Sunday, November 28, 2010

Staying Focused

I started writing mostly as a lark.  I had ideas and wanted to see if I could do it--finish a book beginning to end.

I did.  I liked it.  Okay, I loved it when I was writing. 

But now I'm staring at the blank page again.  I have ideas.  Really, I have way too many ideas--a historical, a YA supernatural, the sequel to my first manuscript, a new contemporary.  I have characters floating around and keeping me up at night, but I'm not writing.

So much for National Novel Writing Month. 

I'm hoping that it's just stress.  The move has finally caught up with us.  I still haven't found a job that pays anything worthwhile.  Holiday pressure is already building.  And I miss my old life more than I ever expected to.

I just can't seem to focus.

I have the time-- five hours, three times a week without the kids--and I'm not writing a word. 

So what helps you keep focused?  What keeps you motivated to keep your fingers on the keyboard when everything else feels like too much?  What keeps your butt in the chair?


Unknown said...

You're not alone. I find myself in the same boat. After writing the first book (and it not ending in representation nor book deal), I haven't been able to get going on another.

I have several different books with one chapter written and then I peter out. Don't know why exactly. If you figure out a trick, let me know! ;)

LindaC said...

The more stressed out you get about not writing, the more likely you are not to write. Then you have the stress of the move and the upcoming holidays. No wonder you feel stressed. Try this-set your kitchen timer for 10-15 minutes and write about anything-not necessarily a story. Write a letter or a journal entry. It doesn't matter. Holiday time is the roughest time to try to get any writing done, because there are so many commitments-decorating, gift buying, children's programs, parties, etc. Don't expect a lot until the beginning of January when things settle down more. Hope some of this helps.


Lisa Dunick said...

Linda- that's a great idea. Much les pressure than thinking of the book as a whole. :)

Carla Swafford said...

I suggest writing the Pros and Cons to writing each type of story. The one with the most Pros win.

As you can guess, I have the same problem. Thus why I have nine finished manuscript (includes historical, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and paranormal).

M.V.Freeman said...

Stress is the big killer of staying focused. You have so much on your plate.

The fact that you have ideas..and I'd say just write a few words here and there. One thing at a time.

For me, to stay focused-is setting small goals. Say, write 100 words today or for 30 minutes. I try to play mind games like this.

I feel for you, I hope things get better.

Lexi said...

Get you a package of index cards and write down all your ideas and characters and bits of dialogue as they come to you. That way, you won't forget anything. Colored cards are great. Orange for character details, like eye color, scars, birthdays, etc. Pink for chapter arcs, green for new book ideas. You can do it any way you like. I keep index cards with me all the time now, so I can jot things down. You can never tell when inspiration will strike!

As for the butt in the chair thing, that's hard. I try to write every day. I don't always make it, but on the days I don't, I feel guilty. My internal nag is a witch on a broom. She keeps me focused. So, I guess the answer is, be neurotic.

Lisa Dunick said...

oooh- I love the index card idea. That always worked writing articles--never thought about using it for fiction!

Louisa Cornell said...

The road to a finished novel is paved with excuses, rationalizations and just plain procrastination sometimes. The key is to just keep driving. Drive around every road block, turn around at the end of every dead end (sometime it's okay to sit there if the scenery is nice)refill the car when you run out of gas (chocolate works for me) fix the flat tire, do whatever it takes to stay on the road.

Writing a bit of dialogue on an index card COUNTS. Writing a scene in a notebook COUNTS. Do every writerly thing you can until it works itself into a steady stream, then put your foot on the gas and DRIVE !!

I've let a lot of things get in the way of my writing at times. And what I have learned is that it isn't always fun, it isn't always easy, but it IS always there waiting on ME. So I do my darnedest every day to make sure that I put ME in the chair and try whatever it takes to get the job done.

Rashda Khan said...

Good luck! I keep running files on different WIPs, when I get tired of one, I skim through one of the others, add whatever pops into my head.

And I loved LindaC's wise words as well.


Cari Hislop said...

Like Jeanie and some others have said, I think we have to get our story ideas out of our heads and onto paper or into a computer file. This does two things; saves your ideas and clears your brain of flotsam. I count writing down story ideas as writing.

As for blocks I've found they're sometimes the subconscious part of me creating a wall to send me in a direction I keep fighting or haven't noticed. If you're banging your head against a mental brick wall try turning left or right; if you see a passage way...explore it.

Blocks may also be a wall of fear. Ask yourself if there's anything you're afraid of keeping you from writing. Are you afraid that this time the words won't come? That you'll end up the next Stephanie Myers and because you're shy, you're terrified of having to do the red carpet? Maybe you're afraid that no one will like your brain children. Maybe you're afraid people will love your brain children. Fear is an absence of faith...and it takes faith to write a book. If fear is your wall, pull up a cannon and blow the wall down!

If a whole book seems too much, write a short story! One creative exercise I've loved is the 50 word story. It has to have a beginning middle and end, but can only have 50 words. If you can do a story of 50 can do a story of 50,000 words.

Also...make sure you're having fun. Don't write what you think you should write...write what you want to write!

Elizabeth Aldred said...

The best thing for me is having a deadline. But for that novel without a deadline--oh, the expletives that come to mind! The next best thing is to use all these excellent writers' tricks. Just 10 minutes or just 50 words (and then I can get up and fool with that pesky laundry) often turns into 90 minutes and 500 words or more. Interviewing the characters turns into a bit of dialogue, putting the setting on a map becomes description, getting the character to declutter her living space gives me backstory. Thanks for the blog--I'm inspired now to sit in the chair and finish the half-finished novel before I move on to one of the five other excellent ideas I've written pitches for!