Saturday, March 12, 2011

Writing and focus

From Zette's Stuffed Plot Bunny Collection

Everyone knows I love to write. The 'Joyously Prolific' title of this blog isn't just a saying: I write a great deal. Even on days like today, when my brain refuses to focus on any one thing, I will get considerable writing done. Just do it, right?

When I'm in chat over at Forward Motion, I often use the 'write 100 words' method of working. It's a relatively easy and painless way to make progress. I announce I am going to write 100 words on the latest WIP and then come back and talk for a moment, then leap again.

Those two paragraphs there equal 100 words. That's not so much, right? Do it ten times and you have 1000 words. Of course, there are tricks to it, even so. First is to always remind yourself that you are working on a first draft. First Drafts are a gift of the writing gods. They allow you to get the story down and fix it later. Take advantage of it. Embrace it and let yourself fly with the words. They aren't set in stone. You can fix anything later. In fact, as I've said before, the only story you can't fix is the one you never write. Or finish, for that matter.

The second trick is what to do when you can't seem to move forward at all. There are several things you might try:

1. Skip the scene and come back to it later. Even for linear writers like me, moving ahead by a scene will sometimes help. Sometimes it turns out you don't need the scene after all. Other times you only need to see what comes next to figure out what is needed in that spot.

2. Try a different story, notes, world building -- whatever. Move away from the story for a few hours or a day and work on some other bit of writing. It's amazing how well this works to break up a problem that had stopped you.

3. If a new shiny is calling to you and you can't concentrate on the older story, don't abandon it. Give yourself a goal of X number of words before you can work on the new story. 500 to 1000 (depending on how much you usually write each day) is a good amount. You'd be surprised how well the 'hold out the carrot' trick works for writers. Even better than treats, sometimes, though chocolate is always a good second inducement.

4. Spend some time with writers. You can do that via Twitter (#amwriting is excellent), or someplace like one of the Forward Motion Chat rooms, though we are not always talking about writing. Bring it up and we usually leap into the discussion. Sometimes just talking about writing can get a person motivated again.

5. (ADDED LATE) There is one more problem you might have and that is insufficient planning.  I don't mean you have to outline, but if you don't know what you want from a scene or a story, you are going to have a harder time getting to The End.  Throwing scenes together does not make a story.  They need to build on each other, so having a least a list of 'this problem leads to this problem' will help. 

Last, though is an important reminder -- have fun. You don't have to be writing if you don't enjoy it. That doesn't mean it is all skipping down the yellow brick road and singing, fun. There will be difficult, and even painful, passages to write. You will write dark scenes that you dread. However, you need to want to write them and to enjoy the process and end result. Otherwise, there are far better pastimes to take up.

Only you can write the story you want to tell. No one else can do it for you.

Go write your 100 words.


Cheryl said...

I've found that #5 is usually my problem. I haven't done the needed fore-thought and it's hard to write a scene when your only thought is "something happens here". :)

I've also started using Focus Booster as a way to do 25 minutes of writing at a stretch. The timer counting down reminds me to keep going.

K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K.D. Lum said...

I like this post a lot. Starting is killer for me; so bribing myself and starting off small with 100 words just may be the way to go. I tweeted a link to this post as well :)