"I am always happy to take credit where blame is due."--John Davis Frain
What one idea has most helped your writing practice?
(I have to thank
Julie W. for the idea of a sand timer. It sits on my desk, and when I
turn it over, I WRITE. And it works!
OMG, I love that cartoon!
One thing I've learned from writers who have achieved what I would like to achieve is this:They do what works for them.
I used to write whenever I was on the bus. 45 minutes in the morning, 45 minutes in the afternoon. I don't bus anymore, but I did that for two years, and it really allowed me to start consistently getting words on the page when sitting down to write. I have since found that if I can't get any words on the page at all, it's usually because something is bothering me too much and I have to go fix it before I can continue. Derailed plots, unlikable characters, etc. I'm starting to trust it as a warning flag, although laziness is always my first guess.
Mine is something our Queen said, "Writers block is brought on by wanting to write well and fearing you're not. You don't have to write well, you have to revise well."I knew about the "can't edit a blank page" idea, but I'd never thought of it in the terms Janet gave. I've taken down all my other writing reminders and just left it, because it's the most important one for me. Whenever I get stressed, or stuck, or feel I'm gong no-where I read that quote and it gets me going again.
My "one idea" used to be my looming deadline. With that out of the way what do I do now?I write while sitting at a huge wide-plank top table. It's the gathering place and drop off for everything from office work, groceries, kids over for dinner, grandchildren's craft projects and whatnot. I just sat down to write and spent a half hour using a steak knife and old toothbrush to clean out all the little pieces of crap that fall in-between the planks. What works for me?Damn if I know.Um, the bottom rungs of the chairs look pretty dusty. See ya later.
I have no rules when I write.No timer.No special time of the day set aside when I just write.No daily quotaANDNo word count goal.No just sit down and write whatever pops into my head even if it doesn’t make sense rule. (Agent Tim McGee on NCIS)I have no rules because I’ve tried them all and they all stressed me out and plunged me into writer’s block. John’s question was, “What one idea has most helped your writing practice?”Answer: I listen to the characters; they speak to me. They don’t necessarily tell me what to say/do but what they wouldn’t say/do.
No particular rules, but I have an online writing group I report to each day that I've put in 30 minutes. And then, occasionally, there are deadlines. Nothing like a deadline to provide motivation/inspiration/terror.
For me, it was writing sprints that got me going in the beginning--I now have at least 8 or 9 first drafts of different manuscripts as a result. If I can do at least 15 minutes, I can do 20. I've adopted the Freedom app, where it turns off my selected internet distractions, and I can set it for however long I need. I usually average an hour, and once I get through that, I can usually keep going for longer if I need to.What I still need is a healthy revision process. I'm a very fast drafter, but I'm slow at revisions--the necessary part that AJ Blythe talked about. So I'll be scouring people's answers regarding their revision processes for possible ideas...
I think the best thing for my writing practice has been giving up the idea that every time I'm writing, I must be thunderstruck by inspiration, transported by imagination, and just have to let the story out lest it (and I) wither.Sometimes writing is like that. I've written stories swiftly in those kinds of creative throes. But writing isn't like that every day, and yet I try to write every day (or at least noodle around with one of my files every day). I am not in a word-fever every day and yet, when I sit down with an idea and a file in progress, story still somehow happens. And I write more when I make my practice a practice instead of a religious experience.
Creating a picture book dummy is the one idea I think will help me most going forward. I made my first one recently, and it helped tremendously.The other thing that really helps my writing is accountability to critique partners (or instructors/fellow students if I'm in an online class). Anything with a deadline, basically.
What helped me most was realizing that if I knew I needed to change something earlier in the text, I could just leave myself a fat highlighted note there, PRETEND I DID IT, carry on writing as though the change was implemented, and fix it in edits. XD
I tend to write myself into corners and get stuck. This time (inspired by your recent pitch assignment), I’ve written the pitch and the synopsis before starting the novel. I’ve already been able to correct problems that are minor in a synopsis but would have been huge in the novel. As soon as I finish getting feedback on the synopsis from my writing friends I’m plunging into writing. I have high hopes that I can avoid getting stuck this time since I’ve already worked out the plot (characters come easy to me, but I’ve always struggled with plot—story vs sequence of events).
