I’ve been running a Meetup group in Charlotte called the Thrifty Author’s Publishing Success Network for six years now. Every month, we get together and talk about an aspect of publishing or writing or marketing, and the group suggests a theme for the next month. It’s a tactics group, not a writing critique group, and it’s a fantastic bunch of people (if you’re in driving distance, c’mon and join us). So in 2016, I’m going to use the group’s monthly theme for one of my monthly posts here, starting now.
Which brings me to this month’s question–how do you get back into the groove when you’ve taken a break?
Maybe you got busy with life, or got sick or hit a wall on your idea and … stopped writing for a while. Or maybe you set one project aside to work on something else that had a more urgent due date (or a more persistent muse) and now you’re trying to get back into the first project and the music isn’t playing for you like it was before.
Now what do you do?
Here are my top tips for getting the mojo back in your manuscript.
- Take a walk. Get away from the keyboard (or AFK as my gamer son would say) and take a long walk. Think about the characters. Think about what you’ve figured out for the plot. Just think. Try not to pressure yourself. It will come.
- Meditate. If you do the ‘ohm’ thing, great. If not, go sit in a quiet place and stare at something pretty: a sunset, the beach, a mountain, the woods, your back yard, or a picture of any of the above. Take some nice long deep breaths. Relax. Clear your mind. Don’t think about the plot. Don’t think about anything. Try to keep your mind blank. Sometimes, you’re trying too hard, and when you let go, ideas flood in.
- Talk it out. Find someone you know well who reads in your genre (and preferably has also read your other work) and talk through where you are, where the plot ultimately needs to go, and where you’re hitting a blank. Ask for ideas. You may get a fantastic log-jam breaker, or come up with one yourself. If all else fails, explain the problem to your dog. In the process of putting it into words, you might un-jam yourself.
- Listen to evocative music. Everyone’s got a couple of songs that inspire them. Listen to them now and clear your mind, just going with the flow of the music.
- Have a mental conversation with your character. Suppose you met up with your character in a bar and sat down for drinks. What would you talk about? It might or might not be related to the plot. Picture the two of you talking. Ask the character questions. Listen to what comes to mind. Don’t force it. Actually listen to what pops into your head that the character ‘responds’. The character knows what he or she needs to do. Get them to tell you.
- Take a nap. Spend a few moments visualizing what you know thus far about the plot. Then ask your subconscious to supply the needed pieces. Go lie down and take a 15-20 minute nap. Your subconscious may serve up exactly what’s needed when you wake up.
- Research. Often, the missing piece that breaks up the mental log jam falls into your lap when you research. You find a key detail, a perfect historical event, a cool situation or something else that’s just what you needed, and everything falls into place from that point.
- Re-read. Start at the beginning and read your own work in progress. You may find that you can hop right back on that train of thought.
- Leave yourself notes at the bottom of the last page when you know you’re going to take a break (or even when you stop for the evening). If the next scene is clear in your head, don’t trust that you’ll remember it tomorrow. Write out a summary for yourself so you can jump back in quickly. Remind yourself of key elements to mention or loose ends to tie up.
- Do something else creative that isn’t writing. Bake something, draw a picture, sculpt clay, plant a flower. Take an hour and engage in a creative activity you enjoy that isn’t writing. You will relax, your mind will wander, you’ll stop tensing up about your logjam, and ideas will begin to flow.
And finally, since Facebook is a pain about letting people see what gets posted, even when you’re a friend/fan/follower, I’m doing monthly drawings from my email newsletter list. Two lucky winners will be picked at random each month, one from among the new people signing up, and one from the previous subscribers. January’s prize is a gift card and an envelop of signed swag. Sign up here.