Four Ways to Write Through the Fog #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

When I get stuck on a writing project, it feels exactly like driving through fog—I can’t see far enough ahead to feel comfortable where I am, the clear road behind is as shrouded as the way forward, and there’s no telling when some swift insight will blow through so I can go back to “normal.” So, with the weather forcing my thoughts along this line, here are four ways I’ve found to write through the fog.

1. Wait It Out

I almost did this today when I saw the road, lol. “Ten more minutes,” I told myself, “then the sun will break this up.” Unfortunately, deadlines (this time imposed by my middle child’s early choral practice) don’t always like this option.

giphySimilarly, when I recently ran into a fog with a manuscript revision—I was too close, too attached, to see the “fix” around the corner—I chose this method. For me, “waiting” on a project does not mean putting off the work. Instead, I “wait” by recharging my creative batteries which usually breaks up the fog in a matter of hours. I daydream in nature, rest, and return to whatever original inspiration sparked the story in the first place. This often means rereading stories, rewatching Star Trek (because everything comes back to Star Trek for me), or returning to my story board.

2. Redirect

giphy2When the fog was at its worst on the highway, my GPS kept trying to push me toward side roads, where the traffic was lighter. In the same way, when I’m stuck on a project, I find my creative thoughts straying to new (and old) ideas.

I used to fight that process, but why bother? Why not cut out 10 minutes to brainstorm a new project or revisit an old idea? If that’s what gets the creative juices flowing easier, take that side road!

3. Lean on Support

I was nearly to my destination when the impenetrable fog got even thicker, and the only thing visible was the taillights ahead of me. Was it foolish to follow? Maybe, but it got me where I needed to go. Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed to get unstuck.

giphy3Times like that remind me why I’m so grateful for my writing community. Being able to turn to my critique partners and support groups for direction, motivation, clarity, or just to share an exasperated laugh-cry has made the biggest impact on how often I get stuck in a fog.  I used to be alone in those moments, but now I’m not. Now I have others’ passion, grit, and wisdom to follow when I can’t find my way. With them, I can bounce ideas, vent, or even learn about new resources and experts. And, while they may not be “my” community, leaning on those resources provided by experts (writing podcasts and videos, editors’ blogs, craft books) are the brightest lights to follow. Isn’t it better to spend an hour building craft, strengthening plot or diving deeper into character than merely “not writing?”

4. Inch Forward

In the end, if the other methods don’t do the trick and there’s no one left to follow, inching forward is ultimately all one can do. So, go on, inch forward at a snail’s pace and plunk one word after another on the page. So what if you delete it all in editing? Who cares if it didn’t feel like flow?

giphy4Once the pages are written, revised, and edited, nobody will know but you that those specific words felt like a root canal. Set yourself a short goal, like Shaunta Grimes’ 10 minute plan, and just write for that 10 minutes, if it’s all you’ve got to give today. Maybe the fog will clear as you go, or maybe it will tomorrow. Just don’t give up now!

What are some ways you’ve conquered the fog in your writing journey? Tell me in the comments–I’d love to learn from your experiences!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2For more about #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, search the # on Twitter or check out Raimey Gallant’s blog to get involved!


Personal Lessons from #Pitchwars 2017 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

giphy6Fair warning: Some of these lessons might be carryovers from 2016, while I was lurking and cheering on friends. And there are a gazillion great lessons to learn from a contest like Pitchwars, but these are mine for now (and counting!).

  1. Subjectivity in Story

I thought subjectivity was something I fully understood. I’ve even *gulp* blogged about it.

But I was wrong. My thinking was incomplete, flawed.

giphy5Subjectivity is more than how one person perceives in general, it’s how perception slants taste and attitude on a rolling basis. This brilliant thread was key to helping me see that.

So, as I prepare to query my complex and quirky time travel paradox space opera, it’s important for me to remember that many potential readers may not be in the mood for what’s on my pages. giphy4Even if they are, my early pages and query (or pitch) need to alert them to the tone of my story quickly, or else I’ll be facing a wall of not-what-I-expected reactions.

  1. Punctuation

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m a huge grammar and punctuation junkie. But just because I was using punctuation correctly in my manuscript doesn’t mean I wasn’t drawing all the wrong kinds of attention. After a particularly enlightening mentor comment, I took another look.

