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Staying the Course
Sometimes the hardest part about starting a novel - or any long piece of writing - is knowing that you're going to have to finish it.
And not knowing when its end date may be can be a daunting prospect - especially when you're half way through the project.
When it comes to completing long written works, probably the single most issue I'm aware of is this problem: that writers often don't know how to get over the psychological 'hump' in the middle of a piece of writing.
You'd think logically that writers' block would come before a project - or indeed - as Hollywood likes to promote - after a success that apparently can't be matched.
But no, the dreaded block tends to come around about the half way point - sometimes earlier, sometimes later, up to the two third point. Getting over that 'hump' can be tricky.
If it happens to you, you need to identify why it's happening...
The most common cause is that the writing seems to have taken on a life of its own - and has managed to work you into a corner.
There are three main reasons for this.
1. You didn't plan your template sufficiently well or
2. You're relying too heavily on inspiration to continue or, most likely,
3. You're taking too long to write the thing!
What happens is that, as we live from one day to the next, our bodies and our brains are changing, growing, renewing and replacing their cells. Consequently a great and fabulous idea in March can seem cold and lifeless in May - simply because you have, literally, changed.
Not just physically but emotionally and psychologically too.
And not only does an idea lose its radiance but other things happen. Character motivations become more complex as you mature. Fine and good - but they can also, without discipline, become inconsistent.
Your characters do things they wouldn't have done when you first thought of the idea... and you end up having to do a whole lot of mental gymnastics to justify the character's apparent lack of focus.
How many times have you taken a break from your writing to think through a new idea - and spent hours (weeks, months perhaps) trying to work out how you can fit the new idea in with the old?And of course the longer you spend trying to work through a problem, the more ideas you get, creating a never ending spiral of complex creativity that, alas, can end up damaging your project irreparably.
There's an easy answer to this problem.
Write quickly - especially your first draft. Get your first draft down while you're still the same person! That is, never take more than two of three months over the first draft of a novel, screenplay or book.
When you commit to writing a long piece of fiction, get all of the plot and character motivations down pat before you have time to re-evaluate your original idea. Explore and confirm your expectations for the characters within the context of who you are at a particular point in time - and remember that 'fresh eyes' are not necessarily a good thing before you begin the writing.
Sure, after the first draft, new thinking, other people's criticisms, brainstorming etc are all good and productive. But during the initial burst of inspiration and output, you need focus. You need to stay the course and get it all down, without self criticism and definitely without sharing it with the rest of world.
The slightest hint of someone else's help or criticism can throw your idea into disarray, water it down, and even destroy it completely.
Write quickly. That's the trick.
And keep writing - even when the inspiration fails you, as it inevitably will. You need to get your original idea down while it's fresh and while it's entirely yours.
An article should be written in one go - start to finish - the first draft down without stopping.
A non fiction book should be planned and outlined from prologue to conclusion, ideally in a single day. And often the best story templates for novels and screenplays are hammered out in this way.
Then you need to commit to writing out the project - the first draft at least - in less than three months. Aim for thirty days - write 3000 to 5000 words a day if you can find the time - but don't beat yourself up if you can't manage that.
The important thing is focus. Keep that original idea in mind at all times during the writing of the first draft. Don't get distracted and start 'developing' other aspects of the story - yet.
You'll find this process - and the mental discipline it engenders - will aid your productivity no end, because you will get things finished.
Sure, when you get the first draft down, put the manuscript away for a while - get some distance.
You'll find that if you let your MS settle for a month or two, you'll be able to come back to it and see - in the writing - the person you were when you wrote it and the salient points you were trying to make - in a way that was impossible during the project.
You'll also find that you can spend as long as you like on the editing and rewriting because you'll know what you were trying to achieve - and can focus on bringing out that - and only that - in the polishing.
Basically, there's such a thing as too many ideas...
Too many cooks, as the saying goes.
And every three months you're bodily transforming into another cook - with a whole new set of recipes to spoil the broth!
So to create a gourmet meal (to stretch the metaphor), cook quickly, write quickly, before you boil away all the goodness!
My Easy Writing System is still the best and most effective way to launch - and sustain - your own fiction writing career. Learn how to easily write the kind of books that publishers want. Go here now for details.
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"Rob Parnell is the foremost writing guru in the world." Vin Smith, Midnight Bookworm
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