How To Get Back In The Writing Groove

So, as many of you may have guessed by the massive amount of time I didn’t post anything, I was away. Surprise! *grin* I was busy with family/work/study/various-stressy-things, so I had to leave my poor book-in-progress for a while, gathering dust. Which was doubly bad, because it was the fourth in a series. Yikes.

But, I’ve just published it today (Twice As Guilty, from the Grim Alliance series), so I did finally manage to finish it. And I completed some 28K+ in little over three weeks. It’s rather tricky getting back into the swing of writing every day when you’ve left it for a while, so I thought I’d share some of my tips and ideas to help you, if you ever find yourself procrastinating rather than going back into that story. It’s harder than just starting a book, but there’s less info on it. So, here we go.

1. Re-read what you have got so far.

Even if you have a writing plan written out (I did a post here on writing out a synopsis, which is what I use – conversely – to guide me at the start of a book, rather than the end), it’s still going to be difficult to pick up the same tone and ‘voice’ you were using previously, if you don’t look over what you already have. But the gem of this is that it should be almost fresh to you, if you’ve left it for a while. So you can quickly pick up parts that worked, parts that didn’t, and get a feel for what you were going for again. By the time you get to the end of what you’ve written, you should be in the same mindset as you were when you last stopped typing.

Source: (By Janpha Thadphoothon – Janpha’s Photo Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10873988)

2. Take notes on what you have written so far.

Use re-reading as an opportunity for some light ahead-of-time editing. Cut out anything that bores you, anything that seems to drag on, and anything that doesn’t fit nicely. Coming back to a novel is difficult, but it’s also a great reason to really trim the fat of your novel and keep it on track. If you don’t use a writing plan of any sort, make sure to at least note down significant characters and events that will effect what you write later on, especially as the story isn’t fresh in your mind.

3. Get yourself in the mood.

If you listened to a particular soundtrack last time around, or if a certain movie or picture influenced the story, go listen to it/dig it out and watch it/look at it again. Remembering the feelings that inspired your story can help you keep it consistent, so there isn’t an obvious leap from last-time-of-writing to just-got-going-again. People continually change over weeks or months, and that includes you – and that will show up in your writing. Get yourself back into the place you were before, just temporarily, and engage with those emotions for the book’s continuity.

4. Relax!

This is nearly always on one of my ‘lists’, but that’s because it encompasses so many parts of life! If you’re worrying over your novel too much, you’re going to get yourself in a rut again. Just breathe, relax, and write away. The important thing is to write, even if you don’t think it’s the standard you had before. You may surprise yourself, and find your writing has improved with a little break! You never know. Just don’t stop writing again unless you really have to. Which leads onto…

5. Start small.

When you get back into a novel, particularly if you were writing a good few thousand words a day, it can seem daunting to do the same after a break from it. So don’t do it! Not yet. Start small, and limit yourself to doing 100 words a day. Then increase it if you can to 150, then 200 – and each day, if you get to an exciting part, keep writing! Before you know it, you’ll be back to writing 5K a day with no problem. I have two friends who combine this with writing challenges; each setting a total number of words that day to be completed, and sharing the outcome with each other. This means you feel more obligated to reach that target when someone else is doing the same, and it’s also great encouragement.

In conclusion…those are my tips! The most important part of getting back into writing a novel is to keep at it. Everyone panics when they start thinking of deadlines, or “I should have had this out ages ago”, or whether they’ll finish it. Don’t think about any of that (I know, easier said than done, but it helps). Just focus on the story. The story is the consistent part that will remain in your hands, whatever you’re going to do with it afterwards. If you’re enjoying writing, then it will come back to you, and you’ll be finished with that novel in no time. So focus on the story, start small with your word limits, and keep at it! Even 50 words a day is more than 0. 🙂

And remember, many famous writers take years to complete novels! (George R.R. Martin, I’m scowling at you, haha).

What about you guys? Any tips you would add to the list that you’ve found helpful in getting back into your writing?

Writing 101: How To Begin Your Novel

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a first chapter is worth an entire book. The first chapter of any novel is everything – the set-up for the story, a dramatic entrance, and the selling point. If your first chapter doesn’t appeal to someone, they won’t bother with the rest of the book. Obviously there are always books you pick up and don’t like the first chapter to. It doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad chapter, it may just mean the book isn’t for you. But we’re aiming for the people who are the target market to fall in love with your beginning, right?

