Writing is never easy. It’s always a challenge, but I don’t mind a challenge. But there are points in creating something where you have to think long and hard about what you’re doing. The biggest problem I run into is where I have made too many decisions and choices that require me to edit large chunks of text to make sure that they stay in line with the rest of the story.
Some people claim that outlining their stories helps them get around this kind of roadblock, but I’ve found that that isn’t necessarily true. There are some choices that we make within the confines of the outline that change the smallest details back in the earliest parts of the story. These decisions don’t become apparent until you’re so far in that editing the details seems impossible.
More than once, I’ve given up on a story at that point. I have piles of half finished manuscripts that have those kinds of notes are on them. And within the last couple of years, I started developing a way of getting around those moments. At least, I wanted to try to advert as many of those instances as possible. So I have two ways of doing this.
I usually choose this one because it doesn’t seem as daunting when I’m in the middle of a manuscript. My soft restart involves me continuing the draft as normal, but when I take breaks or make decisions that require changes earlier in the manuscript I take notes. If I have the time, I’ll put sticky notes or highlights on any physical copy of the manuscript that I have. Otherwise, all of these changes exist on a sheet of paper (or seven) that I reference when I start the second draft.
Like I said, this is the easier of the two, but it does have some downsides. When I edit with that sheet, I don’t always know or understand the notes that I made because there is a period of time between the note and when the second draft starts happening. For some stories, I’ve managed to use this process effectively.
It usually works best with short works instead of novels, I have to admit. But I’ve also used the soft restart as help for trying to do the second method.
This method is more time consuming, but it gets the job done a little more effectively than my other method. A hard restart consists of me shutting down the current draft that I am on. It doesn’t matter how far into the draft I am. It just matters that I’m into the draft.
Then I start over. I re-outline the story. In some cases, I start an outline that I use as the basis for the new draft. If I made any notes before the hard restart, I incorporate those into the plot that I map out. And with all that put together, I then start a new story.
It’s not “new,” but it is a new take on the story. I use this most often when I’m writing a novel. This method might seem like I spent a lot of time get wasted, but that’s never the fact. Creating a story is about creating drafts. Even drafts that are incomplete help a writer create a larger finished work. That’s the most important part of the process.
If you are struggling with your story, try restarting it. Whether you go hard or soft, you’ll be able to find a way to get that story working again. Don’t be afraid of trying again and again. That’s what writing is about, after all.