Wednesday, January 16, 2019

From a blank page

Real life happens around us while we play in the imaginary ones we create. How do you keep yourself in the writing zone and out of the ruts? Are there tricks to staying focused, especially at this time of year?

by Dietrich

I hope everyone had a terrific Holiday and New Year. For me, it’s time to get my head back into the writing, and the key is to just sit down and start the next story, allowing myself to get inspired as themes and plots take shape and as characters develop and new ones come to mind. I love delving into their worlds and seeing the story take shape and where it will lead. And I never have much trouble blocking out the real world and slipping into my imagination. And if sitting down isn’t enough, I’ll shut the door, turn off the phone, disconnect the computer from the internet, turn up the music, do whatever it takes.

And I’ll do it every day at more or less the same time until I’m finished, which will likely be close to this time next year. That’s the routine: I get up early each morning and start writing until noon. Although I do often think about parts of the story when I’m not writing, so I’m often jotting down notes to use the next day.

I’ve found the best way for me is not to set goals like how many pages I need to get done each day or week. And I don’t usually use an outline or follow a calendar, and I don’t have a set word count that I aim for. Some days I’ll crank out a lot of pages, and other days it will be less. The important thing is what goes on those pages. Is it any good? Then once I’ve got a first draft complete, I’ll take another pass and take out or change anything doesn’t work, and I’ll tighten it up. And I’ll take several days between drafts, so that I come back to it with fresh eyes.

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway 

I don’t always do it, but taking a break between stories like I just did over the Holidays is a good idea. I finished one novel and completed edits on the one coming out later this year, so it was the perfect time to take a break. The trouble is I usually have the next one floating around in my mind long before I’ve finished the last one, and I want to start playing with it, gathering the bits, and once that happens I just want to see where it will take me …


Paul D. Marks said...

I think you and I are on the same page, so to speak, Dieter. I also don't have any set goals, just try to get something done over a week's time let's say. And, like you too, some days I'll get out a lot of pages, other days not so much. The key is just to keep moving forward.

I also do that Hemingway thing where I stop when I'm going good. It's easier to pick it up the next day. As he also said, there's nothing to writing, all you do is open a vein and bleed (to paraphrase).

RJ Harlick said...

Very apt and wise words from Hemmingway. Good post, Dietrich.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Paul and Robin. And I like that quote too: Nothing to it, just open a vein and bleed.

Susan C Shea said...

The distracting tickle of the next story is a real thing. It sounds as though you work on only one story at a time, staying focused. I always did that until now, when I'm working on two new and quite different stories and when I sit down to work on one, the other is usually calling me!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I have tried writing two during the same year, switching from one to the other between drafts.