The Grunt and the Grind

You’ll never hear us say writing is easy around the My Book Therapy campus. No siree, Bob.

Writing is hard. It’s work. Here’s what gets me. I have a great idea, I see it all—beginning, middle and end, then I sit down to write and my inspiration vanishes.

The story feels too slow. Too muddy. Too awkward. The things I thought the protagonist wanted now don’t work. Or seem trite. I can’t find the layers. Everyone sounds like Gumby and Pokey.

After sixteen books, the pit of despair in the middle of my stomach isn’t as deep, isn’t as fierce.

But still, about 30K into a book with a deadline looming, I’m wondering how this book is going to pull together.

In the end, they always do. Yay, God.

I tell myself I’m going to do something different next time. But short of hiring someone else to write the book for me, nothing about my processes will really change.

What needs to change is me.

I have to be willing to face the plot and character stumbling blocks. Be willing to tumble into the pitfalls and see what I can do to climb out

Writing a novel is like working a puzzle. You have to find the pieces, or rather make up the pieces, that make the novel work.

Did you know there is no right way to write a novel. There’s not. Really. Here at My Book Therapy we offer you tools to help you get started. To help you build a firm foundation.

But once the writing starts you are going to find shallow and hollow places. Or that an intended idea doesn’t work at all.

For me, I often start seeing all the sides to a story and I can’t figure which way to go. Or I’ll start seeing symbols, feeling metaphors and I wonder how to wind them into the story. Or if I should.

Here’s some tips – in nor particular order — on how to persevere in the writing process.

  1. Start with a good foundation. Even if you’re a panster at least write a synopsis. Have a beginning, middle and end.
  2. Grab your Book Buddy and plan out some of the character traits. I love the Book Buddy when I’m stuck too. It’s a great brainstorm buddy.
  3. Change up your writing environment. Maybe write with pen and paper for awhile.
  4. Watch a movie.
  5. Read a book.
  6. Pray! I find God breaks in and encourages my heart when I press into Him for help. Even if He doesn’t give me something tangible for the story, I know He’s with me.
  7. Write anyway! I called a friend one day and said, “Remind me it’s okay to write crappy in the first draft.” She assured me it was.
  8. Get quiet. Turn off all the noise. Shut down the internet. Fix your attention on the blank page, picture your protagonist. What’s going on? What is he or she feeling? Write. Then write the next line. And the one after that…

You will get through the hard parts. Trust me. Don’t start rewriting from the beginning or second guessing yourself. Just keep writing forward and let the characters and story open up to you!

***

Rachel Hauck, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsBest-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.

 

 

 

Who are you?

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  This was a question I had to answer on the next step of my writing journey.  What is it and how do you decide which one applies to you?

A plotter is someone who plots the book before starting to write.

A pantser writes the story as they go, also known as by the “seat of their pants”.

Which one is best?

The one that works best for you!

You’ll hear all different kinds of opinions on this, but go with what will give you the desired outcome.  A finished book!

I had to ask myself, which way do I work best?  I’m definitely a plotter.  I like to know what to expect and what’s going to happen in my daily life, so of course it flowed into my writing life.

If you too, like to know what’s going to happen, go ahead and plot out your book.

If my husband was a writer, he would be a pantser.  Seriously, he starts off with a general idea of how his day is going to go and all the things that crop up in a day, he just flows with it.  So I know he would be one of those writers that can start with an idea, sit down to hammer out a book by the seat of his pants.

Whichever way works for you run with it.  There is no right or wrong way.

What about you?  What works for you?

***

Alena Tauriainen, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsOur MBT Hostess, Alena Tauriainen, a natural born organizer, manages her family business in West Texas. She balances work, four zany kids and the family dog. When she’s not being a bookkeeper, a zookeeper or a chauffeur, you can usually find her atwww.mbtponderers.blogspot.com. She enjoys writing contemporary romance so readers can sit back, relax and escape to a happily ever after. Contact her at: retreats@mybooktherapy.com.

 

Conversations: How to keep your story flow after a long holiday!

“I feel like it’s been forever since we’ve last talked.” Sally said as she came into the coffee shop. “And with Memorial Day today, and the fact I haven’t written in about four years, I feel like I’ve lost all momentum on my chapters.”

Outside, Anne was planting geraniums in the coffee shop planters. The sun glinted off the lake, and the smell of lilacs hung in the air. I had a tan from the weekend Memorial Day and couldn’t wait to get home to our family barbeque.

