You know that feeling when you get part-way through a large writing project and all of a sudden it feels like the worst thing ever written in the history of time?
You go to bed one night pleased with your progress, wake up the next morning and everything’s vanished. All the ideas and the enthusiasm, all the good things you feel for your characters. Gone. You plough on regardless, but over the coming days you feel less and less engaged with your writing, less sure of the plot, less close to the characters. Then you make the mistake of reading back over the last few days and, well, after reading that nonsense it’s clear that there’s not much point in carrying on, is there?
I tend to be a splurge writer and avoid looking back or editing until it’s all out. I envy people who take a more considered approach whenever I see the horrendous mess I’ve produced, but looking backwards always causes me to stall.
Or so I thought, until I discovered a new trick, courtesy of my e-reader.
Now, on a Kindle, and I assume the same will be true of most e-readers, you can email documents to yourself to read. If you have a Kindle this will mean going into ‘Personal Document Settings’ in the Kindle area of your Amazon account and registering your email address (to prevent spam, Kindles only receive email from authorised addresses).
If you’re using Word, just email your Word document to Kindle’s email address, which you’ll find on that document settings page on Amazon. This is only for you to read so you don’t need to worry about formatting too much, though separating chapters with headers and line/page breaks might make it easier to read.
If you use Scrivener, click the ‘compile’ button in the middle of the toolbar at the top and select a Microsoft Word format. You can format e-books properly in here but our aim is to just get a quick and readable copy onto your e-reader so Microsoft Word will do.
Now read it on your e-reader. Your partial draft will be pretty bad. In parts it will be awful. That’s ok. You’re not reading it to judge or edit it, you’re reading to get to know it again, to remember why the story excited you and which bits you loved writing.
Of course, you could have just done this by reading the document on your computer, but it’s the psychological effect of reading it on an e-reader that holds the magic here. Because you associate your e-reader with reading, well, actual books, that’s exactly what you start to see your garbled mass of words as. You’re reading it as though it were an actual book already, which means it must be possible for it to someday become an actual book, right? Seeing it as a real book makes you take it seriously. You’ll find plenty of mistakes and things to deal with when editing (for example, I appear to have written the same scene twice at different points in the plot) but you’ll also see the bones of a real, finished novel emerge and be able to see how to get there. This isn’t just some pile of rubbish you’ve been wrestling with, this is your book. This is important.
If you don’t have an e-reader, by the way, you can just print your work out. To get that OMG this is going to be a book! effect I suggest printing it double-sided in book/booklet format, which you can do in Word. Unless you’re more talented at printing the right way round than I am, perhaps test it on a small amount of pages first though…
One caveat: you must be capable of accepting the current flawed state of your writing for this to work. If you expect perfection from yourself on the first attempt you’ll just cry. Embrace the messiness of a first draft though, and you’ll rediscover your reasons for wanting to write this story. More than that, you’ll find yourself actually wanting to write, and if you’ve been stuck in the doldrums of a novel for a while then you’ll know what a relief that is.
Did it work for me? I have more than one abandoned first draft in my files, put it that way. This time I’d almost given up and had turned my attention to another project. But now I’m back and writing it again. It feels good.