Tag Archives: writing

Make Your Scene Better by Making It Worse

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

I’m not a risk taker. I’m not drawn to danger. I always look before I leap. My prudence has brought me a pleasant and happy life. But pleasant and happy lives, however great for living, do not make  great fiction. So, when I am writing, I have to fight my own instincts to do things the careful way. My characters are not my children who need to be protected. What they really need is a spark of danger to get their story going.

I have been working on a sequence in my work in progress that I thought would be lovely and enjoyable, but instead it was stagnant and just plain dull.  I finally realized that I was being too careful with my characters. Instead of bringing them conflict, I was working to protect them. Continue reading

An Optimist Learns Objectivity

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

As an optimist, I assume the best about my writing. Of course I’m writing (almost) every day. Of course my manuscript is coming along beautifully. I’ll be finished in a couple of months.

When I completed WriteOwls’ Write by Midnight in February, the most useful tool in the whole month was the daily writing log. And it’s because I’m an optimist.

When I actually recorded my daily writing progress, I could no longer simply assume the best. If I didn’t write one day, that day had a big blank line beside it. And that objective record forced me to be realistic instead of just optimistic about my writing. Continue reading

Mental Writing

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

This is the last week of Write by Midnight. My record this month hasn’t been perfect, but, despite numerous family obligations and unexpected responsibilities, I have managed to get up early most mornings and write. I really think I’ve established a habit. Hooray!

But an extra thirty minutes a day, while extremely helpful, won’t get my novel polished and published any time soon. So, as the month comes to a close, I’ve been considering ways to maximize my scarce writing time.

One method I’ve been experimenting with is “mental writing” while I’m engaged in other necessary tasks that require my body but not my mind. You know the ones I mean: washing dishes, folding clothes, walking the dog. I often end a writing session with a problem that I must solve in order to continue. Rather than use my precious writing time to stare at my computer screen and try to figure out what I need to write next, I use my mental writing time to work through the problem so that when I sit down at my computer again, I can dedicate the time to actual writing.

The time I spend outside or exercising seems to be the most effective, and there’s a long tradition of writers using long walks to work through narrative issues, but any time I can squeeze in some extra thought about my own story is helpful. As a result, even if I’m not writing for longer stretches, the time I do spend writing is more efficient.

How do you maximize your own writing time?

How Do I Know If I’m Making Any Progress?

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

Write by Midnight is designed to help us all establish a daily writing routine, and I’ve really appreciated the structure and accountability it’s given me so far. Last week I bragged about my perfect track record for getting up and writing every morning. This week I have to confess that I missed a couple of days. But I’m back at my desk again, hammering out words.

It’s easy to track my progress when I’m drafting a story, but now that I’m revising, it’s more difficult to know if I’ve made any headway or not. How can I measure? I’m still working at the macro level where I’m fixing my plot and character arc. I haven’t made it down to the scene-by-scene sharpening the words level, so I don’t think number of scenes revised is a good measurement. Maybe I should count the number of minutes spent staring at the screen? The number of epiphanies about what my problem actually is and how I should fix it? And does it still count if today’s epiphany turns out to be a stupid idea tomorrow?

During the past two weeks, I probably made the most significant progress in the book not while grimly staring at my computer screen but while mulling over a plot problem as I dried my hair. Maybe it was the white noise. Maybe the absence of pressure. Or maybe I had just been thinking about this one problem long enough and in enough different settings that an answer finally emerged. Now it’s time to sit back down at my desk and try out this solution I’ve discovered. I’m praying it stays firmly in the realm of epiphany.

How do you know if you’re making any progress during revision?

4 Tips for Waking Up Early to Write

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

My goal for our Write by Midnight challenge has been to wake up early and get an extra thirty minutes of writing time a day. I am not naturally a morning person, so this has really been a challenge, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to write every morning for the past week. I feel like I need some sort of early bird pin to proudly display my achievement.

If you’re hoping to work in some early morning writing time, too, here are a few of the techniques that have made it work for me.

1. Tell people.
There’s no motivation like the shame of having to admit that you were a lazy slug who burrowed under the covers instead of getting up to accomplish the writing goal you have announced is so important to you. I told you on this blog, announced it to Twitter, and told the friends and family members I see every day. So I basically have to get up.

2. Remind yourself.
In the wee hours, when it’s still dark outside and my bed is so cozy, I often have no idea why I set my alarm so early. So I hit snooze without waking properly and then kick myself when I’m finally awake enough to remember, “Oh, yeah, I really want to finish my novel.” My solution? I simply title the alarm on my cell phone “Finish this draft by X date” or “It’s time to Write by Midnight.” That last one has been especially effective this month because it reintroduces the shame motivator of #1 (see above).

3. Go to bed on time.
Sleep deprivation is bad for you. If you’re going to get up earlier, you have to go to sleep earlier. You can get by on coffee and determination for a while, but eventually, you will burn out. We’re trying to establish a sustainable habit. So sustain yourself with adequate sleep. And write.

4. Use a gradual wakeup pre-alarm.
Five minutes before I actually want to get up, I set an alarm that plays soothing music. It’s fairly loud, so it wakes me up, but it’s soothing, so I don’t feel the need to turn it off, and I get to experience the lovely feeling of snuggling down under the covers and knowing it’s not time to get up yet. By the time my real alarm goes off, I’m awake enough to remember why I wanted to get up at this terrible hour to begin with, so I actually get up. There are also various apps that monitor your sleep and wake you at the best time, but this approach works for me.

In case you’re wondering, my musical selection is “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. It’s starts soft but builds to a climax just as I’m needing to get up. It was also part of the soundtrack at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11, when they’ve successfully stolen millions and are basking in their accomplishment while gazing at the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s nice to bask.

What are your tricks for waking up early to write?