October 24

Have you abandoned a writing project?

    One of the most difficult places to be, as a writer, is stuck in the middle of your manuscript.

    You’ve been there before, right?

    You started writing and got into a good rhythm. Your argument was starting to build, and you had some good research to include, but, somewhere along the way, things just fell apart. Your once-coherent argument grew a second head and went off in some unexpected direction, and you have no idea how to tie all of these points together in a logical way. Your initial research showed that the gap in the literature, but you then discovered that gap had actually been filled by someone else ages ago. Your results didn’t show what you had anticipated, at all, which screwed over your findings. You’re stuck, frustrated, sick of writing this stupid manuscript, and you completely lose momentum.

    We’re writers, researchers, and creative people. When one idea doesn’t seem to work, we just come up with a new idea. When I get stuck, sometimes I just switch gears for a while, which basically means that I abandon that annoying manuscript all together. But what a waste! Surely there’s a way to salvage a long-forgotten manuscript.

    How do you re-start an abandoned writing project?

    13-10-24 Jumpstart

    I’m working with a client now, who had a similar problem. Just last week, we ironed out a plan for her to jump start her re-start, and it’s been working quite well. In fact, she has been making such amazing progress that I decided to give you the details, so that you can jump start your own re-start.

    1. First, ask a trusted friend if you can have a conversation with him/her about your writing project. Rather than commandeering a casual water cooler conversation, tell your friend that you’d like his/her advice about a paper, and set aside a particular date and time.

    I think a conversation is crucial because you can verbally sort through your ideas much more quickly than you can write them down. I think that a cold beer or a glass of red wine helps the words flow even more smoothly, but it’s all up to personal preference. Talk about your writing project, and I’d recommend you specifically talk about:

    • why you were interested in it to begin with
    • what you thought you were going to argue in the beginning
    • why that argument hasn’t panned out
    • what confuses you about the project
    • why you gave up

    2. Don’t try to figure out the big picture just yet. You’ll get discouraged too quickly. Instead, return to one portion of the manuscript. There is probably a section that still calls to you, one that you still think about from time-to-time and wish that you could work on again.

    3. Pull up your Word document, highlight that section (even if it’s only a page or two.) Copy and paste that section into a new Word document. Give it a new name. Don’t just add “version 2” to the end of the previous name. This is a new creation, a new document, so give it it’s own name.

    4. Begin re-writing just this section. Put aside thoughts of the larger argument and structure. Simply say what you have to say about this one section, no matter how small.

    5. Build momentum. Write on this section every day. Commit to writing one sentence every single day. Even if you worked for 12 hours that day or were on vacation for the first time in months, I still challenge you to keep the commitment of writing one sentence a day. One sentence! You can manage that.

    6. When you have said what you feel like is enough for that section, do the same for another section. Highlight another few pages, pull them out into a newly-titled document, and begin again.

    7. You will have a growing folder of small sections, but don’t worry about tying them together just yet.

    8. Within a few weeks, maybe even days, you’ll be amazed at how you break apart from that previously stagnant manuscript and bring forth a new manuscript. You may have a new direction and a new argument, or you may just find a way to salvage the old one. Every manuscript will be different.

    What about you? Do you have an abandoned writing project? What was it about?


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