I’ve just started writing Book 6. And by that, I mean I’ve written a couple thousand words in hopes that they turn into something coherent. I’m very much a pantser, and unfortunately, that means I go through the sludge with every book. You know, that ‘this is terrible, it’ll never make sense, I should be able to do better by now’ feeling. I don’t advocate this approach to anyone, but if you’re like me, you’ve tried planning, and it generally ends in wasted writing days because you don’t pay any attention to your plans anyway. So, for those of you who are pantsers and regularly experience the sludge, here are some tips to get through it.
1. Never let the sludge affect your writing instincts
Writing instincts guide your writing, even when you don’t know exactly what you’re going to write. But sometimes, we doubt those instincts during the sludge. We doubt the quality of our writing and the characters we’ve created. We doubt the story and constantly want to start from over.
Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you.
The good thing about the sludge is that you get through it. For me, that generally happens at the halfway point of the book; I know who my characters are and where I want them to go. Knowing that – and that my writing instincts have got me there – helps me to work through the sludge. Because even if I end up deleting what I’ve written, my writing instincts have guided me to what didn’t work. So, ignore what the sludge tempts you into believing, and trust that your instincts will get your story to where it needs to be.
2. Keep Writing
This might seem pretty obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway because I know someone out there might need to hear it:
The only way to get through the sludge is to keep writing.
This is probably advice that you’ve heard before, or as pantsers, already know. At some point during your manuscript, things shift. Pieces fall into place, and characteristics and conflicts become clearer. It’s really hard to remember that though, when each word you write feels like it’s being wrenched from your brain. But think of it this way: each word, though wrenched, will bring you closer to the point where things fall into place.