As a writer, I am sure you’ve had moments when you are staring at your screen or your sheet of paper and have done nothing for hours but just blink at it. If you haven’t—seriously, what magic potion did you drink? For the those of you who have not come across this potion, I believe you know the feeling of seeing that cursor blink continuously or the irritation you give yourself by tapping your pen on your blank paper. You know what you want to write, and then you don’t. You write something, and then you cross it off. It keeps going on and you finally come back to where you began, which is essentially nothing. Here might be a few of the reasons why this is happening.
1. You started writing too early
As is often the case with having shiny new ideas, you will immediately feel the urge to start writing that story. It’s exciting, fun and brimming with possibilities (unlike the manuscript you are currently writing is). But if you start writing immediately, you will soon run out of steam. This is because you haven’t let it simmer in your brain. So, whenever you get a shiny new idea, don’t abandon your ongoing draft and start working on it. If you are afraid that you will forget that new story idea or that really funny dialogue, note it down somewhere and then try to focus on your current work. With a little bit of time, your mind will flesh out the story and characters much better. The story will start gaining more clarity and as a result when you finally sit down to write, you will have a solid idea of what the story is about. This simmering period can be anywhere from a few days to a few months. When you feel it in you that you are ready, then start writing and it won’t end up as another unfinished manuscript.
Now, suppose you are in the middle of that shiny idea’s manuscript and you are stuck. Take some time off from the story and daydream a bit. Think about outlandish situations, about the characters, why they are the way they are and if nothing specific comes to your mind then your character is possibly very two dimensional. So dream up backstories for them, let their personality develop organically and don’t force them to act like some other protagonist that you like or is popular.
2. It’s not looking as perfect in paper as it was in your head
In one word, it’s fear. We are afraid of judgement and of failure. And in a world connected by social media, surrounded by perfect people and their perfect lives, we are afraid to even make, much less publish, something imperfect. This may sound harsh, especially if you are a first time writer, but it is never going to be perfect. You need to keep on writing to improve. But no matter how much you improve you are never going to be perfect, you will always find something to refine when you look back. Perfection doesn’t exist, so stop chasing it. Instead write, hire an editor, re-write and when you think it’s pretty good(not perfect) publish it. After that, don’t look back.
3. Trying to follow someone else’s method exactly
I am very guilty of this. I love reading up or watching others’ morning routine and productivity-improving habits and I try to follow them. But it usually fails for me because what works for someone else, may not work for me. This isn’t to say that it is an idea without merit but rather a warning. Their routines are made after a long process of trial and error and they have reached this stage of successfully incorporating such habits after trying a lot of different things. So what I do is, I test them all out and keep the habits that work for me—no matter how small they are.
Same goes for writing. Some people may plan out the entire story right to the last detail, some will write five thousand words everyday, some just write on the weekends. Instead of feeling bad that you can’t do what your favourite writer does, work according to what helps you write easier. You maybe someone who prefers the morning air and likes to write with music blaring. If so, do just that. Try out new methods and keep what works for you. You don’t have to copy anybody else’s writing routine to be successful. You are as unique as them and so will your writing routine be.
4. Are you writing something you are interested in writing?
Some of my stories fit into the popular genre, some do not. But one thing is common—I enjoy writing those tropes and worlds. Too often, people write to satisfy to the trending market and hence writing becomes a drag. It is not supposed to be. Writing is not a 9-5 soul sucking job that you have to get through, it is a creative pursuit, and if you write solely to cater to a market you don’t care about, that well of creativity will dry up and leave you feeling exhausted. Write things you enjoy, things that don’t make writing feel like a chore, things that excite you to get back and write another chapter. In the end, who knows what the next trend will be? Who’s to say that it won’t be the niche genre that you are hesitant to publish your novel in? Don’t lose hope. Keep on writing. You will find a set of readers that love your stories.
5. Reading too many articles like this
Are you reading this article right now because you want to procrastinate? The reason many don’t finish their novel is because instead of sitting and writing, they read articles offering help, the advice that they never implement. If you need to finish your novel, you need to write the next scene and then the next scene and then the next…it’s as simple as that. So, unless your novel has serious plot holes or lack of foundation then go back and continue writing even if it is just for three minutes—you will be still few more words ahead of where you were yesterday.
In case laziness isn’t the reason and you need serious help with writing your draft, I am sharing la few articles (link below) that will help you write faster and deal with writing blocks and burnout. Hope they help you.
Amala Benny is an avid reader and professional book cover designer who has designed for multiple award winning and bestselling authors. She spends her free time Fangirling over Ilona Andrews and Leigh Bardugo.