Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How To Jump Start Your Writing Schedule

I almost titled this Wednesday’s blog post “101 Things to do Besides Work on your Novel/Article/Short Story,” but then I figured most people already had the skill of procrastination mastered.

What do you do when you don’t want to write? I mean, most of us writers, published or not, newbies or veterans, enjoy the magic, the thrill, of the creative process. We like to dream up alternate worlds, we like to create storylines, we like to develop characters and see what happens to them.

Sometimes, though, we struggle with the actual process of writing. It’s hard work. It doesn’t always go smoothly. At times it’s downright frustrating, and we feel as though anything that comes out on the page is stupid and worthless.

So I thought today I’d offer up some suggestions for jump-starting your writing, ones that have worked for me. If you have others, leave me a comment and share! Also, today will be the last day I’ll be holding a drawing from all my posters’ names to win a $5 Amazon gift certificate. So jump on in!

P.S. – I have some author interviews coming up on future Writers’ Wednesdays…make sure to stop back and check them out!

1. Set your alarm and write for 15 minutes. Sometimes, the hardest thing is actually sitting down and facing the next scene you have to write. So give yourself a very limited window in which to work on it. You might find that after 15 minutes, you’ll be on a roll and want to continue. Or, you can save your work, pack it away, and be done until your next 15 minutes.

2. Go outside. Find a place to write that’s different from the norm. Take your laptop, or notebook, onto the front porch. Or down to the corner park. Or to the sidelines of your child’s game. Especially now that the weather’s nicer in most places, being outside might inspire your writing.

3. Go to a different room. Instead of writing in your office, try the living room. Or the basement. Or the coffee shop downtown. Again, changing your setting might inspire change and progress in your writing.

4. Use a writing prompt. You can find them easily enough by typing “writing prompts” into any Internet search engine. Writing without the specific purpose of finishing a story or polishing a chapter can free up your creative juices.

5. Eat some chocolate. It’s proven to raise your endorphins, which in turn improves your mood, which might just make you want to tackle that next plot development.

6. And speaking of raising endorphins, get moving. Go outside and walk. Or take a kickboxing class at the gym. Or garden. Or play catch with your kids. Anything that gets the blood circulating perks up your attention, your mood, your energy level…

7. Play the "what if" game. This is one of my favorite ways to get out of a writing rut. Think of a crazy situation for your main character: What if he decided to leave home and live in a tree for a year? Then go further. What if he met another man who decided to do the same thing? What if one of them was dying from cancer? What if they discovered they were somehow related? I try to be outrageous as possible, because sometimes you get actual ideas for plot twists from this game. At the very least, it's kind of fun.

8. Reward yourself. Set up a system where you can have a dish of ice cream if you write 1000 words. Or go shopping for a new pair of shoes when you finish the first half of your novel. Or rent that movie you’ve been dying to see when you revise your sagging middle chapter.

9. Comment on someone else’s work. If you belong to a writers’ group, post some feedback for another member. Or write an Amazon review of a book you recently read. Taking a step back to objectively view someone else’s writing can steer you in a better direction when it comes to your own.

10. Read. Read a new book by a new author. Or a favorite book by a well-loved author. Or a book that’s outside the genre you normally choose. Remind yourself how you enjoy words on a page, words telling a story, words filling up the spaces in our world.

Finally, tape up something near your workspace to inspire you every day: maybe it’s a picture of your family, or a copy of the first positive email you received from an editor, or a postcard of a serene Monet painting you love, or a news article about your favorite author’s rags-to-riches story.

Good luck!


Jörn Meyer said...

Yeah there, I just found your blog via a technorati search on "creative writing" and have to say I'm stunned by this incredibly usefull post.
Especially the part about the writing prompts really got my motor running. Can't wait to hit the keyboard tonight, as I'm thriving with inspiration.
Thanks again!

Marianne Arkins said...

Hey... I remembered to put you on my blog for a change. I love, Love, LOVE writing prompts and the "What If'ing" for inspiration. I'm glad you reminded me, since I'm a little low on that right now.


ollie1976 said...

More great advice-you could also just ask someone to give you a name of a character and something that the character wants-could jog something.

Mel said...

I read some where that if you are stuck write a funny scene. Something like slapstick. Or even something completely rubbish. Most times you don't feel like writing is because you think what you have written is complete rubbish. I've found both of these methods to work for me.
Also I go to eharlequin site a lot. They have bi-weekly writer's challenge. They give you a writing prompt and you submit. The prize varies but it's a lot of fun to read how other people have taken the scenario and make it their own.

Anonymous said...

I love your suggestions for breaking out of a rut. One of my favorite things to do is to have a "conversation" with my characters. I'll write a question and then "answer" for my character and basically carry on a conversation with her/him like I would in, say, an instant message. It might sound kooky, but it really helps me to reconnect emotionally with the story.

aBookworm said...

Wow, that's really useful. Especially the Play the "what if" game. I've done this for years, but more in a improving this movie or that book kind of thing. Thanks to you, I've a new direction in which to direct my imagination.

Scriptorius Rex said...

I'm digging the chocolate idea.