So here’s the thing. I talked a lot on Tuesday about how there isn’t a second to waste when you are writing. About how writing is that thing that fills the cracks and holds us writers together like crazy glue. I talked a lot about that, but it isn’t the only way to go.
A good writer will fill all of the cracks and crevices with their writing. Like glue.
But a good writer also should know when to step back and let all of that glue dry before going back to clean up the mess.
Do you see what I’m saying? Lately I have been stepping back and getting distance from my draft. I’ve developed an… interesting way to separate my drafts, and I’ve come to a stopping point.
And then I stepped back, and started reading other things and actually watching television for once. Studying. Getting in snow storms and car crashes and finding more experience for my writing. Researching the things that could still be wrong with my story, factually. For example, I didn’t correctly calculate the amount of time it takes for a car to fill up with water if it went into the lake head-first with a back window open.
(my book is kind of morbid)
I stepped back and turned away from my book. I thought I was being lazy. I thought I just got hooked on reading again (which is a deadly situation) and needed to pull myself out of it if I wanted to finish this book. Which is true… but not entirely.
I realize that everything I’m seeing in these books and TV shows and real life makes me immediately think about my writing. There are so many things that hardly even relate to the novel that I’m writing and still I’m finding myself thinking about my characters.
Like when I was in a waiting room and this little girl asked me to help her draw a tree house. It made me think of a character in my book and how she would react to a little girl asking her to help draw a tree house. How she wouldn’t laugh and show the little girl like I did, but be overcome with sadness. Probably attempt an apologetic smile and walk out of the room. Because of who she is.
That’s just one of my characters. And there are plenty more to distract me from everyday life. This is the first sign that I should get back to writing. The second sign is if I start talking to myself because I’ve spent too much time not talking to my novel’s Word document.
And then here’s the other thing. When you step back from your writing, you begin to doubt yourself. You think that the story was stupid and not realistic. You think that sure, some parts were good, but that ending… ugh. You think that maybe you could start on another story and maybe that one will be better.
But you know what? My plot isn’t stupid. My characters weren’t created so I could just leave them hanging, with that beginning that feels like chewing glass and the middle that is kind of blurry and the ending that could use a pair of tweezers. When I started writing this story, I was more excited about it than I’ve ever been about any story. And that’s how it should be. So what kind of writer would I be if I just dropped it? Moved on to something newer and more fresh? A clean start?
With a word count of zero. That’s the kind of writer I would be if I let this story go to waste. It’s original and I love my characters, even if they aren’t fully developed yet. I want to finish it, because it means something to me. And I needed to reflect on it, but now I think I can come back. I have a lot of mental notes to write down before I lose them.
(A brand new pack of sticky notes and a printed copy of my draft are calling to me)
You may be at this stage of writing, where you’ve found yourself stepping back from your story to reflect. To get experience. To figure out what it is in the story that just isn’t working. If you find yourself thinking that your story isn’t good enough or that you aren’t original or you might be able to write something better if you started over, just take another step back.
Take another step back and just look at all you’ve gotten done. Now think about how much more you can get done, how much better this story could be if you just kept going with it.
If you are noticing things that are wrong with your writing, that’s good. That’s great. That’s amazing. That means that you are a better writer than you were when you started. That means you are improving. Now put that new found skill to use and fix all of the things that are bugging you.
The goal is to get this novel so perfect that you could annotate it for English class, tear it apart and spread it out and find a huge “Aha!” behind all of those words.
Today’s challenge for you is simple. Keep doing what you are doing. And I’ve told you to write pep talks in the early stages of your story and I’ve told you to write letters to yourself for when you finish the story. I’ve told you a ton of ways to inspire yourself. But if you are just starting your story, or if you are still in that honeymoon phase, the best thing to do is make the most of it. So when you lose it at some point in the writing process (the editing process), then you know what you are working to get back to.
And if you’ve lost it, think back to when you were starting out, fresh and new and excited. That’s what I’m doing. I want that back. Right now my characters might be a little bland sometimes and the beginning is chalky and fading in the wind. Right now they just look like words on the page. But I know they aren’t, not to me. I just need to step away from all of this reflecting because some of it is poisonous, and get back to writing.
If you think you’ve lost it, just get over yourself and go finish whatever the heck you started.
It’s harsh, but that’s the only way you will get yourself to pull away from Netflix. Or more likely, that book you can’t keep your nose out of.
And if you haven’t had that momentary pause, the step back for reflecting, then wait until it calls to you, then go ahead. Step back. Look at what you’ve done. Read another book. Watch some Netflix. You’ve earned it. But don’t you dare quit and leave those characters hanging and that plot filled with holes. Reflect. Find problems. And then get back to it, because that was the end goal all along.
Don’t give up. Make what you put all that effort into mean something. Don’t just give up and leave yourself hanging and months of wasted time behind because you don’t feel like finishing what you started. Don’t be the person who can say that they just wrote a book. Be the person who can say that they put everything they had into the book they wrote and fulfilled the entire reason they wrote it in the first place.
… Good luck:)
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!