Some writing, such as a blog post, article, or even the draft of a short story, generally takes one sitting. But what about longer works that take days, weeks, and months to complete? For these we have the challenge of stopping and then resuming our project.
Returning to a long piece is challenging for many writers. Some say it takes up to an hour before they can pick up where they left off. They may sit idle, desperately attempting to ramp up inspiration to reach that same mental readiness or emotional state they were in when they stopped. Sometimes this evades them and then writing languishes—for days, for weeks, or forever.
Other writers read their last chapter—or sometimes the entire project—to get a running start, hoping to launch themselves into creating the next section. Not only does this take time, but they often fall into the trap of editing as they go, sometimes never actually writing new material. A side effect of this technique is that the beginning of the piece is always edited far better than the end.
I’ve tried both methods and found them lacking. Then someone told me a better way.
When I’m working on a long project, I never end my writing session at a logical stopping point, such as a chapter, a scene or a thought, or even a paragraph. I stop in midsentence.
Then, when it’s time to resume, I simply read the last couple of lines. By the time I get to my sentence fragment, the words to finish the sentence fly from my fingers. The next line flows from it, and I’m back where I left off. This takes me less than a minute, often a few seconds.
Though this requires a bit of practice—especially for people like me who have trouble leaving something half-finished—it is possible. The key is to stop at a really interesting place, one where we can’t miss the concluding thought.
When I remember to do this, it has never failed me. Picking up where I left off becomes easy, quick, and painless. Try it.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.