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


Anthology Authors said...

Goodness! My longest book is 58k. I doubt I could write more than that. I tend to be more of a novella author than full-length novel. Either I'm lazy or my muse has ADHD. LOL

Half the battle is getting the butt planted in the chair. Some days are easier than others.


Margaret Fieland said...

I agree with you about researching your setting. I have to be able to picture anything I write about in detail, including the plan for the house and the placement of the furniture, before I write about it.

AJ Maguire said...

lol, I do often get novel ideas in the shower. One day they'll invent something we can write with in there. Just a little waterproof pad and pen that we can jot ideas down with real quick and go back to shampooing our hair.

Skyewriter said...

As you point out, without moving from your chair you can find out the most amazing stuff. My only problem with that is I get so easily sidetracked with all the interesting stuff I come across. But you are right, just sit your butt down and stay there. It's the tortoise who wins the race.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

Such good advice and stated so simply. Your points about rules and other 'writing' procedures is accurate -- everyone seems to develop their own rules which are better defined as methods. You are also right about the internet. You can research anything, which makes setting scenes so much easier.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

P.S. How did my kitty CC (Chatty Catty) get into your photo? Did you catch a photo of an actual muse?

Heather Haven said...

Judith, with planted butt in chair, let me say I loved your blog! And the picture of you is priceless. Charming, funny and informative. Also a great voice.

Beverley Bateman said...

Judith, I enjoyed your post. and you're so right. We all know it - butt in chair and write.
Wow! 5 - 50,000 word novels unfinished?

Victoria Chatham said...

Plant butt in chair is good! So is 'keep fingers on the keyboard'. Researching places I haven't physically been to is a fascinating process. Much as you did, I've delved into histories of the area and love Google Earth. Because I write mostly historical books, I have to ignore the modernities of high rise buildings etc, but just getting an idea of the topography is enormously helpful. Good post.