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Momentum matters in writing

Why you need to make time to write regularly...

There are thousands of writers out there who keep working on the same few beginning chapters of their novel. They think, as they open a word document that they last worked on several weeks ago: I just need to refamiliarize myself with my story, and so they start at the beginning, make a few changes, add a few lines and aim to carry on from that point tomorrow: everything familiar again, raring to go.

Only it’s a few weeks before they open that word document again and they’ve forgotten where they were or what they were writing about and so they start once again at the beginning in order to remember what they were working on and they change a few lines...

And so it goes on. I know this because I’ve done it myself. About four years ago, I was writing a children’s novel – writing regularly, most days, until for some reason that I can’t now remember, I stopped. Every few months, I’d open this children’s novel and start at the beginning so I could remember where I was and what I intended to do. And I’d be determined to finish it this time, to keep going until I reached the end. But another few months would pass and I would do the same. Never progressing. Always just rereading and then re-editing the first few chapters.

Until last year when I decided enough was enough. I liked the characters; I knew it was an interesting story. Why was I so intent on starting something new instead of finishing this book?

And so I worked at it, never taking more than a couple of days away from it, until it was done. The End never felt so hard earned.

Novels run on momentum. You have to keep going, writing little by little every day (much better than writing 2000 words in one go, every month or so), to remember not just what your story is about, and who your characters are, but crucially, to hold onto your tone, your voice, the way it flows, the feel of a story as you write it. It can take a while to navigate your way into a story and once you do, you want to keep tight hold of that feeling until you reach the end. That elusive feel of a novel is something you need to pick up, still warm, the next day and the next until you reach the end.

I’ve wasted so much time as a writer trying to re-engage or even remember what that feeling was on pieces I’d put to one side. If you’re 300 pages into a novel and have to do a readthrough each time you begin again, that takes up an awful amount of time that could be spent on writing your denouement.

Very few of us can devote eight hours a day, five days a week, to writing, so aim for little and often, even if it’s just a few lines a day. That way, you’re constantly moving forward, never losing momentum, and never again trapped in the refamiliarising zone.

-- Deana Luchia


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