Since the start of the new year, one of the things I would like to do is finish a full draft of my work in progress. I have been consistently writing in some capacity for the past two years, the pandemic making it easier to keep up a regular weekend schedule, and have gotten further with my story than I have in a really long time since I first came up with the idea. But as eager as I am to complete the draft, it has been a struggle to continue with my novel, often not knowing where to steer the plot or how to get to a cohesive and satisfying ending.
When this happens I would take a “break” from my novel by writing something else.
This might sound counterintuitive to what I’m trying to do but there is some method to the madness. Last year I have finished writing a few short stories by going back and forth between my massive YA fantasy novel and working on smaller stories that are easier to finish. Lately, I have been writing some fanfiction for the video game Life is Strange: True Colors after feeling inspired by the ones I’ve read on the Internet. Doing all this other writing has left me with little to no time to really go back to my original story.
You might think why would I focus on other writing if the goal is to finish a draft of my current project? It’s true that by writing other stories, even fun writing like fanfiction, would actually set me back on what I set out to achieve this year. Writing a full-length novel is no easy feat and does take time, depending on where your progress is. But when you’re kind of feeling a little boxed in by your own story with nowhere to go, the best thing to do is to find other ways to keep writing without actually stopping, even if it’s for something not related to your story.
Back when I felt creatively blocked by my own story, I would literally stop writing all together and do other things. What winds up happening when I did this is years and years would go by and my novel would remain neglected and untouched. Not only am I not any closer to finishing my story, it also has the adverse effect of me not exercising and practicing my writing muscle. When you’re not writing you get rusty. How are you supposed to get better at something when you’re not doing the thing you want to get good at regularly?
Writing other stories has been the break I need to put some distance between myself and the book for a short time while still being able to write and indulge creatively. I stay motivated to write and I come away with new stories I had fun finishing.
I never dreamed in a million years I would get back into writing fanfiction. The last time I wrote fanfiction was during my college years and back when the anime Sailor Moon was still fairly popular. When I played Life is Strange: True Colors, I instantly fell in love with the optional romance between Alex and Ryan. Reading the few works dedicated to this couple sparked a renewed passion inside of me to imagine my own post-canon story of how the Alex and Ryan relationship could develop beyond the framework of the original game. And honestly? It has been a blast to write fanfiction again.
I don’t plan on focusing all of my writing on fanfiction. There have been a few story ideas I have come up with, written, and published online. In fact, I’m nearing the end of all the small sparks of stories I want to write for the Alex and Ryan ship. Doing all of this is really a temporary detour until I can get back to the true task at hand which is my sprawling work in progress. Because I didn’t want to stop writing any of the smaller stories I’ve done so far, it has the added benefit of keeping me motivated and writing.
That’s really the ultimate goal at the end of the day for most writers, isn’t it? Keep writing and never stop?
I’m confident that once I wrap up this bit of side dabbling I’m doing for myself at the moment, it’ll put me in a much better place to come back to my novel with fresh eyes and renewed vigor. Hopefully anyway!
Do you find you stay motivated on a passion project by doing something else that isn’t exactly related to it but allows you to keep your skills sharp?