Since this was supposed to be posted yesterday, today’s writing tip post is a two-fer! Both tips deal more with the creativity and mental focus side of writing and less with craft, and both are issues that have derailed me from my writing in the past.
Problem #1: OVERTHINKING
There was a time when I blindly started a book with nothing more than a vague idea of one character or the opening to one scene in mind. I just sat down and started typing.
I miss those days. I long for the time when I could be happily typing away halfway through a mystery/suspense novel without having discovered myself who the bad guy would be.
Once I became published I grew much more analytical about my work. I believed I had to have it right the first time–none of this rewriting stuff for me–and I started spending as much time thinking about a new book as I did writing it. Eventually all I did was think. I never wrote. Thinking, planning, perfecting in my head (instead of on the page) became I kind of paralyzing clutch of the gut that spread to my fingers. If I didn’t know every plot point, exactly what the characters were going to say, how they were going to act, I couldn’t get started. Not very good for the productivity, mind you.
I’ve had to make a conscious effort to stop overthinking, and it’s been hard. Spreadsheets, plot wheels and character charts can be as addictive as a drug to the working writer. It’s kind of a proxy–working without really writing.
Recently I’ve made some headway. Oh, I still need to have a few ideas where I’m going with a story, but letting some of the story reveal itself to me instead of me forcing it out has brought some of the joy back into the process.
The subconscious is a powerful thing, sometimes more powerful than the conscious mind. Let it work for you. Dig into those stories even if you don’t feel “ready.”
Problem #2: Talking Too Much
A story idea is like a pouch of fairy dust. Talking about it is like sprinkling the dust in the air. Sprinkle too much, and the pouch is empty.
I know it’s tempting. When you get that great new idea that you’re sure is going to be your breakout book–a bestseller, a major motion picture, the one that earns you that life of eating bon bons on the couch and sipping champagne for breakfast–you want to talk about it. You want to tell your friends, your critique partners, your spouse, your dog so they’ll all realize how brilliant you are.
Okay, tell one person if you want too. Briefly. Brainstorm with one person for a few minutes if you need to. Briefly. Then shut the hell up and write the book.
That pouch of magic fairy dust is really creative tension inside you. Once the tension is gone, so is the energy to drag you through 400 manuscript pages of emotion and action and universal truths. Talking about a book idea releases the tension. So does writing. Make sure you release your tension in the right place.