Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jumping In

So I've made no secret on this blog of the fact that I really do struggle with motivation (and procrastination) when it comes to my manuscript. It's not that I don't love my job, I do! But mentally, looking on the outside in, I don't always love writing. I know, I know, this makes so little sense that it sounds inane even as I write it.

Let's back up: once I've jumped-started my work for the day, I find that the time goes by a lot faster than I realize, and I do, really, get completely wrapped up in the scene I'm working on. I love re-reading what I've written. :) I love considering the characters and their various entanglements when I'm not writing. But getting started, typing out those first few sentences just...well, they suck for me.

So, the best trick that I've devised for myself to get around this is to stop my writing the previous day mid-scene. If I end on a chapter break or a section break, I sit there and stare at that looming on set of another scene, which requires yet another creative idea, which just seems so freaking exhausting, that it's almost enough for me to skip the writing for the day altogether. Since I've realized this about myself, I deceive myself into making things a little easier. I think the part I dread most about writing - since I'm a pantser - is coming up with the next twist and turn, and fitting all of those various plot lines into something cohesive, something interesting, something page-turning, and since this is the hardest part for me, I try to get ahead of myself.

Rather than close down for the day in a logical place, I'll push myself to keep going. Even if it's only three sentences into the next scene. It's SO much easier for me to open up that doc the next day and see, WOW, I've already done the heavy lifting as to what comes next! Now, I just have to keep that momentum going.

I'm serious - try it. It's really, really helped my motivation and my urge to write (or not to write). But I'd also LOVE to hear - what jump starts YOU in the morning? How to overcome that urge NOT to open your doc and go about your day without getting anything done at all?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When the Going (And Everything Else) Gets Rough

Question of the day: Do you feel the current state of the economy is dictating what books are being published? For instance, my second novel is about a mother caring for her adult daughter who suffers from a chronic illness. I am struggling to find an agent for it, although all my rejections are personal. You were able to write about cancer and yet didn't scare away agents, why is writing about diseases now so taboo?

I'm pulling this question out of one that I answered last week because I think it's important enough not to get lost in the post from last week, and I definitely wanted to open it up for discussion.

My thoughts are this: selling a downbeat book - in any market - is tough. When we shopped The Department, we certainly did hear that "cancer books don't sell." We heard it pretty often, in fact. But we got four offers nevertheless. Why? Well, for one, as someone pointed out in the comments section last week, that particular book used cancer as a plot device but it wasn't specifically about cancer, and, certainly, it can never be classified as a downer. BUT. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, do cancer books sell to readers, much less publishers? Eh. The jury is still out.

The bottom line is that people often shy away from uncomfortable subjects in their literature. Cancer, death of a child (I won't read a book that deals with this), autism, anything like that...all too real subjects that a lot of us have to face in our daily lives. We're given a choice at how we want to divert ourselves, so why would we choose something that's already been tough for us to handle in our every day lives? It's a shame - as someone who wrote a "cancer" book, I'll say that much. Because, again, I never thought of my book as a "cancer" book, but some people did...and that's life. I'm grateful that some publishers DIDN'T because it never would have gotten the offers or the recognition that it did, but readers, well, in the end, they're what count, since they're the ones who buy books, and thus, publishers HAVE to consider readers' interests when they offer on books. Maybe they thought mine was an aberration - an uplifting cancer book that would defy typical book buying patterns. It sort of did. It did okay. Didn't tank, didn't hit the best seller list. Did respectably.

But. That was then. That was in a good market with a cheery environment when readers and the population in general were willing to partake in non-upbeat entertainment. These days, I'm not so sure. I firmly believe that part of Time of My Life's success is due to the current state of our nation: people want diversion, they want to be hopeful, they want something that shows that the glass is still half full, and yes, I DO think that publishers are and will shy away from downer stuff. It's silly, in some ways, because by the time a book is bought, packaged and hits the shelves, we very well may be out of this funk, but I also don't blame them for being cautious. It's a business after all, and as always, they're trying to project where readers will be in a year or two...and when they're off, they lose money big time. So they're hedging on their better safe than sorry motto, and yeah, I guess I don't blame them.

Anyone else seeing these trends or think that the current state of the world is affecting what publishers are buying?

Monday, April 13, 2009

When NOT to Write

So normally, I am a big fan of sitting down in front of the computer and cranking out at least 1k words come hell or highwater. If I didn't hold myself to this daily rule, my manuscript would never, ever get done. Let's face it: writers are the masters of procrastination, and certainly, an entire day can pass with me accomplishing exactly zilch. Thus, my per diem rule: crank those words out OR ELSE. (I don't actually have consequences for my OR ELSE, but much like when I use empty threats on my kids, this seems to work on me as well.)

Anyway, last week, I knew, knew, knew that I had to sit down and write. I'd blocked off the amounted time, opened the document, and...just couldn't. Well, that's not true. I could have. But I also knew that before I did, I had to sort out a quagmire that I'd run into with the ms. I wanted to write. So badly, did I want to write. Because, frankly, writing would have been easier than recognizing that I might have to go back and redo several parts of the ms, but...again, I couldn't. I knew that something had gone askew, and rather than stick to my 1k rule, I had to address it.

Now. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I were actually just procrastinating by PRETENDING the ms had a problem, or if I really and truly had a problem on my hand, but the morning turned to noon and noon turned to mid-afternoon, and all the while, I hadn't written a thing. But what I WAS doing was thinking. What appeared to be a total waste of a day was actually spend ruminating, even while I was on Facebook, or Twitter, or J.Crew or...well, you get the idea of how I spent my day.

And something pretty great happened during this day of doing nothing: I figured out how to resolve this problem, and now, I think the ms is going to be so much better for it. In most jobs, doing nothing means just that: you're wasting your time doing nothing. But as writers, some times, doing nothing is simply the best thing you can do. I could have wasted that day writing another chapter that would inevitably need to be overhauled OR, I could have stopped, thought about things, and considered that just as productive - if not more so - than upping my word count.

So this week? This week I'm starting at the beginning (yet again - I think this is my third redraft of the first half of the ms), and that's totally fine. I want to get this part just right because if I don't, then the second part of the ms will have to be just as overhauled as this part has been, and if I can work out the kinks now, all of that extra work won't be necessary. So...if you're having a day in which you seem to do anything BUT write, that's okay! In our world, "not working" can still be considered "work," and sometimes, it might be just what your ms needs.