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I write novels for teens and adults. Visit me here & on my website http://www.jenniferarcher.net

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing Class Wednesday: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Going

In the last Writing Class Wedsnesday post, I talked about finding something to say -- something to write about. But once you've got your story or topic, often it can seem as if life's conspiring to trip you up. There's never enough time to write, or you sit down and stare at the blinking cursor on your computer screen and writer's block kicks in. Or the task of writing an entire story feels so overwhelming you feel a panic attack coming on. When this happens, how can you keep going?

  • If possible, sit down to write at the same time and in the same location every day. Your subconscious mind will begin to recognize that time as writing time and that place as its creative space, and soon the creative juices will begin to flow whenever you settle in.
  • Freewrite. Just start writing. Something. Anything. It doesn't have to be your story. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Or ten. During that time, write fast without pausing. If you're stuck, write one thought or word repeatedly until your mind kickstarts and moves toward your story again.
  • Look at one part of the picture, rather than the entire panorama. Author Anne Lamott says to approach each day's writing in this way: "Write down as much as you can see through a one-inch frame." Concentrate on one scene at a time, or one part of a scene. That one memory of falling into the river on your childhood vacation, for instance, rather than the entire vacation. 
  • Allow yourself to write a shitty first draft. I'm not sure who said it, but a wise writer once made the observation that terrible writing can be fixed, but a blank page can't. You have to fill it before you can revise. 
  • Find the writing routine that works for you and stick with it, even if it isn't the way your favorite author writes, or the way I write, or the way most writers write. 
Until next time,

Happy writing!


Anita said...

Great tips, Jenny. We all struggle with this sometimes. Hmm. About a year ago, I wouldn't have said that. LOL!

Sarah said...

These are great suggestions. I often get overwhelmed about 10-20k in, because I get focused on how much more I have to write, which is ridiculous. I get back on track by slapping myself a few times and remembering that there are no wasted words. Even if I end up deleting everything, I learned something along the way that will help me in the future.

Jennifer said...

That's so true that there are "no wasted words, Sarah!"