Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ebbing Enthusiasm: When Excitement Begins to Fade

                You have it. The perfect story. An idea that makes your heart sing, plot threads that come together like the ones in a beautiful hand-woven blanket, and characters that seem to say, “Hey, you’ve been working hard. Why not let me take over the keyboard for a while? Sit back and relax.”

                Your new novel is on track to be the best you’ve ever written. You’re excited enough to blab about it to anyone who will listen.

                And then things start to slow down.

                You’re past the superb beginning that caught your attention in the first place, and are fast approaching the expansive, sprawling middle regions. You notice a few tangles in your plot threads, and wonder if your first few pages were as brilliant as you thought. Your characters get bored, push the keyboard back into your hands, and make a run for the TV.

You’re tempted to join them.

All writers hit this stage at some point, and it’s one of the largest obstacles to finishing that rough draft we all want to hold in our hands. It’s the stage where a story turns from play to work, and the stage when you’re most likely to let the story slide. There’s always another idea, or activity, or TV show to get excited about.

We all struggle with it. So what can we do?

In my last post I talked about the writers’ conference that had just ended, and how I was all excited and refreshed and eager to get writing.

And then I went to camp for a week, where there were no laptops or internet.

I brought notebooks and a plethora of pens, but there wasn’t a ton of free time. They kept us busy, and while I came up with an idea for a short story/novel and maybe found a few little insights into one of my main characters, I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done.

I got home, checked Facebook, email, blogger, Young Writers Society, and all the other websites I look at from day to day. And then I stared at the screen thinking “What do I work on now?”

Not, “Oh, my word, I have so many ideas bubbling up that I don’t know which one to begin with!”

Just… “Hm. I should write. Ideas, ideas… I should come up with a few of those.”

I was so excited about writing when I left, and I yearned to write all throughout camp, but I could feel the fervor dwindling more and more each day. Before I even had the chance to start something, the enthusiasm began to shrivel.

I’m still going to write, of course. But I might not be as happy about doing it as I would’ve been, had I started earlier.

Which brings us back to that question: What do we do to combat waning interest in a story?

·         Write a little every day. Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes, don’t let yourself stop. Once one day slips past with no changes to your document, it won’t be long before the next slips past. And then the next, and then the next… And your story will slowly become submerged in a pile of expired ideas.

·         Take breaks. This oft-repeated tip also applies to combatting writers’ block. Watch some TV, read a good book, maybe even hop on the treadmill and let the ideas roll around as you combat Couch Potato Syndrome. Remember the first tip, and don’t let your ‘break’ turn into a four-year hiatus, but avoid making your writing time into a chore. If your words are forced, the reader will notice. Take some time out every once in a while to lift some weights, munch some junk food, or go watch some TV with your characters. Maybe it’ll spark a new idea in regards to your story, or maybe just temporarily restraining yourself will be enough to bring back some of the enthusiasm you began with, back when you couldn’t wait to sit down at the computer and write.

·         Look for things to get excited about. Maybe you’ve already finished the section that you’d been planning from the very beginning, but that doesn’t mean your story is over. Whether it’s a new plot twist or the discovery that the villain is allergic to one of the side character’s pets, new revelations about your story will pop up all over the place. Every time you find out something new about your story, get excited about it! Use the small ideas as springboards, launching you closer and closer to the finish line.

·         Spend some time with other writers. Join a website for writers, or read an author’s blog, or – if you have the opportunity – sign up for a conference. Talking with other writers about writing always makes me feel more like a writer myself, and it makes me crave my stories more than ever.

Obviously, this is still something I struggle with, too, but hopefully these tips can help you next time the enthusiasm starts to fade.
Is this something you struggle with? What do you do when excitement dwindles?

Keep writing, guys. I’ll be trying to regain some enthusiasm, and figuring out what more I can do with this blog, and maybe sitting down with some characters to watch some cartoons for a while.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Writing Conferences: The Splendor of Saturation

(There's another new post below this one, actually written more recently, outlining some of my shiny new goals for this blog, so if you haven't seen it you should check it out. ^^)

When my dad called me downstairs Monday afternoon, his tone filled me with dread.

                Oh, this does not bode well, I thought, hurrying downstairs. That’s his ‘My plans have gone askew’ voice.  I’m not going to visit Mom’s writing conference on Friday after all.

                Quite the opposite was true. I would be attending the local conference not just for one day, but for all four. Attending all the workshops, going to the Friday supper, and rubbing elbows with fellow writers all through the rest of the week…

                Unfortunately, I would be doing it all while taking the place of my mother, who would not be able to attend. Her grandma – my great-grandma, a woman in her 90s – had passed away, and my parents would be driving across state lines to go to the memorial service.

                Not the circumstances I would have picked, even though I’d wanted to go to the conference for more time.

                *sigh* Rest in peace, Great-grandma.

                Although I feel bad for my mom, who was disappointed to miss the conference on top of everything else, it has been a fantastic experience to be here, listening to information doled out by published authors, along with the furious scribbling of novice writers. Almost every conversation inevitably turns to “What do you like to write? What are your accomplishments so far?”

                While having this conversation with the woman sitting next to me on the first morning, she mentioned that she was a contributor on a blog.

“Which one?” I asked innocently, pen at the ready to jot down the url.

                The Writer’s Alley,” she answered.

