Today we have a guest blogger, the lovely Anne Gracie, with a post on getting yourself going – just in time for 50k in 30 days!
If you like this, and want more Anne, she is involved in a Winter Writing Workshop this June in Melbourne. Details at the bottom of this post.
Hi all, Anne Gracie here. I’ve spoken in a few places about the importance of writing regularly — I firmly believe that writing is like a muscle, and the more you do the better you get. The trouble is, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write.
Or is it?
How much time do you really need to write?
I take quite a lot of writing classes, and in almost all of them I ask participants to do at least one writing exercise. To start with, we talk about some idea, toss around a few possibilities to get the mind spinning, and then I say, “Write.” (Oh, the power <g>)
And for 10—15 minutes, people write. Sometimes it takes them a few minutes to get going, sometimes there’s a false start or two, but usually after a few minutes everyone is writing. And by the time I say “Stop.” most people aren’t ready to stop — they could go on for quite a bit longer. But in that 10—15 minutes most people write around a page — some do more, others less, but for most people, it’s around 250 words.
If you wrote 250 words a day every day for a year, you’d have a novel.
Or, to put it another way, if you wrote for 15 minutes a day, every day for a year, you’d have a novel.
Ok, you’d probably need to put in some longer stints, and do some rewriting, but the hardest thing about starting writing is . . . starting.
I know. I’m a champion procrastinator. I tend to put off starting, knowing I’m going to be chained to the computer for the rest of the day — or thinking it. It’s not actually true. But even if I’m seated at my computer, all ready to work, I still come up with all sorts of reasons why I’m not going to start writing just yet — I need to check my email and see if my editor or agent has written, I should just pop into facebook or twitter for a moment, after all, social networking is important, etc. — the excuses could go on for hours.
So for me, the way to start is to do a writing exercise of some kind. Just for fifteen minutes.
One of my favorite writing routines is what I call “doing Dorothea.” It’s explained more fully here ( http://www.annegracie.com/writing/DorotheaBrande.html ) but basically it involves doing two planned stints of writing every day. The first is first thing in the morning, and the second is when you make an appointment to write — you look at your schedule for the day and work out a time when you’ll have 15 minutes free to write. And then you keep that appointment religiously.
Once you start doing that for a week or so — the morning writing and the appointment to write — you’ll find that your resistance to starting is slowly disappearing. And your writing muscle is getting stronger.
So most mornings, whether I’m doing Dorothea or not, I’ll sit down at the table, set the alarm for 15 minutes, and write. I’m not a great typist — I’m fast but the typos fly —and for me, handwriting is the easiest because the typos invite in the internal editor, and for this exercise, I don’t want that internal editor anywhere near me. But there’s no right way to do it — go with whatever suits you best.
And by the time the timer goes off, I’m well into the writing zone.
There’s also a secret to making your fifteen minutes really productive.
Remember when I said that in my writing classes, we talk about the scene we’re going to write, and toss around some ideas before we start. It really helps if you can think a bit about your scene before you try to write it. Once you get into the habit of this, you’ll find you can plot while you’re going all sorts of other things, and then, when you come to write, the scene will just flow out of you.
Start by writing a list of “what-ifs” — brainstorming possibilities for the scene.
If you find yourself unable to decide whose point of view, or whether to have the scene on a bus or in the bedroom, or make them fight or make love, just toss a coin and go with the flow. You can always rewrite, and it’ll be stronger for the rewriting.
And if you don’t have a scene in mind, try the “classic” kind of writing exercises:
* mood pieces inspired by scents or sounds or places:
eg the smell of a bakery early in the morning
eg sound of rain on the roof at night, a feeling of safety, a time to dream…
* write an ‘in-the-moment’ piece from your character’s point of view.
Where are they? What are they seeing, smelling , hearing, touching, etc.
* recreate an important memory from your character’s childhood:
– have them tell someone.
* write a conversation between two characters where one of them is trying to conceal something
* a piece of sexy flirting – just hurl the dialogue down. It might sound stiff at first, but soon it’ll flow.
* your character comes into a room unexpectedly and finds. . .
* think about a situation a character would hate and put them into it. Then write the scene.
Start a file of possible exercises. I have a box of little cards with idea and writing exercises on them. There are times when I just want to write something different, and so I pull one out at random and write in response.
It doesn’t matter if you never use any of these scenes — it’s only 15 minutes of your day, and you’ve strengthened your writing muscles anyway and added to your toolbox of writing techniques. But I bet you’ll find that you use a lot.
So start exercising those writing muscles and get into a routine of writing. There’s only one way to write a novel — word by word, page by page, fifteen minutes by fifteen minutes.
Winter Writing Workshop
Anne Gracie is taking writing workshops in Melbourne on the weekend of June 15th—17th, along with Crime writer Shane Maloney and Kate Forsyth.
It sounds like a wonderful weekend of workshops and Melbourne Uni is a lovely venue (Ed.)
More information here:
First published by Harlequin, Anne Gracie is now with Berkley USA/Penguin Australia. She’s a three-time RITA finalist, has twice won the Romantic Book of the Year (Australia) and the National Reader’s Choice Award in the USA, and was listed in Library Journal (USA) best books of the year. Five of her books have received DIK (Desert Island Keepers) status on All About Romance, and she’s been translated into sixteen different languages. Anne is proud to be a Lifetime Member of Romance Writers of Australia.