22 March 2013

When You're Just Not Feeling It...

I've been in such a rut. Ever since I finished my contest entry, it's been hard to focus on any writing. I thought maybe I just needed a break, but since I can never stop thinking about my writing, it was hard to take a real one. But every time I opened up the laptop and stared at the contents of my flash drive, I found myself just reading my work and not actually adding anything to it. This is fine--sometimes--because you really should enjoy your own writing, but I was craving progress.

Even when I felt the itch to write, I couldn't focus enough on one particular moment to work on. Nothing interested me. Even all of my ideas for blog posts or poems that had seemed so intriguing a week before left me with a blah feeling. So that's when I realized....I just wasn't feeling it.

It's going to happen from time to time, when you just don't want to write, or you don't know what to write. Don't fight it. It will only lead to more frustration. I think one way to cure this is to indulge. Write something pointless. This was how my sequel came about. I like to picture my characters after the story is over. Or don't write at all. Sit on your bed for hours stuffing your face and watching Netflix (Did I do that all day yesterday? Perhaps.).

Another option is to visualize. You don't have to commit to any writing, but keep thinking about your work. Maybe it will help you figure something out. It might even lead to words forming in your mind. But don't be disappointed if it doesn't. The important thing is just to keep the story alive in your mind. And if you're in love with your story, this will be a form of indulgence, too.

The most important thing is: don't panic! This has happened before, and it will happen again. You've just got to find your own way of getting through it.

08 March 2013

Writer's Block Pie

Welcome to the first installment of Food Fridays! Where my love of food and cooking meets my love of writing, because, well, a good chunk of my WIP is about food. It's funny because while I love cooking, I'm really not that good at it. But I try.

This first little vignette has been long overdue, months--a couple years, even. Because I sort of have this obsession with reenacting the food moments from my book. The first chapter ends with Jordan eating an entire key lime pie in one sitting (come on, you could do it, too, if you were a teenage boy). The whole point of this scene is to show him giving in to a private, animalistic side. The food becomes symbolic for a sort of hunger for life.

But anyway, the book isn't what's important here. It's the pie. Because this scene has existed from the book's very first incarnation, and since I'm completely insane about these things, it was only natural for me to make the signature pie. But for the longest time, I didn't make it.

I don't know why I put it off for so long. Maybe it was too important. Maybe I just didn't want to screw it up. But finally, last June, I decided to do it. I was having an enormous case of writer's block, and needed a way to break it. I was completely convinced that making this pie would instantly cure my writer's block the moment I took the first bite. There was no question in my mind about it.

Here's the major problem: I live in a tiny studio apartment with a tiny oven and barely any counter space. My oven doesn't even tell me when it's done preheating. But I had a mission, dammit, and I was going to accomplish it. Making the pie wasn't hard, but once it got in the oven, it was out of my hands. And when it was supposed to be done, well, it wasn't. The center wasn't cooking as fast as it should have, but while I was forced to leave the pie in the oven, the crust started to overcook. Eventually I had to make the decision that it was good enough and took it out.

Next was the meringue, which, in all honesty, I shouldn't have tackled in the first place. It took forever to beat the egg whites to the right consistency. And then about the second after I placed it under the broiler, it started to burn. I got it out in enough time so that it wasn't a total disaster, but I still felt like a complete failure. This was supposed to be a great homage to my book and a cure to my devastating writer's block. And all I had was a slightly burnt pie.

But I wasn't completely giving up hope. In true obsessive fashion, I attacked the pie with a fork, because that's they way it happens in the book (slices are for weaklings). I gave a second fork to my boyfriend, because I sure as hell couldn't do it on my own. We ate straight from the center, and while it wasn't the greatest thing I've ever eaten, it was pretty decent.

I know what you're wondering. Did my magical pie cure the writer's block? OF COURSE NOT. You probably knew that from the very beginning. It would be great if pie could cure writer's block. But really the only thing that cures it is effort--effort in writing or just eliminating self-doubt.

