a camera, take a drawing class, make a video. Having fun and success in another art form can get you excited about your writing!
Do you have any tips to add? Let us know. And please share the progress of your own writing journey!