Monday, January 31, 2011

Focus and learn to say, "No."

I did it. I wrote a novel for my thesis. It was not the finished product, but it had a beginning, a middle and an end that I could get excited about. When I submitted it, the publisher said it was an important story that needs to be told, but it needs a lot of work first. It’s two years later. Why haven’t I written, finished, submitted and been published?

A host of family obligations happened to slow me down. I’ve had some false starts. I need to do a few things:

• Make writing a priority so everyone around me will do that, too.

Jessamyn West said, “People just don’t think of writing seriously. If I had been going off to teach all day, it would be different. They wouldn’t interrupt your work if you were employed at a grocery store. That’s considered serious business. It’s because you work at home. People think they can interrupt writing.”

• Learn to mean, “No.”

A writer can be filled with good intentions, armed with a plan of daily goals, like writing for two hours a day or setting a daily word count. But when the phone rings and a family member needs you to babysit, transport them to a doctor’s appointment, or your spouse wants you to spend time with him/her, what happens?

• Don’t procrastinate.

There are easier things than writing. And negative self-talk slows us down. Playing games on the computer, chatting on the Internet with friends around the world, playing at Facebook are all distractions. It’s great to stay in touch with people you know, but a lot of writing time is wasted because we have convinced ourselves that we should wait til tomorrow or we really can’t write that novel.

• Focus on the current work-in-progress (WIP).

Why are you having trouble staying focused? Have you planned the novel? Who are the characters? What is the journey that becomes the plot? Whose story are you telling? Who is narrating the story?

I can see now why an outline is valuable to the novelist. It acts as a map from the beginning, through the middle to the end. It helps to maintain continuity and sequence through the story. Writing at the same time everyday doesn’t just help us keep track of our stories. It helps us establish our writing habits, strengthens resolve to say, “No,” and leads us to achieving goals.

A writer can write a novel, but it takes a storyteller to develop characters. As a writer friend advised me, “Just write a good story.”

Craig Lock (at advises the main novel writing pitfalls are:
1. Focus: too many subplots, characters, issues.
2. Plot weak with boring, trivial details.
3. Weak character development.
4. Telling instead of showing.

I know what I have to do. How about you?

1 comment:

MysteryKnitter said...

Who knows. I may know, or then not. But I hope I do.