After an interval of months due to editing my next romance release and polishing the sequel (these are big books, over 400 manuscript pages each), I am once again facing the dreaded blank white page. This engenders all sorts of fears. Do I still have what it takes to write a novel? Will I be doing justice to my fans with this story? Will I remember the plot threads I’d shuffled aside to work on my edits? Can I still write a mystery?
Distractions tempt me away from the WIP. I should check email. There might be something important waiting in my inbox. Or since it’s Saturday, I should wait until next week to begin anew. Hey, I could write this blog! And so I do, neglecting my novel writing until later. But then I’m going to the MWA meeting.
Nonetheless, I forged ahead and by Monday, I’d finished the chapter where I left off. Here are some tips on how to get started after a long interval:
· Write a detailed synopsis before you begin the story. For a mystery, mine tend to run from 10 to 15 pages. I need to know where I’m going but this technique may not work for everyone.
· Write a cast of characters with brief background descriptions for each person and their role in the story.
· When you leave off writing, type in a few notes on what happens next.
· Start by revising what you’ve already written. You may have polished this piece of work already, but you’ll always find more to fix when you view your writing with a fresh perspective. And this will get you back in your character’s head.
· Begin slowly, one page at a time, with no word count requirements.
· On a set day, put yourself on a strict writing schedule. My minimum is five pages a day. For a 75,000 word mystery, that means approximately 20 chapters of about 15 pages each. This isn’t written in stone but gives me a guideline to follow. As I approach the end of a chapter, I use a hook to coax the reader into turning the page.
· Determine your finish goal. If you write 25 pages per week, how many weeks will it take you to finish the book?
For example, I’ve written 75 pages. Thus I need 225 pages to reach the finish line. Divide this number by 25 pages a week, and that comes to 9 weeks. I take out my calendar. Can it be done?
I have to discount two weeks for family events and vacations, because it always takes me a few days to catch up after being away. This takes me to mid-August. So I will extend my goal for unforeseen circumstances and say I must finish my draft by the end of August. This is perfect timing, because my new romance release comes out in September, and I’d like to devote that month to promotion.
There’s only one kink in this plan. Assuming I sell the next book in my Drift Lords series, I’ll have to stop all work on my mystery when the edits come. And then I will want to polish the third sequel (already written) before submitting it to my current romance publisher who will only accept one book at a time. But since I’m not under contract for the mystery, it doesn’t matter. I’ll just follow my advice above and jump back in as needed.
What do you do to restart your brain into story mode when you’ve been away from the WIP?