While normally on this blog I feature writers and their new projects, this week I am focusing on books in a new way—as an author who has witnessed first-hand some of what goes into all those books that are featured.
I am talking about finishing and starting – that’s a prospect all writers face in their writing careers. The wording may sound odd, but to me, putting finishing before starting makes sense. I’m referring to the prospect of finishing your current project and then starting a new one. Too often writers get bogged down after they finish their current project. They just want to take a rest before starting on the next one.
Yes, you can do that, but don’t want to wait too long to get going with a new book. One of the problems I’ve seen writers face over the years has been they work so hard on getting their current book done, they just want to take a rest for a time. The problem is some let too much time pass between that current book and their next project and pretty soon they either lose interest in starting a new book or they end up with a rushed product once they do get started.
As a fiction writer and former television journalist, I know there are many days we don’t feel like writing. But when I worked as a TV news writer and producer, I knew every day I went to work, I was going to have to do it. The same is true of fiction writing. If you want to be a full-time writer, well, writing is your job. I’ve heard more than one best-selling writer say that. That means you can take a couple of days off each week—just as you do 9 to 5 or five-days a week work. but don’t let those two days start to multiply until they add up into weeks of not writing. Eventually that will add up into months, and before long your editor is asking for the next book or you’re seeing all your friends finish projects and you’re still only in the plotting stage or looking for an idea.
So how do we get started with fresh material and fresh ideas to start out on a new project? Here are some easy ideas that I developed over the years when I was teaching writing classes regularly. They can help with keeping you focused on new projects and your writing.
Let’s examine some tips for getting a fresh start on a new story and keeping your focus on the writing process:
Look for something new to do. This can mean everything from changing your writing routine to trying different places to write. Do you normally write in the morning? Try writing in the afternoon instead. Perhaps you can use the morning for research or to edit what you wrote the previous day. That way when you sit down to write you might find you will be more focused on your writing in the afternoon if you know you can edit it the next morning. Or if you normally already write in the afternoon, try editing in the afternoon and writing in the morning. The point is to shake up your routine a little so that you don’t become bored with the same old schedule day after day.
Try a new genre. Look at the genre you are writing. Is it growing a little stale? Have you been considering attempting to write in another one? Why just think about it? Try writing in a genre you’ve always wanted to write. If you don’t think you can write a novel in that genre, play with a short story. Or if you haven’t written a short story in a while, do that instead of a longer tale in your present genre.
Take a class. I always recommend classes when people are stuck with their writing. A different perspective on your work and a different way to look at an old topic can get the creative juices flowing again. Even though I’ve taught numerous classes over the years, I am always looking for new classes or new approaches to writing. The writing world is constantly evolving so it pays to keep up with trends (not that we always have to follow them) to stay current in the writing world.
Try a new method of researching. Research is always critical when writing about something that is not totally familiar to you, especially if you are writing historical novels. Historical readers know their time periods and are familiar with the clothes and manners of various time periods. One note about research—don’t fall prey to its allure! I began working last year on a book that required historical research and I found myself so involved in researching it that I wasn’t getting around to writing the book itself! I’ve heard other writers say the same thing. Do your research, but never lose sight of why you are doing it—to make your book better and more real.
Write a short story. It’s a good way to complete something quickly and give you a sense of accomplishment. While writing a short story can sometimes be every bit as challenging as writing a full novel, I recommend it as a good way to either jump start your writing or to get a fresh perspective on your writing. While short stories require the basics of novel writing: because you still need to come up with a plot, characters and setting, you also have to keep in mind the brevity of your tale. You can’t take pages upon pages to develop characters, setting or the plot. You must be brief in your descriptions but you still want the reader to feel the tone and location of your story. Writing a short story can be a challenging undertaking but it's also a good way to sharpen your senses for your next novel. The best part of writing a short story is that you can finish it much quicker than a book and that can give you a sense of accomplishment that you can use to move back into your work in progress. It might even make you appreciate your writing more.
Try a new approach. This can make you think and it can also make you appreciative of the good elements of your writing while perhaps showing you some of your weaknesses. The best thing about trying a new approach is that you keep learning. Who knows, it might also introduce you to new methods you can use in the future. And that is the point, isn’t it with our writing? We have stories inside us just waiting to be told so let’s get busy telling them. And isn’t it fun to finally hold that book in your hand or see it on sale online?
Any questions or comments?