I laughed, and explained that I’d been following that blog for quite some time. And I had probably read things by her, even if none of them came immediately to mind (Angie, if you’re here checking out my blog, I’ll just say one more time that it was great to meet you in person. ^^)

The whole conference was especially interesting because I think I was one of the more ‘distinct’ attendees. Out of everyone there, I was…

·         The youngest, by far. I’m only a senior in high school, starting this fall, and I don’t think there was anyone from college present, aside from a few people who teach college.

·         One of the only fiction writers. A lot of the workshops were geared toward nonfiction, but still very informative and great for making me think more about ‘What can I publish now that will help me once I start trying to publish a book?’

·         One of the more prolific attendees. A lot of the people there (besides the speakers, of course) considered themselves novice writers, most experienced in small news articles, devotions, letters, etc. Little things in print, if anything. A few published books here and there. So I think some of them were more impressed than I deserve when I mentioned I had four or five rough drafts of novels completed, putting the emphasis on ‘rough’. XD Obviously, though, I don’t have anything published yet, so I still feel like a novice myself.

Even though I was in all these minorities, I didn’t feel out of place most of the time, even when discussions at the lunch table were about writing with kids in the house, or writing alongside your career, etc. Even though I was the youngest, the fiction writer, and (I think…) the only person crazy enough to have participated in NaNoWriMo, there was still a common bond that tied us together for the duration of the conference.

We were all writers. We are all writers. Whether it’s fantasy novels or nonfiction books, or devotionals or poetry, or lots and lots of letters, we all had the same invisible word pasted just below our nametags. One of the first things we did, just a few minutes in, was to say it out loud.

“I am a writer.”

And it felt fantastic.

You could feel the excitement growing with each revelation by the speakers. We listened to the workshops as if query letters and organizational techniques were a matter of life and death. I’m sure some of the newer writers used more notebook paper taking notes than they ever had writing a single project. And during every break, meal, and free time, we talked about writing. Our motivation bubbled over and filled the conference hall  to the brim.

During the first bathroom break, after the writing buzz had first started to kick in, I heard it. The words that perfectly expressed what we were all thinking.

“I feel saturated.

 Perfect way to say it. What else can you expect from a roomful of writers? I heard that term over and over again. Saturated. Flooded with information, and enthusiasm, and ideas, and all the motivation that so often escapes us…

Bottom line, if you have the opportunity to go to a writers’ conference, do it. You won’t regret it, you’ll make a lot of connections with other writers (some novices, some experts), and by the end of it all, you’ll be saturated with information, and ready to pick up a pen.

Keep writing, folks.

I’ll see you when I get back from camp.

Have you been to a writer’s conference? What was your experience like?

P.S. The other cool thing was that we each had the opportunity to have consultations with some of the (published!) speakers there. I got some great suggestions for revising one of my novels, and some really positive feedback on a short story that I actually blogged about way back when I wrote it. One of them (Thank you, Shelly!) even suggested a magazine that she thought I might try to submit to. Sadly, from the looks of the website, they aren't accepting submissions and haven't been since November/December of 2010. *cries in a corner* Still, she's going to email me a list she's got of places that teens can submit to, so, yay! And I think it's a good sign that - after a little polishing - I might be ready to try and get something in a magazine or something... or something. *eyes repetition of vague words.* So yeah, anyway, that's mah sidenote/update on my writing ventures. And as you may have noticed, I figured out how to make text into links! 8D So, I'm sorry if all the blue was a little overwhelming. ;)

Revamped Pro(b)logue, Coming Soon

I have just returned from a wonderful place. A writing conference full of amazing insights by published authors, and enough creative energy to power a train made of rubber bands and old sinks.

More about that in the next (new!) post.

One of the sessions at this conference was about social media (Facebook, Twitter, and - of course - blogging). The biggest thing that I learned from that workshop was... basically... I had no idea what I was doing when I started this blog.

But now that I do have an idea of where I want to take this, there'll be some changes coming.

Exciting Things to Expect
  • New posts. Yeah. Hopefully quite a few. They're gonna be here.
  • Less rambling, more deliberate posts, more relevent to writing than just whatever I find interesting.
  • More frequent, regularly posted posts.
  • A focus on everyone on the journey toward publication. Not just me, who you don't care about. I think that my goal now is to make a place where other unpublished writers can come and feel at home, and we can all kind of work on the prologues of our writing careers... or something. Yeah. I've got to think it through some more. And of course, published authors would be welcomed to share their expertise, if they desire to do so.
 And... more things than that. Once I sit down and spend a leisurely afternoon planning things out.
Unfortunately, I leave tomorrow to spend a week at camp, away from a laptop and internet. Exactly where a recharged writer wants to be, huh? *sighs and shrugs*
So, a post about the conference might come tonight, or it might come when I get back, depending on how much I get done this evening and how much computer time I'll have before leaving tomorrow. Exciting things, readers! All six of you. XD
Another exciting thing: more participation for you!
What do you do when you want to spend time writing, but the everyday 'life' things make it impossible?
As far as my reply goes, I'll be bringing some pen and paper notebooks to camp. Somewhere between s'mores, sports, and singing around a campfire, maybe I'll get that chance to sit down and plan out the new direction for this blog.
Keep writing. You'll be hearing from me again, soon.