Sometimes, you need to take a break from your book. Maybe life got crazy and you simply didn’t have time to write. (It happens—don’t beat yourself up if you’ve needed to shift gears away from your book.) Or, maybe you just didn’t feel like writing for a while. Sometimes we get burnt out or overwhelmed or we just need a break from things. Again, it happens. But, if you want to become an author, you have to finish your book. You have to start writing again.
So, how do you start writing again after a break? How do you get back into the swing of writing so you can finally finish your manuscript? The process isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. In this episode, I’ll walk you through the steps that I think you should take to get back to your book manuscript. These steps will help you get reacquainted with your manuscript and get back into the rhythm of writing so you can finish your book and become an author.
I Walked Away from My Book for 10 Months
It’s so common to take a break from your book manuscript. Yes, you’ll hear stories about authors who were so passionate and excited about their books and write them in a matter of weeks. (That’s how it was for my first book.) But, it’s okay if that’s not you. It’s okay if you need to step back and take care of other things in your life, or if you just need some space from your writing.
My second book, Blogger to Author, took me well over a year to finish, thanks to a 10 month hiatus from writing. It was a perfect storm of events: my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, then he got a job interview for a position he’d applied for several months prior. He went on the interview and landed the job, which meant we had to move 700 miles away. Best of all, we had to move ASAP if my hubby wanted to be eligible to take vacation days by the time our daughter was due to be born.
The move took over my life. Between keeping up with tasks for my work-at-home job as a copy writer and editor for an online digital marketing agency and the move, my book became a lower and lower priority. We had a lot to do to prep for the move, find a house in our new hometown, and unpack…and we were trying to get ready for our daughter’s arrival, too. Life happened, and I didn’t have time or the mental bandwidth to write.
My daughter was born about three months after our move, and soon raising a newborn was taking all of my time. I was trying to keep myself sane and get enough sleep, and, after a few weeks, I was trying to keep up with work tasks, too. I just didn’t have it in me to try to take on other projects like writing a book. I would have gone crazy. Sometimes there are just seasons in your life when it’s not time to write—it’s time to focus on what you and your loved ones need to survive. And that’s okay.
But, I did eventually finish and publish the book. When my daughter was about five or six months old, I started writing again. I woke up early in the morning to write. I made one or two-hour excursions to a coffee shop on the weekends to type away as hard as I could. It wasn’t easy, but I finished the book. Why? Because I knew my book was important. Even though I had to shelve the project for a while, I knew that my audience needed my book. They needed that low-cost guide that would teach them everything they needed to know about self-publishing a book. And, my business needed that book, too.
What’s my point here? My point is that you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself if you need to take a break. But, you should also know when it’s time to come back to your book. You should know that you need to come back to your book because your readers need you to finish it! There comes a point where your book really does have to become a priority again, and you have to start writing again…but how do you do it?
Review What You’ve Already Written
I think when you’re first getting back to your book manuscript, it helps to take a review of where you’ve been first. You’re so far removed from your writing that it’s hard to know where to begin. And, if you can’t remember what you’ve written, you may find yourself repeating what you’ve said, potentially wasting your valuable writing time. It’s also hard to get into the flow of writing and to find your writing voice if you’ve been away from your project for a while.
When I’m getting back to a project, even if I’ve just taken a week off, I like to review where I’m at. I’ll read over the last section that I wrote to familiarize myself with the writing and the points I’m trying to get across. (If I’ve been away from the manuscript for a really long time, I’ll often read over everything I’ve written, or at least skim over it.)
Knowing where you’ve been (and having that in the back of your head) helps you understand where you need to go. It helps you see any holes or gaps you may need to fill in. It helps remind you what ideas or points you’ve been building up to in your writing. And, it helps prepare you to finish your manuscript, and to be able to finish it quickly.
Make a Plan
Once you know where you’ve been, it’s time to make a plan to finish the rest. If you haven’t already created an outline for your book, I strongly suggest you start there. (Check out Episode 56 and 57 for more information about creating your outline.) You’ll be able to see what you’ve already written (and check all of that off the to-do list). And, you’ll have a better idea of what still needs to be written.
Your new BFF? A detailed list of everything you need to write. The more detail you can include, the better, because you’ll know each and every point you intend to address in the rest of your manuscript. Believe me, it’s much easier to sit down and know that you need to cover points A, B, and C than it is to know that you generally need to write about some topic.
For example, if I’m writing a chapter about email marketing, it helps to know that I need to cover how to choose an email service provider, how to get people to sign up for an email list, and what to do with them once they’ve signed up. If all I knew was that I needed to cover the general topic of email marketing, it seems much more overwhelming.
Once you know the material or ideas you still need to cover, it’s time to sit down and figure out how you’re going to get it all written. If you’re motivated by deadlines, set timeframes for finishing each section or chapter. If deadlines overwhelm you, simply plan out when you’re going to get your writing done. Mark it out in your calendar, set your alarm, or do whatever you need to do to put your plan into motion.
Start Writing Consistently
Here’s the thing: writing is easiest when it becomes a habit. But, if you’re coming back to your book manuscript, you’re probably going to be out of practice. You’re not used to taking the thoughts in your head and putting them on paper (or computer screen). Or, you’re used to writing for a blog or social media, not for your book. Either way, it takes some time to get back into the swing of writing your book manuscript.
So, my final suggestion to you to start writing again after a break is to write regularly. You’re going to make progress and ultimately finish your book faster if you’re writing several times a week, if not daily. When you write for your book consistently, your head stays in the project. You’re not having to take the time to remind yourself of where you’re at. You can remember what you’ve been doing, which makes it much easier to keep going.
When you’re consistent, you’re staying on the wagon, so to speak. You’re telling yourself that you’re back and you’re recommitted to your book. Knowing that you’re committed to your book, that it’s a real priority to you—that’s half the battle. Consistency helps you prove to yourself that writing a book and being an author is something that you really want to do. It’s important to you. And, it’s a way of telling yourself that you’re serious about this and that you’re going to make your goal happen.
You can do this! You can finish your book, even if you needed to take a break. I believe in you!
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