How authors can resume writing without losing time or momentum
When I started writing, it always took me several writing sessions to finish anything.
I fell into a bad habit. When I would resume writing (even after taking a short break) I would re-read everything I had written so far, editing along the way. Then I felt ready to write more. The problem was this warm-up ritual could take thirty minutes to an hour. That didn’t leave much time to add more words.
Here are six ideas to keep us from wasting time when we resume writing:
1) Stop in the Middle: Though it seems tidy to finish a section and then stop writing, this makes it harder to pick up the flow later. Instead, stop in the middle of the action or thought, such as “Smoke billowed from the window.” or “I fell into a bad habit.” In both cases, the next sentence will proceed with ease. Although it takes discipline, sometimes I even stop mid-sentence, as in “Jeffy’s eyes grew…” or “The second point is…” This leaves no doubt what words come next.
2) Get a Running Start: When not knowing the next words, back up a sentence or two (a paragraph at the most) and re-read it. This provides a running start to jump back into our writing. Even if the words that come next aren’t good ones, at least we are writing and moving forward. This beats staring at the monitor with growing frustration as each second ticks by.
3) Talk It Through: Another tip when we’re stuck is to write “What I want to say is…” and then finish the sentence. This often gives immediate clarity and helps words flow.
4) Begin the Next Part: Though we psychologically want to stop at the end of a section or chapter, resist that impulse, no matter how satisfying. Start the next part, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Bonus points if you stop in midsentence.
5) End With a Transition: In fiction, we call this a cliffhanger, and in nonfiction, it is preselling the next point. In either case, ending with a transitional sentence prepares us to write the next one.
6) Plan What to Write Next: Before we end our writing session, we can outline the next section, jot down talking points, or even write a key sentence. In fiction, we can write one line of punchy dialogue or note a plot twist. In nonfiction, we can lay down a pithy soundbite or profound callout. Sometimes I write the last line of the next section. Then when I resume working, I merely write towards that ending.
These six tips help me to pick up my writing where I left off without wasting time or losing momentum. I hope they help you to do the same.
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.