In this first of twenty-five posts, I will explore the first point of advice contained in the Writer’s Digest article 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day. I hope you find my little public exercise useful.
A piece of writing is a living thing. Our goal should be to serve it and do what it wants, to be its instrument. The flow of words from our mind to the page is impeded in two main ways—if we try to make the story do something that it doesn’t want to do, or if something in us isn’t ready to face the full implications of the work’s theme and emotions.
Avoiding those blocks requires developing a relationship with the piece we’re working on, as if it were a person. At the start of each writing session, especially if you’re having trouble moving forward, literally ask your work-in-progress, “What do you want to do? Where do you want me to go with you? Why are you stalling?” This is a psychological trick that almost always creates an imagined response, along the lines of, “This scene is boring. Why are you making me do it?” Or, “This section is full of gimmicks. Why aren’t you being true to the subject?” The device takes only one minute, not 30, and over the years, it’s saved me from writing a lot of passages that would have been either unnecessary or else dishonest.
Wow – the first topic of the article asks me to talk to my book!? How did they know I do that? Wait, do I do that? Or do I do something similar?
If you are like me, you have asked your characters questions, but probably not your book, and most definitely not your work-in-progess (WIP). Well, I haven’t. And when I typed up a portion of a scene tonight, I didn’t think to ask it anything then. I’m not sure I have a problem with flow. Usually, once I get in the groove of writing, the story comes. Words appear on the page, characters start talking – not necessarily about the things I want, but eventually they work in all the topics I need them to – and stuff happens. It’s an amazing thing to experience that flow. I’m almost in a trance when it happens and I can rattle off pages of drivel in no time at all.
What I have a problem with is distractions. But that’s for another post.
There are times when I do feel the flow is not there, but I think it has more to do with the circumstances around me when I write. If I’m at home, I can relax and get into that trance-like state without having to worry about interruptions. I’ve had a bit of success while writing as a passenger in a car, but that seems to only work on long trips. Trying to write during breaks at work has been useless, but I did manage to pull of a short story during a month’s worth of lunches. I think because my scenes were smaller in scope I was better able to manage small trance-like writing stints. But, for my novel, I seem to need at least one free hour to get into that state when words pour out of me.
One reason I think I have such an easy time with flow is that I am, if nothing else, completely honest. My characters are very opinionated and they want YOU to know what they are thinking. I write from their hearts. No, that’s wrong. I write from their souls.
I will, however, try Mr. Morrell’s advice. Tomorrow night when I sit in front of my computer, before typing a single word, I will ask my WIP, “Where to tonight, my love?”
Never know. I just might end up on the moon. 😉