How To Write Again When It’s Been So Long
How do you start a book when it’s been years since you’ve written anything?
How do I start something when I haven’t written anything in years? How do I begin to plan? How do I get ideas again?
So many people need help with this, and I think writing after a long gap can be even more daunting than writing for the very first time. Being a first time writer means that there are no rules and that mistakes are acceptable on your way to greatness. But when you’ve written before, there’s a lot of pressure to do as well as you did before you stopped writing, or to be even better – and you have to go through the process of either picking up from where you left or relearning everything.
The first step
My advice would be to read what you already have, and make a decision based on how your old work in progress makes you feel. Do you feel excited again after reading your notes? Do you really want to know what happens in your novel? Then that’s awesome! Be excited and start planning the next chapter — it’s time to finish that book!
Or does your old project fill you with dread? Are you thinking “what the hell?” as you read it. Are you unsure what happens next, or just don’t feel invigorated by the story? It’s OK for ideas not to work out, don’t become despondent. You can either come back to this idea later or scrap it all together. Either way, you need to want to write and if your old work in progress is killing your good vibes then it’s time to put it elsewhere for the time being and start something new.
Starting a new project
So let’s say you’re starting something new. First thing’s first. You need an idea.
Whatever you’ve got, start writing it down. Perhaps you know you want to write a murder mystery but that’s all you’ve got – don’t worry! Get that down on paper and see where you can go from your starting point, and draw inspiration from your favorite murder mystery books. Or maybe you have a character in your head and not much else – write everything you know about them from looks to quirks and you’re bound to get inspired as to what you want to put them through in your novel. Will they become the hero of an epic fantasy series or the antagonist in a sci-fi novella? See where creating a profile for your character takes you.
What if you have no ideas?
Feeling stuck in a rut? It’s so hard when you want to write but you have no ideas! Don’t worry, I have a few solutions that could work for you.
Start small, then work your way up
Improve your confidence when it comes to writing by starting small and working your way up to novel writing. You could write small responses to prompts you find interesting online, or write a poem about how you’re currently feeling, or try different writing exercises. First, focus on writing again. Write anything and write regular. Focus on practicing before you start plotting books and writing an epic series. The more you write, the more your confidence will grow, and eventually a big idea will hit you, making you feel excited to start novel writing again.
It’s inevitable — some days you won’t write at all. It’ll either be due to a lack of ideas, motivation or an abundance of fear. Journaling is a way to write everyday, but without worrying about the quality of what you’re writing about or the added pressure of coming up with fully-formed ideas. Your journal entries are for your eyes only and for you to alleviate whatever is on your mind. You never know, you might get some big ideas out of no where in the process. Jotting down a random stream of consciousness works wonders for the imagination and can trigger some big ideas.
Prompts are a great way to practice important writing techniques but without the burden of writer’s block getting in the way; prompts are ideas. There is no excuse for you to not write! Don’t worry about ideas so much in your recent return to your passion — like I have said before, your focus should be on practicing, then you can start working on your ideas when you feel more confident. When you’ve written a few pieces inspired by writing prompts, you can either work on something original or create your own prompts. Prompts are easy to find. They are often posted on writing groups which you can find on Facebook, or you can get inspired by the ones I post on Instagram.
Talk with someone who also writes or loves books
Talking to people who love writing just as much as you do is extremely enlightening. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel so deeply understood by a like-minded individual — after all, writing is a lonely profession and it is only writers who truly understand one another. The advice of people who read regular and understand the fundamentals of a good story will prove invaluable too. This will help you to create the foundations for your new project, or to make your old project exciting. Talking to other writers and readers about your idea will help to shape it and make sure that it is a solid and exciting idea.
Read lots of books
When you read, you need to read as a writer, and this means analysing the book. Why did you enjoy the forth chapter so much? What makes this bit exciting? What did the writer do to stir up feelings of discontent in this chapter? How does the writer make their main character so likeable? Why was this book boring? What didn’t work and why? Use this. You can accumulate so much knowledge about writing a good book from critical reading. Reading can also inspire you and get you in the mood for writing your own novel.
You will be able to write books again, but these things take time. Be patient, and in the meantime practice. Focus first on getting back into writing, then focus on generating ideas and plotting your ideas. Ideas will come, and the best ones tend to strike you at the strangest, most unexpected times.
Have faith in your abilities. Try to write something everyday. And be proud of yourself for returning to the writing community. Writing is a daunting task but let your love for stories lead the way.