Tuesday, February 16, 2016

From Baby Steps to a Book

“I have a great idea for a book.”

“I have no time to write a book.”

“I’m waiting to start until I can spend the entire weekend writing.”

People who say these things may some day finish a novel. It won’t be soon.  Why?

Because they are looking for a sea of time when writing is more likely to get done in trickles.

While it’s true that a page a day produces a 365 page book in a year, writing in fragments has its own challenges. By the time you are back “into” the story, it’s time to get to bed so you’re alert for the day job.

If you can carve an hour or two once a week, there are ways to make it productive time. The first assist has nothing to do with writing paragraphs. It’s about remembering what to write. Carry a three-by-five card or small notebook at all times.

Ideas for a character or plot point wander through a writer’s brain while driving, cooking, or coaching softball. No, don’t jot a note while driving. Pull over.

Those ideas seep out as quickly as they sneak in. There are few things more frustrating than being certain that you had a great idea and lost it.

Capturing thoughts helps build a positive frame of mind for writing, in part because the writing process becomes more a part of your routine.

Here are a few more ways to keep a project moving when you can’t write every day.

Writing distraction Stella.
  • While on the subway or when waiting for a child to finish music lessons, read something about writing or an article that deals with the time period or something else related to your novel.
  • Work on a computer without Internet access.
  • Forget about perfect prose in your first draft. Grammar errors will be there to fix in the second draft.
  • Put a padlock on the refrigerator.
  • Leave the mobile phone in another room.
  • If a random idea occurs as you write, add it to a bullet list at the end of a chapter. If it’s in the computer file you won’t lose the thought.
  • Put the cat or dog on the porch.
  • If you have an hour to write, write the entire time. Research isn’t writing.
I wrote a 100,000 word book in pieces over two years. It’s not very good and will never be published. What I learned by writing regularly even when I “didn’t have the time” taught me a lot about putting a book together. And just maybe those later books are better because I valued that early writing time so much.
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Elaine Orr writes the Jolie Gentil and River's Edge mystery series.
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