Writers, we've all been there. You're idly daydreaming or lying in bed actually dreaming when you're struck with the idea for an incredible book. The more you think about it, the better it seems and you know that you just have to write this book.
So what do you do?
Well, you'll probably sit down and write out an outline of everything you want to happen. You'll start making characters, drafting up plots, thinking about possible sequels (or prequels). You have this incredible story and you want to write as much of it out before you start so you don't lose any of it. You may even go as far as to create a chapter outline.
So what happens when you actually start writing? You feel burned out. You've been so close to this story and planned in out in such detail that when you actually go to start...you're bored.
If that applies to you, then you're the kind of writer I'd like to petition to try something new. If this doesn't apply to you, then you're probably the kind of writer who writes how I'm about to suggest.
In the Twittersphere, among writers, there's generally two kinds. There are Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters plot out their stories and make detailed notes of their stories before they really push pen to paper (or finger to key) and begin. Pantsers write "by the seat of their pants" and write down the story as it comes to them. Now, like most things in life, this is not an absolute, but more of a spectrum. Some writers gravitate naturally toward Pantsing and others toward Plotting, but most fall somewhere in the middle. A delightful region affectionately known as Plantsers.
Plantsers are writers who will write down some important details that they don't want to forget, but mostly write the story as it comes to them. They may have important milestones in their story already mapped out (even if only in their heads), but how they move between these milestones is a mystery even to them until they write it. This culminates in a story that is planned, but fresh. The writer can start right away and it doesn't matter if they don't have the perfect beginning because at least they started and they can always go back later and fix things.
Seems great, but it's not a completely perfect fix. If you're going for a convoluted and complex plot (or several concurrent plots), you'll likely need to write it all down to keep it straight in your head. Most people write their books over the course of months or years and the more complex it is, the more preparation is required. Preparation isn't a bad thing, in fact it's a very good thing, but when you suck all the choice out of writing through prior planning, it can be very boring to actually sit down and slog your way through however many tens-of-thousands of words it takes to get yourself from the beginning to the great "the end."
There is no one-place-fits-all on the spectrum between Plotting and Pantsing. Every writer is unique, and what works for one (myself, for example) may not work for another (you). What's important is learning what options you have and trying new things until you find what works. This advice is not "do this or you'll be a bad writer," it's simply a "here's an option that might help." Having a burnout while writing can absolutely slaughter a story before it ever has a chance to be fit between two covers, and sometimes it can be years before the writer comes back to it, if at all, because of the association with mental and spiritual draining that the story has accrued.
So now that we've talked about the spectrum of how to go about a novel, I'd like to address the actual process of writing. For many, many years I edited as I went along. I would write a few paragraphs, then go back over it for mistakes and make sure that everything lined up exactly how I wanted. It was how I wrote and I took great pride in it. Then, inevitably, several months on into the writing of the story I would grow tired. I would be spending all this time on this story and I would have very little to show for it, just a few measly chapters that worked well together, but was nothing close to a full story. Then I would think of how much further I had to go in the story and I would get even more tired. If that applies to you, then here's my advice:
It's really as simple as that. Focus on getting from beginning to end (if you're a linear writer, I'm not going to touch on nonlinear writing in this post) before you go back to edit. You may decide that a turn you take 2/3's of the way through your story is much better than your original plan, and if you've been editing as you go then you'll probably stop writing forward and start fixing everything up to that point to make sure it all fits together. Absolutely do not do this. Just worry about getting that first draft done. Get to the end, then go back and make everything work. By all means, if you have an idea right then and there of how to fix something and are worried you might forget by the time you actually need to go and edit, make a comment for yourself on the document, but keep pressing forward. Finishing is more important than finishing perfect. You'll go through and edit anyway, likely multiple times, so all that work you front-loaded won't matter in the end except to make you more tired of your own story.
If you're growing tired of your story before you finish, it probably means somewhere along the way your process is getting in your own way. It doesn't mean give up, even though that might seem the most enticing option, it means keep trying new methods of writing until you find what works best for you. Sometimes all you need is a short break, but make sure you find the motivation to come back to that story and keep at it. Keep trying new things, keep learning, keep experimenting, but most of all, keep writing.
Drops of Darkness
This blog is for Erebus to share musings about writings, philosophy, and other miscellaneous things.
Erebus Esprit is a fantasy writer from the United States. He primarily writes Sword & Sorcery Fantasy and Urban Fantasy.