Getting Back Into the Groove


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Vendetta compressedWhat works for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments about which of these tips you’ve tried, what did or didn’t work, and what else you’ve found to get un-jammed!

Don’t forget: Vendetta, the second book in my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, is now available! And Cold Fury, the third (and final) Blaine McFadden King’s Convicts novella is also out!Cold Fury

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.

FB Chronicles NL Meme



7 comments to Getting Back Into the Groove

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Thanks for the list, Gail. Always good to remember these things.

    A while ago, when I was writing on a multiple-POV project, I used to keep a file for each character with snippets from previous chapters, usually bits I really liked or that had strong emotional resonance for that character. Then, when it was time to move onto a new chapter with a different character I could remind myself what things should feel like in that POV.

  • Tdancer2

    Such a timely post for me – I’m just getting back into a novel I put down over the summer. I don’t remember where I was at all. It’s daunting, and frankly, I’ve been procrastinating to avoid it at all. Several of the items on your list I hadn’t thought of, and I’ll definitely be trying them out. Thanks! One thing I’ve tried in the past when I’m stuck in a particular place is to move to a plot point I’m sure about, and write that instead. I find that in writing the future, I end up figuring out how the past needs to get me there.

  • Razziecat

    Well, around October I took a break from my own stuff to dabble for a little while in fanfiction. It was relaxing, refreshing, and actually gave me a couple of major insights into my two MC’s in my own stuff. Because I was playing around with someone else’s characters and world, I could ease up on world-building and just concentrate on the plot and the character interactions, play with dialog and description, and just generally mess around. I’m starting to get antsy about getting back to my own story now, but I’ll keep this in mind for the next time I feel like I need a break!

  • The timing of this post is also perfect for me. Last fall the day job got incredibly and surprisingly busy, and then life stuff kicked in and I ended up not really writing for several months. I kept jotting down ideas and scenes for the WIP, but not consistently, and I never went beyond notes. This semester I’m determined to get back in the groove and have set up what I think/hope is a doable schedule that leaves me time to write. My first step this weekend is #8 on your list–I plan to sit down and reread what I’ve written so far to get myself back into the world of the novel.

  • Great ideas, Gail. I’m a big ol number 8. I reread what was I was working on last.

  • Hepseba–Thanks! As usual, the Meetup group came up with even more ideas, but keeping a file is definitely good. (I tend to keep piles of paper with notes to myself scribbled on them since I am file-challenged.)

    Razziecat–Whether it’s fan fic or just playing around on something that isn’t due anywhere, switching up the project can definitely help. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing to the prompt on anthologies–it makes me stretch out of my comfort zone, and two of those ‘prompts’ have led to whole new series!

    SiSi–So glad it was helpful! Making time to write–even if it’s just a little–keeps the ideas flowing.

    Faith–I’ve always got to sit down and read at least the last ten pages to get going for the day’s run. And then about 200 or so pages, I have to stop and read and see how it’s hanging together and where I have holes!