It happens to all of us, that dreadful moment/hour/day/month when we have run out of steam on a story. Nowhere to go — inspiration meltdown — a complete and utter dragging halt.
That is when the following tips will come in handy:
My favourite tip is – start writing something else. Either another section of the same book, or a different book. Keep on persevering and eventually your mojo will come back (assuming you are meant to finish the story).
There are lots of ways we can (sometimes inadvertently) ‘hijack’ our writing, and one is by insisting on only writing the perfect word or the perfect sentence before we allow ourselves to move on. ARGH!
If you are trying to write a story, then surely you need to let the story move. And if you get bogged down by every sentence, then you might never finish. Or worse, you might end up with something that is stilted and doesn’t flow. I strongly believe that first you need a story, and then you can spend time perfecting your words. So write down all your ideas as quickly as you can, and then polish in the revision stage.
I’ll let you into a little secret. If I am seeing a scene flashing through my head and am desperately trying to capture it on paper, then the last thing I want to let myself do is become stalled. So if I have trouble thinking of the perfect word (and that happens often), I substitute it with ‘xx’, and then come back to it later. That way I don’t interrupt the flow.
Using ‘xx’ is also useful if I can’t remember something to do with continuity – such as a minor character’s name or place name that I know I’ve referred to before. My trick for that is to keep a separate document where I list all of the characters and places for that book/series, but again, don’t even look at the list when you’re in a flow – use xx for now! It is easier and better for time management to search for ‘xx’es and sort them out all at once at a later date.
I hope you find this useful! Just remember to do a search for ‘xx’ before you finalise your manuscript 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day!
And speaking of romantic distractions, do you have problems with distractions when writing? It is very hard in the busy modern world to avoid them. I have some personal tricks which help me… (but you may have to be strict with yourself!)
- Find something stimulating to distract the children (I know screen-time is always enticing, but you might feel less guilty if its something more productive. My kids love lego, puzzles and board games too. Or perhaps quality time with some of their family and friends.
- Give yourself permission to have time off ‘busy-jobs’, Preferably, find a quiet room where there are no demanding creatures or gadgets (that includes cats, dogs, mobile phones, clocks, washing machines, irons, etc…)
- If you are writing into your computer, shut down your email, social media, everything that is not related to your writing. And even if you have author pages etc, shut them too. Set aside a separate time for promotion and social media – now is writing time!
- NO computer games. Not even as light relief. You know they will take over your attention. Just don’t even go there. Spend your ‘down time’ doing some research/background instead. Think about your characters, look for pictures on the internet that help to illustrate the people and places you are writing about. If you are feeling stuck in your story, think about another part of the book. Or write some notes and develop the plot on a separate document. Sometimes I do a timeline if I’m trying to keep track of who does what when, especially when I have books that are interrelated/part of a series. That sort of job is good when you are not feeling very inspired.
- If you are really stuck on the book you wanted to work on, start another book. Think about other ideas. I usually have at least 5 books I am working on at any one time. Some are set in the French revolution, another in contemporary Greece, another in Australia. Go where your mood takes you!
- Once you do have some ideas that you want to write down, nurture the flow and do all you can to avoid stalling. I have a special trick that has always worked well for me that I will share with you soon…
I hope some of these ideas for avoiding distractions resonate with you. Not everything will be relevant perhaps… I would love to know what works for you!
I love the writer’s clock – there’s a lot of truth in it. Writing has its own time-line, and some of them are painful. For me, the fun is in making up the stories and getting them on paper (and some of the research). The revisions are the agonising bit. I know others who find the writing tricky and prefer revising. Each to their own!