Friday, February 15, 2008

The Long Journey

Mine has been to find my way here, Now that I have and also got to read some of the interesting posts on this site, I find I have nothing to say. That being so, I'll post my article "Or Is It Procrastination:

Writers all do need down time. But what if you've had down time and still can't bring yourself to sit down and write?
You've thought over any possible problem in your WIP and came up with nothing in particular. You've tried scrubbing the floor, taking a walk, or gardening--whatever has worked before. You've even taken a nap. But have you brain-stormed with a writing friend, either by email, phone or face to face? If you have a critique group have you discussed the WIP with them and asked for idea input?
Often a discussion with others writers will snap you out of the idle syndrome. Even if you don't take a single idea of theirs, the discussion sometimes triggers your own creativity into the AHA! mode.
Well, you've tried all of this and you still haven't gotten your butt in the chair and the keyboard under your fingers. Could you be suffering from mere procrastination instead of the more complex writers' block? If you don't gather up what you need to have near at hand, sit down and actually ready the computer for action, hey, you've got one of the major symptoms.
Warning! Booting up and then accessing your email doesn't count. Maybe you need to start thinking about using the reading of your email as a reward for having written your daily allotment of words for your WIP.
You've taken all this to heart, bit the bullet, booted up and are staring at that cursed curser blinking on the blank screen. If you can't get your fingers to punch out word one, go back and give a quick read to your last chapter--no editing allowed. Now you can't say you haven't even a clue what happens next. So start off writing the next scene from the hero's POV. Go on for at least two pages even if it feels wrong. Not happy? Don't delete this. Just start from wherever you left off and rewrite the same scene from the heroine's POV. Still sucks? If you have a villain, try his or her POV, not deleting anything you've written so far. Read all of it over. If nothing clicks, drop down a few spaces and begin the scene in a different place. Does it work? No? Try introducing a new character--not necessarily in his or her POV, but seeing this character from one of the main character's POV. Write that out. . Try a new situation and write that. Keep writing for at least an hour, with no editing.
So you've done all that and you think every bit of it stinks. Don't delete. Save. Exit the program. Let what you've written sit overnight. Go back the next day and reread what you believed was dreck. Sometimes you'll be surprised that some of it isn't. Sometimes you'll still find it’s dreck, but that reading it over has given you a new idea. Sometimes you'll boot up, not having to read any of it over, because you've come to realize exactly how that scene should be written.
The point of all this is you've stopped procrastinating, and are actually sitting down--not to write, but actually writing. There's a lot of difference in these two sentences, and not just the pronouns: He sat down to write. She sat down and wrote. I'm not suggesting you become like the character Jack Nicholson played in The Shining, merely doing typing exercises. You must make an attempt to go on with your story, even multiple attempts.
If you have tried every one of these suggestions, from the beginning of this article to this point, then perhaps you need a longer break from writing. Or maybe the fault is in how you conceived the plot. If you’re a pantser, it's difficult to let other writers see your plot, because it's probably not down on paper or on a disk or CD, but in your head. Is your problem because you really don't know at this point what you want to happen? If you haven't tried brainstorming, now is the time.
If you're a plotter, try letting other writers look at your plot line. I can't stress enough how much a writer can benefit by brainstorming. For most of us, the hearing of other solutions to problems often triggers an answer within us that may have nothing to do with what we've heard. Other times, someone does come up with an excellent solution. If all else fails, do try this--but with writers, not just friends or relatives.
Whatever you do, don't blame yourself. If you've tried everything here and anything else you can think of, a possible solution might be to put that WIP on hold for a time. If you have a deadline, sometimes you may have to ask for an extension. But not writing on that work doesn't mean you shouldn't start writing something else. Even if it's just an article discussing procrastination.
And with that--I've got to get back to the first book in the series I've been trying to write for six months now. Get thee behind me, procrastination. Jane Toombs

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