How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.~Anonymous
Okay, enough said. Remember, take it one bite at a time. Oh, and please pass the salsa.
What writing pledge will you make for yourself?
I’m sure you’ve heard the often quoted proverb by Lao-Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But what you may not have heard so often is the translation that results from the original Chinese quote:
“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
Before the first step is the desire to move. All of that ‘would, could, should, if, want to, maybe,” ( insert a favorite stopper phrase) doesn’t do squat but leave our feet planted into the ground. Sure we make a little dust while we shuffle our feet to the litany of ‘if’s’ but when we look at our position, we’re are still in the same place. Sometimes we must find the desire to move and shake off the constant buzz of our family/work life.
The quote is analogous to writing. Oh, yes, how we want to write a novel, get an agent, get published, see our story enjoyed by
thousands millions. But none of it will happen if we do the ‘woulda, coulda’ mambo instead of making ourselves sit in front of the blank page/screen and write. And do the same thing the next day, and the next, until we are finished with a first draft. And then guess what? We do it all again during rewriting/revision.
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage-as long as you edit brilliantly.”~Molnair.
Writing is not for the faint of heart or for those who don’t want to fail. Writing until we get into print is for those who show up, fail, keep learning, rewrite, and move forward. I feel a ‘Hoo-Rah,” coming on.
But some days our cheering section of zero or one isn’t enough. There are times when we need some external encouragement, someone who has been there, to commiserate with us for one minute and then shove our behinds into the chair again.
The problem is that we often don’t know when we’ll have one of those “I can’t do it anymore,” writing days. Something that works for me is preparation. I’ve assembled a personal medicine cabinet of writers and blogs filled with encouragement to face the stagnation and move forward.
Some of my favorites are:
When facing anxiety go to Writer’s First Aid for several posts on whatever ails you.
Some invigorating advice about persistently writing comes from JA Konrath’s post “Writing Matters,” and Holly Lisle’s blog on “Live to Write Another Day.”
Someone who often says that writing is a lonely business and has built a community of writers is Kristen Lamb: We Are Not Alone. She introduced me to Twitter and the WANA concept.
For optimism and insight there are few more encouraging blogs than Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner’s encouragement section.
And to remind oneself of why we write is the ever inspirational Jeff Goins.
Last but not least, just different, is visiting my Pinterest boards. I don’t have to read, just gaze at the photos until I feel my fingers jumpstart.
There are more blogs I could mention, but you get the idea.
What do you have in your own writer’s medicine cabinet? I’m looking for a humor pill (blog) to fill another spot. Suggestions are welcomed.
It does feel pretty good. The challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days was worth the tinglings of carpel tunnel and bruised fingers. My goal was to stop myself from continually self-editing and just write. Follow an idea and see it to its end point. Do what I said I was going to do. Finishing the challenge was like finally losing those 15 pounds I’m always saying I’m going to lose, and actually losing it.
I have to tell you that it was an exercise in freedom. How? I had the freedom to write without thinking whether I made sense or not, whether someone in my critique group would judge me, whether my characters emoted properly, whether I used a comma correctly or not. I had the freedom to just write. Now the lack of freedom was totally self imposed. I had been a writer who took three strokes forward one back, four strokes forward two back until I exhausted myself with the keyboard cha-cha.
The NaNoWriMo freed me from my self imposed writer’s cell. Everyone started on the same day and everyone had the same rules: write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s it. Along the way I learned that I didn’t have to have a detailed outline before I started or I could and make my writing life easier. But I did have a germ of an idea and I kept going until the idea lead to another one and linked to another and so on.
When I felt stuck I read blogs written by Kristen Lamb for inspiration and re-read the Plot Whisper for advice on plotting. I listened to Debs and Errol’s music extravaganza’s dedicated to NaNoWriMo writers. I discovered Inky Girl comics and read how others dealt with the stuck times and the ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ whining. And I kept on writing without backtracking and editing myself.
Thirty days later I have 50, 501 words and 202 pages of a Young Adult novel. It’s 80% finished and I’ll keep on keeping on for the next seven days until I complete the story. After that I need to find a new group, maybe a JaNoReMo (January Novel Revision Month) so I can work through revisions. If not, I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be.
To avoid a twelve car pile up, I am approaching my NNWM project with a semblance of organization. Before I organize I need to review the fundamentals, stored away in a big purse somewhere, and see if I have most of the things I need to get my NNWM party started.
Okay, so in the giant purse I need to find the idea, the characters, the story/plot, setting, and theme. Right now I’m vague on the idea, but I have a couple of them germinating and I think I’ll have a female teenager as the main character. So I tossed those to the side and found “story/plot.” Now I’m waffling. I think I need to review those items.
For assistance I took a look at some of my favorite blogs and found some good advice just in case someone out there in the blogasphere is going to the NNWM party.
Mark Twain said that the first rule of writing was “that a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” Pretty loosey-goosey for the great American writer but the quote is indisputable. Between “accomplish something and arrive somewhere” can be a vast wasteland or a lush path of unforgettable story. To help us stay away from the wasteland and into the greenery I’ll share the following:
Kristen Lamb author and editor is sharing her wealth of knowledge about story structure. She reminds us that learning narrative structure is a basic building block to writing a good novel. And the most basic of the basics of the building blocks are cause and effect. We have a beginning, middle, and end of a novel and each has to have cause and effect, strung together to form scenes or chapters. Ms. Lamb has devoted several posts to structure.
Over at Larry Brooks‘s Storyfix (an award winning blog for writers), is his two minute exercise for understanding story structure. Pretty interesting way to learn especially if you are a visual learner. He says story structure is storytelling. No structure, no story, no sales. Pretty cut and dry.
Shelly Lowenkopf says, in his book The Fiction Lovers Companion, that story is a bundle of information bits about characters, strategically deployed to produce a series of on-going emotional responses culminating in a emotional payoff. He also says a whole lot of other good stuff but I’ll end with a frequent comment of his: “no conflict, no story.”
And Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, one of my favorite books on writing, created a mnemonic device to help writers remember how to write story/plots that work: Action, Background, Conflict, Development, and End.
But enough about story structure and plot. It’s time to relax and think about the idea some more before I grab my purse and head out to the party.