I struggle to set up each new chapter in my novel. I want to jump right into the dialog and action and keep the story moving along. While writing the first installment of Valley of the Bees, I did just that. I wrote the story in the throes of momentum and didn’t slow down for anything as uninteresting as setting up my chapters properly. When all was said and done, my story came out to around 25,000 words and was in desperate need of transitional material between chapters. Imagine how I felt when I realized that I was going to have to sit down and write all of that boring stuff at once.
I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement. I have even talked about it here before in relation to writing. I have often wondered how I could use positive reinforcement to become a more productive writer. So, I just about jumped off the couch a few minutes ago when I stumbled upon a scientific explanation for writer’s procrastination in a book I’m reading titled, Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training, by Karen Pryor.
The following excerpt describes a “phenomenon that occurs on very long [reinforcement] schedules: slow starts.” According to Pryor, a subject “tends to “put off” starting for longer periods as the schedule of reinforcement gets longer.”
This is sometimes called delayed start of a long-duration behavior, and it’s a very familiar aspect of human life. On any long task, from doing the income taxes to cleaning out the garage, one can think of endless reasons for not starting now. Writing, even sometimes just the writing of a letter, is a long-duration behavior. Once it gets started, things usually roll along fairly well, but, oh! it’s so hard to make oneself sit down and begin.
Picture it: Sicily, 1965. Wait. No. That’s the Golden Girls. Remember them? But I digress.
Picture it: You wake before your alarm and lie in bed waiting for your alarm to catch up. You get an idea. A brilliant idea. You should get up and start writing immediately, but your bed is so warm and snug. So, you don’t. Instead, you lay there for an hour, waiting for your alarm to make you get up, turning the idea in your head. It’ll be okay. You can write it down after you get up. It will still be brilliant then.
Only, it’s not. Somehow, the words that slipped through the sieve of your morning mind refuse to maintain their original early morning brilliance. On the page, they are wooden and just not quite right. What happened? Where did you go wrong? Was the idea just not as brilliant as you thought it was? Continue reading “You gotta be you, I gotta be me”→
The topic of what to listen to while writing seems to be a popular one on writing blogs. Some writers set up entire play lists designed to get them in the right mood to work on a specific project. Others claim to listen to NPR while they write. I am sometimes embarrassed to tell people what I listen to.
It’s not that I don’t love music. The problem is, I love it a little too much. I have a hard time listening to music and writing at the same time because I often catch myself sitting back in my chair with my eyes closed, singing along to my latest favorite song (which right now is Counting Stars by One Republic.) This is not exactly the most productive way to write!
I don’t mind writing in silence when I’m at the library. If I write at a coffee shop (which I just realized I haven’t done in months,) I write to the background noise of clanking cups and murmured conversations at other tables. At the state park near my house, I write to the music of a breeze rustling through leaves, kids shouting down by the beach, and boats roaring across the lake. Continue reading “What do you listen to while you write?”→
I am currently working my way through draft #2 of the novel I wrote for the Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge. What goes into a second draft probably varies from one writer to the next. Dialog and action come easy for me. Description? Not so much. I can do description, but it simply does not pour out of me as dialog does. For me, description takes a lot of work.
When writing my first draft, I literally listen to the voices in my head and write down what they say. I am nothing more than a glorified court reporter. The result is what I think is an exciting story that is set in the empty expanse of Vagueland. While the dialog thrills me, the average reader would be lost in an attempt to determine where and when, exactly, this story takes place. I can picture it, but I haven’t yet built it on the page. Continue reading “Writing the second draft”→
I have said it before, and I will say it again. I do not believe that you should share the first draft of your novel with anyone – ANYONE — until it is complete. The more I learn, the more I believe this to be true.
One of my students started out this semestercomplaining about how much work she has to do in my class. I cannot even tell you how many times she said, “I don’t have time for this” on the first day of class. She was oblivious to her classmates glaring at her as if they wanted to ask if she truly believes she is the only person who has a life outside of school.
As the semester progresses, this same student keeps asking me if she really has to do all of the practice lessons or if she can only turn in the graded assessments and skip everything else. I am honestly sick to death of hearing it.
This week, I finally told her, “Look. It’s your choice. You do what you have to do. If you fail your assessments because you chose not to complete the practice lessons, then you will have to suffer the consequences.”
Want a rush? Try this little motivational strategy I just stumbled upon. I was having one of those really productive days where I had so much I wanted to do I ended up taking a nap instead. I needed to do a read-through of my current novel draft, but I was SO sick of looking at it on my computer screen. I considered printing it out, but my printer can’t handle such a large job. And I wasn’t in the mood for an expensive trip to the library printer. So yeah, I took a nap.
Last night, I stayed up until midnight grading papers so I could have today free to go to the library and write.
As I showered this morning, I considered how crazy it is that I can’t get any writing done at home. My house is just one big distraction begging me to do anything but write. I’m not quite a true hoarder, but I must admit that I have let things get a bit out of hand.
I just bought a new dinette set and couch with part of my tax refund money. The old furniture left last weekend, and I was left with a huge empty space in my dining room and living room while waiting three days for the new stuff to arrive. After the first day, I was ready to cancel my order.