Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Finding my way through the writing wood...

There are so many ‘How To’ articles for all things in life (or so it seems). For writing in particular there are blogs and articles, self-help books and writing tip hashtags – everyone, everywhere appears to have found the answer. This post is not about me offering suggestions on how to write, when to write, what (or what not) to write. This post is about me sharing my own recent experiences after having lost my way creatively.

If anyone ever says that writing is easy, they haven’t been at it long enough to know what’s around the corner. At some point, often several times, a writer will struggle to find words. More importantly, they may struggle to find time to write those words. In modern society there are numerous distractions, interruptions and consequences that repeatedly vie for our attention. It can be difficult, as a creative, to shut these out or walk away.

At school, I was always the girl daydreaming out of the classroom window, mesmerised by swaying branches of trees or fast-moving clouds sailing across a thundery sky. In adulthood it can be social media, household chores or family life that tears you constantly from your focus. For me, my current creative focus is writing Book 2 in my Saxon ‘Wolf Spear Saga’, following on from ‘WULFSUNA’. I caused myself some extra work when I decided that the existing second book should become the third in the series: in first draft, it would have been quick to bring to publication following ‘WULFSUNA’. However, I felt I was denying my readers vital elements and character development by moving forward in time too swiftly.

The main contention I had with beginning a brand new story for book two, was the research that would inevitably delay the writing. I had a rough story arc, but I’m a blend of plotter/panster and I do like to have a decent outline before I begin, even though characters can distract me off tangent once I start writing (those pesky characters!). My new tale required a deeper understanding of Druidry and Shamanistic rituals, of which I had a decent knowledge but...I’m a perfectionist too. Required reading ensued and I also decided there would be a stronger equestrian element to this novel.

All this reading kept me from writing as much of the story as I wanted to. Adding to that the commencement of a new day job and my routine (loosely structured as it already was) became almost non-existent. After a few months I took myself in hand. I and my readers would want to know when this novel would be out in the wider world. So I forged a plan. I grabbed a fresh, new notebook with wonderfully clean, empty pages and marked columns with a ruler. I would record my daily/weekly/monthly word count as well as time spent on ANY writing-related task. Ergo, writing new prose, typing up notes, research, social media and online marketing were all to be logged – methodically. It was my hope that this structure of recording would flow over into my creative field of vision and structure my writing time.

You’ll be relieved to learn (as I was) that this method did indeed work for me and I have continued it. I plan in advance my writing hours, be they for new prose, research or social media, and I stick to them as best as I can. I allow for the odd light relief of a trip to a cafe with a friend, family holidays and such. This removes the treadmill sensation that can set in when life is too rigid. That only leads to procrastination in my world! I like fluidity. Like growing organic runner beans, but with firm supporting stakes. It makes sense to me and it works ‘for me’.

I have no word count goals, of any kind, not even daily. My single rule is to write something as often as I can. My word count and hours spent vary constantly and, interestingly, long hours do not necessarily denote many words. I have written several thousand words one day in the same amount of time I wrote less than 300 another. The simple fact is, I have broken through a barrier of procrastination and found my flow once more. My only advice here is to always seek a solution. Never give up. If you are passionate about writing, you will find a way.

·         How do you break those solid walls in your own writing lives?

·         Do you have a system of recording progress, or do you prefer to be entirely swept away on a river of inspiration?

·         Does planning a new book excite you or terrify you?

Please comment and feed back – this is, after all, a Writers’ Grove where we can all share and discuss our writing lives. I’d love to hear from you!
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  1. Aptly put. I find myself often struggling with the time issue, especially with regards to all the marketing that must be done.

    1. Thanks Mark. I think we writers are all relieved to learn that we are not alone in our struggles with time constraints. Most authors nowadays, whether Indie or Traditionally published, are expected to do some marketing. And for many of us, it's not a natural talent!

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