“Oh, I hear that.” I said. “I haven’t written for five days and it can be frustrating when you walk away from your novel with your ideas still trapped in your brain. One of my biggest frustrations in writing a novel is that I can’t write it all in one sitting.  Seriously.  I’ve tried.  I once wrote a novel in 10 days. It’s a good thing my people brought me food!  I love being able to write a novel in a concentrated amount of time because the storyline is never far from me and while it’s exhausting, the story always seems to emerge with fewer jolts in the plot. But life doesn’t work that way, does it?”

She shook her head.

“So yes, let’s talk about how to keep momentum going between chapters even when you have breaks in writing. First thing you do is to interview your POV character about the previous scene they were in.

Ask the following questions:

  1. What did you think about what just happened?
  2. What are your choices?
  3. What will you do next, and why?
  4. What is the worst thing that could happen to you right now?
  5. And, if it’s a romance –how do you feel about this person?  What do you fear happening emotionally?

“It simply helps me get into his/her head and start mulling over the next scene as I go about driving my kids to football practice, or getting on an airplane to speak at an event.

“The interview also helps me put together the pieces of the next chapter and establish the next step by asking: What are my Action Objectives?

“The Action Objectives are the things that help me understand what I as the author have to accomplish.  It’s all the movement, information, inner and outer journey steps and any hints of future trouble I need to insert.

“Once I understand these, then I go through the scene set up, deciding the Action/Reaction elements, Setting up the SHARP elements (Stakes, Heroine ID, Anchoring, Run, Problem (or Story Question), and then beginning with the 5 W’s to set up the foundation of the scene.

“I  know it can be difficult to get back in the groove of a chapter after walking away, but you can do a tremendous amount of prework on your scene by simply asking – and answering – the right questions while you are doing laundry, shopping, driving, homeschooling and even exercising. Then, when you’re ready to write, you’ll have all the pieces you need.”

(For the purposes of momentum, here are the links to the previous Scene Setup Blogs.

Sally was busy scribbling.

“What are you doing?” 

She looked up. “Interviewing my character of course.”

Of course. “I’ll just leave you two here for some privacy.” 

She waved me away.

Truth:  Momentum in a story is about picking up the threads from the previous scene and continuing them into the next scene. 

Dare: Interview your characters after/before every scene to keep your story fluid and moving forward.

Have a great Memorial Day!

Susie May

 

 

Showers of Creativity Part Four: Go Forth and Create

We’re at the end of the month and you’ve come through three weeks of discovery and planning to give the world the best of YOU that you can offer. That’s quite an accomplishment. I have no doubt the world will be a better place for it.

When this series ends and I’m not showing up in your email inbox every weekend, the tendency will be to “get back to normal”. No worries. The thought crosses nearly everyone’s mind. But what will you choose to do when that thought comes? After all, you’ve worked hard over these last few weeks in attempts to wax creative. You deserve a rest, right? Ummm, no.

Here’s the thing. If the train isn’t moving, wouldn’t that be a dandy time to jump off and go do something else? At least you’re less likely to break your neck. But your creativity train is moving in a forward direction. It left the station weeks ago. If you jump off now, I promise you will not get the desired result.

It’s called momentum and you’ve got it! Don’t stop now. There will be plenty of days later on when you hit a brick wall and can’t seem to move at all. That’s when you sit and play Monopoly with your cat. Today, you’re moving. Take advantage of that energy and use it to your advantage. Here’s how.

Hook on. I’ve heard farmers want to harness the power of steer and horses to pull wagons and such but that’s not accurate at all. In fact, they just hitch their wagons to the energy that’s already there: the animal. When the animal begins forward motion, their little red wagon can’t help but move forward with it. So hitch yourself to the forward momentum.

Hang on. Sometimes, especially when what’s pulling your creative wagon gets spooked, it makes you want to jump off. To save yourself before you crash. Please step away from the door. Not only would that be very messy and painful, you’ll be disappointed. Just hang on and ride the momentum. It will take you farther than you ever thought possible, and with less effort!

I’m really proud of you for taking these steps. You owe it to yourself to let your creativity shine. The world needs your gifts and talents. I believe in you. Go forth and create!

What decisions have you made during this month that will bring out your creativity? What challenges are you facing? Perhaps you’re having trouble gaining momentum. Share it here! Or, if you’d like to contact me privately, just email me at reba@mybooktherapy.com.

***

Dr. Reba J. Hoffman, Member Care CoachReba J. Hoffman is a natural encourager and Member Care Coach at My Book Therapy. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is the founder of Magellan Life Coaching (www.magellanlifecoaching.com). She is the author of Dare to Dream, a Writer’s Journal published by My Book Therapy. She also publishes a motivational and encouraging blog, FindingTrue North. Contact Reba at reba@magellanlifecoaching.com.