One of the biggest challenges for writers is getting back into the groove when a project has been interrupted. Since I’m just coming off a two-month “interruption” from working on my third novel, I think this is a very timely topic!
I love this analogy from Maria Connor & Wendy Kitchen: “Coming back to an unfinished manuscript is like returning to a cold meal. The plot may no longer be appetizing. The characters, once fresh and vibrant, may have become indistinguishable gray lumps. And the truth is, when you’ve lost your taste for something, it’s hard to chew and swallow.”
So what’s a writer to do? There was spirited discussion on one of my writer loops recently, and I’ll share some of the comments with you…
1. Re-read what you’ve written to reacquaint yourself with the plot, characters and turning points. It may feel forced and unnatural. That’s okay. It’s part of the process. Give yourself permission to just write.
2. Set up a daily schedule and word-count goals. Set small, daily writing goals that you know you can achieve. (In my case, it’s weekly goals.) Find an accountability partner who can support you in your word-count goals.
3. If you aren’t feeling “creative” or “inspired,” force yourself to write anyway. (I do this often!) At the very least, write what is happening in the scene or how your character is feeling. Drop in details or dialogue you do have. You can edit later.
4. Interview your characters (I’ve actually posted fictional interviews with my main characters as part of my book descriptions). Rediscover who they are and why you initially fell in love with them.
5. Create a spreadsheet or use index cards to organize your scenes/chapters. (This has never been of interest to me, but some writers find it very helpful.)
6. If you reach a point where you are feeling more frustrated than productive, step away and engage in another writing activity. Do research, read writing-related magazines, meet with a writer friend (in person or online), or work on a different project.
7. Join a writer’s club or organization. Go to conferences. (I’m considering one in September right now!)
8. Brainstorm ideas with writers friends (either in person or online). My RWA co-authors are great for this!
9. And my personal favorite: Daydream! I tend to work at night, after my kids are in bed, and when I go to bed I am often thinking about my WIP as I fall asleep. Sometimes my subconscious will work out whatever scene or idea I’m on while I sleep. I also tend to daydream while driving (oops, that’s a no-no)!