Sunday, January 18, 2015

How to Keep Your Head in Your Story by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

They say, to write the best tales, writers must become completely immersed in storyworld. This is great when the house is quiet, the kids are gone, and the rest of your world stops. But how we stay in the story when life pulls us from it?

It happens to me every story. 50K or so words in, I encounter something unexpected that steals my time and keeps me from my work-in-progress. When this happens, the plot I’d just begun to immerse myself in begins to disintegrate. The longer I’m away, the more it fades until I’m left with a looming deadline and a bunch of random ideas on Post-it notes.  

The longer I’m away from my keyboard, the harder it is to write. Perhaps you can relate. If so, the next time life pulls you from your computer, try the following to keep your head in the game:

Work on your story daily even if for only ten minutes.

I can already hear your retorts: “I don’t have time. Life got crazy, remember?”

My counter: I doubt that any of us truly don’t have ten minutes to write, revise, or read our work-in-progress. Ten minutes.

We can all do that, right?

Steal a few moments during commercials, maybe? Revise the last page you wrote while you’re waiting for noodles to boil? Or maybe all you do is jot down some random brainstorming ideas on a notepad. What you do isn’t as important as the doing.

We all have lots of hidden moments sprinkled throughout our day, moments wasted mindlessly. So why don’t we use them to further our stories? I suspect the answers to that question are:

1.     We haven’t developed the habit of making the most of every moment and therefore live a chunk of our life on autopilot.
2.     We assume our time is only valuable when we produce something. For example, we might dismiss the idea of doing anything writing related while watching television, convinced we haven’t enough time to write anything of value. But during times of chaos, we should alter our goal from production to caring for our muse.

Don’t have access to your computer? That doesn’t mean you have to leave storyworld completely. Simply print your novel out and set it by your bedside table—on top of your remote. Ah-ha! Are you rethinking your availability? Then read it for ten to fifteen minutes before going to bed.

Here’s why it works: Our brains are amazing, slightly obsessive machines that love to camp out on whatever is dominating our lives at any given moment. When chaos comes, that chaos fights to occupy our every thought, stealing our creativity and making it all the harder to rekindle it. But if we’d but find ways throughout our day to think dig into our story, we’ll find our brain will have a tendency to stay there, working out details and visualizing scenes. Then, when we return to our keyboards, not only will the plot and characters be fresh, but they may have even deepened as they’ve had time to percolate.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried any of the above, and if so, what were the results? What do you do to stay in the story when life gets crazy? Share your thoughts with us; we can all learn from one another. 

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

When Dawn Breaks:
As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

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Picnic Locations in Gurgaon said...

Awesome work.Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading.Thanks for the share

Pamela S. Meyers said...

It was a pleasure having Jennifer guest post here today. She gives great tips that I plan to adapt to my own busy schedule!

Jennifer Slattery said...

Hi, Picnic! Thanks for stopping by and leaving an encouraging comment! I love Novel Rocket. You'll find great information here and will be introduced to phenomenal writers. :) Novel Rockets is one of my favorite sites.

Jennifer Slattery said...

These are tips I need to practice as well! They arose out of desperation--when I was feeling pulled from my story but knew I needed to stay in it. Otherwise I'd have to spend a great deal of precious, could-be writing time refreshing myself on the story. And I hate to waste writing time! Those moments are gold and must be guarded as such! :)

Ron Estrada said...

Last year I challenged myself to complete a rough draft every two months (starting in July). I accompoished that, along with a a draft I completed earlier in the year. That makes my total lifetime count 8. Those last three books were the best writing I've ever done. They still needed editing, sure (halfway done), but I set a crazy goal that made sure I was strapped in every night to get words written. This kind of process also keeps me from getting hung up on one draft for years, endlessly editing it in the hopes that it will one day be good enough. We need completed drafts to grow as writers, not recycled edited drafts. And the only way to do that is find those few minutes, like you said, and make it happen.

Jennifer Slattery said...

Wow, Ron, that's impressive! Good for you! Thanks for inspiring us all by sharing your experiences. :) I also love your focus on forward momentum.