Make lots of notes before you actually start writing out your first book chapter. Source: Public Domain; Wikimedia Commons

How To Start

The very first sentence is the beginning of the beginning, and the ultimate tool at a writer’s disposal to hook people in. I did a post a while back about my personal favourite opening sentences and how to do a good one yourself, and you can take a look for some inspiration. I’m not going to repeat everything here, as I did a ton of rambling words on that post, hehe, but I’ll pinpoint the important things to remember here:

  • Go straight into the action. Don’t hesitate or worry about whether the story is clear at this point. An opening sentence is not about that. It’s about throwing yourself in, a bit like catching the middle part of an interesting conversation when you come around the corner.
  • Short and sweet is the key. Try not to use more than two commas in there, and think ‘snappier, the better’. I’m not saying don’t use a longer sentence, if it fits the bill (this especially applies to historicals and science-fiction). But we all know how much drama and impact a single word, or just a few words can have. Use that impact.
  • Think about what would catch your attention. Does your sentence do that? Imagine that sentence, and just that sentence are on a billboard. Would you stop to see what it was about?
Can you see your opening sentence on here? Does it make you want to stop and read more? Source: Public Domain; Wikimedia Commons

Can you see your opening sentence on here? Does it make you want to stop and read more? Source: Public Domain; Wikimedia Commons

How To Carry On

Okay, so we’ve got a strong opener, now what? Don’t let it fizzle out, but don’t rush everything, either. Draw the intro out, draw the reader in. But drop hints of the action or events to come (hopefully in the second or third chapters). A little bit of foreshadowing is okay, as long as you don’t hit your reader over the head with it! If you started your opening sentence as a part of someone’s speech, have it end in an argument. If the action started in a bar, why not have it end in a bar brawl and a crash where the main character becomes a reaper…okay, that’s a shameless plug for Reaper’s Deliverance. 😛 But you get the idea. The point is, pull the reader in by introducing your world slowly, but keep them there by blowing something up, or making enemies of two characters – or anything else that works.

  • Think of fishing – keep it slow for the intro, then speed things up. Make it comfy for the reader to settle in, then glue them to the chair so they can’t leave.
  • Foreshadowing is okay, but don’t overdo it.
  • Keep everything flowing at a steady pace.
You've got them! He'll be reading that for hours, now. Source: Randi Hausken, 2009 under a Creative Commons Licence, Wikimedia Commons

You’ve got them! He’ll be reading that for hours, now. Source: Randi Hausken, 2009 under a Creative Commons Licence, Wikimedia Commons

How To Finish Up

You’ve got the perfect opener, and you’ve drawn your reader in nicely. Now how do you keep them reading through the next several chapters? The end of the first chapter is often the weakest point, overlooked after so much care has gone into the rest of it. You have to keep a steady pace, otherwise your reader may go into the second chapter, and put the book down. For good. *horrified stare* So how to end it? The best (and classic way) is with that favourite – the cliff-hanger. They’re not just for the end of a book! Putting a cliff-hanger (or a ‘semi-cliff-hanger’, as I call them when it’s for a chapter) can be a great way to keep the excitement flowing. Did that argument end up in two friends becoming enemies? What are the consequences of that? Did they work together, and one of them fired the other? Are they a couple who have broken up? What if the chapter opened with a scene of action, maybe a person on the run from the law, or some dystopian police? Have they found themselves cornered? Lost their way? Been grabbed by an unknown person? End the chapter with another question, one where the answer will appear over the second chapter.

But there are other ways, too. How about revealing an early twist? This can be a good tactic in a murder mystery or thriller, for example. Perhaps the reader knows who the killer is from the first chapter? Or perhaps they see the scene through the killer’s eyes, but don’t know who they are yet? Putting a good twist so early in can also make sure the pages keep flipping over, to see what catastrophes or happiness come from it.

 

So, that’s a few tips I try to use myself – what about you guys? What tips can you add to making a great first chapter? Do you agree or disagree with the tips here? Let me know in the comments below, I love to know what you guys think! 😉

 

Other Sources of Tips

This lady has a TON of great advice, and puts a lot of stuff across that I haven’t touched on here – even offers a different point of view on some stuff. Well worth a watch (and a bit of note-taking). 🙂

 

And if you’re looking for some help on doing the synopsis (I like to do mine before I start the book, maybe you do too!), you can check out my Hubpage on the subject here. As always, my ideas are subjective, but see if it helps if you’re stuck in a rut for how to do it. 🙂

A How-To Guide For Writing The Perfect Book Synopsis