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Monday, May 27, 2024

Overwhelmed with Writing a Book? Try These.

How do you not get overwhelmed writing a book? Well, honestly, "writing overwhelm" is not something most of us can avoid completely. It's normal, and probably even natural, to get overwhelmed from time to time. Writing a book is a big undertaking, with so many moving, developing pieces--all of which we hope will sing off the page in the final published product. So perhaps it's better to ask, how do we deal with writing overwhelm? This is what I want to talk about today.

If you haven't noticed, I almost entirely focus my blog on the writing craft. But every once in a while something outside that scope is brought to my attention, and I feel like I need to do a post on it. So while I won't be going deep into the nitty-gritty of plots and characters today, I hope this article is helpful to someone reading.

Here is what helps me with writing overwhelm, in the order I try them.

Trust the Process

In a show I like to watch called "The Profit," businessman Marcus Lemonis goes into failing businesses to help them succeed. On occasion, he tells people to "trust the process." Meaning, rather than trying to trust him, other people, or maybe even themselves, they should trust the process of becoming a better business.

Years ago, an ad came up on my Facebook, where best-selling author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) said something similar. He said there will be days when you feel like you can't write, days where it feels impossible and you don't have it in you. That, he said, is when you trust the process.

You trust the process of writing a story, scene, or whatever, regardless of how you feel.

If you are newer to writing, this may be harder to do, because you may not yet have enough experience to discern what the process, or your process, is. But there is plenty of advice and approaches available to help guide you. Be patient, it may take some time to find what works for and resonates with you.

If you are more experienced with writing, then you should be somewhat familiar with the process. Trust it. Feelings are temporary. Do what needs to be done.

Return to the Basics

Never underestimate the power of the basics. When you are feeling overwhelmed, or things aren't coming together, go back to the basics, and if those are properly in place, build from there.

Does your protagonist have a current goal? And an antagonist for that goal? Are they creating conflict? Are there consequences (stakes and ramifications) tied to that?

Is it clear what your protagonist currently, deeply wants? Have you put it in jeopardy? How does your character arc?

What is the setting? Are you utilizing it in the story?  Is it coming alive on the page as you appeal to the senses? Does it relate to the plot elements or the protagonist?

You can ask these things for the whole story, or the scene you are currently working on (though not all of them may apply to every scene you write).

Hit the basics first. You could argue this is even a form of trusting the process.

Focus on One Part at a Time

Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, there may be some (writing) sprints along the way, but . . . it's totally a marathon. 

And you succeed in that, one step at a time.

Sometimes it's helpful to focus only on the current passage or element you are working on.

I prefer to write scene by scene. If I'm overwhelmed, I try to mostly just focus on the current scene.

If a scene still feels too overwhelming, perhaps you could focus on one paragraph, one sentence.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott shares the concept of writing enough to fill up a one-inch picture frame.  That's all you have to do. Just fill up a one-inch picture frame. You can do that, right?

Then you do it again. 

And again. 

And just focus on writing a little bit at a time, and soon all those little bits turn into lots of bits, and you'll be further along with your story.

Work on a Different Part

At the opposite end of that, if you are feeling overwhelmed with the current part you are working on, then work on a different part. If the current scene is overwhelming you, skip to a different scene. If you can't brainstorm the plot, then brainstorm the characters. If you can't figure out the setting, then work on the magic system. I think you get the idea.

After you've had some space from whatever you were working on in the first place, and have calmed down, you can try going back to it. Sometimes working on a different element helps you figure out the initial element.

Take a Break

. . . Or sometimes forcing yourself to keep working on the project at all, just overwhelms you some more. You may be too worked up to trust the process or clearly think about the basics, or anything else. Knowing when you need to step away and take a timeout can prevent a lot of meltdowns (or fits of rage).

What do you need to do to get yourself grounded?

Sometimes I just need to go outside and take a walk around the property. If I haven't eaten recently, I'll maybe have my next meal, even if it's early. Good food can do wonders for your mood.

Depending on where I'm at mentally at that point, I may be able to go back to the project, or I may need to work on something else entirely.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, is give yourself some space from the project, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

You may want to focus on filling your creative well during this time.

Or, if you have another WIPWIP, you may want to turn your attention to that one instead.

And Remember, Be Patient, not Perfect.

Again, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. It demands patience. And often, lots of it. Probably even more than you think you need. Be patient with the project, and be patient with yourself. The story is only a draft. It's not gonna be perfect, so don't expect it to be a masterpiece all at once.

With these things in mind, I hope you'll be armed to deal with the overwhelming task of writing a book.

Related Articles

How to Write When You Don't Have Time
Why Some People Don't Support Your Writing Goals
How to Deal with People Who Don't Support Your Writing
What to Do When You Want to Quit Writing
Dealing with Loneliness

1 comment:

  1. This is definitely me right now. I'm working on my debut novel and just got it back from my beta reader with amazing feedback...and I can't implement it. I'm stuck.


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