BOOM! I’m on a Roll

This post will be short(ish) and sweet. I’ve been in a little bit of a writing slump as of late. Not necessarily because I don’t have any ideas, but rather, I do not have much free time to write. However, over the last couple of days I’ve been able to sneak in a couple of hours of writing time. It’s not much, but it is a start.

Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map has just re-hit 30,000 words (part of the whole ‘it’s been done before’ episode I referenced a little while ago). It was a satisfying feeling, and I have promised myself No more massive changes – until I reach the editing phase, at least.

This story is shaping up to be a bit more complicated than its predecessor. It has an A plot and a B plot! I’ve got two teams from the ship on two different islands, having two separate adventures; I even have figured out how the two plots will converge in the finale. Mostly. But I still have time to work out the particulars while I’m working on the writing.

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My mysterious island inspiration…or my fantasy vacation getaway location.

I have been inspired, of late, by some classic Victorian adventure fiction. In particular, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. No, there will be no Dinosaurs or fantastic creatures involved. however, I’m aiming for a sense of “otherness” for the island locales. I like the idea of unexplored islands, and the secrets they might contain, within the confines of an adventure story. I have a couple of ideas I’m fleshing out in the story right now, and I’m excited to share them once the story is finally finished.

Despite the setbacks that life has thrown my way lately, I remain determined to get at least one story out before the end of the year, two if I set my mind firm in the task of completing my projects. I am now off to continue writing a bit before bed…after I gaze at tropical islands for a few more minutes.

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Writing Rituals

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I spent several hours last night writing. I started with a quick blog post, to get the creative juices flowing and then followed that up with some time on one of my current projects. It was strange, after the post here, I just started typing in the story, and before I knew it, I had written a little over 1,100 words.  I was quite pleased with the progress. Most days I’m lucky if I have the time or inspiration to write 500 words.

This got me thinking. I know that when I write something other than one of my projects, it does seem to help me to maintain a longer writing session. Usually I’ll write a little in a word file – what happened at work, or things I would like to accomplish. It seems like if I get my real-world concerns down on paper (or in a document), I am able to focus more on the task at hand and worry less about what else is happening in life.

I have a few writing rituals that get me in serious writing mode. If I don’t perform a few of those rituals, I can still write, but the more I don’t have done before sitting down to work, the less focused I am, and my writing session ends up much shorter than usual.

I always have to have my notebook by my side. My notebook is the home of all of the little notes I jot down. I have a horrible memory, so if I get an idea for one of my stories, or for a new project, I grab my notebook and scribble it down. The notebook was where I jotted down my idea for Captain Drayton’s funky eyeball, and where I initially decided to change my rough idea for a pirate story into something that fit more into fantasy (at that point, I had not decided to try steampunk).

I also have web pages open at all times, so that my research is available immediately. I use scrivener for my writing and organizing, so I have a special folder in each of my projects where I put information as well. I mainly use this for photographs for inspiration, as well as storing all of the links I use for research. In the event that the project is something I want to publish, I’ll also store the links to the store pages for those stories.

There has to be something for me to drink/snack on as well. If I am really in the zone, I will forget to eat or drink, at least for a while. I become a bit obsessive when I’m writing. It is too easy for me to get lost completely in my project, and I won’t even realize what time it is until something distracts me from the writing.

It seems like my little rituals each help individually, and if all of them are performed together, my productivity is greatly improved. If I can continue to write like I did last night, I should be finished with this project in no time. Then I’ll just need to come up with a name, get a cover design I like, edit, edit, edit, and it should be ready to publish.  It’s still a lot of work, but I am looking forward to finishing another project, and getting it out there for people to read, and hopefully enjoy!

For the writers out there:  Do you have any special rituals or habits that help you clear your mind so that you can focus on writing?  Or are you among the lucky that can sit down and write with no problem?  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jump Starting Creativity

Last night I sat in front of my laptop preparing to pick up from where I left off the last time I wrote. At first, I reread the last paragraph. For some reason I could not think of where to go from the last sentence. Then, reading turn to rereading, then to staring blankly at the page, as if trying to will the plot to unfold for me. Now I know that I’m not suffering from writer’s block, because I have plenty of ideas for stories. But from where I left off in this particular story I was having some difficulty finding the best way to proceed.

In an effort to try and jump start some creativity on this story, I thought about different methods of exercises to boost creative thinking that I’d read about in the past. I tried a couple to see if I could get those creative juices flowing.

At first I tried simply to write about something from my past as a means of just getting something down on paper, so to speak. I dug deep in the road about 500 words about a birthday party that I had when I was 5 years old. I tried to remember as many details as I could- from the weather, which was cool and a bit drizzly, to the location, my grandparents house that they had recently purchased and we’re in the process of renovating.

This exercise helped me to think any more visual way. But when the exercise was done and I was back in my project, I still wasn’t feeling creative. I decided to set this project aside and see if maybe trying to write on one of my other projects would help. So I opened up my work in progress folder and searched through the files to see if I could find one that appealed to me.

I skimmed through, thinking how ridiculous it was to try and write for a different story when I was having trouble with the one that I was currently working on. But as I scrolled down, I happen to see one of my projects that I started years ago. It was a scifi story that I began with a lot of passion. But I lost confidence in it somewhere along the way. I don’t think it was because it was a bad story; in fact, I remember thinking that the basic plot was actually pretty good, and I really enjoyed some of the characters I created.

I open up the file and scrolled through the story. It was a little over 40 pages long. And although I saw a few things that I definitely would like to change, I started to see something close to what I saw when I first started putting the words down. So I went from skimming the manuscript to actively reading it. Reacquainting myself with the plot as I had written it back in about 2010, I started to get some ideas on how to improve the current content, as well as how to continue the story to its conclusion. Once I reach the last paragraph of what had been written I immediately begin typing. In the end I worked on this project for about 3 hours, and somehow 1000 words more. And during this time somewhere in my subconscious, my brain was working away at how to continue with the project I had issues with earlier.

Once I reached a natural stopping point for my scifi story, I decided to put some words down for my current work in progress. I  must have ended up in the zone or something, because I ended up writing another 500 words. And now it looks like I have three works in progress now: my sequel to Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, my as yet unnamed companion story to the Mademoiselle Durand series, and now my long abandoned science fiction story tentatively titled Cruising the Universe with Buddy (this will likely change).

Has anyone else rediscovered a story that they had abandoned while trying to jumpstart their creativity? Did it lead anyone to new ideas for both stories? I love to hear about other writers’ experiences.