I’m kind of burnt out. I’ll admit it: I’m kind of bored. There are no more surprises in my story for me to come across and not much left to rewrite. Anything that is left for me to rewrite isn’t going to take the story on a new turn or change the characters, just fix the little things I messed up on. This is where we go from half editing and half rewriting to only editing. Ew… syntax and word choice and grammar. This is where a lot of people give up.
I know, I know. I’m a writer. I won’t give up. This is my unique story and I am meant to write it and all of that.
But at the same time I know that everything in this story is important to me and finishing would be the best thing in the world, the idea of pushing through so many more drafts seems exhausting. I find myself thinking about starting another book, and then I feel guilty. I’m not done with these characters. I haven’t’ finished their story. I at least owe them that much. When I wrote my first book (unpublished for a reason), I got to this point and made a big mistake.
I started changing things. I wanted it to be more interesting. I wanted to surprise myself. I didn’t want to go through the same story over and over again, so I started changing it up in the extreme. I went back in and added entire chapters that would end up being cut later and new backstories and flashbacks that weren’t even relevant. I changed names of palaces and characters and added little details of fluff that weren’t relevant. Don’t do this. It’s a waste of time and it isn’t going to get you anywhere.
The key to pushing through when you don’t have any surprises left to write is to get obsessed with the story again. Get involved with these characters again. Stop moving towards the view of your story on a technical level and go back to looking at the emotion and the characters.
Really, how? I’ve gotten to the point where I actually have notes in the margins that say, “Reader is surprised.” I know every plot twist so well that I keep skipping over them. Only later do I realize that I’m adding stuff that the reader doesn’t even know about yet. For me it’s common sense that this person dies or is betrayed, but not for the reader. So how am I supposed to get back to that feeling of a fresh novel?
Okay, I have an idea. And it’s working for me so far.
Think about your favorite book. Remember the first time you read it? That feeling of gripping the edge of the seat and throwing the book at the wall when it ended. The anticipation and suspense. The fact that you didn’t know what was going to come next. Remember all of that. Don’t you wish you could experience that again, reading the book for the first time?
Well, you can’t. Sorry.
But you can go back and reread what you’ve written. Get your story to a point that it is readable, even if it is still bad and ready to be torn apart. Get it to a point where at least you have all of the pieces in order, and then set aside that red pen.
Here’s today’s challenge for you: Read it. Just read it. From the very beginning. Try to imagine the story in a different way than when you wrote it. Still match the descriptions in your writing, but maybe rearrange the rooms or put the house on the other side of the street. Look at the scene in your head from a different angle. Imagine it like a movie, emotional background music and all. Try to hold onto the meaning in every word, rather than remembering what you wrote next. I’ve done this a few times in the past and it worked.
Think about it this way: you know what happens in the story, but there is no way you’ve memorized every word that you wrote. You can’t remember exactly how each conversation went or how exactly you described each scene. Sometimes I’ll look back at things I’ve written and recognize the story, but think, “Did I really write that?”
In order to write for the reader, you need to think like the reader. Be the reader. And then maybe you will fall for your characters and plot twists all over again.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!