You know the feeling. You were super excited about your book, all the words were flying out of you, the characters were yammering on inside your head so clearly you really could hear them, everything was going great—
And now … you don’t know what to do.
First drafts almost always feel like this, at some point. That initial burst of inspiration has dwindled away and we start to feel pretty daunted; maybe our word count isn’t where we want it to be, or our story isn’t as good or exciting or as competently written as we’d hoped. Our Inner Editor is whispering nasty things in our ears. The urge to quit might be growing too strong to ignore.
If you’re feeling exhausted and getting stuck in the endless ream of drivel you believe your draft to be, here are some things I think will help keep your spirits up, keep your fingers moving, and keep that word count growing.
1. Obviously, you’ve got to shut yourself the hell up.
Stop second-guessing yourself or your story. Those niggling worries in the back of your head–that this character’s motivations aren’t set up well enough, that this scene wasn’t written as well as it should’ve been, that this chapter turned out way too long — Don’t even worry about that yet. Enjoy your story! Some scenes might be shaky and some of the descriptions weak — So what? You’re throwing clay onto the table you’ll later sculpt more carefully. Stop worrying about how bad your writing is,and just enjoy the act of writing. That’s why you’re writing, right? Because you enjoy doing it? Keep ahold of that!
2. Jump Around in Your Story
There’s no law written that you have to plow through your story in sequential, chronological order. Not feeling the chapter you’re writing? Skip over it! It’s not like this story is written in indelible ink; your draft doesn’t turn into stone the moment you type ‘the end’. If you aren’t having fun writing the current scene, jump past it and write it later.
3. Try Writing From A Different Character’s POV
Just like jumping into a different portion of your story might help you clamber your way out of this creative funk, switching to a different character’s point of view might help trigger some creativity. Try writing a couple scenes from your antagonist’s point of view, or delve inside the head of your hero’s sidekick or love interest or that-random-person-watching-your-hero-run-down-the-street-with-a-flaming-sword. Maybe it won’t make the final draft, but it should challenge you and get your mind working.
4. Change Course. Drastically.
Look at your story from all angles, flex your creativity in unexpected directions;like a snow globe that has settled stagnantly into place, sometimes what we need to do is pick up our story and shake it as hard as we can. Was your character always going to left at this major crossroad of the novel? Screw it. Have them turn right. Back in the last chapter, when so-and-so apologized to your character and you had her forgive him? Take the day to write an alternate turn of events where she refuses to forgive him. Let her stew, let her plot revenge, let him react with frustration, or desperation, or with one of those flaming swords from before — If you can surprise yourself, and challenge yourself, I promise you’ll want to keep writing to see what happens next.
5. Word Sprints, Word Sprints, Word Sprints
This is my secret weapon. There is nothing that helps me start writing, and KEEPS me writing, more than the word sprint. Done primarily over Twitter, in ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty minute sessions, the word sprint is simple: You set a start time, set a timer, and write as fast as you can with no backspacing, no editing yourself, just powering forwards until time’s up. Then, you report back: tell everyone how many words you wrote, see how they all did, congratulate each other, cheer yourselves on, then pick a new start time and go again!
The word sprint is a FANTASTIC way to challenge yourself to keep writing, engage with the writing community, and maybe put a little fire to your heels in the name of friendly competition. If you’d like to do some word sprints over Twitter, here are some great Twitters for that:
Anyway, I hope some of this helped. The bottom line is, if you’re getting stuck or feeling disenchanted with your own story, the only person that’s going to help you get out of that funk is you. Either by challenging yourself to write something different, or participating in word sprints to get your creative gears turning, or by stuffing that Inner Editor into a cannon and launching him into the stratosphere, there are ways you can get yourself excited about writing again. You just have to try!
An earlier version of this post was originally shared on my old blog, Christina Writes.