Three Things to Write When You’re Not Writing!

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Hello bloggers and blog-readers,

Best Cat In the World and I had a bit of a rough month last month. He’s something of a Nanowrimo widow, lamenting my paying more attention to my keyboard than to him. It would have been amusing if I hadn’t been trying to build my word count.  It was a tight race, but I did make it in spite of him.

I know, our writing goals are not typically word –count based. That’s a November thing. But, we all get writer’s block when we just don’t feel like we can go on with a project. I realized that the things that can build your word count in November, can help you keep writing when you’re blocked, too.

Now, I realize that these are things that will likely be edited out of the final draft. Do not let that bother you. The act of getting it on paper, or at least into your word processor, will help the world that you’re writing about become more vivid to your mind’s eye and enhance your writing, even if your readers never read these text-building tricks.

1. Descriptions – Describe something. Add as much detail as you want. Try to picture the character’s face, clothes, house, or the room they’re in, as vividly and in as much detail as you can. Write down how many steps are on the staircase to the bedroom, or how many buttons are on a character’s shirt. Write about what they’re wearing or what they’re eating or what the layout of their kitchen is. Yes, you do not want to stop your scene and add in a long paragraph detailing your main character’s shoes in your final draft. But, thinking about what kind of shoes your character would wear and writing a description can be a fun way to think more deeply about your character. The information is valuable, even if it’s only read by you.

2. Character Dreams – Write out, in detail, a vivid dream your character had. This is a great way to help crystallize your character’s hopes, ambitions, fears, and a great way to work out how their back-story colors their current personality. It’s really an enjoyable way to enter into your character’s psyche and explore. Understanding how your characters tick is a great way to work out how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking about, and what they’ll do next. I love this one when I’m stuck.

3. Change point of view – Now, this one is not universal. It only works if you’re writing in the first person, or a limited third person point of view. But, if you really don’t know what to do next, try writing a scene over again from a different key character’s point of view. How does that character see the actions of your primary character? What’s going through their head as the action unfolds?  This can completely change the way you think about a scene, and offer a lot of ideas on how to progress.

We do not need to limit our writing to things that will be read by others. Writing for ourselves only, to see our thoughts on paper, has value. These steps will not enrich your prose if you leave them in. But, the process of writing them can help strengthen your grasp on your characters and their world.

And isn’t that what we all need when we’re stuck?

Happy Writing

The First Draft

I remember the first time I finished “Nanowrimo.” My big moment, when I knew that I was going to complete my first novel-length project was when I was able to tell myself that I was only writing a first draft.

Loudly I proclaimed: “This is not my novel! It’s just a first of my draft! It’s not my novel!” A feeling of freedom set in. It was all right if something wasn’t the way I wanted it to be in the finished product, because it wasn’t the finished product. It was all right if I didn’t like that particular line of dialogue. It was all right if I knew that I was going to have to go back and change everything, because my original plotting ideas were not panning out.

Everything was all right, because what I was writing was not my novel.

It was the first draft of a novel!

There is no such thing as a novel that is written in one draft. Everything needs editing. And, when you give yourself permission to make mistakes and carry on, knowing that you’ll come back and clean up your literary mess later, writing feels a very different task. I realized that I was free to make mistakes. Not only that, but some of those mistakes I thought I made, turned out to yield wonderful things.

So, you’re going to re-write it. You can fix it later. Just keep writing.

If you wait until chapter 1 is perfect before you start writing chapter 2, chapter 2 will never get written.

I tend to speed through first drafts these days. If you read one of my first drafts, you’d find it hilarious, I think. They’re always full of lines like “And then I noticed the man I was talking to was actually a woman!” when I decided I had too many male characters and wanted to change a character’s gender. That’s just the way I write first drafts. It isn’t until the second draft that I start editing… anything really.

If you’re more meticulous than I am, and I’m sure most of you are, and think you might have difficulty letting yourself do this, here’s a tip: color code first drafts. If I know for a fact I’ve written something I need to go back and look at, I change the font color to red. If I’ve written something that I need to go back and research to make sure is right, I color it blue.

The color coding system is personal and best tailored to your own needs. Believe me, I know. But, if you find yourself having difficulty giving yourself permission to leave something you don’t like for the second draft, I find this very useful.

So many of my writer friends struggle with finishing long projects. They run out of steam or enthusiasm, become disenchanted, or run out of time.

But, I think once you get the first draft out, no matter how bad it is, it’s always easier to go back and edit. So remember:

You’re always allowed to be terrible on your first draft.

Happy Writing! Now, I’m back to my Camp Nanowrimo project!

I’ll write more about that when I’ve reached 50,000 words!

A New Project and Camp Nanowrimo

Badge courtesy of CampNanowrimo.org

Fifty thousand words in thirty days.

That feels like a lot to write in a short time.

Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, is something that I throw myself into every November. It’s always such an insane and wonderful month. It’s always full of creativity, joy, stress, character love, character hate, friends, competition, alcohol, and randomly deciding to write sex scenes until I figure out where I want my story to go next, because I used up all my plotting notes in the first twenty thousand words.

Yeah, it happens.

But, I really do love it. So, this month I have decided to embark on “Camp Nanowrimo.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s when they do the regular November insanity in the summer months.
This decision was made rather suddenly. My current project is one I’ve had in mind for some time, but it was the concept behind the novel that I’ve been thinking about. The plot and characters are much less solidified in my mind than they usually are when I start writing. So, this project has taken me from being a “Plotter” (someone who plots everything out before they write) to a “Pantser” (someone who flies by the seat of their pants.)

When it comes to the “Plotter” vs. “Pantser” debate, I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way to write. It’s merely a matter of personal preference. The only advantage I think “Plotters” have is that “Pantsers” have to do more re-writes to make the finished project more cohesive. Although I’ve never had a “plotted” project where I didn’t deviate from the planned plot. So, maybe that’s not even true.

As I said, we’re all different.

But, be that as it may, “Pantsing” is a very different experience for me. And, maybe writing in a way that I’m not used to is good for me. I think I’m writing a lot of things that will get scrapped in the very next draft. But, that doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m stretching myself, and going outside of my comfort zone.

It’s stressing me out terribly, but I’m enjoying it. I’ll write more about my new project in the next blog entry.

Now, I wonder if I can count this entry towards my Camp Nanowrimo word count…