Stop Fighting Writers’ Block

The effortless editing technique of taking a break from your novel.

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You can’t write your novel.

You might have all the time in the world—laptop wide-open, fingers poised over the keys—but your imagination’s flat-lining because your mind is working against you and now you’re panicking. Either that or something in your life has taken priority and got in the way, and continuing writing just isn’t possible.

You worry.

If you don’t keep it up, if you don’t keep working on your characters and their scenes, you’ll lose them. You’ll lose the essence of the work, the feel, the mood. It’ll fade over time, slip through your fingertips, and you’ll never get it back. Ever. All the effort you’ve already put in will be wasted.

I used to feel this way. Then a big change in my life forced me to take a long unwanted break from writing my novel, short stories, anything, and I’ve realised all the pressure I was putting myself under was needless.

You will never lose it. It will only get better.

Yes, you won’t remember everything. Some parts will likely be forgotten, maybe even a character or two that you had previously thought were ever-so-important. But don’t panic, this is a good thing. This is your mind, now fresh from its time-out, subconsciously editing the unnecessary fluff from your story.

This strange form of subconscious editing is a technique some writers will deliberately use. They’ll spend a length of time away from their work, and in the meantime gain new experiences and read a few dozen books. They’ll travel, meet new people, feel new emotions, and then they’ll write a new draft of their novel, entirely from memory.

Yes, entirely from memory. Blank screen. Word count at zero.

The distance they’ve had from their work now places them outside the box and much more able to make clear decisions moving forward. They are fresh and determined, less emotionally attached, effortlessly cutting out the unmemorable parts of previous drafts and using their new knowledge to create a more polished, professional, grown-up version.

If you can’t write, try not to worry. Try not to panic. You will still move forward. You will still be, indirectly, working on your novel by building knowledge that you’ll use in the future to make your novel even better.

If you’re still fretting about what you might lose if you take a step back from your novel, it’s worth considering that, if some parts are so easily forgotten, are they worth remembering?

Rebecca Delphine is a Young Adult author from Thanet.

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