When you have all the time in the world…

This writer’s life.

I haven’t got a “real” job at the moment, I have all the time in the world and yet, I am having trouble focusing on the task of writing. While taking a break can be healthy and restorative, there is a risk of losing momentum, sometimes forever.

This must sound indulgent, but I really hope it doesn’t come off that way. Most aspiring authors are trying to fit writing in around work that pays the bills. I have the ‘luxury’ of being at home for the time being. Nevertheless, I’ve been a very busy woman for a very long time. I’ve been secularly employed from the age of 16 and this is the first time in all those years, I haven’t earned an income [aside from very modest book royalties, which only amount to the cost of an occasional dinner out]. Anyway, my plan has been to use this time to concentrate on the next novel. I just can’t seem to get going. I have lots of excuses: taking care of the business of the international move, my office isn’t set up yet and my writing space is important to me, the house is too empty and I need to get a cat… Even writing blog posts instead of working on the novel! Doh!

I suppose it’s easy to procrastinate, knowing you have all the time in the world. Creative pursuits, unless of course, you have been commissioned to complete a project, and are on a deadline, tend to be more fluid. The book always needs further revision, the painting needs just a little more touching up or the drawing needs a slight adjustment. These things can become forever incomplete or unfinished. Even creativity needs to have a certain amount of discipline imposed upon it. It’s time I made a schedule and stuck to it. Plan my writing time and prioritize. And even if the writing isn’t good, developing the routine will be. Mediocre writing can always be revised. But first you have to write it. I really don’t have all the time in the world. It is a commodity that once expended is gone forever. Best get back to work!

Bogged Down In the Telling

Sometimes I forget to listen to the most basic advice. One of the best ‘rules’ of writing is to show and not tell. ‘Telling’ or over-explaining in fiction can really make the story drag. Twice now, I’ve lost momentum in my two works in progress and haven’t realized why. After enthusiastic beginnings and two great plots to develop, the stories became burdensome and I lost interest and joy. How does that happen?

Fortunately, in talking it over with another writer, it was brought to my attention that with my science fiction piece, I had been trying to ‘tell’ everything –that is to provide an explanation for every little circumstance that arose in the story. Granted, it is my pet peeve when I don’t understand ‘why’ something is the way it is, so I tend to lay out settings and background information logically. But a little of that can go a long way. Additionally, information can be woven throughout the story incrementally so as not to overwhelm [read: bore] the reader in the beginning. Besides, I’m already asking the reader to suspend disbelief in writing science fiction, so it only follows that certain aspects just can’t be perfectly explained –they just ‘are’ they way I’ve written them. And trying to explain everything just makes the writing tedious. I know all this, but I just didn’t apply it. Showing and not telling is more enjoyable for the reader AND the writer.

Happy writing and productive editing!

Header image via Pinterest.

Perspectives

Over the last 5 years of steady writing, I find that I’m most comfortable writing from the first person perspective. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the kind of story I’m telling. I always sound like “me” when I write in first person. I try very hard to adapt to my vision of the character, but inevitably that character is some version of my own self. Maybe not exactly, but I guarantee that anyone who knows me well would recognize aspects of my personality shining brightly through.

Ok, so that’s fine if I’m telling a contemporary story about a white, educated, married but childless, female who lives in the Northeastern United States. But what do I do if I want to write from the perspective of a male character, or an elderly person or someone from a different race or culture? There are those who feel that everyone should stay in their own cultural lane but that’s a much bigger discussion so let’s just set it aside for a moment.

When we find ourselves developing a character very different from ourselves, often we can only use information we have either read or observed. This is unfortunately, an aspect of writing where things can go horribly wrong. I think the writer needs to tread carefully and do more than guess or assume how it feels to be someone else. Be humble enough to ask for help. Interview people of that group to ask what their experiences are. And if you don’t know anyone of a particular group well enough to ask for feedback then you probably shouldn’t be trying to write from that point of view. Let’s assume you do. Have someone like your character read a little of the story and comment on what you got right and what you got wrong. Make changes based on their feedback.

As for keeping your writing within your own cultural boundaries, I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I think it’s wonderful to include characters from different backgrounds in your stories, especially if that is part of your real life experience. We are creators after all, meant to be using our imaginations. On the other hand, if you get this wrong, your writing can be offensive to the people you are writing about. Now I realize that in today’s world everyone seems to be hypersensitive about everything, so it can be intimidating to write about another culture. But having a purposefully diverse cast of characters can also end up seeming patronizing. If it’s not happening naturally, don’t force it.

I think it is one of the wonderful aspects of writing: pretending to be someone else. We create whole new worlds and people them with characters developed from our creative minds. These characters deserve to be the best, most authentic versions of themselves and not stereotypes or caricatures. Which is why we, their creators, need to be certain of their perspectives.

*Header image via Pixabay