Get enough exercise to keep your body in tune with your brain. It is amazing how distracting a minor irritation can be. Kind of the princess and the pea thing.Another thing is to remain relaxed. You can't force magic, it has to flow.The third thing is to stay away from the smoke and mirros that is today's news. It will eat away at you.
Write the dessert scenes first.
One last thing is to find something strange enough that you have a smile for it in the back of your mind.This is suitably weird:https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=7I47W6iuHoKGtQWZypLYCQ&q=steve%27n%27seagulls+thunderstruck&oq=stev%27n%27seagull&gs_l=psy-ab.1.7.0i13k1l10.1635.11249.0.169220.127.116.11.0.0.0.94.118.104.22.168....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.14.1148...0j0i131k1j0i10k1j0i13i30k1j0i10i30k1j0i13i10k1.0.36GoEj4hhzI
I can't remember what author said this but when he/she has trouble putting a scene on paper, he/she sketches it in storyboard form. I tried it. And, it totally helped. Now whenever I am stuck, I draw. The sketches aren't good, by any means, but they release the words blocked up in my head.
What helped me most was seeing another writer share her writing schedule-hours, time scheduled to craft a new story, time scheduled to spend on publicity. I adapted this idea and it worked. I sat down and wrote or revised from 7 am-1 pm (short breaks here and there) though lately I've been getting a bit lax.I also like to create worksheets on excel to track progress: word counts, time spent writing, how many pages I revised. Nothing like procrastinating by creating a new spreadsheet, right?
Given that a story has a beginning, midle, and end, start in the middle and let everything that happened before be a mystery to the reader, at least until s/he has read a few hundred pages.If it is crime, start by writing down questions and answers before writing scenes:(1) In the middle, when the book starts, someone has already been murdered. Who got murdered?(2) Why would anybody want to murder such a fine, fine character?(3) If you want to give the reader a puzzle to figure out, there should be several people who are glad the victim is cold. Who are they? This is real life, BTW. When anyone really is murdered, loads of people are smiling and the police have to figure out whodunit.That is a very brief intro to a complex process which can be specified in steps, cookbook style. You can break any story idea down to a long list of questions and answers, after which you are ready to start outlining scenes.I did not get this from a book. I had to figgeritout.
Getting up at 5 to write.When I started getting serious about my writing, I realized I needed more time to write. I don't have a ton of time during the day, so I needed to make time. I get up at 5 now.From 5 to 6:30 I write. I don't manage every morning, but it's becoming habit most mornings. And I find that I'm more productive during my day when I get up earlier. I can usually fit in another two writing sessions too.I do need more coffee tho. Not necessarily a bad thing.
I have to keep pens and paper handy all over the place. I am a jotter-downer. These bits and pieces of paper with a dialogue blurb, or a character sketch, or plot idea spill out of notebooks, are written on the side of grocery lists and most of them do find their way into my WIP. Except for the duds. Those I throw out!Trying to be more orderly stifles the creativity. I have an orderly place for writing that I rarely use, but it looks good, like writerly things must surely happen there. But I'm more likely writing on the front porch or a couch or propped up on my bed, bits of paper scattered about me.
Having my own office - a place where writing is expected and encouraged. Also a magic candle.
Advice from Jeff Somersault to write when you can, not always/only when the schedule says to.
I’m leaving that autocorrect intact.
Long time lurker, first time commenting.I spent many many years (decades?)never finishing stories I started. Always running out of gas on one project and then jumping to another, but never getting any of them to the finish line. Finally, a good friend of mine threw down a challenge. He offered to pay me to write. We worked out some boundaries. I would write at least one page, every day, Mon - Fri and email it to him by midnight. At the end of each week he would mail me a check for an amount he determined. Every week I completed, the amount would go up. If I wrote more than a page a day he would reward that. However, if I ever missed a day the incentive amount would go back to the beginning. My friend never commented on my story unless it was to tell me he thought a particular days work impressed him. I never missed a day, and in about six months I finished a 90K word first draft. It's a "shitty" first draft, but I finished it.The thing is, it wasn't about the money. It wasn't that much money anyway. For me it was about the "game". Once I got started I didn't want to miss a day and lose the progress "points" I'd acquired so far. Once I finished, I won the game and it was over. But I kept going. He no longer pays me to write, but I'd developed the habit and now I'm 30K into my second novel. I've stayed with the habits I developed during the game. I write after I get home from work till I finish at least one page a day. I email my days work to my friend and he keeps me accountable with encouragement and if I do miss a day he checks in on me to see what's up. It's amazing that this helped me turn off the internal editor and just get words down on the page. Now the next step is figuring out how to translate this into the rewriting process.I know my experience isn't common. Very few people have a friend who's both willing and able to help in this way. I am blessed.Now my writing is a habit and I don't ever want to go back to the fearful person I was before.
