Monday, November 28, 2011

Tips For Finding Your Groove

What I'm reading: The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly

First, today is the last day to request a copy of FINDING SARAH. If you want a copy, email me at bookstore @ terryodell (dot) com with Thanksgiving in the header, and tell me whether you want a Smashwords coupon or a Kindle gift. This is NOT a contest. Everyone who asks can have a download. My only 'catch' is that you download the books when you get your email, since this giveaway ends today. If you want to preview the book, you can find the first chapter on my website.

And pop into the Deals & Steals tab to see how you can enter my contests.

As faithful readers of this blog might know, lately I've had little time to work on the WIP. I was sidetracked by edits for DEADLY SECRETS, my upcoming mystery. One daughter came to the states from Northern Ireland to visit. Hubster and son had birthdays. Our other daughter competed in the Iron Man in Arizona, which meant two driving days each way plus the event itself. Then came Thanksgiving.

Since I'm not under a deadline, I didn't even try to move forward on the WIP. Didn't even have my laptop. But now that I'm home, our daughters are back to their own homes, and the laundry is done, it's time to get back to work.

How to deal with lapses in writing time? I'm sure everyone has his or her own system, but the following works for me. Your approach will differ, depending on your own writing system.

1. Get rid of chores that will nag.
If you are going to worry about cleaning house, paying bills, going through email, take the time to get the critical things dealt with. Otherwise you're not going to be focused on your writing.

2. Do critiques for my crit group.
This might seem counterproductive, but freeing your brain from your own plot issues and looking at someone else's writing can help get your brain into thinking about the craft itself.

3. Deal with critique group feedback.
Normally, I'm about 4 or 5 chapters ahead of my subs to my crit group. If I start with their feedback on earlier chapters, I get back into the story, but more critically than if I simply read the chapters. And they might point out plot holes that need to be dealt with. Fixing these issues helps bring me up to speed on where I've been. It also gets me back into the heads of my characters (which can be very important if I've been dealing with edits on another manuscript, with entirely different characters).

4. Read the last chapter I wrote.
Do basic edits, looking for overused words, typos, continuity errors. This is another way to start thinking "writing" and this time it's giving you that running start for picking up where you left off.

5. If needed, update my tracking board.
This forces me to summarize the last chapter/scene and gets me looking at the bigger picture.

6. Consult any plot notes I have.
For me, it's my idea board, since I don't outline. And, odds are, you've been thinking about your book--maybe even jotting down notes--while you've been away.

7. Figure out the plot points for the next scene.
Once you know what has to happen, based on the previous step, you have a starting point.

8. Write.
And don't worry if things don't flow immediately. Get something on the page. Fix it later.

Tomorrow my guest is Jenny Milchman, who's a great supporter of writers with her "Made it Moment" blog. She's talking about perseverance.
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Suzie Tullett said...

Great advice Terry... especially number one and number eight! x

Maris said...

I'm having a terrible time getting back to my wip. Thanks for your advice.

Rebecca Bates said...

Thanks for your great advice! It's very timely for me, since I've been slipping out of the groove more often lately. Another thing I like to do is make lists :) Then I prioritize the jobs, divide by the number of available work hours, and set myself deadlines for each job. When time is up, I have to move on. Somehow, this helps me be more efficient.

Terry Odell said...

Suzie - You could probably go straight to 8 if you're a plotter.

Maris - hope it helps

Rebecca - good suggestions. I've been taking the 'done' list approach lately, but your system definitely organizes things.

Nancy Jardine Author said...

Hi Terry! I'm off to clean my cupboards! I wish! My new mantra is ...'Gotta sleep less and do more!'
(Love the on Facebook!)

Elspeth Futcher said...

Excellent tips, Terry! I hope, someday, to be as efficient as you.

Terry Odell said...

Nancy -- sleep it good. Don't give up too much

Elspeth -- you haven't seen my desk!

Colleen Collins said...

I like to write myself notes. Email notes, handwritten notes that I hang on the wall, Memo to Me e-reminders...generally, they say "Write!" and my writing goal for that day.

Good Topic, Terry!

Terry Odell said...

Colleen - notes sound like a great idea.

Karen C said...

Sounds to me like you were busy and one happy Mom ...

Terry Odell said...

Karen - you're right. Thanks.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good advice. I love making lists of things like the plot points. And just putting *anything* on the page works well for me, too.