Are you ready to get back into writing?
Gearing up to return to your writing practice after a break is never easy, no matter whether you’ve been away from your computer/typewriter/notebook for a few days, a few weeks or a few months.
Sometimes you’re mid-manuscript and you need to pick up the threads. Sometimes you’re still recovering from typing The End on a different project. And sometimes you’ve just, somehow, fallen out of the habit of showing up to write.
Well, never fear. If you’re struggling with post-Christmas ennui, I’ve rounded up some tips from the professionals to help you find your mojo.
Here, eight Australian authors share their best tips for motivating themselves to get back into writing after taking time away.
Emma Grey, author of The Last Love Note, says:
“One of the biggest challenges I find is getting back into writing the first draft of a new book after you’ve spent months polishing the last one. The creation and editing processes seem to come from different parts of the brain. We can look at our new words and think, ‘I’ve forgotten how to write!’
“I remind myself that the true comparison isn’t between the sparkly book you’ve just finished and this patchy new one. It’s between your last first draft and this first draft. If we must compare our books, at least be kind to ourselves and compare like with like.”
Author Sandy Barker says:
“Set reasonable daily disciplines. Don’t start back in thinking you’ll crank out as many words instantly as you did in your prime. Lower the word count or hours spent or whatever it is for you a bit, make it fun and achievable, and feel good about your progress.
“It’s like showing up to the gym. If I can convince myself to just arrive there, most of the battle is won. If you make your daily disciplines too huge, you’ll soon become discouraged. If I’m going to the gym for two hours every day, no thanks! But if I’m going there to do a few small sets I soon find I’m enjoying myself and I stay for longer willingly. Be kind to yourself, in essence.
“After a break, I find the best way to get back into writing is to read through my WIP from the beginning. This helps me get back into the cadence of the writing and I am easily able to pick up from where I left off. (5-book Holiday Romance series, website sandybarker.com
Katherine Kovacic, author of Seven Sisters, advises:
“Reread at least your last chapter (preferably two) to get yourself back into the groove of your story. Set the bar low for day one back in front of the computer and make it a time limit, not a word limit. Half an hour (and just write, don't think). Then if you go over, bonus! If not, no stress.
“If all else fails, write your key character into a holiday scene and explore how they react to all those dramas and family things that happen. It's probably something you'll never use in your manuscript, but it reacquaints you with the traits of that person (and maybe uncovers a few more).”
Dinuka McKenzie, author of The Torrent and Taken, says:
“My quick tip to get back into writing after a long break is to keep it bite-sized. If you're starting a new project, had a long break from your current work-in-progress (WIP), or just haven't been writing for a while, it's easier to get back into things if you keep your expectations realistic and not worry about word counts. Put a timer on for 10, 20, or 30 mins a day (whatever works for you) and commit to writing without a pause for that time.
“Even if it's just using a writing prompt that has nothing to do with your WIP, it's just a way of getting back into the muscle memory of writing. Doing multiple bite-sized writing sessions throughout the day – 20 min in the morning, afternoon, and night for example – is also a good way of easing back into a project and keeping motivated. Also all the time in between counts as thinking time, so actually you've spent the whole day working on your project. My kind of work day!
Author Sophie Green says:
“Remind yourself that writing is something you're choosing to do, not a chore – and that it might even be fun sometimes …”
Author Paul Dalgarno says:
“Whether it's returning to physical exercise or writing, I try to remember the same tip (learned from experience) – that it's better to take it easy and focus on establishing momentum after a break than it is to go too hard too soon. And also to underpromise to yourself. If you set a goal of 400 words per writing session and end up writing 600 you'll feel like a champion; if your goal is 2000 and you end up writing 900 you'll feel like a failure. You're not a failure, just a train coming out of the depot that still needs to build up a head of steam.”
Author Rachael Johns advises:
“It's always a little daunting getting back into writing after a break whatever the reason. If it's been a break after finishing one book and starting another, then I do all my character and thinking work but then I just give myself tiny goals in the first week actually writing. On a normal writing day I aim for 2000 words a day – I don't always get it – but in the week when I'm easing myself back into writing I set a much smaller goal, 1k or maybe only even 500 words. If I get higher, that's great, but if not, then at least I don't feel pressure or failure. In the last year, I've learnt the importance of being kind to myself, which helps productivity more than being harsh.
“If the break has occurred while I'm mid book, then I will take a day or two – depending on how much is written – to reread what I've already done, make notes and get back in the zone of the novel. I often tweak what I've got as I go and this really helps me get a feel for the voice I'm using and also reminds me what has happened so far so I'm armed to continue.”
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently editing her latest middle-grade novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.