What I’m reading: Cold Wind, by C.J. Box
Contest Clue Alert! : Hope you all had a chance to visit Kathy Bennett’s Interrogation Room yesterday. (Note: Kathy just informed me she had trouble posting the interview yesterday, but it’s up there now. If you tried to find it yesterday, we both apologize. Since I’m out of town and have very little computer time, things aren’t quite “normal” when it comes to on-line issues.)
Joe Pike, a character in Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole series has red arrows tattooed on his deltoids. According to Pike, they remind him life is about moving forward.
Often, readers think that writers simply sit down at the computer each day and pound out another chapter of the manuscript. Whether or not this actually happens, it’s still a common goal. Oh, it might not be a chapter—maybe it’s a scene, or a word count goal, but ultimately, we want to move forward every day.
If you’re an outliner or a plotter, you probably have your game plan as soon as you open that manuscript document. But what if you don’t have that nice reference file? Since I neither outline nor plot in advance, I thought I’d share some tips that work for me. (Your mileage may vary—and these will not necessarily work if you’re on deadline.)
1. Understand your own circadian rhythm. Know what time of day your productivity is high, and keep that time clear for writing.
2. Deal with your distractions. There are those who say, “I won’t look at my email until I’ve written my quota.” That may work for them, but if you’re not going to be able to focus because you’re worried about what’s piling up in your inbox, then you’re cutting back on your productivity. Same goes for social networking, or whatever “non-writing” things you have in your schedule. If knowing the toilets need cleaning is going to distract you, then get your chores out of the way.
3. Get a running start. When I finish a scene, I print it out and read it in bed, marking up trouble spots. And trust me, printing the pages will help you notice things that aren’t apparent on the screen. Then, when I’m ready to work, I start by fixing whatever I’ve noted. This will bring me into the story again, and I’m ready to move forward. If I haven’t finished a scene, then I’ll simply read whatever I wrote the day before to get back into the feel of the book.
Nook Contest Question #9 Remember to use the Contact Form to answer the question, and put “Nook Contest” in your response.) If I had to end up on a reality television show, what might it be? (You didn’t miss the clue alert at the beginning of this post, did you?)
And on with today’s post
4. Know where you’re going with the next scene. This is as close to plotting as I ever get. For example, in the case of the bones, which I mentioned in Monday’s post, I’ll be planning the logical next step. Gordon will want to talk to the people who live on the property where the bones were found. I’ll know who’s going to be in the scene, and (I hope) what points he’ll need to cover. I know at least one or two questions he’ll be asking in his position as a cop, and I know that because he knows this family, there will be some social interaction as well. Remember, a scene has to exist for more than one reason.
5. Start writing. Don’t worry too much about perfection at this point. Get it on the page. You can evaluate it later. (see step 3 above)
6. Know when to stop. Some days, you might not hit your writing goal. Other days, you might surpass it. One excellent tip I got that I’m happy to share is, “Don’t stop when you’re stuck; stop when you know what’s happening next.” There’s nothing more exciting than starting off a writing day eager to get down all the things you know have to happen. I can’t say I’m always successful with this one—many’s the time I’ve stopped a scene with a character’s phone ringing, or a knock at the door, and I have no idea who’s calling, or who’s knocking. But then, if it was easy, everyone could do it.