Whenever I write a novel, I prefer not to take any breaks but to at the very least finish the draft I am working on. Returning to a half-finished book can be daunting, even terrifying. You start to doubt the story and your abilities as a writer. You wonder whatever possessed you to think you could pen novels.
Generally there is a moment, typically once I approach the end of act two, when I realise I will definitely finish whatever novel I am writing. But up until that point I feel the need to urgently maintain momentum, fearing that if I don’t self-doubt and lack of faith will catch up with me, drag me into a dark alley, and beat my confidence to a pulp.
Writing momentum is achieved by determination and an unshakable belief in the story you are trying to tell. Generally I don’t have a problem persevering and ensuring a book is finished, but there are times when life interferes with the process, meaning I am forced to down tools and take a break.
This happened to me recently, at the end of last year. I was approaching the halfway point in the sequel I am currently writing to George goes to Mars, when the demands of work forced me into a six week hiatus. Had I been at a natural stopping point – say, between acts – the work might have been less difficult to return to. However, I was in the midst of an exceedingly intricate action sequence that required a great deal of concentration. Returning to the project at the beginning of January was nothing less than a nightmare – an experience I hope never, ever to repeat.
In the end, after much procrastination and nail-biting, I knuckled down and have now almost finished the book. But that break in the middle was a horrible, horrible reminder of exactly why it is so important to outrun the nagging doubts and fears that I suspect all writers battle.
Once you start writing, don’t stop!