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Friday, February 13, 2015

It’s Opposite Day

Most writers go through periods of re evaluating their “process,” especially at the start of a new year. We dutifully set deadlines, resolve to get up at 5:00 a.m. for some undisturbed writing time (well, not me, but more about that later) or impose a daily word goal.

Taking a cue from the classic “It’s opposite day” game that most parents recognize, sometimes I find it helpful to deviate from all whatever technique du jour I’ve been using and do the opposite. Not making your two thousand word a day count? Try reading TV Guide and cut yourself some slack for a few days.  If your approach is to meticulously outline and write each chapter in sequence, and you find yourself stuck, try writing a chapter, scene, or even a scrap of dialogue out of order. You can cut and paste it later. Better yet, come to the dark side with me and try the seat-of-your-pants approach.

A caveat: What works for one project doesn’t always work for another. Your written-on-the-fly novel may have poured out of you over a long weekend, but that doesn’t mean your muse has left for greener pastures if you’re still staring at an empty page on your current novel.  So try doing the opposite: Write down the “guts” of you book: scenes you know need to be included, plot developments, sub-plots, character arcs, themes, plot twists, etc on individual index cards. Line them up in order on the floor or on a bulletin board so you get a visual of where the story is going and how you get it there. The point is, if you get so fixated on following your routine, or lack thereof, you may end up with a whole lot of empty pages, or worse, a whole lot of mediocre pages.

My theory is that eventually we find a process that consistently works for us and it’s different for everyone. I will never get up at 5:00 a.m. to write for the same reason I won’t get up at 5:00 a.m. to do anything: I don’t want to. The beauty of putting a story on a page is that you created it and somehow found the time and discipline to finish it despite the demands of your daily life. Readers don’t care whether you wrote it five hundred words at a time, off the top of your head, or somewhere in between. So why should you? 


Kristen Howe said...

Great blog post Kim!

Kim English said...

Thanks Kristen! I'm new to the blog and hoping to improve each month.

Anonymous said...

When I have writing glitches, I take a good look at where the story is going. Is it following the path needed for the resolution? Did I skip something? Invariably, something is missing. Either a character is not rounded in the way that advances the plot or...heck, I just goofed! Trusting that the words will come, I get back on the writing track.

Shanika L. Bynum said...

I'm not an early bird, so I would never wake up at 5 am either. I'm cranky if I wake up any time before 8 in the morning lol.