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When to Stop?

Once you have started writing as a hobby, or even possibly as a hopeful part of your income, how do you know when to stop each day? My advice is very simple. Do not stop when you are done, stop right before that. It may help jump start your next session. Here is why, and how I go about it.

Many people write when the mood strikes, or when the muse comes or when they are inspired by something. We will talk a lot on this site that motivation only gets you started. The ability to finish a novel, or a longer piece like a weighty novella, is going to take discipline and habitual consistency. They are not written in one sitting. Unless you are super human. If you are writing today and you plan to write a few more times this week, how do you know when to stop, or when to start for that matter?

If an idea for the next chapter pops into your mind, and you spend a day writing it, it’s perfect shiny and completed and you spend your next session or two polishing it further, that’s great. Then what if you have to wait around to have the muse land on your shoulder again for the next chapter? I have found it better to not quite finish. Leave yourself something to start from the next time you want to keep going.

Every writer has a working in period each time they sit down, where they will struggle to focus, remember where they were, set up their screen just so, get into the mind space of the book, and remember the mood they were trying to set. To circumvent some of this process what if past versions of yourself left present day writing you, a tidbit to go on? A cliff hanger sentence, that you knew EXACTLY what happened next, but you didn’t write it. You left yourself an entire paragraph that you know what goes on next, so you can sit down and start typing it immediately, not having to wait for anything because the inspiration landed last time, and you slip into the writer’s space more comfortably.

For example, I leave for myself, usually, a full paragraph yet to come, I leave myself notes on the chapter, sometimes an extremely detailed series of ideas about what I think should happen next, and what the next chapter might be like. I happen to be a very architectural outline driven writer, but you can also leave yourself more unscripted impressions about what you think the characters are feeling. What moods would you like to strike next? What is the next big reveal or basic plot twist do you need? You don’t have to change your writing style to add this helpful tidbit to get you back into the right headspace faster each time you sit down.

If you leave yourself a cliffhanger, you are excited to get back in the proverbial writer’s seat and get working again. It’s like leaving cookies and milk for the writing muse to come back and join you again, instead of waiting for it. Every time you sit down to write you don’t need to ask yourself what do I have to write next? You know, and you are looking forward to it. So, remember this simple piece of advice: Don’t stop when you’re done, stop right before that.

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