Friday, January 30, 2015

Jump-start Your Writing Day

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.

Breaking ground on this new story of mine has not been nearly as easy as I thought it would be. My main character is, by far, the most broken main character I've ever written about. Being in her head is achingly hard.

Because of that, I'm not having the kind of writing days I like to have. You know the ones. The days where your fingers fly over the keyboard with all sorts of brilliance. I'm not there yet. Every word is costing me something. I feel like I'm pulling each letter from my gut and then having to hose off the icky stuff before I can place it on the page.

It's gross, I know. And exhausting.

My fingers need to fly every now and then. They need to stretch their wings and just go for it and, for whatever reason, this particular story is slow in the making. So, I've decided to start my writing day with a little writing practice, an idea I got from Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones.

The idea is that you set yourself some time (fifteen minutes for me) and you just write. About whatever. The trees outside your window. The character huddled in the corner of your mind waiting for you to give her a story. The way your dad smells after he mows the lawn. Whatever. You just write. You're not supposed to go back and delete, but it's nearly impossible for me to leave a typo alone when I see it, so sometimes I cheat. But the idea is to give your fingers permission to fly wherever they want to fly. Don't hold them back. Don't force them to make sense. Don't try to censor yourself. Just write.

As a published author, you would think this whole concept would be familiar to me, but it wasn't. Not in this way at least. I've done plenty of free writing, but I've never used it as a warm up to my writing day. And I feel like I've stumbled upon this glorious little gem of a practice that has already enhanced my work.

Two days ago, I spent fifteen minutes writing about an unexpected guest giving a eulogy at a funeral and today I spent fifteen minutes writing about the girl who didn't get the boy. Neither of these ideas have anything to do with the novel I'm working on, but my time spent in them has unlocked something inside my chest.

I'm remembering that each word doesn't have to be perfect when it goes on the page. That I can leave my sentences bloody and flailing and that maybe they look better that way. Writing practice is helping me develop my voice and it's reminding me to trust it.

Now, if you're like me, you're thinking, "I do not want to waste fifteen minutes (or whatever) writing something I'm not going to use." We're all so worried about losing time. But I'm finding that those fifteen minutes get the wheels in my brain moving. They churn up the kind of creativity I can't find when I'm in a hurry and they give my fingers the freedom to do their thing.


Tell me, do you ever give yourself permission to JUST WRITE? Ever thought about starting your writing day with a little practice?

31 comments:

  1. A couple of days ago I gave myself permission to "just write" in my WIP. I wrote over 1,000 words in an hour and ended up with little details I never would have had if I had nitpicked over every word like usual. I've been trying to allow myself to "just write" since then. It's helped. :) Thank you, Mrs. Dittemore!

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  2. I'm seriously stick on my story. Yesterday, I had a great idea and am starting a total rewrite. My fingers should be flying over the keys, but I'm hopelessly stuck...I'm gonna go try this now. Thanks, Mrs. Dittemore!

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    1. I've SO been there. Let me know how it goes, Jonathan!

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  3. Thanks a lot for the advice Mrs. Dittemore! I'll definitely try it out in the morning. Sometimes when I feel a negative emotion, I let my fingers fly over the keyboard, and write about an opposite emotion. Strange as it seems, it works for me, and I feel much better. The power of words is amazing. Thanks again for the advice!

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  4. Your description about writing your character, that's EXACTLY how I feel. I guess I should blame myself for creating stubborn and broken characters. It's so painstakingly hard. I might try this....Thank you!

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    1. Blame yourself, maybe, but it's those broken characters that speak to our hearts. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

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  5. This sounds like a great exercise, Shannon! I'll have to give it a try. :-)

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  6. I'm definitely going to have to try this! It sounds like a great way to get into writing. It usually takes me fifteen to thirty minutes to actually get into my writing groove once I sit down to write, so this would be a great way for me to hopefully kickstart it earlier!

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    1. It's helping me! Fingers crossed you have similar results.

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  7. I love to warm up before working on one of my WIPs by just writing because it lets me throw perfection out the window so that my brain is freed up for working on my WIP. I've also found that instead of wasting my writing time, it actually helps me make the most of my time because I'm already warmed up enough that the words flow nicely when I finally get to my WIP.

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  8. I do this when I'm in the car (we drive around a lot) and I pull out my phone and on the notes app (this is by far the best thing about having a phone) I write down what I see, think, try to convey a heavy emotion, trying to describe what fear looks like or what snow feels like on your face. I don't find that it helps me get my story moving because quite frankly, my story is at a road block (already 1 page into it) I just finished a different story and now I'm wondering... what now? (could you write a post about this??? I'd really appreciate it!) If that makes any sense:)

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    1. I AM crazy happy to take post suggestions. Tell me what you're looking for again? A post to get you going when you're stuck? I may have touched on that here: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/11/writing-book-is-hard-shans-thoughts.html

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    2. After you finish a novel, what now??? I'm stuck with my old characters, they are still speaking to my heart, and I want to start something new, but I'm not really sure how to snap back from such wonderful friends and characters. I feel like my new characters are the same as my other characters. There isn't much that sets them apart from my other imaginary friends. They like the same thing, they have the same dialouge, etc. How do I get out of that rut of my other story and get into some fresh new characters and a fresh different plot? I can't make sense of it... Tell me if that makes any sense! :)

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  9. Thank you for this advice. I freewrite all the time when I get very stuck, but never as a warmup. I have certain characters I throw into random situations that make no sense. Because I know the goal is X amount of words in my current project I somehow end up thinking up how those characters would react and it makes it make easier to get things going. I'm going to try this out today before I get cracking on those pesky middle chapters!

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    1. Oh yes! Middles are tough. I hope this helps!

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  10. This is so helpful for today - thanks, Shannon! I've been lazy about writing for awhile but I really want to finish my book. Maybe I'll start with this for today.

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    1. Maybe practicing like this will whet your appetite for that story again. Wishing you luck!

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  11. Hehe, evidently I'm not like you.

    I never just write, it has never occurred to me, but I might try it sometime,I've had writers block too much recently.

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    1. Give it a go! I'd love to know if it helps.

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  12. Usually if I want to free write I write in my journal. I'm not sure if it helps my fiction writing, but it's still nice. Maybe I'll have to try that when I get suck writing next time! (I was going to say 'if', but it's going to happen, so... :) )

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  13. I LOVE freewriting! My current WIP spawned from a freewrite I did last summer. I like to go to my inspiration pinterest board and grab a picture I pinned, then write a page or two short story from it. It's great ^^

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  15. I absolutely let myself "just write." Officially best way to get yourself motivated, excited about the story you want to tell. I have to admit, I rarely "get stuck" but for those who do, this is the way to go. Cool quote, btw.

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  16. I absolutely let myself "just write." Officially best way to get yourself motivated, excited about the story you want to tell. I have to admit, I rarely "get stuck" but for those who do, this is the way to go. Cool quote, btw.

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  17. Just to let you know, this idea has been incredibly inspiring and useful over the past few weeks. I just finished my WIP and would not have managed to finish it without this. All the other writers I've told it to have v also been excited about it. Thanks for sharing!

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