The one idea that helped me the most was: inhabit your character. When I write I try to BE that character and look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes that character is a grumpy bear and sometimes a teenage boy, but I just roll with it.
The one thing that helped most is calling myself a writer -- in conversation, on forms, everywhere. Once I started saying it, I started living it.
For quite some time, it was just writing every day no matter what. I can't tell you how many journal entries started with me describing a coffee cup.Sherry beat me to it for today. I fully enter into the world I'm writing about. I am become the character. My hand is just a camera, recording the scenes as they play out, regardless of medium (pen/paper, laptop, desktop, etc.)I don't recall where I ran across the concept of "I am become..." but it fits.
I hesitate to even say this on an agent's blog, but the thing that has helped me the most is self-publishing. More generally, letting strangers read my work. This began with blog posts, which were terrifying at the time. And then putting short pieces of fiction on my blog, then longer and more complete work. And eventually, self-publishing a couple oddball things. I had spent years being so afraid what people would think if they read my writing and it was liberating to get past that block. I'm still . . . concerned, apprehensive maybe, about what people will think, but I'm long past the paralyzing fear. Before all that, it would have been unthinkable to send a query and pages to an agent. So, ironically, if I ever get traditionally published, it will be thanks in part to self-publishing.Cheryl, I still remember how it felt when I added the word "writer" to my twitter profile. It took a lot of courage, self-identifying like that in public for the first time.Danny, welcome to the comments! I love it when lurkers de-lurk. That is a remarkable story. You're so fortunate to have a friend who took the time to figure out how to motivate you and cared enough to do it.
Good writing is all about revising.(I only revised that twice so it's not very good)
Making a "time" goal, rather than an "output" goal helped me. Especially at the beginning of a project. I used to write "do storyboard" in my calendar and it seemed like such a big thing that I would never start. But when I started setting a timer and my calendar entry would be "work of storyboard for 30 minutes" I would be able to do that, and before I knew it, it would get done.This is how I garden now too. It's not about getting a certain amount of work done, and somehow that frees my mind up to do the work.Also making a weekly schedule in a desk calendar, not the computer. It's much easier to stay focused if I don't turn on the computer.
A lot of people have given very high-level, how-do-I-even-write-at-all kinds of ideas. I want to share a very low-level, technical idea.I try to write in action and reaction pairs. Someting happens (action) then the POV character reacts. Each action and subsequent reaction is it's own new paragraph.I use this for action scenes, obviously, but also dialogue (action is the interlocutor speaking, reaction is the POV character's reply), and even description (I alternate between more-or-less objective details and the POV characters subjective reaction).I find this especially helpful in scenes where there's a lot going on, or a bunch of people are arguing, and anyone could talk next. Action / reaction answers the sentence-level question of what happens next?
There's a Freedom App that shuts down social media??? Sign me up!What gets measured gets done. I keep a daily calendar page with a word count posted in my office. I can't imagine anyone (except me!) looks at it, but it's there if they do. And it makes me accountable. I'm still trying to figure out the revision stage equivalent to word count.
1k1Hr writing sessions freed me up to write without editing. I used to be very slow but now I've written first drafts of books by structuring my writing days in one hour bursts.
Fast drafting works for me. Just writing forward without looking back. If I stumble on a roadblock, I just leave myself a note and move on to the next bit. I can fill that bit in later when I know what needs to go there.The same for research. If I hit a spot where I need to look something up, I leave a note and look it up later.
Kate, yey! Just write. You can right it later.
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