The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Today’s gem comes from Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds: “The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing“. I thought this was a great post to share with you, because all of us–even the most passionate writers–sometimes struggle to find the motivation to write. Personally, I’ve been struggling a lot lately. But, as you’ll read in this article, all of us have to write even when we don’t want to. In fact, those are the days it’s most important.

Even if it’s nothing, even if it’s crap, you’ve got to carve the words onto the page. Even if it’s only a hundred words, even if you only get to move the mountain by a half-an-inch, you’re still nudging the needle, still keeping that story-heart beating, still proving to yourself and to the world that this is who you are and what you do.

Read the rest of the article here!

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Writing-What’s your motivation?

Writing Inspirations: Images

They say a picture can speak a thousand words. For writers, they do more than speak. They motivate, inspire, and most of all, help us bring our story to life. The colors. The emotions. The beauty…All of it adds up to a delectable candy store for a writer’s imagination to gorge upon.

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As I work on my short ghost story, or Fallers, or whichever project I’m currently focusing on (one at a time, right? 😉 ), I always put photos of my characters in front of me. That way I can see them as I’m writing them. I can study their smile, their frown, their pain, their hopes, their dreams! It’s all right there, staring back at me. Motivating me. Pushing me. Urging me to dig deeper, understand them better.

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I even use book-inspired photos as my computer’s wallpaper. That way I’m constantly reminded about my story even if I’m not sitting there working on it. They keep me in the zone–in my characters’ minds–inside their world. All the time. They’re like oil for my creative cogs, helping me power up the writing machine when it’s time to run.

Better yet, having these photos set as my wallpaper is like having a strict proctor tapping their foot in disapproval whenever I’m slacking off. It’s like the pictures are lecturing me, “Okay missy, that’s enough Project Runway on Hulu. Get back to work!” (Seriously guys, I’m so addicted to that show right now!)

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve collected over 1,500 images on my “Book Inspiration” boards on Pinterest. And I’m constantly adding more. Whenever I start a new project or I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll trek over to this picture-licious site and scroll through my vast inventory. And I always find something to use to get the creative juices flowing.

(Side Note: If you’re inspired by images like me, then USE Pinterest! It’s an awesome resource. Plus, it helps keep all of your pictures organized.).

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Many times I won’t even be looking for a picture to inspire me, but I’ll stumble upon one that sets off a plot firework inside my brain. And, before I know it, I have a concept for a new story or character.

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So how about you? Do you like using pictures to inspire your writing? Do you pin your protagonist’s “face” right in front of you while you write so you can understand them better? What are some of your other forms of inspiration? Music is another big one for me, but that’s a post for another day 😉 .

Victory. First round of Flash Fiction Challenge 2013 complete.

So, as most of you know by now, I entered NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2013. This is a “competition that challenges writers around the world to create short stories (1,000 words max.) based on genre, location, and object assignments. Each writer will participate in at least 2 writing challenges and as many as 4 depending on how well they place in each challenge. When the competition begins, writers are placed in groups where they will be judged against other writers within their same group. Each group receives its own unique genre, location, and object assignments.”

This weekend, the competition kicked off. And I was DEFINITELY challenged!

I awoke Saturday morning, excited and nervous to open my email and see what my first challenge assignment was. I wasn’t too worried about what my location or object might be–those things are malleable and fun. I was, however, terrified to see what my genre would be. My comfort zones are mainly suspense, fantasy and sci-fi. Horror, even, if I had to. This is what I got:

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 9.15.11 AM“BEEPITY-BEEP-BEEP!”

I literally laughed out loud I was so dismayed. Romantic comedy? Dear Lord, save me. I sat staring at my computer, haphazardly running through the few chick-lits I’ve read (all Sophie Kinsella) and the many romantic comedy films I’ve viewed. Both seemed to share the same general formula:

Boy/girl meet. Boy/girl don’t get along and bicker in comedic ways. Boy/girl have an epiphany and start to fall in love. Boy/girl have a BIG fight and stop talking. Boy/girl realize they can’t live without the other. Boy/girl proclaim their love and get married and have many, many babies.

Happily ever after. The end.

Easy, right? Uh, no. This all works when you’re reading a 400-page novel or watching a two-hour movie. There’s time to introduce the couple, connect them in comedic yet endearing ways, formulate a conflict that will eventually drive a dagger between them, and then build a love strong enough to overcome that conflict…all the while building towards an ending that’s satisfying. But how do you do all of that in 1,000 words? In a swamp (hot!)? With an RV (hotter!)?

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I didn’t know how difficult this was actually going to be until I started writing. I made it through my couple’s first meeting and glanced at my word count: 910.

BEEPITY-BEEP-BEEP!

