It’s that time of year again! When school supplies, school clothes, ziplock bags, hand sanitizer, schedule pickups, and debates with school administrators over the placement of kids have completely monopolized the lives of moms across the country. And still life goes on for the working mom – including the writing mom. This is the time when writer-moms reflect on summer achievements in writing.
Fortunately for me, this summer has proven to be my most productive summer in writing yet! I didn’t meet my goal, but oh how close I came and it feels good. As summer break draws to a close, time steadily slips away from writing and more toward back-to-school preparation. But unlike past years, this time I’m not fretting the lack of writing time because my discipline is steadily strengthening.
My goal this summer was to make significant gains on revising my chapter book. This is not a new project by any means, but still one I intend to see through to publication. Regardless of best efforts however, there still tends to be some challenges that can negatively impact writing progress and getting to the finish line. So, in hopes that you will find yourself comforted if this is a similar experience for you, I’m sharing one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced with writing/revising my chapter book this summer.
There are days that I literally set up my writing space and prepare to work on my revisions and still walk away having accomplished nothing. It’s all right there, staring me in the face. I sit – I stare – I get up – I do something else – I come back – then repeat. It’s a classic case of procrastination, which we all face. But what I continue to learn about myself as a writer, I’ve figured out that I procrastinate because I feel stuck and overwhelmed. Eventually, that procrastination leads to walking away from writing.
Some days the motivation to write just isn’t there and there’s nothing wrong with that. Taking a break from a stressful or frustrating project can help give a writer a fresh perspective on the project upon returning to it. BUT, as refreshing as it may be, walking away from a manuscript (MS) is not without its consequences.
What matters when taking a break from a MS is the length of time you choose to leave it alone. Two hours or two days – no harm done. But try not to make it much longer than that. Once your time away gets to be as much as two weeks, two months, or two years, the real problems begin. Long periods of absence from your manuscript can result in two important things happening:
- Tone changes; and
- Spending too much time re-reading to try to remember where you left off and what important revisions you were meaning to incorporate prior to walking away.
The problem with changing tone This is something to avoid at all cost. The danger with tone change is your story becomes inconsistent which is sure to result in losing the interest of your readers. It would be as if two different people with two different styles of writing, wrote one confusing, weak story that isn’t fit for publication. When the tone changes, the characters change, the direction of the storyline changes, and hence, the story itself changes, sadly, not for the better. Characters end up speaking and doing things that are inconsistent with their original personalities. Readers instantly take notice when a character acts “out of character”. It becomes painfully clear that your story has lost direction and vision leaving you (the writer) frustrated, overwhelmed, and ready to walk away from it again – permanently.
The problem with memory boosting re-reading Even if it’s only been a few hours since you last picked up your MS, naturally, you still re-read the last part you worked on in order to keep the story flowing smoothly as you continue to revise. However, this is a brief process that just serves to get you back on track. This can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, then writing/revising resumes with little to no disruption in tone and storyline.
When leaving your MS for longer periods of time, re-reading becomes more of the day’s tactic than the next step in the process. You may find yourself having to re-read an entire chapter (or two) just to remember where you left off. Then you run the risk of double-revising because you can become side-tracked with making changes and revising sections of the book you weren’t meant to be working on in the first place. This neither has weight nor does it advance the story in any way. In the end, you will be at the exact same finishing point you were the last time you picked up your MS. How frustrating is that?
The Solution No matter how frustrated you get with your MS, don’t leave it for more than a couple of days. It really is that simple. The less time you’re away from it, the smoother the revisions will be. Getting stuck will happen no matter how good you are, but it’s important to stick with it. Take a breather if you must, but come back – soon!
In my limited experience, I’ve found that even on my most frustrated days, I can still get through my revisions as long as I continue working on them within a short amount of time. And as always, don’t commit yourself to more than you can handle in a day. Some writers do well devoting 8 hours per day to writing/revising; some do well with 4 hours per day; and still some do well with 1 to 2 hours. No matter how much time you can devote to writing/revising, just make it count.
Now go pick up that manuscript again and write (revise) on!