Tips for Moving Forward

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.)

Red ArrowJoe 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 Simple Touch

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.

14 thoughts on “Tips for Moving Forward

  1. this is your usual great post, Terry. I had to give up try­ing to write in the morn­ings — I am a night owl and don’t really func­tion before noon (Sshh don’t tell my boss). sin­gle biggest gift I gave myself was to own that and quit try­ing to write in the am.

    • Louise — some­times forc­ing cre­ativ­ity just plain doesn’t work. As long as you rec­og­nize strenths and weak­nesses, why not max­i­mize them. (And I won’t tell your boss)

  2. More great infor­ma­tion on writ­ing, Terry. A few friends keep telling me I should write a book. I think that’s just because I’ve lead a rather inter­est­ing life. LOL Per­haps one book only to be pub­lished when I’m gone & I will still have to change a lot of names but it will be to pro­tect the guilty. ;-)

    Nook Con­test

    • Heck, if you’re in the neigh­bor­hood, feel free to drop by. We can meet for lunch, and no con­test necessary.

  3. I just recently real­ized the ben­e­fits of print­ing a scene before edit­ing or mov­ing on. I was too wor­ried about paper and ink before, but it saves me hours of stuckness.

    • I can’t live with­out the print­outs any­more. For final drafts, use a dif­fer­ent font, and all sorts of new stuff will show up.

  4. Excel­lent post, Terry. These are really good tips. I’m a bit of both — pantser and plot­ter. Because my edi­tor requires a syn­op­sis (and often asks for quite a few details) I have to dream up a plot, start to fin­ish, and clar­ify every­thing that hap­pens in the story.

    Even so, once the dead­line begins, the ‘organic’ writ­ing kicks in and the char­ac­ters develop their own ideas for how their story should unfold. Detours hap­pen, lead­ing me off the ‘plot­ted path’ and down a dif­fer­ent road. Thing is, I’m always head­ing in the same gen­eral direc­tion as orig­i­nally planned. Just some­times take a totally new way to reach the end.

    I’d much pre­fer to just write — no out­lines and just know­ing h/h and roughly what hap­pens. But I am not allowed to do that.

    Any­way, love your tips. You do super writ­ing pieces.

  5. That’s good advice, espe­cially #6. Sounds like an excit­ing way to start the writ­ing for next time.

    Nook Con­test

  6. My best writ­ing time is evenings hit and miss around online spades tour­na­ments. Then once those are done I focus on the writ­ing. Today, Fri­day, was going to be start early. Well early for me. I crawled out of bed a lit­tle before 1:00 PM and pid­dled around. I had opened the lap­top booted it up and was think­ing hmm get an early start on writ­ing today. My sis­ter called and asked me if I wanted to meet her at Arby’s for lunch. I was like sure let me get dressed. After I fin­ished with her I went to Wal Mart and the local gro­cery store-HEB. I came home and took a nap due to the pain in my bad knee. Now I am work­ing on the WIp, read­ing emails, and play­ing games. It is how I work. I guess from work­ing the evening shift so many years in a con­ve­nience store I’m a night owl and late night writer. Often if I am on a roll I may stay up all night writing.

  7. Thank you for the tips…I know we know them…but it is great to have reminders!

    (Nook con­test)

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