Friday, September 19, 2014

The Next Thing: Shan's thoughts

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

There are nine zillion things on my plate right now. Have you ever felt like that? Like, you can’t possibly get everything done. It’s an overwhelming feeling, being surrounded by a to-do list that just won’t end, all of the tasks shouting at you for attention.

As it relates to writing, I feel the heaviness of my imagination most when an entire story sprawls before me. The manuscript I’m working on now came to me, not as a complete whole (there have certainly been some surprises), but with a vague notion of its end fairly developed.

The end! A glittering star I was desperate to reach. But between that far-off place and where I stood at the outset, sixty or so scenes rose like craggy mountains before me. Each one of them needing every ounce of my energy, every spare moment of my time, and a singular focus. Without these things, I would never finish.

And thus, the question became, “Where do I start?”

 Elisabeth Elliot gave me the answer.


 These four words are the rope that tethers me to sanity. They give me wings. They make the climb possible. Because I cannot do it all. I certainly can’t do it all today. But when I roll out of bed every morning, I remind myself that I can do the NEXT thing. And come hell or high water, I will.

It may take a little organization to figure out what the next thing is. You may even need a few writer pals to point you in the right direction, but freeing yourself from the burden of the next 59 scenes will lighten your load. Write the next scene. That’s it. And then when you’re done, attack the next with abandon. But not until THIS one is done. Don’t carry future work with you. That’s too heavy for anyone.

There’s only one next thing. Do that.

It’s different for all of us. Maybe writing isn’t the next thing at all. Maybe it’s querying or brainstorming or being brave enough to ask for feedback. Maybe the next thing is taking a class or setting your manuscript aside to study the craft. Whatever it is, find a way to make it happen.

So, what’s MY next thing? I am wicked close to being done with this manuscript, you guys. And I’ll be honest, my eyes keep straying to the top of that very last mountain. To THE END, but that’s not my next thing. My next thing is to get my main character good and caught. My next thing is to let the bad guy find her. My next thing is to write those moments and only those moments. And when she’s tangled something fierce, then I will write the thing after that.

Tell me, what’s your next thing? Are you organized enough to know? If not, dedicate some time and effort to figuring it out and then DO IT! I’d love to know where you all are on the journey. If you’re up to sharing, tell us. 

Tell us your next thing!

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. :):):) My next thing is the next scene in my WIP. I am so close to finishing it up but I've been slacking and this post has really inspired me to hunker down and finish it up. :):):)

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  2. My next thing is a scene that showcases the culture I'm working with and introduces one of my favorite characters, she has a fail arc so making her sympathetic as well as showing her descent to "bud guy" status is a nice challenge.

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  3. This is a wonderful post! Thank you so much for the reminder to just "do the next thing". My next thing would be working on another scene in my book.

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  4. After I take my lovely six week break, my next thing will be to brave a peek at the 97k word novel I just finished. It will needs a lottttt of editing, but it will be my next thing so I'll do it somehow. :) Right now, I am enjoying my next thing: typing the second book for the 100/4/100 challenge and breezing through. Enjoy it while it lasts, right?

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    1. So proud of you, Hannah! 97k is a ton of work. You should treat yourself to a cupcake or something before you dive back in to edits!

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  5. I definitely understand the feeling, even though I prefer to write short stories. It's sort of like scene-planning, but in rapid motion. Everything moves so quickly because of the stories length that it's sort of like grabbing the idea before it escapes and becomes too big.

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    1. Very cool! I wrote a short story for my Angel Eyes trilogy and you're so right. It's a very different monster to try and squeeze so much into one tiny tale. I wish you much luck.

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  6. Ah. Elisabeth Elliot is so wise. :) My next thing is getting my character in a particularly uncomfortable situation so she can start developing a thicker skin to deal with all the other things she has to face throughout the novel.

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    1. Elisabeth Elliott is a hero of mine. If you've never read about her, I so recommend it. I too have a few uncomfortable scenes to write. They're almost my NEXT thing.

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  7. This was a great post! The 100-for-100 has really made me think about what the 'next thing' is so I know what to work on. Even though I'm not getting a thousand words a day, I guess it's good I've been doing my next thing, small piece by small piece. :)

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    1. ABSOLUTELY! Piece by piece. Progress. That's what we're looking for here.

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  8. Hmm.... my next thing... I'm just coming up on (another) a travel scene.

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  9. This post so feels like my day! So many things to do, all by a certain time. Now, hallelujah, I finally have time to do THE next thing - write. :D Thanks Shann!

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  10. Thanks for this, Shan. My next thing... Ack. I just need to get my word count in today. So, I'll get to it! LOL

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  11. I'm still trying to work out where exactly I should start my story and if it is okay to start it earlier and the say something like "five years later"...

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    1. Everything's okay in a first draft! If you write it that way now and decide you don't like it later, you can incorporate that early stuff into later chapters. Flashbacks, conversation, reflection. There's lots of ways to make it work.

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  12. I really needed this post today. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by my to-do list that I don't even want to start. I agree that the best thing is to just take it one step at a time. My next step is to begin drafting an article for a magazine because my query for it got accepted! And then I have to do homework.

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  13. MoreShipsThanTheNavySeptember 19, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    My next thing is to wait for a response to my query and send out more... while trying not to be too neurotic about the process. And then I need to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

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    1. Hooray for waiting! I know, boo! But it's just the reality of this biz. Write your way through the wait, friend. It makes life that much easier.

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  14. This is encouraging. For everything, not just writing :)
    My next thing is figuring out where the heck this story is going, and then writing the first scene of that.

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    1. I wish you much luck! I wander my court in circles when I'm thinking. My neighbors think I'm crazy.

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  15. Next thing--just write the 100 words today without panicking or worrying about how this book is going or turning out or messing up...forget about the plot that just won't stick, shrug my shoulders and say "Oh well," and write anyway.

    Thank you so so much for this post today. :)

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  16. I love this! Thanks, Shannon!

    Xo,
    Christen
    Christenkrumm.com

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  17. Hm, my next thing is probably the rest of chapter one! I should get around to writing that now actually :)

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  18. Awesome post! Totally what I needed to hear. Or read, lol.
    My next thing is to edit several of my beginning scenes. My story drags a little bit there, and I need to make it more exciting. I've never been big on editing, so I'm not looking forward to this, but it is my next thing, and I am going to do it.


    Alexa S. Winters.
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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    1. I feel ya. One day, I hope you fall in love with editing! It really does make life easier when we look forward to chopping our stuff to bits. If you're interested, I started this blog series over on my own blog and one of the topics I covered was editing. You can find that post here: http://shannondittemore.com/edits-are-murder-my-thoughts/

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    2. Cool! Thanks for the post! I'll definitely check it out :)

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