Michille: I. Must. Write

NotebookI. Must. Write.

And I haven’t been. I am stuck on a scene that comes next in the story and it is pivotal so I don’t want to go around it because it will set the course of the second half of the story. Some of the second half of the story is already written, but the dynamic of the two main characters will be determined by this scene. I also don’t want to toss this manuscript aside and start on the next one that is hammering at my brain. That feels like quitting. But not writing is certainly a form of quitting.

Nancy wrote about Writing Courageously. One of the fears she talked about, fear of failure, is one thing holding me back. I got hung up on the lack of conflict between my two main characters and it shut me down. I’m still struggling with that and I’m hoping it shakes loose soon. Not writing due to the fear of failure is just another form of quitting.

Elizabeth wrote about Resolving to Write and she is committed to getting back to her story in order to have it finished by the RWA National Conference. Kat set herself a clear plan with specific goals in order to get her story written and ready for RWA, as well, which kicks off on July 23, 2014. I would love to be pitching with them and the other Ladies. So that means I. Must. Write.

Kay posted the ultimate in getting words on the page in Better Productivity through Mathematics.  Going from barely a paragraph a day to 2,000 words a day seems more than a little optimistic, so getting 10,000 words a day seems impossible. And frankly, when I spend my day at work writing thousands of words (today’s thousands were 6 grant reports due on Friday), sometimes it’s hard to come home and write thousands more.

Then Elizabeth posted something (somewhere else and I stole it from her) that I could wrap my brain around and I feel like this will be a good way for me to get back in the swing. The post (paraphrased) How to Push Past the BS and Write that GD Novel, is on Chuck Wendig’s blog. (Warning: post is laced with foul language so if you are sensitive to it, beware.) He says, among other things (expletives deleted), write 5 days a week, 350 words a day, 260 days/year and give yourself permission to suck. I thought, “I can do that.” But if I can do it, why aren’t I? And what can I do to make myself actually write those 350 words?

I sit in an office and stare at a computer screen all day. Sometimes when I get home, sitting in my home office and doing the same thing for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more would have me falling on my quill (not a sword – I’m nonviolent and I can’t stand the smell of blood). So I went to our one local Brick and Mortar Bookstore and found a blank, lined notebook with a Jane Austin cover (pictured). I write contemporary but I love Jane Austen and if she could do it with a quill, why can’t I do it with gel ink? My favorite style of pen fits in the spiral binding (green ink – an archetypal symbol of hope). And voila, I don’t have to sit at a computer screen. I wrote in it on Saturday while I was waiting in the school parking lot for the bus to bring my son back from his indoor track meet. I wrote again on Monday while I was waiting for my son while he got his hair cut. And I’ve managed a few other snippets of time in various places in between varying tasks. I typed it into a Word doc and it turns out that about 3 pages equals 350 words. So in just a couple of days, part of the scene is written and because I’m doing it in fits and spurts, the rhythm of the scene is actually coming through. I like what I’ve got down on paper. For now, this new trick of writing it down the old-fashioned way is working.

How many ways do you have to trick yourself into writing?

17 thoughts on “Michille: I. Must. Write

  1. I think the big thing is to write every day. I’ve been stuck in the January doldrums and haven’t gotten much done at all. Glad you found a way to switch it up and get some words out of your brain and into the air. I might try your notebook idea — even opening up my computer and powering the thing up seems like too big of a commitment some days, but if it’s in a notebook, it’s “obviously not for real” I can say to my fearful little Girls in the Basement, and maybe I can trick them into producing something to work with.

    • It tricked my Girls. At least for now. I remember Jenny Crusie saying that one of her writer friends, I think it was Anne Stuart, swears by some really expensive kind of writing paper. I can’t remember the brand, but I looked it up at the time and my clearance rack notebook was significantly cheaper than that. My husband has an iPad. I might get a keyboard for that and try that when this method stops working.

      • I like your Jane Austen notebook, Michille! I’m addicted to soft-backed lined Moleskine notebooks – I use them for a kind of brainstorming, anything and everything about a scene I’m trying to write or anything else about the story that crosses my mind. I try to think about each character, how they’re feeling and why the scene is important for them, and that helps me to figure out what happens. I have notebooks full of scribbles though I don’t often refer back to them – they just help me to work out problems so that I can get to the computer and move forwards.

        I just got a keyboard for my iPad and I’ve been using that for the last few days, one scene at a time, to try something new. It’s a very mobile set-up so I’ve also been moving around the house (in the kitchen, at the dining table) instead of my usual place on the sofa. So far it seems to be working well.

