Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chipping Away at Writer's Block

Writing Song of the Day: "Did It On 'Em" by Nicki Minaj

Last week, something miraculous happened. Something so awe-inducing, that years from now, townspeople will be celebrating a day in my honor. Yes, ladies and gentlemen--I, Pamela N. Harris, have completed another 1st draft.

Okay, I get it. Some of you may be thinking: "But you write. Aren't you supposed to complete 1st drafts?"

Why yes, lovely followers, this is true. But as I mentioned here, I'm not a big fan of the 1st draft. And this one--well, this one was a doozy.

I started Project J (no, I don't have a title yet) in the summer of 2010. I outlined the first 13 chapters, wrote the 1st 13 chapters, and then...

That's right, I hit a wall. I did have Wants to fall back on since I had to complete some agent-requested revisions. And then in November, I wrote another 1st draft for NaNoWriMo. And then more Wants revisions. And then there's work and school.

And Project J. Well, Project J started to collect cobwebs. It's not that I hated it--it's just that I didn't know what the heck to do with it anymore. When my lovely agent said that she'd like the idea, I knew I had to get to work. But how do you work on a project when your mind is filled with this: ??????????????????????????????

Here's my cure to chipping away at this bout of writer's block:

1. I printed out what I had so far and read through it. Made notes on what worked, what didn't work.

2. Made (I mean, asked) Quita to read what I had so far, too. Asked her to take notes on what worked, what didn't work.

3. Listened to music that fit my manuscript. Project J is one of my lighter manuscripts, so I played lots of pop-friendly songs (thanks, Quita--for blasting so many Britney Spears in the office).

4. Watched teen comedies and paid attention to what worked, what didn't work. Project J is inspired by an 80s teen comedy, so I really wanted to get back to that place of how fun being a teen can be sometimes. Of course, I touch on some "heavy" topics, but I wanted to have a good time while doing so.

5. With all that said and done, I finally was able to have a bare outline of what should happen next. After that, I set myself goals on actually writing it. Some days it was 1 chapter, some days it was 2--it all depended on how much work I needed to do for my two jobs and school.

6. Gave myself an incentive for when I was actually done. And me being me, my incentive was food. Even though I whined when I was too tired to work, I always reminded myself how much I wanted those Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster. Yum!!

And now--1ST DRAFT IS DONE! Of course, the hard work is next: revision. Call me weird, but I love me some revising, so I'm actually looking forward to the next step.

What about you all? How do you all overcome writer's block? I'm always looking for new tips!


Sophia said...

I'm entering a part of my first draft, between the midpoint and Act 3, where I know where I need to end up and in the big picture sense how to get there but I need some scene-by-scene focus. Writing about writing (what do I need to happen, how could I show that, what setting would amplify the conflict?) helps me unblock. Speaking of, I need to get on with that. . .
- Sophia.

Sophia said...

Dang, also meant to say congrats on finishing your first draft!
- Sophia.

Jamie Manning said...

Congrats on finishing another first draft, Pam! I'm with you...first drafts are tough for me. Of course, revisions are no cake walk. And you have some excellent tips here. I especially like the fact you use Quita to help fuel creativity. That's what I've found to work best. When I'm up against that writing wall (which happens often!) I turn to like-minded people (whether it be in real life or my online pals). For me, sometimes just talking about writing and books and the like gets me back into the mindset that I need.

Good luck with revisions!

Meredith McCardle said...

Woohoo! Congrats! I like your process. I find I'm 50/50 on first drafts. Sometimes they're really easy, and sometimes they're a complete struggle. In the latter, I do a lot of re-reading like you do, then I just make myself power through to the end. And then I realize I'm going to have a TON of work to do on revision. ;)

Jaydee Morgan said...

Congrats on finishing the first draft! I'm like you. I have a hard time on the first draft but I like it when I hit the revision process.

Abby Stevens said...

Cheddar bay biscuits are a great incentive! Congrats on finishing your first draft of PROJECT J!

Racquel Henry said...

Congrats on finishing another draft! Might this be one I'm familiar with? Also I love those Red Lobster Biscuits too! What an excellent reward! :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

Congrats on completing the draft!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Congrats!! I'm in the middle of my first draft and I can't wait for the revision stage. I'm not a fan of first drafts either! I love your process of getting over your writer's block. It must have been fun to listen to 80s music and re-watch that movie. :)

Karen Strong said...

I loves me some revision. Hates the first draft.

Congrats! And good luck! :)

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

This is great and SO needed right now for me. a THOUSAND thank yous.

and this:
"Some days it was 1 chapter, some days it was 2--it all depended on how much work I needed to do for my two jobs and school"
is downright inspiring!