Finding the Writing Groove

For the past two weeks, I've been revising my manuscript for Barbara Lalicki, my wonderful editor at HarperCollins. One thing became abundantly clear when I received her notes: Barbara is a total, top-notch, scary-good pro. She's taken my story and put it under a microscope, weighing character, plot, setting, word choice, etc. I can't tell you what a relief it was to see such a close eye on my pages. It really made me feel like I've got a partner - and I do in Barbara. I know she wants to see UNDER THE NEVER SKY rise to its greatest potential, just as I do.

What does that have to do with finding the writing groove? Well, the revisions I'm doing now have jumped to a whole new level. Much of the time it's difficult work. Yes, I said work. Important work. My husband tells me that the last 10% of any undertaking is always the hardest part and I'd say that's true here (although I can't be sure I only have 10% to go... Might be closer to 15%) The point is that lately as I begin my writing days I feel a bit as I'm going into battle. It's something of a new phenomenon for me. Usually, I'm slavering to get to writing. (Yes, I did just use the word slavering. That's another side effect of revision brain. Random word choices.)

So I've developed a few habits that help get me going. I'm sharing them with you in case you find yourself in a slow groove, when getting started is tough.

1) Leave home - In general, at my house these days, there's more laundry in the hamper and less food in the refrigerator. One day, I didn't even make the beds. (This is unheard of for me.) I am a stay at home mother, but what's happened in becoming a professional writer (OMG I can't believe I just said that) is that, well, I have to be a pro. Just like my editor. This is my priority now. It's always been up there. But now, I'm a writer first and foremost. The laundry and groceries will get done. But until the revision is complete and returned, the writing needs to take precedence. By leaving home and going to my parent's house or a coffee shop, I don't see all the tasks that could suck me away from important time on my manuscript. (Side note: I used to work full time, as I am now on this revision, but I've never done it before as a mother. And I have to say, I want to give all you working mothers out there a giant hug and then a day at the spa. You're all amazing. Oh, and p.s. any tips on juggling home and work are greatly appreciated.)

2) Music - Quite simply, it puts my head in the right place. For this story, I've been gorging on Kings of Leon, Bach's cello concertos, and opera. Yes, opera. It's a long story... about 365 pages or so. You can read it sometime in early 2012.

3) Walks - When I'm struggling, a walk around the block does wonders to shake things loose. Reminds you there's a big world out there, with lots of other things happening, and you know. Don't take yourself so seriously! You're going to sit down to WRITE, for goodness sakes! How lucky are YOU???

4) Freedom - This is a downloadable program that lets you set a timer in which your computer is taken off line. No facebook or twitter = productivity. I think a simple google search will pull it up. Or you can just turn off your wi-fi.

5) Photos - I have a file for all my research photos for UNDER THE NEVER SKY. There are pictures of people who remind me of characters, places that look like the settings I'm trying to create, etc. Browsing through these can help me get in the zone.

6) Reading - Sometimes, picking up a research book will get me excited or spur a fresh idea. Also, I have what I like to call an author-trainer. He has no idea he's my trainer. But he is. His name is Justin Cronin and he wrote THE PASSAGE, which was out this summer (along with several other award-winning books.) I love Justin's third person voice. Something about it really resonates with me. When I read a few pages, I get inspired. It's like Justin is going, "Come on. You know you want to write like this. Get moving, V. You got this. Blood, sweat and tears, V! Get off your lazy---" OK, actually I'm sure Justin is much nicer than this. But that's the feeling I get when I read a bit of his writing. So thank you, Justin.

7) Indulge in a little self congratulation - When it's really tough, I go digging for all the positive comments I've received on my writing. It's like the opposite of a pity party. I look for my editor's praising comments. I'm so fortunate to find these readily in my emails and notes with Barbara. Those comments can give me a real shot of confidence to get back to work. I might throw out an email to good friends or the Muses, looking for a little validation (Muses & dear writer friends - you rock). And I might, just maybe, make a little comment on the phone with my super-agent, Josh Adams, who's always ready and willing to dispense with some encouragement. Folks, we all need a little dose of the positive here and there. Don't be afraid to remind yourselves of the progress you've made. Feeling good never hurt anyone.

8) Read something that's yours but fresh - This one I just remembered, but I'm going to try it this morning. When I dig up old projects that are forgotten and dusty (virtually dusty) with age, I see that, yes, I can in fact write something decent. I know that sounds silly, but when you get as close to a manuscript as I am now with UTNS, you're looking for all the mistakes and weaknesses. You get so close that these are the only things you see. Reading old writing can remind you of the point, which is to tell a good story. To string together words in such a way that some kind of magic happens, and they aren't words anymore. They become a person with a particular kind of personality. A person with a problem, or a need. They exist in a place that you can see and smell and even feel with your hands. That's good stuff, knowing you can do that. And if you've managed it once, well, you can do it again.

All right. Those are my tricks. I meant to wrap this post up nicely, but honestly, just writing about getting inspired has gotten me inspired. It's time to get to work.
Go forth and write!

8 comments

I loved that your first tip was one I do, but feel so badly about! Leaving home. I keep thinking I should be able to write here, but in the end, have to escape to McDonald's or elsewhere, beating myself up for having to do so. At last, someone actually encouraged me to do it. Yay!
And I will download that Freedom thing today! Another fantastic tip.
Thanks so much for the great thoughts, and best wishes on your revisions.
claudine

Prediction! Five years from now you'll write a book on how to write and sell a really great novel.

What great tips. I'm struggling with my revisions now, so will be taking these all on board ;)

Rach

Thanks for coming by the blog, guys! Sometimes it really is tough getting things moving, isn't it? I find comfort in knowing that most of us struggle with it. (At least I'm not alone!) May the words flow...

Great tips!! I'm not on the revision process yet, but I can tell a lot of these would help me get through my first draft, too.

Good tips! I think one could use them whenever "inspiration" is needed.

Thanks for the great ideas! I've hit a rough patch in my NaNo project and I think some of these tips will help tons! New follower, btw. Love your blog :)

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