Some books just fall out of your head, you know? But there are other books that take more prodding to get onto the page—like the one I’m working on now. If you’re also fighting with a story that demands more effort to get those words out, here are a few things I’ve been doing that have really helped:
1. Make small goals.
I use Scrivener, which allows the user to set target dates to finish the draft by. Then, Scrivener will calculate how many words a day you must write to reach that goal. (You can set it to take days off, too. Yay!)
This is one of my favorite things, but because sometimes I feel like I should be able to write an entire first draft in two months, I end up with ridiculous daily goals. I mean, occasionally I hit those goals! But more often, I don’t quite make that goal and the daily target goes up and up until I have a meltdown.
But when I adjust my deadline (this one totally self imposed), the daily word goal goes down and I feel like I have a chance of making it. A good chance, even. And when I go over my goal for that day, the next day’s goal is lower.
Sometimes, it still takes all day to get that 600 or so words, but I made it, so job well done to me! But usually, I find that once I hit that goal, it’s a lot easier to go past it.
2. Ease off the pressure.
Some books just require breaks for thinking. It’s okay. Let it happen.
This has been really hard for me to accept, because when I draft something, I want to draft that thing and move on to revision. But not every book works like that, and sometimes I have to pull back and have a day of thinking or discussion with someone else in order to get my head around something I’m struggling with. Sometimes I have to take the day off and knit or read or go to that mystical place called The Outside. *shudder*
And it turns out that just giving myself those little breaks to let my brain recharge or untangle something in the plot? That actually saves time, and I get more done, because I’m not just hunched over my keyboard all day doing absolutely nothing.
3. Go over the details often.
The manuscript I’m working on now requires a lot of this. Mostly because every time I talk to someone about the book, I have to give them the whole run down and answer questions. But it turns out that’s really helpful, because sometimes people will ask about details I’ve overlooked, pieces that don’t quite fit with what I’ve set up, or even things that might be inadvertently offensive.
For me, it really helps to just think about the story, characters, and world until they’re as seamless in my mind as the real world is. And the more real the story feels to me, the more that carries over to what ends up on the page.
Some books are just Difficult. It’s okay. (In my experience, those usually turn out to be the best, and all that hard work is worth it!) If you, too, are working on something that doesn’t just fall out of your head, I hope these tips help!
And if you have other tricks to dealing with Difficult Books, let’s hear them in the comments!