What I did during those times was to put it away. I'd close the file and go watch tv. Or read a book that somebody better than me had actually finished.
Two weeks or maybe even two months later, I'd get back to it. I'd go along merrily for a while, until I came to a place, again, that challenged me, and I'd quit for a while. Repeat until the first draft was done. That took eighteen months.
Then I discovered the joy that is revision. I'm not being sarcastic, I love revision. Reworking the words, plumping up the words, building the words into something I loved. Revision is where it's at for me.
For six months, I worked nearly every day on the book. I had a little self doubt during those months, but instead of being discouraging, that particular self-doubt was borne of a reader's eye and let me know when a scene wasn't working. So I listened to it and revised until I had it right.
So, that book is done.
Which meant it was time to write another book.
Before I began, when I was just at the stage where ideas swirled around my head and my fingers itched to get started, I thought about what would make the first draft less painful this time. I wanted to ensure that I didn't take two months off because I was discouraged or simply couldn't think of anything to write.
I decided to plow through the tough stuff so I could get to the golden delight of revision.
I set the goal of writing 1,000 words every single day of July and August. I printed out a calendar to cross out the days when I succeeded. I used a purple marker.
There were days when I wanted to skip it, there were days when it took me more than two hours to squeak out those thousand words, and there was one day I decided to skip but then at the last minute decided I couldn't and came in under the deadline at 11:54.
I haven't taken down those calendars yet. I may leave them up forever. At the end of August, I had 65,000 words written. I probably won't leave the ending where it is, and it's messy. Very messy, even for a first draft. But it's a mess I can clean up. I can do the organizing and the scrubbing and the tidying.
It will take a long time, but it won't take two years.
In writing my first novel, I learned not to take the first draft too seriously. I learned that personally, I need to power through the first step so that self-doubt doesn't have a chance to grow roots.