I continued writing anyways. I didn’t have time to be the perfectionist I am. I just needed to get a story down. The chopping and revising could come later. So, I wrote and wrote and wrote, until, finally, I had a story. A crappy story, but a story. Then, I started the nasty process of revising–chopping, adding, chopping more, adding more…I was in a war with my keyboard all day. Finally, around 7 P.M., I had a solid draft. I took a deep breath of relief and sent it to my two critiques–my mom and sister, romantic comedy gurus.

My mom’s initial response? “It’s good. I’ll call you.” (AKA, it sucks and I want to tell you why in the nicest way possible.)

BEEPITY-BEEP-BEEP!

My sister’s response came via email a few minutes later:

Its ok. It feels like you go from her hating him to all of a sudden a connection. I think you’re trying to squeeze too much in. I’m not really sure what to do differently. I guess its just not jaw dropping to me or really even comical. It’s almost as if you need a side kick with her that provides more of a comic relief. The two of them alone is rather weird I think. 

Also, is Ali a guy or a girl alligator? Little confusing.

BEEPITY-BEEP-BEEP!

Okay, time to panic. I’d just spent an entire day writing a story that was no good. I’d wasted almost the first 24-hours of my precious 48-hour timeline for the competition.

Exhausted, hungry and on the verge of tears, I curled up on my couch while my mom came over and tried to assure me the story wasn’t that bad and didn’t need to be totally rewritten–the basic plot just needed some work. I laughed bitterly. When you need to revise the root of a 1,000 word story, you’re rewriting the whole thing. It’s not a novel. It’s not like one chapter sucked. The WHOLE story sucked.

I ate some dinner and calmed down enough to start brainstorming. Throughout the day, as I’d worked on Swampy Crapville (not the actual title…though that probably would’ve been more interesting than the story itself), I kept thinking about a trip to Florida I’d taken with my family. We had to drive from Miami, through the Everglades, to the Gulf Coast (that’s the most swampland I’ve ever seen; we don’t have real swamps in Colorado.). As we drove past the dense, misty, jungly marshland, we kept asking each other, “How much money would it take for you to hike a mile through that?” It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but staring at those swamps with all those vines and bugs and snakes, we agreed it would take at least a million bucks.

I mentioned this memory to my mom. As she chuckled, I started thinking about it more and more, and before I knew it, I had a brand new concept for my story. I pitched it to my mom. She loved it. So, I started writing, reading her excerpts as I went. She was laughing and nodding at everything I wrote. I suddenly felt much calmer knowing I at least had a doable concept. After she left, I kept writing. By midnight, I had a complete rough draft (500 words too long, but whatever). Unable to keep my eyes or brain awake, I went to bed.

Tension and anxiety woke me up at 5 A.M. I could feel the clock ticking.

559122_414391018618526_1399407193_n1I got up and went downstairs to start revising. A few hours later, I had to stop because I volunteer in my church’s nursery every third weekend (and, as fate would have it, that was this weekend…grrr). The unwanted interruption turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when I returned home, I was able to revise freshly, quickly and efficiently. I sent my mom the first full draft of Muck and Mire. Her response: ok!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ten million times better- I love it.

PHEW!!

Talk about a relief! With her hard won approval, I started the revising process again (chop, chop, add, add, chop, chop). I whittled the story down from 1,300 words to 998. I sent it back to her. Approved. SUCCESS! I took a brief break before doing one final read-through. Then I took the plunge and submitted it. The moment I hit the send button, I felt like a bag of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. I was so happy, thankful, grateful…It was over! I’d finished.

Now, is it the best story of all time? Noooo. Will it win this first round of the competition? NOOO! Honestly, I’m not even sure if I’ll place high. I took a risk with the format and it could either hurt me or help me. I just don’t know. But I do know that I’m proud of myself for accepting the challenge, finishing it, and turning in a story that I feel good about. I thought it was funny and–hopefully–romantic enough to qualify it as a “romantic comedy”.

Due to certain parameters and precautions of the competition, I won’t be posting the story quite yet, but here’s the brief synopsis:

A popular TV show unites two strangers, Jack Sharp and Lucy James, as they race against other teams across the Shitsowami Swamp for ten million dollars. Inside the misty bogs, the pair discover snakes, gators and even love.  

Fingers crossed! And, as always, good vibes and prayers are appreciated 🙂

Confession: I Have Bad Habits When I Write

On Saturday, I had one goal in mind: Write! Write, write, write! Nothing was going to stop me. Nothing! Not Twitter, Facebook, blogs. My blog (doh!).

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Well, after eight hours, I’d written exactly two chapters. You heard me. Two! Well, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t write two NEW chapters. I revised two. How horrible is that? Two stinkin’ chapters that I’d already written and wanted to perfect. Lame!

Even worse, I totally had motivation to write. Every time I turned to my manuscript, I was sooo THERE. I’d start typing and be like, “Oh, that’s good!” and, “Wow, where’d that come from?”, and, best of all, “God, I rock. High five, Self!”

And, yet, all I did was revise two chapters.

Two.

In. Eight. Hours!