But still, it had to be done. And I'll probably do it again. Hopefully with better results.

06 March 2013

The Procrastination Solution

I was going to title this post “How to Deal with Deadlines,” but I realized I actually don’t have the answer to this problem. I’m by no means a professional writer, and don’t have experience in meeting a deadline for a manuscript or article. And setting goals for myself never goes very well. However, since last week I had to finish a novel draft for a contest deadline, I was having flashbacks to high school and college when I would always wait until the last minute to get something done. While I wouldn’t recommend procrastination if you have no experience—if you’re good at getting things done early, more power to you—I do have some tips for the amateurs and even the most skilled of procrastinators.

  1. It’s all about PRESSURE. What’s more likely to light a fire under your ass than the fact that you absolutely have no choice but to get your work done? It’s either get it done or fail, or you may even lose money or integrity if this is a professional piece. So what else can you do when you have only a few hours left? Pressure leads to greater concentration. 
  2. Make a sacrifice to the caffeine gods. Who needs sleep when you’ve got all this great writing to do? The more sleep-deprived you are, the crazier you are, and so your ideas could be more interesting! You know what? Skip the quadruple shot latte and invest in an IV that drips espresso.
  3. Commercial breaks. Sometimes concentrating too much on one thing can be overwhelming. Maybe there’s a marathon of your favorite TV show on at the same time you’re doing your work. The mute button is now your best friend. You can turn it into a game and see how much work you can get done during one commercial break before you can relax for a few minutes and watch your favorite detectives solve a murder.
  4. Take a shower. I figured this one out in high school. When the ideas weren’t coming together, I’d take a break and hop in the shower to wash my hair. There are no distractions and you can be alone with your thoughts. I would always have some sort of epiphany under the hot water.
  5. Don’t panic. Don’t bother asking yourself WHY you waited so long to do this. That’s irrelevant now and it probably won’t make a difference the next time. Don’t fight your nature. You were born a procrastinator and you’ll probably stay that way. Just fight onward! Every time you’re successful will just reinforce the fact that you were right to procrastinate in the first place.

I’m sorry, I have no idea how serious I was trying to be anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t have put this off until nine o’clock…

04 March 2013

To Write or Edit?

So the good news is that on Friday, I completed my contest submission (much thanks to my muse for putting up with depression and PMS to get through it). I sent in the first fifty pages of my novel about two hours shy of the deadline, along with a painstakingly crafted outline—you know how I hate those.

Now the only question is: what do I do now? My editing process brought me through the first five chapters (after completely cutting Chapter Two) out of the eleven I had written. So do I plow onward with the editing, or jump back to Chapter Twelve? It’s a tough decision. I feel as though I’ve been avoiding the next chapter for a while, and not just because of the contest, but because I know it will be difficult to write. A huge part of me just wants to pick up where I left off and finish the book, and finally have a complete first draft.

On the other hand, it makes more sense to keep editing. If I move into the final round of this contest, I’ll need to submit the next fifty pages as well, probably sometime in June. Wouldn’t it be easier just to have it done already, just in case?

Also, I’ve been so focused on the beginning of the book that it might be a little weird to jump ahead. I’ve gotten into a groove with the voice and tone, and to write a part where my characters are at a different stage of their relationship might be a little odd. I might want to get through what I’ve already written and edit it to how I want it to be, then when I start writing again, what needs to happen and how the characters should act will be much clearer.

Plus—bonus! The next chapter I would have to edit includes the scene when my characters (finally) have their first kiss. Which I just love. Side note—is it totally wrong of me to think my characters are adorable? Am I some kind of sick pervert? Or do I just spend WAY too much time with them?

Anyway, I think the answer is clear. It might be a little unconventional, but I think the universe (and muse) is telling me to edit what I already have first. Who knows, it may make writing the second half of the book even easier, because I’ll have a better perspective on what I want the book to be as a whole.

It’s always important to follow your instincts, and just see what you get from it.