Tuesday, June 28, 2011

That Second Paragraph

Today I welcome author Jacqui Jacobi to Terry's Place. With her trusted computerized day planner, Miguel, by her side, she is able to work in many aspects of the writing community: as an author and contributor to the Kiss of Death as well as RWR Magazine; as a chapter volunteer and contest judge, and as a workshop presenter, both live and online.

Every writer faces it. Every writer worries and dreads that it is going to arrive. You sit down to the computer, whether the project is a novel, an article or a blog entry, and there it will be: a blank document with a blinking cursors asking you to type.

We sit in our chairs, ready to write, the ideas in our head ready to pour onto that page, but we just can’t get it. We can’t get it to sound perfect, moving from our minds to our fingers, even when we think we know what to say.

“Why don’t you just start on the second paragraph,” Lucien Carr said when he at worked at the United Press International, no doubt kick starting a cub reporter at a type writer. And Carr was right. Sometimes leaving the beginning to fill in later and moving on to what comes next, is all it might take to get forward momentum.

Hitting a wall of “writer’s block” can be cured by something as simple as Mr. Carr’s suggestion. You can’t get that first paragraph to work, move down the food chain to the second and see if that doesn’t jump start your ideas. Sometimes something as simple as going back to write the beginning last can fix the problem.

If hitting the wall, however, turns to jumping off the cliff, then it might take a little bit more creativity to break through.

Ted Schwartz, in his book Time Management for Writers gives excellent advice on multi projects. It is, as Mr. Schwarz says, only writers who set off to work on one solitary project at a time giving it your full interest, until that interest is burned out. “Doctors see several patients. Lawyers see several clients … but writers often believe the myth that they are not being professional unless they stay with one project through to completion …”

Editing a book? Have you started the research on the next, giving equal time to both projects? Have you volunteered to guest on a blog? How about your favorite RWA chapter? I bet the editor of the newsletter would love to have you ask to contribute. Contest judging? Always a fun way to share our creative thinking while getting a chance to see what other people have to say.

The key to finishing a novel is regularity, to be able to face that first paragraph on a daily basis and say “This is what we’re going to do.” You must commit to it with a set time and a set goal in order to move from Page One to The End. Nothing can get in the way of this goal. Not TV programs, telephone calls, requests from family or even that cat who decides your keyboard is the warmest place in the house. Here is a little known truth: You *can* move the cat.

On the days the book talks back rudely, telling us “writer’s block” is on the menu, then we need a to attack from a different angle, letting that book know it is going to get written. We’ll just spend twenty minutes answering writing related e-mail, or maybe we’ll write an entry or our blog. Or better still … we’ll start on the second paragraph that day and see what the story has in store for us.

Please visit Jax at her movie blog: http://jaxsmovielist.blogspot.com/ Or at her web site: www.JacquiJacoby.com, or via Twitter: @JaxJacoby


E. Arroyo said...

Awesome post. Just what I need. =)

From Jacqui "Jax" Jacoby said...

Thank you! Hearing something like that makes this job worth while!


jenny milchman said...

The second paragraph may even turn out to be the first! Thanks for the post!

Terry Odell said...

Jacqui informs me she's having trouble with her internet access at her hotel, so her responses to comments might be delayed. But she's working on it!

Sharon Archer said...

Great post, Jacqui! Thanks! I particularly liked that quote from Ted Schwartz about working on one solitary project... but the second paragraph suggestion was excellent too!

Thanks for having Jacqui to visit, Terry!

I'm off to see what paragraph two might be...

Lyndsey Davis said...

This is so true and clever. Write the second paragraph.

Juggling all the different aspects of writing which can brain freeze me, it sometimes is the last paragraph that halts my progress.

So maybe I'll apply "the second paragraph rule" to the last paragraph as well...to get the flow going. LOL

Ellis Vidler said...

Good advice, and very timely for me. I need to organize my time and get on with my WIP. Thanks for the article, Jacqui and Terry.