I’ve received a couple of e-mails asking me about writing–mainly about how I structure my time and stay disciplined, and other things that aid writing, and I figured I would answer them in my blog.
Disciplinary technique: I’m still working on this one. I think my biggest problem is that I want to be the perfect wife, the perfect business woman, and the perfect writer. Unfortunately, this means that I tend to put writing for last because it’s “fun” and do the other stuff (promotion, cooking, cleaning the house) first. To solve this problem, I’ve begun developing a “to do” list, in which I spread out all of my non-writing to do things across the days so I can leave time for writing. For instance, every morning, I answer my e-mail instead of doing it throughout the day. I’m also a “big blocks of time” person, so I always try to make sure to schedule all my errands in one day to leave me the other days for just writing. I’ll schedule coffee with a friend, grocery shopping, and a doctor’s appointment all on the same day instead of getting interrupted by each one of those things every day of the week.
Concentration: I was born with this. It’s a gift and a curse at the same time. It’s a gift because I can focus out almost anything and write for hours without moving. It’s a curse because I tend to ignore the people I love, and I also tended to walk around in my own little world when I was a kid. (Who knew that would be something that I use now?)
- Strunk and White’s Elements of Style–a must for any writer.
- Steven King’s On Writing. (If you’re going to learn, learn from the master.)
- I also recommend Syd Field’s The Screen Writer’s Bible, but that’s only because of the format he gives for screenplays, which is a good format for novels. It also teaches a lot about “show, don’t tell” in a way that most novelists don’t really portray. In a nutshell, your inciting incident (your central conflict) should occur one-fourth of the way through your novel. The point where your novel spins spins toward the story’s climax (not the climax, but the point where the story starts heading there rapidly–kind of a point of no return) should occur three-fourths of the way through the novel. All movies use this format, and I use it in my writing. The difference between screenplays and novels? With screenplays, these rules are gospel and cannot be deviated from. With novels, they are like the Pirate Code–more like guidelines really.
Anything Else That May Prove Helpful: First, decide your purpose for writing. Are you writing for you? To create art? To get published? Whatever your purpose, make that your goal. I made my original goal “to write a good novel,” and I forgot that my actual goal was “to get my novel published.” Once I changed goals, I changed my behavior. Figure out your goal. Second, you’ve got to make writing a priority–especially if you want to get published. You may actually want to schedule “writing time” in your planner, and you may want to discuss your new priority and how to schedule your time with your spouse. If you have children, you may have to write after they go to bed or before they wake up. Setting a goal and making writing a priority is probably the first and best step toward getting that manuscript in working order.