As fun, and as liberating, as writing fragments can be, there comes a point where you have to focus to finish your writing project. Even if you feel like you’ve hit a wall.
Especially if you feel like you’ve hit a wall.
If you abandon every story you start, then all you’ll ever have are fragments, and that’s no way to build a life as a writer. Sure, we all get stuck from time to time, but you need to get yourself unstuck too.
So how do you regain the focus to get your story finished?
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Remember why you started writing the story in the first place.
Where did your story come from? Was it inspired by true events? If so, how did they pan out, and how can that help your story? If your story was inspired by something you overheard, or an interesting fact, then ask yourself how you can best represent that snippet or fact to a third person.
Sometimes, just revisiting where the story came from is enough to relight the spark, and get the fire going again. But if that doesn’t help…
Re-read the story from the beginning.
A lot of writers say you should just keep going. Like Lot’s wife, you shouldn’t look back until it’s safe to do so – i.e. when you’ve reached your destination.
I often find that if I get stuck with a story, I put it to one side. Maybe I move on to another story. But then I decide I want to go back to the original idea.
It’s only while re-reading the story that I remind myself of things I’d forgotten. I re-acquaint myself with the story, and it’s the passage of time that lets my brain make connections between throwaway snippets within what I’ve already written and lo! I realise how the story will end.
What if you already know how the story will end but you’re still stuck?
This might sound controversial but I don’t believe that you have to write sequentially.
You might be stuck in a particular scene, and you know what happens in the next scene. Trouble is, you’re not sure how to get from A to B. There’s nothing stopping you from just bailing at point A and starting again at point B.
Maybe insert a couple of sentences that summarise what you think needs to happen, and start writing as if it already did.
When you re-read the story when it’s finished, it’s up to you what you do with that summary. Maybe the summary is enough. Maybe the story is strong enough that you can delete it altogether.
Or maybe you need to rewrite it. Either way, at least the story is finished!
All projects get stuck at some point.
Whether you’re knitting, painting, writing or building a bathroom, all creative projects get stuck at some point. It’s totally normal. It’s to be expected! With so many shiny new ideas pinging around, you’re bound to want to pursue another one instead of finishing what you’re already working on.
But just remember that YOU need to focus to finish your projects. No one else can do it for you.
Over to you! How do you regain your focus?
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