If you're facing difficulties bringing your story to life, here are some tips to help you navigate those turbulent waters.
Every new book brings its own set of challenges. Some of my books have been a dream to write. Others a complete bloody nightmare. It doesn't seem to make a difference to how that book then sells. Books of mine that have been a challenge to write have gone on to be bestsellers. Some that have felt like smooth sailing haven't sold well. Another sign of this unpredictable business, hey?
If you're facing difficulties bringing your story to life, here are some tips to help you navigate those turbulent waters of crafting a novel.
1. Remember, It's Normal to Doubt Every author, from a newbie to one with numerous titles under their belt, experiences that mid-book crisis where it feels like giving up is the only option. But as many authors have confessed, this is a recurrent cycle. I've now published over ten novels, but I still still grapple with imposter syndrome. It’s okay to have moments of self-doubt, but remember, the mere act of writing, of creating, sets us apart. Our experiences and skills are valid. Embrace them. Recognise these feelings of doubt as part and parcel of the process and remind yourself, as many seasoned authors do, that things always come together in the end.
Perhaps you're two sentences away from writing 'The End', or maybe you're struggling with the infamous second book syndrome–in my case, seventh, eighth, ninth book syndrome! Regardless of where you are, take solace in the countless stories of authors who felt they were writing their worst book, only to see it skyrocket in popularity. Trust that your book knows what it wants to be and drown out the cacophony of negative voices.
2. Press the Pause Button
Taking a step back from your manuscript can offer much-needed clarity and perspective, especially when the journey of writing becomes overwhelmingly arduous. Often, when we're deeply immersed in our narrative, we can't see the forest for the trees. Giving yourself a deliberate pause isn't about inactivity; it's about shifting focus and seeking rejuvenation.
Changing your environment can be a catalyst for renewed inspiration. If you're accustomed to writing within the confines of a home office, venture outdoors. There's a unique magic to scribbling notes under a canopy of trees or by the lapping waves of a beach. Fresh air not only invigorates the senses but also serves as a gentle reminder of the vast, dynamic world beyond our stories (yep, there is life beyond writing, you know!). Reading is another potent remedy. Dive into a book, be it within your genre or something entirely different. Immersing yourself in someone else's narrative universe can both offer escape and spark inspiration. The rhythm of their prose, the unfolding of their plot, or even a single poignant sentence can rekindle your passion for storytelling.
3. Love Editing? Use It
If (like me) you’re one of many authors who detest first drafts but revel in editing, take heart. Often, the real magic happens during the editing phase. The first draft is just about getting the words down. Remind yourself that the refining, the beautifying, the perfecting — all of that comes later. In fact, while it might sound daunting (and honestly, heartbreaking) to restructure or rewrite massive portions of your book, sometimes this fresh perspective, especially when suggested by an experienced editor or publisher, can elevate your book. And reader responses usually vindicate this painstaking effort.
4. Each Book Has Its Own Journey
I like the saying, "You never really learn how to write a book. You only learn how to write this book" (some say Neil Gaiman said this, others that it's a quote from Gene Wolf. Whoever said it, I like it). Basically, every book takes a different journey and is its own unique challenge. You need to go with it. There are countless stories of authors almost giving up on their books, only to persist and later watch them soar in sales charts. The key is to hang in there, believe in your story, and most importantly, believe in yourself. 5. Sometimes It Is Time to Give Up on a Book
Embarking on the journey of writing a book is an exhilarating endeavor, but it's not uncommon to hit roadblocks along the way. Sometimes, these obstacles are merely bumps in the road, testing an author's resilience and dedication. However, there are moments when the struggle becomes so persistent that it might be worth evaluating whether to continue with the project. It might be time to consider setting a manuscript aside if the passion that initially fueled the story has entirely dissipated, if the narrative feels forced despite multiple revisions, or if the emotional toll of writing becomes detrimental to your well-being. It might be time to get some outside feedback from trusted beta readers or even your agent / editor just to see what they think. They will respect you for coming forward now, before you and they waste time on a manuscript. If they agree your story isn't resonating despite genuine efforts to amend it, it could be a sign. Remember, setting a book aside doesn't equate to failure. Often, it's a strategic pause, allowing you the space and time to grow, which can sometimes lead to revisiting the story later with fresh eyes and renewed vigor.