Friday, January 20, 2017

Plant Butt in Chair

Even  with good intentions, it may be hard to concentrate.  Observe cat on desk.

How do you motivate yourself to write and finish that novel?
It isn't easy.  I have a friend with  five (!) 50,000 word unfinished novels from NaNoWriMo.  Maybe one of these days she will finish one.  Maybe not.
It takes a lot of time to get your plot laid out (no matter how rudimentary) and get to know your characters and nail your the salient details of your setting.  But, as Mary Poppins said, "well begun is half-done."
Perhaps.  We all start off like gangbusters and after a few chapters maybe you see how anemic the plot is, or your characters stop speaking to you, or you realize you need to take a little (or a long trip) to bring your setting to life.  It happens to every writer, but it's what you do after you reach this impasse that distinguishes the pros from the amateurs.
Plant butt in chair.  The truth is, we learn to know our characters by writing about them.  Develop.  Develop.  They'll surprise you.  Everyone has heard of a character taking over a book.  It does happen.  But not unless you are actively writing the book.
Plotting can be done in the shower, behind the wheel of your car, making dinner, falling asleep at night.  But you better get those great ideas on paper as soon as possible, or they'll disappear into the ether.  Sit down and write notes to yourself: ideas for a scene, fragments of dialogue.
Spend an evening researching your setting online.   I've "been" to both Cuba and Panama via online visits.  What you can ferret out and the great believable details you can discover are there for the taking.  You can find photos, blogs, discussion groups--I tapped into some sailors' listserve about sailing in Cuban waters and the Florida straights.  I found out about Hemingway Marina and the dos and don'ts on how to behave.  Saw photos of the taxis.  Found lists of gifts to take.  Googled the airport and imagined  how it would look just after take off.  Pretty soon, I felt like I had been there, walking along the Malecon and taking a carriage ride through the old city.  Same thing for Panama.  But remember:  my butt was right here in the chair.
The only rule is:  there are no rules.  If so, no one knows what they are.  Really.  There is no rule that you must write the book in sequence.  You can do the BIG scenes and then string them together.  You can write the ending and keep going back in time, always asking yourself, "what would have to happen to make this happen?"  You can write a  400 page outline and spend more time on it than the book.
Sometimes, the ending and the beginning will confound you and require a skidload of rewrites and much thought.  That's okay.  The book takes five years?  Thaat's okay, too.  You WROTE and FINISHED it.
Remember, it isn't easy.  Just don't stop after 50,000 words.  You're over half way there.  And the best advice I had as a beginning writer was:  almost anything can be fixed.  In mystery writing, there's a saying that if the plot bogs down, have a man with a gun come through the door.  This can be literal or it is can be figurative.  Make something happen.
Writers are always writing, whether in their heads on in their chairs, but to get the book written and finished you are going to have to PLANT BUTT IN CHAIR!
Good Luck!   

These fine writers will have plenty of good advice on the subject.  Take a look at what they have to say.

Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun  Rachael Kosinski
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire
Rhobin Courtright

Friday, December 09, 2016

Pen Literary Awards

The Pen Literary nominations for 2017 have been announced.

Many excellent and deserving writers are nominated. Give a book.  Buy a book.  And read a book (or three).

Pen Literary Awards