Often, if you’re like me, the Muse strikes whenever it wants to. Sometimes, it’s convenient, sometimes not but if you’re a writer, you learn to deal. Do I lose some fragments of ideas when I’m driving or at the doctor’s office? Sure. It happens, but most of the time I can capture those clues with the help of the pens I keep in my purse and various post-its, scraps of notebook paper, even napkins. Hey, whatever works. This weekend I was recovering from surgery when I had some complications hit me. Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time resting and while I did so, who should show up? The Muse fairy. She tickled her wings and voila, the solution to some of my world’s problems rested in my palms.
Things that should have been obvious in my character’s universe suddenly clicked. Not only that, I discovered the title and plotline to how the 3rd book (all of these written to be stand-alones) rocketed into place as well. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of quiet, a bit of reflection to uncover what will/or should be. I feel more on firm ground again and I’m ready to move forward. Happy writing, everyone.
You’re going along strong, every word is falling into place, every scene playing off of each other when *boom* something in life happens. It can be a car accident, the birth of another/or your first child, or as often happens, health problems. What do you do when any of these events happen? Do you give up? Put your writing away for a while? Struggle through?
For me, the keeping on seems to not only help but to get me over the hill and coasting along again. I won’t say it’s easy. In fact, sometimes, it’s a downright rough but things can and do turn around. How? Brainstorming. Jotting down anything and everything that comes to mind on a story helps get the creative juices flowing.
So, too, does pressing forward on a piece. Maybe you only get two lines down, that’s still an accomplishment. It’s setting you up for the next move, and the next one after that. Just keep pushing the boundaries and you’ll find yourself getting further immersed in your wip again. And before you know it, “the end,” will come along.
Any tips on how to keep going when things get tough? I’m sure we all have our own way of pounding on those keys and making our book open up to us again. I’ve found when life throws serious situations my way, to turn back to my writing, it’ll pull me through. And often, when the scare is over, I not only faced it to the best of my ability, I also have a lot to show for my efforts. How about you?
Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Or do you get to work despite the lack of it, determined to put something down on the paper even if it turns up to be only crud? When I was a newer writer I admit to the former. I would wait and wait for days, weeks, even months to be inspired by something I’d read, watched, or heard about. Sometimes even a song. Those days led to bursts of writing, but they were just that: sketches of what might be, a painting half-finished. Because you truly can’t finish something unless you keep at it.
As I grew in my craft, I heard over and over the advice to plant your butt in the chair and write. It was the only way to go. And you know what? They were right. The more you sit there, trying to create something from scratch, forcing yourself to put one word down at a time, works. I’m not saying that these sentences will shine. Heck, they may not even be needed, or make it into the final draft. But they mean, you’ve accomplished something today and that’s a plus.
When I begin writing for the day, I often go back and read out loud the chapter I’m working on. I listen for mistakes, something that throws me off, an area where I could’ve expanded or let go. These actions get me ready to work. Because as I’m reviewing yesterday or this morning’s work, I get back into the mood I had when writing/creating it. It becomes a stepping stone from one place to another.
I know it’s not easy. If everyone could do it, they would. But the gift is down there, inside of you, why not bring it forth and polish it? A bit of no getting up from the chair until you move forward never hurt anybody. The seed you planted when you began the story, the what if needs to be watered, nurtured for further growth. If you wait for the sun to shine, you’re not giving it your all. You have to get in there and build a greenhouse. Take it from the first step, to the next, and the next after that until you have a tomato. Tomato equals the results of all your hard work.
So after I read through aloud, I look at what I’ve outlined to happen in this scene. Who the main character in this one is? What are the points I want to get across? What is the inciting incident? And something I’ve recently learned about and which we work towards in a story during the first 25-50 pages, the catalyst (or the turning point in the story, at which the character has to make a major decision and there is no turning back from that action/s.). All this should help get the story to proceed for me. After all, I know where I’m headed and what has to fall into place in order to get there.
Each scene works together to build toward that climax, that end of all ends. And you can get there with a little solid faith in yourself. You’re a writer. What writers do is write. If you’re still waiting for inspiration to strike, it’s going to hold you back from your dreams. You need to sit down, take your craft firmly in hand, and push through the mental block until the words flow and the magic happens. There’s no getting away from being firm on this point with yourself. You’ll see if you follow this advice, your writing will grow in leaps and bounds.
And isn’t that something we all want to happen? To finally write that book that’s inside us? To hold it in our hands? To go on to the next? And the next? Our journey is never easy but it’s definitely worth it. The joy that bubbles up inside you when your characters’ spring to life, how it makes you cry alongside them, quake in fear, keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last page, will help strengthen you for what lies ahead. Since I let go of the waiting, I’ve written eight books (nine counting the one I’m working on at the moment). Each a step across the pond. When I reach that final step to publishing I’ll know, it wasn’t inspiration that brought me to it, but good old-fashioned hard work.
So are you one of those authors that wade deeply into research before they write a single word? Or do you do enough research to get you by and then continue to do so as you go? I’m one of the latter. I can hear the gasps out there. Lol. I believe firmly in research but sometimes you got to get the words down and then go back for further investigation. This isn’t to suggest that you shirk your responsibility to study things. Face it, readers are much more savvy these days. They know things you might not think.
Translations. That a certain restaurant/place was written wrong. Or an entire tribe/nation’s background is different from what the book proposes. I’m probably from the fool me generation in, as in I trust the author not to make these mistakes, but it happens. I’m not here to say it’s okay to dupe your reader, in fact, most of the time they find out the truth in some way and then it could be hard to sustain a story’s believability from the same author again. No, I’m about to tell how I do my own research into things.
First, of course, comes setting. Unless your creating your own world (and even then you need to know the rules of it), you must know your background. I personally, like to make up towns/cities/places etc. I enjoy the challenge. Of course, I usually base it to some degree on somewhere I’ve been or would like to go. I build the houses, neighborhoods, people, pets, and so on as needed in my mind. Sometimes from putting photos together to get the type of building I want. Other times from a description someone gives me as they talk about the state in question. Ideas abound about us, but we have to ground them in fact.
So after I choose my residence, I study my characters. What sort would live there? What classes? What nationality? I love to reflect on how America’s a melting pot, thus I try and include all races, poor and rich, young and old. I even research what kind of pets they would have. It’s important to get the right fit for your character. I.E. A little old lady wouldn’t normally go for an active, horse-of-a-dog. Spend some time getting the feel of your families. Their needs, their wants, their handicaps. It will make for a solider base to them.
Again, however, you can delve into who they are as you go along. For instance, right now, one of my characters belongs to a cult, though she’s not aware of such due to their brainwashing methods. Now, when I began writing, I knew my character but I didn’t know about groups like these. Sure, I’ve heard, read, and watched TV about them, but I needed to go deeper into this to pull the character off. She’s complicated and the more I write her, the more research I do into who she is, what she wants, and the triggers that manipulate her. It’s a scary world to look into, but it has to be done if she’s to remain true to what she represents.
My point is, you don’t always know every little detail, every little twist that you’re going to take along the way in a story. Therefore it’s okay to start writing the first draft and then go back and explore what you need. If I spent six months pouring through books before I wrote the title of my manuscript, it would be in trouble. You need to stretch your wings, and as you’re doing so, read into the area in question, highlight ideas you’d like to go through further. Just have everything gelled together before you send the book off. Check. Check. Check your facts. Even writing in the same region as I do, there is often something I need to look up. I don’t hesitate to do so, it could save me pie in the face in the end.