  2. I’ve been stuck, too, Michille, and I have a friend who says that when people who write all the time, like you do, whatever it is, and then they get to their novel and can’t write, it’s because something is wrong with the novel. And you’re thinking something’s not right with your conflict. It’s great you’re writing in your notebook, it’s important to keep the juices flowing, and, in addition, if you know somewhere subconsciously that some plot/character issue needs to be worked out in your head, I think you can honor that, too. In my case, I’ve been revising the first eight chapters because I just couldn’t go further. I kept bumping up against some brick wall. And as I revised, I realized my ending was wrong. And when the ending clarified, a couple of other good things popped up, too. I’m going to revise up to chapter eight and then keep going, and now I know I can, although I’m sure I’ll hit other snags. It sounds like you’ve been making progress, too! And hey, if you’ve had enough with computers and you need somebody to transcribe that notebook, I know a virtual assistant. 🙂

    • Give it a shot. One reason it is working right now is that I have a lot of wait time broken into 10-15 minute segments so the time it takes to power up my mini is wasteful.

  3. I have an iPad with a keyboard (http://goincase.com/shop/incase-origami-workstation-for-ipad-2) which I use sometimes while my son is doing tae kwon do or I’m getting my hair colored (at least 30 minutes process time). While I don’t write out the full scene per se, what I typically do is a Cliff Notes version of the scene, capturing the important details or making notes of setup things I need to include for future scenes. It’s along the lines of the 2K to 10K thing Kay talked about in the post you referenced above. I also use a spiral-bound notebook to do the same thing (and I’m with you on the gel pens!), typically when space is more cramped (i.e., my car).

    In my experience, trying to write the scene itself requires a fair amount of time for me to sit and concentrate, to not be interrupted…it’s a lot easier for me to makes notes about a scene or write it at a high level (sometimes including snappy dialogue that comes to me while I’m writing — othertimes not) when I know I’ll be interrupted or when I haven’t got a couple hours to devote to writing.

    The other thing I find is that if I’ve sketched the scene out, when I’m ready to sit down and write the scene, it just flows right out (I know, you guys have heard me say this over and over, but I swear it works!). There have been exceptions (one scene I’ve been working on for weeks — it just keeps giving me fits), but for the most part, it all tumbles right out…good enough for a first draft.

    I think the key thing, though, is to do whatever works. Whatever gets some words on the page, then that’s a good thing. Jude Deveraux writes all of her books by hand, transcribing them in the evening onto her computer, and I’m sure there are other authors who do the same thing. Good luck getting through this difficult scene — hopefully it’ll open wide the rest of your story!

  4. Good for you, Michille, for finding a workaround that helps you.

    I say whatever works–notepad, ipad, dictaphone, napkin–because I think words beget more words.

    Agree with Chuck too about allowing yourself to write words that may not be ready for prime time–write enough of those and eventually the good ones will come:)

    • I have written on a napkin before. I also considered getting the talk-type software. Those programs used to be expensive, but they have come down in prices. And you’re right, Katy, any workaround that works!!

  5. Tricking yourself into it definitely has to be the way. I also agree with the thought that if you keep trying to write a scene and it just won’t flow then it’s your subconscious telling you that something’s wrong. I’ve found that trying to keep writing, but trying a different angle, works for me – so, not working on the scene itself but interviewing the character in the first person about that moment in time, or playing a game with yourself like ‘what if’ and freeing yourself to think what would happen if you threw different things into it, can work (or going ahead to a scene you’re really looking forward to writing and just doing that for the pleasure of it might unlock you). I also agree that the most important thing is to keep trying to do something, just a little something, nearly every day if you can – but if you can’t, just try the next day. Keep going Michille!

    • Thanks, Rachel. I think Suzanne Brockmann interviews her characters a lot. And I just realized today that one of the things that needs to happen in the scene is roll reversal, with Luke being the one who is nervous (maybe not nervous, exactly, more tentative) and Genny is the agressor.

  6. One thing I know about myself and motivating my writing is that whatever is working now will not be working in two months. I find that six weeks is about as long as a change in tactics keeps me interested, and then the novelty wears off and I want something new. It helps if I keep this in mind so that I promptly make a change as soon as I start to sputter out.

    So, yes, I’ve done plenty of writing in a little notebook, especially when I’m traveling places I don’t want to take electronics. One month I set up magnetic strips above my desk and each week rearranged along each strip index cards with notes on colors and feelings to keep in mind, interspersed with photos and pics ripped from magazines. I kept myself entertained for a couple of months by buying new chairs for the living room from which I could watch passersby on the sidewalk out the front window as I wrote. Another month I made a small batch of apple cider on the stove each day and wrote at the kitchen table while enjoying the aroma, then while drinking the cider.

    Sometimes I have the opportunity to set up a weekly writing “occasion.” A month where my daughter has a weekly class next to a coffee shop, and I write there every week. The best was when I had a friend who was also writing, and we met once a week at Corner Bakery to write for a while and then drink coffee and eat pastries.

    • I think I need to mix it up, too. Sometimes life happens and requires that I mix it up. Speaking to the photos/pics idea, two of our assignments in the McDaniel Romance Writing Program were a soundtrack for and collage of our books. I have done soundtracks before, but never a collage. I still have my collage sitting on the top of the hutch in my home office. I will definitely be doing a collage for my next story, too.

  7. Pingback: Michaeline: The Mobile Writing Unit | Eight Ladies Writing

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