We’ve all known that feeling of falling in love with a novel—that beautiful mid-first-draft euphoria. Even though a part of you remembers that first drafts are always terrible, this one isn’t—in fact, it’s perfect! Soon you come to your senses and realize that the draft needs a lot of work, but you love your characters and you can’t wait to share your story. You polish and perfect until you’re certain your characters are nuanced, your arc prominent, and your story unique. Being the diligent writer you are, you let the draft sit for a month. And when you revisit it, it’s . . . not the book you thought it was. Your blood pressure soars. You don’t know how much more you can give to this story. Actually, you don’t know why you wrote this story at all. You’re in full-blown panic mode and considering a new career.
Unfortunately, this is a story most seasoned writers know well. Almost all writers come to a point in the process where they lose focus of the story. But you owe it to your books (and sweet, rough-around-the edges past you!) to stay excited about your project at every stage.
Here are some tips that help me get back on track once my excitement starts waning:
- Take a break. That month of sitting on the draft sometimes isn’t enough. Some books need more time to marinate. A break doesn’t have to mean another month away from the story because, honestly, we don’t always have it. Hello, deadlines! But a quick lunch or a long coffee break with a writer friend can give you just enough time away to gain perspective.
- Read aloud. If you force yourself to read aloud, sometimes it’s easier to tackle those big-picture edits. I have a habit of getting bogged down in the minutiae of my story, so much that I almost can’t work on the edits that will make the biggest difference in my novel. Reading aloud prevents me from moving commas and wasting time on word choice—it forces me to get to the heart of the story.
- Make a list of everything that could happen—everything! Sometimes seeing a list of everything you won’t do makes it easier to see what you should do. So, I make a list of all the things that I don’t want to happen, like killing my main character. The beauty of this step is that sometimes I realize I’m wrong and the thing I don’t want to do is exactly what I should be doing.
- Revisit your initial inspiration. What movies inspired you? What music did you listen to when you were drafting? Sometimes hearing those words and seeing those scenes play out is all we need to rediscover the romance and fall in love with our words again.
Jessica Taylor is a young adult novelist who adores sleepy southern settings, unrequited love, and characters who sneak out late at night. She lives in Northern California with a sweet-yet-spoiled dog and many teetering towers of books.