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Sunday, October 30, 2016

One Word at a Time



cj Sez: For all you writers who are looking at the 50,000 word commitment of November’s National Novel Writing Month, I offer up Anne Lamott's words in her national best-seller how-to book Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life wrote:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'"

That’s some of the best advice ever for writers . . . take it one word at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, until you’ve (surprise!) reached the end.

You won’t always feel like writing, not every day, and some days, what appears on the page will look like pure crap to you. The thing to remember is, you should expect that your first effort is ALWAYS a crappy draft. The goal is to write down the nuggets of your story. On blank paper or on a blank computer screen. Doesn’t make any difference if the spelling is correct, or the grammar, or the format. You can fix all that later.

Many people I know have an idea for a story. They read a book and say, “I could do that. If I had the time.”

If you really, really (notice there are two “really’s” here) want to write, You. Will. Make. Time. Aren’t a morning person? Write at night. Too pooped at night? Write before the rest of your family gets up. The important thing is to make a habit of writing: same time every day. If you’re also working a full-time job, no problem. I always found that when I was super busy at work, I was more efficient with my time at home. (Doesn’t work now that I’m retired…sigh.)

Do your story research one day and write the next. If you try to integrate the two, you’ll surely find yourself down an interesting but time-consuming rabbit hole and having not written one word of your novel. That also means No Facebook, No eMail, No Instagram, and No Twitter. They have No Place in your writing time. They’re for personal time or marketing your book.

Writing a novel takes dedication and discipline. Think of it as a commitment, a job (or another job) that you go to every day. Set up a place and establish an hour or two or more for just for that purpose. Let your family know you’re not to be interrupted when you’re at work . . . just as it would be if you worked at a job away from the house. Set a realistic daily goal for your writing. Maybe it’s five pages or a chapter or “x” number of words a day. Whatever it is that you know you can accomplish if you stay disciplined. The result will be that you can also set a deadline for completion, that exciting ultimate goal: The End. And the novel won’t linger on for years and years (mine have been known to do).

Just to make sure your writing is not all work and no play, when you achieve one of your interim goals, reward yourself. Take a break. Take a walk in the park, a trip to a coffee shop, a visit to a library or book store. Take time to feel good about those little successes and re-energize. If you find your fingers frozen on the keyboard, DON’T even THINK the words “writer’s block.” They get imbedded in your brain—not a good thing. When you get stuck, pick up a book and read. You’ll find a cue that sends you on your way again.

After all that preaching to the choir, I have to admit I won’t be joining this year’s challenge. I committed in September to a U of Iowa online women writers’ course, and each week we are challenged to write 1000-2000 words. I’ll be busy on the short story I’m doing for this week’s assignment. But, I’ll be cheering for you.

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj

PS: If you’re like me and get paid once a month, there’s only two more paydays until Christmas, so here’s a great gift idea to make your money go further: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…   http://amzn.to/2dnqnLJ

cjpetterson@gmail.com
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

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