One sentence at a time

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Shaking off the shackles of writer’s block (as any writer knows) is not easy, but I’ve learned that anything worth doing is rarely as easy as it seems when you start out. Occasionally, just starting out is the difficult part.

I decided to use the strategy my own coach, Scott Lewis, taught me when I first complained to him that I wanted to write–knew I could write–if only I knew how to get myself to do it. He asked me to commit to two minutes of writing a day and report back to him the following week.

Two minutes of writing a day? “Are you kidding?” I thought. “Anyone can do that!” I took the challenge. The first night I stared at the computer blankly. What to write? Being one of those people who takes her commitments very seriously, I looked around my room and decided whatever my eye landed on at the moment would be good enough to morph into the opening, and probably closing, sentence. (After all, two minutes isn’t much time to write more than a couple of sentences.) From the second night, I was writing for 10 minutes, and after that, I was pounding the keyboard in oblivion for two hours, not two minutes, a night.

I wrote my way out of my block the last couple of days by just sitting down and writing the next sentence, and then another. I figured if I didn’t like the direction it went, I’d be revising it sooner or later anyway.

It worked. That and a little help from some tunes of my favorite divas of ’80s dance music–Tina Turner and The Pointer Sisters. Why not? I left my plucky boomer protagonist, Chicken Cacciatore, in a quandry about pole dancing in public. All she really needed was some inspiration!

Who knew novel-writing could be this much fun?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I admit it. I’m one of those people who has spent her whole life composing novels in her head and never writing one. I even try to live my life as if it were a novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do write. I’ve even been published (aside from these blogs), but the idea of spending months or even years working on a full-length novel (as many well-known authors have confessed to doing) really holds no appeal for a poet and essayist. I like something I can complete in one or two sittings. So when I heard about NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write a complete rough draft of a novel during the month of November, my first reaction was to dismiss the idea of wanting to write a novel in the first place. After all, if I don’t want to write one, why consider writing one in 30 days? That’s 29 days and 22 hours more than it takes me to write anything else!

But I had to admit to myself that it was always a secret ambition of mine to compete with all those overachieving writer friends of mine who have at least one novel to their names. So finally, after all these years of wimping out in the novel department, I decided to give it a go, not having much training on how to write something as complex and important as a novel.  About all I knew was that I’d need to research characters and settings about which I knew little, and create a plot out of thin air. Well, NaNoWriMo makes all that seem like needless worry. As Chris Baty, the founder wrote, No Plot, No Problem.

I am now having a blast spinning gold (well, maybe not gold yet, but something) out of nothing. The characters and plot are evolving, talking their way out of my head to my finger tips, to the keys and onto the screen. I can’t wait to hit the computer every evening and type for 3 hours, just to see how it’s going to turn out. It’s like reading a book that hasn’t been written yet. Oh wait! I’m the one waving my wand and watching the paragraphs grow into chapters! I feel like a sorcerer!