Look at this madness, y’all.

giphyEllipses = I had 195, but now 34 and falling

Seems I love ellipses. Cutting these was tricky, because there are some moments in speech or internal dialog when the thoughts cannot connect, when the character is reaching for, but failing to find, their answer. So, in order to trim 93% of these pesky, disruptive punctuations, I looked line by line at what effect the ellipses had on the scene’s pacing and flow. I kept a lot of them, I think. And 34 may still be too many, but I’m alert to the problem now, at least.

giphy1Semicolons= 9, now 4 (totally OK with this)

That’s not so bad, right? Well, I hope not, but, writing YA, I decided none of my semicolons were necessary unless they were used within a list. Two long lists in one book? I’m OK with that.

giphy2Emdashes= 314, now 134 and falling

Emdashes are definitely an issue I have. Why do I have all these broken thoughts, and, better yet, why do my characters? I trimmed 58% of these, but I’ll take another look in my next editing pass to see if I can cut further.

The tricky part with this count is that I also used dashes for some of the epistolary logs, but maybe I shouldn’t, and importing from Scrivener makes em-dashes into “double dashes” instead. (Also, maybe I should remove the dash key from my laptop, because my pinkie aches to reach for it so often.)

  1. Attitude

giphy3Anyway–Back to the list! In every contest I’ve participated in, I’ve seen the same hopeful soar and desperate crash mentality. There are so many giving pep talks and reminders of “This is how the industry works,” that nothing I have to add matters. Still, keeping my own attitude in check (this time, at least—I’m no angel) has made this the best contest yet for me.

giphy9Emotions happen. Acknowledge and understand them, but don’t let them dictate personal interactions or spill out as vitriol into public spaces. Sounds easier than it is.

giphy10Meanwhile, support each other! There’s room for all our stories, not in this one contest, but in the world.

Those are my most valuable lessons learned through this Pitchwars experience so far. I can’t wait to see what else I learn once mentees are picked and celebrated, and more lessons and trends from the slush pile emerge.

giphy7How about you? Has lightning struck to help you with your writing process? Have you learned anything about yourself, your writing, or the community recently? Comment below!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2**This post is part of the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop writing superhero Raimey Gallant. To find more monthly craft bloggers digging through writing craft, process, and life, visit her site or watch Twitter for our hashtag midmonth on Wednesdays, though I’m a few days late posting.**

When Losing Feels Like Winning #authortoolbox

I had my favorite kind of win this week, but it’s a strange one.

I submitted to #authormentormatch, provided my full MS and synopsis, *really* got my hopes up, and . . . wasn’t chosen. It happens. Usually, it’s no big deal.

I tried to hold my breath till I got feedback, but—this time—rejection slammed into me full forcegiphy.

(Read: the emotional impact of “losing” hit me Hard from all different angles).

Luckily, I knew feedback would come, and it was time to let the months of rejection process through tears.

Plus this. Because self care. chocolate-hazelnut-espresso-martini

I took time to recover, to open myself fully to what I could learn from losing. I wallowed and wept.

I troubled my poor husband way past his bed time.

The idea of quitting, or even taking a break, arose. Writing hurt so much, brought me so low.

But it was like that moment in Star Trek: First Contact, when Data is offered the choice to betray Starfleet to become human.

Lieutenant Commander Data: [about the Borg Queen] She brought me closer to humanity than I ever thought possible. And for a time, I was tempted by her offer.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: How long a time?

Lieutenant Commander Data: 0.68 seconds sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity.

–from IMDB

I considered it for 0.68 seconds. I’m no Data, but that’s all that thought needed.

I love writing too much. Even if I tried to quit or take a break, it would hurt too, plus I’d fail, because . . .

I love it too much.

Lesson: I knew exactly how much it means to me that I make my story WORK. 

So I turned my attention to another WIP, one I’m insanely excited about as well, and lost myself in the work.

When I received the feedback last night, it was a happy surprise. A full beta read+ a two-page critique/reader response. Something clicked. Then a lot of things clicked.

I learned something about my craft, not just my story. Because I was so open, so vulnerable, I was ready to see the bigger picture. And because this community is so wondrous and personal, with people giving and sharing with each other, I found my way forward.

Lightning struck; I built a plan, and today I’ll design the schedule to get it done.

I am so grateful to my newest reader, and to all the readers who’ve helped me grow as I have in the thing I love, as precious to me as air.

Y’all. Even the tears feel good in hindsight.

This is what 90% of “the writer’s life” will always be. We’ll write and share, edit and revise, listen and learn, because the rejections will mount forever. For every yes there may be a thousand nos.

Still, I love it.

I’d love to hear how other authors soldier on through rejection. What gets you through it?