Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Four ways to write a little more . . .

Resting Kitty (Kevin Kosbab, FeedDog)
Who's ready to write? 

We all have our writing rituals, those little behaviors, like a cat peering out from a pillow or a dog settling into a nest of blankets, that ensure we are truly ready to write. Most mornings, I leap to work, inspired by my mini-outline from the last session, ready to work on what's next -- but that's AFTER I check e-mail.

Sometimes, though, between one major project and the next, we experience a lull in our writing. So here are four tips that may prompt your writing.  

1. Set aside time for exploratory writing. Dig into your character's back stories. Go ahead and draft a page or two (or a paragraph) that describes this person's attitudes about the great generalities -- life, love, their greatest hopes. Move from generalities to specifics. Include what they detest and what they fear most. Natter on about their dreams, when they have experienced joy. What were their most memorable experiences as a child, as a young man or woman? What will they never forget and why? 

2. Do a little research. Finding articles online remains a great distraction. But with a few key words, one or two articles can lead to insight and scenes for drafting.

For example, I have a teen-aged character in my current project who's fairly important, but he's shadowy, almost a stereotype. So in desperation, I looked up "behavior + teenager" and found several useful articles on teens and their developing brains that help me dig beneath the surface. 

These theories suggest that teens don't develop rationality until they are in their 20s. Their need to separate themselves from authority figures to create their own identity (called individuation) means lots of conflict. We can see that in a teen's willingness to test boundaries -- and how quickly that teen might defend dangerous behaviors or a dangerous friend. Because of hormones changing, teens also feel deeply and intensely; life with a teen can be filled with drama. All of this leads me, even in mid-19th Century, to see lots of potential conflict for my sixteen-year-old in the wilderness of Canada. 

3. Draw a portrait of your character with an illustrated map showing key events of her or his journey. I resisted trying this one because I simply do not draw very much. This kind of drawing -- do not lift the pencil or pen from the paper -- is like a trail that takes you to new insights. Somehow the brain relaxes as you scribble out the path, stopping to illustrate a key character or scene, sometimes with stick figures! You may find yourself surprised by what you learn from the drawing.

4. Make a commitment with a concrete deadline. Your promise to write can be to a writing group (lucky you, if you have a good face-to-face group), to an online writing community like The Internet Writing Workshop, or A Round of Words in 80 Days, or even Weds WIPpet, publishing a short excerpt from your current work in progress. Or, your promise can simply be to yourself. Key: Set a deadline and stick to it!

What strategies do you use to motivate your writing?

For your enjoyment, here's a very short video trailer (under a minute) for my just published Years of Stone.