Writers have a lot of first drafts under their belt, many of which never get finished or live to see the light of day. I used to wonder why that was until I took a look into my own life as a writer. Sometimes I would have so many ideas for great novels that in trying to stay up with the latest idea I would set a project down and never pick it back up. Other times, I would get so frustrated in trying to make the first draft perfect, editing the same chapter five times before moving on, that I would get burnt out. There were also times when I would take a break from writing, whether it was because I my schedule was hectic or I didn’t feel inspired, and upon going back to the project, the zeal I had before wasn’t the same. And even reading it after adding a chapter or two, it just felt like there were two different authors, which is never good.
I am not sure if you have ever been in that boat, but if you have what are some of the reasons you set aside your first draft? Was it because you felt your book wouldn’t be popular? Because a book that is eerily like yours just came out and is already on every famous person’s book club list and you don’t want to seem like a copy cat? What is keeping you from sharing your creative genius with the world? And understand that you are a creative genuius, even when you don’t feel like it.
Writing a longer work is hard. And there is a point in time in which writing feels like it’s starting to drag, you’re not as enthused as you were and you just want to take a nap, eat some food and then take another nap. I have met a lot of writers and they all go through this sort of slump in the process of writing a draft even if they love everything about their story, they wish they could just think it and it appear on the page as awesome as it happened in their head while they were having a mini-concert in the shower. (The best ideas always come when you have no access to your draft, if you didn’t know.)
So here are a few tips for when you get immersed in that slump, whatever it may be:
Take a break. It’s okay to take a couple days and do something else. Exercise, run errands, do chores around the house, hang out with friends. Sometimes you need a break to keep yourself from getting overworked. They key is making sure that your break doesn’t turn into a sabbatical from your work and you leave it for too long.
Have writing buddies. Even if they aren’t reading your work, I find it’s a lot less draining when someone else is writing too. That way you are confident that you have someone to talk to and bounce ideas of. They don’t even have to be another writer, sometimes just having a friend who understands pushes you to write another 1,000 words.
Set deadlines. That may sound scary bit I’m talking about general deadlines to do with your story building and less like the ones you may have to meet for work. If you are working on a tough scene, give yourself a week or two to finish it. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect and once that time has passed move on. You can always come back to it and tweak it in the second draft. Too many writers get hung up on something that keeps them from progressing forward. I am very guilty of this but have discovered that the less I think about making sure every word glistens in the moonlight, the more I actually write and the less anxious I feel. But don’t make stringent deadlines for when you have to get it all finished by.
Celebrate every milestone. If there is a particular scene that you have struggled with or you have made it to a word count marker that means a lot to you, like 25k words or 50k words, then celebrate it. A little encouragement is sometimes all you need to come back with a smile on your face. Frozen yogurt, a good movie and a long nap are among my favorite ways to celebrate but choose whatever holds meaning to you. If you have been wanting to go somewhere, go; want to do something spectacular, then fine. Celebrate every little win because without them you can’t reach the final product.
Write backstories. Sometimes it is hard to think of what comes next when you don’t know the stories of all the characters involved. I find that after a while, I get more engrossed with discovering what makes my villains and side characters tick more than I am with my protagonist. It not only gives you an opportunity to unwind from the stress of the main plot but it could add a lot from a potential backstabbing to a forbidden desire to anything really. There is so much you can do with backstory that can build on the world you have already begun to create. And not all of it has to go in the finished product, it just has to be there for you to use like a safety net at the bottom of a trapeze show.
Like I said, I just wanted to share a few of the ways I know to get you excited about diving back into that first draft. I hope these are helpful and inspire you to keep moving forward.
Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to share this post with your friends or on social media using @chyina_powell or #awritingchyinadoll. What are you working on? Is it a first draft? Maybe you have some tips of your own regarding how to complete that first full draft. If so, let me know in the comments. I love hearing from you all!