This lack of productivity got me thinking about all the bad habits I have whenever I sit down to write. And, man oh man, do I have a lot 😦So many, in fact, that I was forced to condense them into three main categories.

Bad Habit #1

“Ready. Set. G–Ooh, look! A shiny penny!”

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I feel like a distracted two-year old when I sit down to write. Even though I’m pumped up and ready to go, my mind and body immediately wander away. No joke, the second I open my manuscript, I get antsy and feel a need to do something–anything–else. Clean the house. Take out the trash. Workout. Get the mail. Or, my personal favorite, pull a James Stewart and study my neighbors through my rear window as they go about their daily business (don’t deny it, you do it too; people are funny to watch). And, of course, I check Facebook, Twitter and, worst of all, Pinterest! Oh Pinterest…

please-stand-by…And I’m back!

Over time, I’ve figured out this ADD-like habit is always worse when I either start a new project or revise an older one for the billionth time. Starting a brand new story is like throwing a pile of clay on a table. It’s all mushy and muddy and shapeless, and you’ve gotta roll up your sleeves and mold it into something pretty and special. Ugh. So much work! And revising an old manuscript is like taking that already finished sculpture and smashing it to pieces, again and again, until you’re so tired of gluing it back together, you just want to leave it shattered and broken.

So, how do I deal with this problem? Leave the house and head down the street to the library or the Tattered Cover Bookstore cafe. Both are quiet (unless Mr. Loves To Talk On His Phone Loudly decides to sit next to me and then proceeds to ignore my I’m-going-to-stab-you-in-the-eyeball-with-my-pen scowl). And both are usually filled with people who are working hard, which encourages me to focus and work hard too.

Bad Habit #2

Feed Me! Feed Me!

Greed,_1924,_06_banchettoI’m proud to say that I lead a healthy lifestyle. I exercise four to five days a week, and I keep a close eye on my diet.

Except for when I write.

When that happens you better WATCH OUT! I may accidentally nibble on your arm because I think it’s a drumstick. I mean it. The minute I open the creative gates of my mind, all I want to do is chow down. Just shovel it in and never stop! And Lord save me if there’s chocolate around, especially Peanut M&M’s. If I kept those sinfully sweet suckers in the house, I’d quickly transform into Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory(after she expands into a giant blueberry, of course).

1971_violet_blueberry_cute_pic_by_tofer17-d2yew2fI’ve learned the best ways to combat this ravenous habit of mine are to: 1) Stock the house with healthy food. NO chocolate allowed! 2) Chew lots and lots of gum and drink plenty of water. And/or 3) Once again, leave the house and drive down the road to the food-less library. Tattered Cover Bookstore is fine too as long as I don’t take my wallet in with me. I can’t resist those chocolate chip cookies or mocha lattes. Ooh…cookies…

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…And onwards we go! (Don’t worry, I’m not getting crumbs all over my computer. I finished my cookie in the car like a good girl.)

Bad Habit #3:

Perfectionist

deviant_id_12_15_11_by_therealjmj-d4j6hthHello, nice to meet you. My name is Hermione Granger.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad, but close. I’ve always had a tough time just writing. No stopping, no criticizing, no over-analyzing every single word or musing idea thought. Just write, write, write!

But. I. Can’t!

Everyone in the business says, “Write now. Revise later.” My perfectionist brain says, “Write now–no, no, no! ‘You’re saying it wrong’. Go back and revise, stupid.”

have to come up with the perfect right exact word now. I have to do a Google search to confirm there is, indeed, a sushi restaurant within a mile of my protagonist’s high school. I have to think of an original analogy (because “she’s as quiet as a mouse,” sucks). It’s awful horrid ridiculous! All those eensy-weensy details mock and taunt me, even during a first draft when they’re basically insignificant. I’ll make it five chapters and then screech to a halt because I realize something that happened in Chapter 4 doesn’t line up with something that now happens in Chapter 25. So I go back and revise. Then I realize the new thing in Chapter 4 now conflicts with an event in Chapter 1. So I go back and revise Chapter 1. And, hey, wouldn’t you know it? With Chapter 1 rewritten the rest of the book makes no sense!

Start over! Start over!

And I do. Every time I stumble and fall into a deep, dark plot hole I grumble under my breath and rush back to the chapter where the fault first occurred–which, inevitably leads me back to an earlier chapter to fix something else–which inevitably leads me back to the first chapter–which inevitably leads me to say, “Oh, eff it!” and I start over. Again!

It’s a vicious domino effect.

Why, brain, why??

annoyed2Honestly, I annoy myself.

The upside to all of this is that–by some miracle–I still manage to get work done (ahem, some days more than others), and I have discovered successful strategies that help me minimize and cope with these bad writing habits (hey, I haven’t turned into a giant blueberry yet have I?). And, more than anything, I know that no amount of tempting chocolate or amusing neighbors or infuriating “Hermione Granger” moments will stop me from doing what I love most: Write.