Wednesday 15 June 2016

What Keeps You Writing?

What keeps you writing?

Some days if just happens. Flow. You know what I mean. When you put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) and the words just pour out of you. It’s as though your characters are sitting beside you, telling you exactly what they see, and how they feel, and you just know that what you’re writing is good, if not gold.

But other days…
Oh, the other days are something else entirely. Like pulling teeth, or watching paint dry, those days can seem excruciatingly long, and unproductive, and you just know that most of what you write is fool’s gold at best; fat, padding words to be deleted soon (at worst).

What do you do in those moments?

I’ve been having a NaNoWriMo-type few weeks. A recent 3-book contract for a US publishing house (yay! Still excited!) means writing to deadline, for the first time in my life. Book 1 is done, but books 2 and 3 needs a great deal of work – even before being sent back for revisions. So my days when I don’t work at high school mean working even harder to get words on page. Good words. Or at least, good enough words.

Previous NaNo experiences have taught me that it is possible, and with God I do believe all things are possible. But still the slog remains.

So what keeps me writing? Apart from the advance (!) and my contractual obligations?

Prayer works. Asking God for wisdom and direction gets a guaranteed response (check out James 1.5). 
Some days I need chocolate. A Twix bar is good; it can be broken into several smaller portions, so when I hit the next thousand then its choc reward time. 
Tea is also good, especially my new favourite camomile, honey and vanilla. Too much caffeine used to not be enough, except I’m not completely convinced of its health benefits beyond doing lots of stuff faster (faster, yet sadly, more poorly). 
Sometimes I’ll make morning tea or lunch my goal: get to this amount then eat. Hunger seems to be a good motivator in my life :/
Other times, I need to get away for a few minutes, go for a walk, or revisit an inspiring scene or episode from a fave book or film (but beware the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice which sucks me in for hours...)

But sometimes there is something to be said for pushing through, for keeping going, keeping pen in hand / fingers on keys and backside in chair, even if I know I’ll cringe later. Because it can be that in the pushing through we stumble across the gold.
And that makes everything worthwhile.

How about you? What keeps you writing? Do you have any tricks to share on what keeps you staying on task, especially when you don’t feel motivated?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novel 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' will be published in the US by Kregel in February 2017. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

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  1. Carolyn, congratulations on your 3-book deal. How marvellous. I have a little connection with Kregel, they're Lion Fiction's US distributor. It is amazing how important simply turning up each day to the computer is and how once you start writing/editing gets a little easier.

    1. Thanks, Ian. Discipline is the key, isn't it? It is interesting, isn't it, how in that 'turning up' process, there seems to be an internal gauge where the awkward, stilted first hour or so suddenly seems to smooth into flow. Love those moments!

  2. Adding my congratulations too re your three book deal--so wonderful! Re what motivates me to keep going, I think various things work for me at different times, Carolyn. A key one though is just stopping and grounding myself in God, knowing God's creative Spirit is with me and in me. I always keep my Bible open too beside my laptop, just so I can turn my head and read again some encouraging or challenging word. And I do have a little prayer team who support me in my writing and speaking.

    On top of that though, yes, those 'delayed gratification' ideas of yours work for me at times too, although not the chocolate, funnily enough--or the camomile tea! We're all different. Currently, I tend to say to myself that I can go for a lovely walk after I finish editing a chapter or I can allow myself to do a crossword puzzle or play the piano or watch TV or phone someone. Or maybe just do nothing, for once!

    1. Thanks, Jo-Anne. Just 'doing' nothing - now there's a challenge! But you're right. Taking time to pause, to simply 'be', to have a 'selah' moment where we still and 'know' God is essential, regardless of whether we're on deadline or not. I like the idea of playing piano, too. Another way of stimulating (different) creative juices!

  3. Guilt always does it for me! I just knew my trilogy was a story that had to be told. Especially when based on the facts of the era.
    Oh Carolyn I know you must be so thrilled to think a US publisher has contracted you for your 3 book series. Now that would be really a ton of pressure. But you must have those stories waiting to burst out even if they are just rough plot ideas.

    1. Thanks, Rita. Some of them are bursting - others are requiring a little more 'massage' to take the form I think they need to be. But anchoring historical fiction within facts does help, doesn't it? Except, of course, when I'm trying to link the story to too many facts :) Historical fiction is an interesting beast, a balancing act between imagination and reality that can lead to people thinking fiction is fact! I'd be interested to know your thoughts on 'bending' facts (of minor details), whether this is something you've done, have seen done, and how successfully the author 'explained it away'.

  4. Great news, and wish you great success, both in meeting your deadlines and a host of readers finding and enjoying your novels!

  5. Carolyn, this is wonderful news! I have been praying that the nine authors on my list would receive contracts. You are one of those authors. :) I am so looking forward to reading your new books!


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