The Homestretch by Narcissa Deville
I would like to welcome back guest writer, Narcissa Deville. Enjoy!
It’s the middle of the night.
You’ve been working on your current work-in-progress for the better part of the last year, and you’re finally in the homestretch.
Just six more chapters to go.
You tell yourself; I’ve got this. I’ve already written this far, the last six. Piece of cake.
But for the life of you, you just can’t seem to get anything written. You look up to see its midnight, and yet another day has passed where you haven’t written anything new for your novel.
Why is this happening?
Why does it feel as though the last few chapters are almost harder than the first few chapters? You already know what’s going to happen. If you didn’t have it all outlined from the beginning, you know by now where it’s all going to go. It’s just a matter of getting there. Tying up the loose ends if you will. So why does it feel like such a slog? And more importantly, how can I do something about this?
As it turns out, I actually have some ideas on this front.
First and foremost. Time―We never quite feel like we have enough of it, especially if we happen to be on a deadline, but the fact of the matter is, if you can spare it, time can be one of the best things you can give yourself. When you’re in the thick of a story for months on end, or even years, (especially if it’s the only thing you’re writing) it can often feel a little exhausting, maybe even tedious. You’re intimately familiar with the characters and the story (and that’s great) but sometimes you just want to play around in something new. Giving yourself a little bit of space from whatever you’re currently working on can be a great help. They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and that distance makes the heart grow fonder, so if you can take some time away from a project, maybe it will make you miss the story enough to want to work on it again.
Work on a Short Story―If you happen to have the time (and/or the inclination) sometimes it can be beneficial to try and write something different. If familiarity breeds contempt, then surely having something fresh and new to work on would make you feel better and take your mind off the story you’re currently working on. And who knows, it could end up becoming a bigger project later, or even a part for your current work-in-progress you never expected.
Read― This one is maybe a little obvious, but they say that as creatives sometimes what you really need is to fill up that creative tank, which generally includes reading. If you’re already an avid reader you can skip this suggestion― but if like me, you’re kind of superstitious about reading when you’re working on a project, taking some time to read something instead of just writing may in fact be exactly what you need to recharge your creative juices.
Up the ante―This is pretty old advice (and usually geared towards someone with writer’s block) but the idea is fairly straight forward. If you’re feeling stagnant, put your characters into more peril and see how they would get out of it. In my particular case, the whole novel up until now has been a great deal of peril so I almost feel as though I should give them a bit of a reprieve. Sometimes in order to up the ante however you may have to cut out the last few sentences, paragraphs, or even a whole chapter to make it work with the rest of the story. It’s not ideal, but often times these are the things that end up making things flow better going forward.
Skip ahead―Everyone writes different. But for me, I tend to write in a more linear fashion. Chapter 1-the end, and I try not to skip around in that process. My current WIP didn’t have quite that journey, in fact the journey was actually a lot stranger than that (which frankly is a blog post all it’s own), but generally speaking I like to keep it one chapter after another. If you are the sort of writer who likes to write some of the more ‘interesting’ scenes first and work your way backwards then maybe this process would work for you. Skip to the end and write the final chapter or even the final scene, then write the subsequent chapters that lead up to that working backwards.
Go for a walk―This is another piece of advice that tends to be thrown around quite a bit for writer’s block but that I think could still be beneficial. Sometimes giving yourself space from a story can be useful and sometimes that space isn’t just mental. It’s physical. Physically taking a step away from your computer, or notebook and getting into the fresh air and the sunshine can give you a certain amount of separation that you weren’t even aware you needed.
Go old school―Most of us are probably writing on our laptops or if you’re really fancy, an iPad/tablet, and I admit that a fair amount of my writing is done digitally. But every so often (especially when I’m struggling to write something) it can be beneficial for me to go back to the old school way of doing things and write things out by hand with a pen and a notebook. I tend to keep tons of notebooks around the house at all times, and so I always have something near me in case I need it. More often than not, this has proven incredibly helpful for me in the past when I feel as though I’m struggling. I can’t explain why but going back and forth between handwriting and writing via the computer just seems to work.
And finally― go to bed: This might seem like odd advice, but sleep is your body and mind’s way of resetting. It’s another form of taking time away from what you’re working on, and sometimes going to sleep and letting your mind rest can be just the space you need. Assuming of course you’re not the sort of person who will spend half the night thinking incessantly about the chapter and why you can’t simply just WRITE IT ALREADY! In which case even if you attempt to sleep it won’t really work out so why even bother? Except that you need to go to sleep because you have to go to work tomorrow and it’s getting later and later and suddenly it’s 3AM and where did the time go? And I’ve been lying in bed just trying to sleep but I can’t just get my mind to be quiet already!
Ultimately, most of these methods require something that I think most people (especially writers) would argue that we simply don’t have enough of. Time.
Any time you spend away from your story, be it working on another story, reading, or even taking a walk, is ultimately going to be time that you could be using for your book. The problem is, writing isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and sometimes exactly what you need is a break away from the story in order to figure out where you’re going.
If all else fails, you can always say to hell with writing and stick it out at your day job and pray that the monotony doesn’t make your brain rot while your dreams slowly die because you couldn’t just finish FIVE FREAKING CHAPTERS…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Narcissa Deville is a 28-year-old queer author and YouTuber. She started writing when she was 11 years old after finding her passion for reading. Her passion for writing and publishing has always been strong. Over the course of the last decade, she has worked diligently to hone her craft. You can read her current book The Secret Life of Damien Carmichael, queer YA romance, available on Wattpad, updating Tuesdays and Fridays.