How Do I Keep Writing? An Editor’s Advice
We’ve all been there: The sentence won’t work the way you want, you read over something you’ve written and somehow the magic just isn’t there anymore, or worst of the worst—the blank page stares at you, mute and judging. You stare it down; you write, scribble out, rewrite, delete, stare some more.
When I worked as an assistant editor at Hachette Book Group, our community of authors would sometimes hit the inevitable snag. Here are five tips we would share with our authors—and aspiring writers we met along the way—to help with writing woes:
- Get it all down. Some writers can happily and effortlessly churn their stories out on paper. But for perfectionists, this step is the worst. “Vomiting” on the page feels messy, and the end result can feel frustrating because it’s not necessarily “your best” work. Try to push through; you will feel more productive with 10 rough pages than with two perfectly pruned paragraphs. Better still, freeing the story from your mind helps you better understand the direction in which it needs to flow.
- Watch your language (but not too much). Maybe word-vomiting is really not your style. That’s ok! As you push to get your entire piece on paper, a little self-editing can encourage you by reassuring that what you’re writing is “good”
- Take a break. Close your laptop. Take a walk. Call a friend. Do something that gets you up and away from your project. But you’ve barely gotten started! But you still have so much to do! I promise: It will still be there when you get back. If you’re in the zone, stay in the zone. But cut yourself some slack during lull periods. Choose intentional, set amounts of break time while writing, so you can stay loose, relaxed, and creative.
- Share. Share your work with a trusted friend, family member, mentor, and/or fellow writer. If asking for feedback, try to ask someone who could reasonably understand where you’re coming from (i.e. if you want a critique of your 250-page science fiction novel, share it with someone who enjoys or could enjoy science fiction). Outside readers will be able to lend perspective.
- Let it go. When is a piece of creative work truly finished? Simple answer: When you decide it’s done. Sometimes a piece feels perfectly finished, ready-to-print. Sometimes you depart with the lingering sensation that it still “needs work,” but you’re not sure how. Put it down for a while. See how it snags your mind—the line you keep repeating and rewording in your head, the new character that seems to spontaneously appear while you’re eating dinner. Finish things you start writing, share them, release them—then move on to the next project!
Chelsea is a publicist and editor for JKS Communications. She formerly worked as an Assistant Editor for Hachette Book Group.