Much of the time revision is difficult work, but the last chapters—the last pass—even that last spell check—can be the hardest part. When the finish line is right in front of us, it’s tempting to limp, semi-conscious, to the end. But you know what? You can’t. Every part of the process deserves our full attention.
Here are a few my tips for finding and staying in the writing groove when the going gets tough:
1) SPACE – No, I don’t mean the final frontier. I mean give yourself some space. Get away from the laundry pile, the empty refrigerator, the homework and chores. If you can, leave home. Go to a coffee shop or the park. If you can’t leave home, find a corner that’s free of distraction, and get to work. Yes, work. If you want to be a professional writer, then it helps to treat your writing like a profession. Make a commitment to protect your creative focus by finding a place that helps your concentration. If you really want to go crazy, find a place that inspires you.
2) MUSIC – Quite simply, music puts my head in the right place for writing. I know I’m really engaged in my characters when a song makes me think of them, and get teary-eyed. Make a playlist that moves you and connects you to the story. And be daring. Maybe it’s not exactly what you would choose to listen to, but it could be what your characters would. I once wrote a manuscript listening exclusively to medieval songs. Oh, and one more thing: if lyrics distract you, try movie scores. Many are solely instrumental and wonderful at eliciting specific and powerful emotions… and who doesn’t want to do that in their novels?
3) WALKS – As writers, our subconscious minds are vital to creating imaginative, fresh-feeling content. When you’re sitting at the computer agonizing over that phrase that just doesn’t feel right, the answer can be… stop agonizing. Get up. Take a break. Get some fresh air and let the old hard drive cool off. Most of the time, if not always, the answer is just waiting for you to stop staring at the door so it can burst into the room with a bouquet of peonies and a bottle of pinot noir and yell, “Surprise!”
4) PHOTOS - I have a file for all my research photos for UNDER THE NEVER SKY—and you can certainly use Pinterest for this as well. I keep pictures of everything from people who remind me of characters to places that look like the settings I’m trying to create. I even have shots of random things like stone roof tiles and leather boots. Browsing through these can help me get in the zone. The goal is to boost your enthusiasm by reconnecting with the realness of the world you’re creating.
5) READ – Whether non-fiction or fiction, reading gets me pumped up about writing. A research book can spur a fresh idea. A beautifully handled character introduction can, literally, make me sigh. It doesn’t always feel like the right time to read when I’m drafting my own novels—there’s something to be said for giving your muse her own safe space to roam—but when she feels like socializing, my muse loves spending time with fun, interesting friends… this metaphor is getting out of control, so let’s just state the obvious: read. It does the writing good.
6) ANTI-PITY PARTY – When it’s really tough to keep focused, I go digging for all the positive comments I’ve received on my writing. I look for my editor’s praising comments. I might throw out an email to good friends or the Muses, looking for a little validation. And I might, just maybe, make a little comment on the phone to my agent, who’s always ready and willing to dispense with some encouragement. Folks, we all need a little dose of the positive here and there. Don’t be afraid to remind yourselves of the progress you’ve made. Feeling good never hurt anyone.
7) Read something that’s yours but fresh – By reading old projects that are forgotten and dusty (virtually dusty) with age, I’m able to see that, yes, I can in fact write something decent. I know that sounds silly, but when you get close to a manuscript, you’re looking for all the mistakes and weaknesses. You get so close that these are the only things you see. Reading old writing can remind you of the point, which is to tell a good story. To string together words in such a way that some kind of magic happens, and they aren’t words anymore. They become a person with a particular kind of personality. A person with a problem, or a need. They exist in a place that you can see and smell and even feel with your hands. That’s good stuff, knowing you can do that. And if you’ve managed it once, well, you can do it again.
8) FREE-WRITING – When you’re tired or writing, writing more can feel counter-intuitive, but it can be just what you need to loosen up. Open a new document and let yourself play with the scene you’re working on. There are a billion exercises and writing prompts out there. Try a few. Or start a side project, and check in with it when you’re running low on steam. Writing is work, yes, but it’s also fun. It should also feel like play, so let yourself riff on something that seems silly or even meaningless. I bet it won’t be. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.
Those are my tricks. Thanks for having the YA MUSES, WriteOnCon! Now go forth and write!
Veronica Rossi was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Growing up, she lived in several countries and cities around the world, finally settling in Northern California with her husband and two sons. She completed undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. UNDER THE NEVER SKY is her debut novel, and the first a trilogy that will be published in over twenty international markets. Book two, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT, will be available January 8, 2013.
Veronica is giving away a signed copy of UNDER THE NEVER SKY!! Comment on this post to enter!
Did you like this post? Show Veronica by buying her book! All of our authors are donating their time and experience FOR FREE, and the best way to show your appreciation is to buy their books.
UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi: Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.