Effort is a campfire on a December night in Northern Michigan – you MUST constantly feed it or you will freeze. The effort of writing a book will grow cold if you don’t feed your mind the kindling of research and allow the flames of inspiration to change the effort into a story.
As you can see, there are several days – sometimes a week – between my posts. I’m writing all the time between here and there and in the moments between lessons as I homeschooling my children. How does my schedule help you in your writing, you ask? Never give up, I say. The effort is a marathon, not a sprint. Even though there are kids and diapers and cross country meets, there is time to work on the craft of writing. Between meal planning, shopping and prep, there are moments to read. Before the sun rises, you can sneak out for a walk outside and listen to an audio book.
It’s now nap time for my youngest, so the house is quiet, giving me that necessary space to think. My older daughters are cleaning the kitchen before they finish their school work and leave for cross country practice. They take an active role in my success as a writer and I thank them for it. (So this is for you, girls! I love you and I thank you for being exactly who God made you to be!)
Sometimes the effort of writing is more than finding the time or the space…it’s leaping that tall mountain: Mount Writer’s Block (lovingly called Mt. Block Head by locals), located in the Valley of Emptiness, navigated successfully with a map. Who has that map? Can we just use the North Star?
Writer’s block isn’t as much of a block as it is a detour…an Andes mountain bus detour along a road without a guard rail led by a driver sipping on Jack Daniels. Not pretty – or perhaps the opening scene for a cliffhanger (pun intended). Writer’s block leaves a writer scattered on the rocks below, lamenting the short writing career and off to the hereafter in search of the next thing. Learn to recognize a derailed writing project and find a way to get behind the wheel. For me, my map, my North Star is research.
From my own experiences, when I hit a wall in a story, I return to my research and always find a solution. When writing about a scene that takes place in the desert, my research can vary from reading picture books set in the American Southwest to watching documentaries about deserts. Other times my struggles are with the flow of sentences and structure of the story and I turn to books about writing and my writing magazines. Research can also include reading blogs. Note what blogs really impress you and analyze the writing to discover what makes it pop.
To keep the fuel of effort hot:
- take a little of that writing conference money and buy a subscription to Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writer’s, or the like. Study the genre you write. Children’s writer? Read Calliope House, Ladybug, Highlights. Literary? Glimmer Train and the hundreds of e-zines.
- Go to the library and borrow Elizabeth Berg’s book on writing (I’d include the title, but I loaned it out), Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Try out Stephen Kings book On Writing. Need help with query letters and submissions? Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages. For the most entertaining resource for writing query letters, visit: http://www.queryshark dot com
- Listen to books on tape. Hear the story and the dialogue. Although the voice of each character is performed by the same person, intonation of the actor and the speech patterns from the author create an individual. Do your characters have that same level of individualism?
- Now record yourself reading your own story. Then listen to it without reading along. You’ll be amazed at the mistakes and weak areas of your writing as you read it into the recorder and you’ll discover undercurrents of strengths and weaknesses as you listen. This is time consuming, but worth every minute.
- Attend an author visit and book signing. Seek answers to questions about writing that pester you. What better way to stay motivated than to meet an accomplished writer?
- Develop thick skin and join a writing group (check your local library for meeting times). Remember that all critiques are opinions and you can pick and choose which opinions improve your writing and which suggestions are better swept under the rug.
It’s true that no one will hold your hand during this venture. I do pray that you have someone cheering you on. Keep on keeping on. The effort will be worth it. It always is.
”I wish I hadn’t worked so hard to make this dream come true” said No One, Ever!
Bonus “E” word:
Evolution. The more you write, the more your true style will emerge. Logic tells us no style can be born without a mentor. Since J.R.R. Tolkien is no longer with us and I will likely never meet Madeleine L’Engle or Kathi Appelt, I must use their writing to learn as a guide toward greatness. Keep reading great literature. Find good stories with descriptions that create images so strong you forget you are reading.
- Scissors, Red Pens and an Empty Glass (jessicaschaubbooks.com)
- Writing Conference Experience Without the Conference Part, Intro (jessicaschaubbooks.com)
- Writing Conference without the Conference, Day 1 (jessicaschaubbooks.com)
- From Muse to Masterpiece (fulltimewritermom.com)