Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keep the Spark Alive: Staying Committed to Your WIP

All writers have been there.

The giddy, filled-with-butterflies moment that a brand new story idea comes to mind.

Just like a wonderful first date.

For days, you can think of nothing else. You get up in the middle of the night as a new plot twist comes to mind. You open the pantry door and wonder what kind of cookies your heroine likes.  You see the world through fresh eyes, through the lens of this new, beautiful story.

It's like a new relationship. You have all sorts of dreams for where it might lead. The adventures seem exhilarating, the excitement, overwhelming. Nothing can crush the seed of this beautiful new dream.

But like all strong seeds and new relationships, growth inevitably comes. And with it comes change.

The excitement dwindles.

The confidence fades.

The doubt sets in.

Suddenly, this dream seems hard. The once-vibrant characters may feel drab and dull. The plot may seem weak. The day after day fifteen-minutes-here, forty-five there writing time requires begins to seem more like homework than a glitzy, glittering dream.

And our relationship with writing becomes like that of two people in a long-term relationship who have given up on investing in each other.

So, what to do?

Find a way to keep the spark alive!

All married couples hit periods of rut. It just happens. One day, you wake up and realize you've been wearing your flannel pajamas for the past twelve nights, and you can't remember the last time you shaved your legs (hey, don't pretend that's never happened to you!). When we commit to something or someone for any period of time, we get in a routine. But sometimes it's good to shake things up!

That said, here are some ways to keep the spark alive and renew your interest in your work-in-progress:

  • Write in a different location. If you have money for a writer's retreat or even hotel/cabin for a couple nights, great! But if not, try going to a coffee shop for a few hours a week (or even a day, depending on your schedule). Spend $20 on some pretty new flowers, and write outside on your patio. You'll notice different details--like the song of the birds, or the pattern of the waves--when you change up your surroundings.
  • Read, read, read. Every time I read a book by Denise Hunter or Jenny B. Jones, I want to sit down with my own laptop and figure out how I can be a better writer. Learn from the best by listening to their stories. Other books will help open your mind to new, creative possibilities for your own. If you need a recommendation, try Rachel Hauck's The Wedding Dress
  • Set goals, and stay committed. You may get bored. You may be tired. You will want to eat more candy than you probably should. But stay committed to the goals you set. The only way to get through a rough patch is to keep on walking. If your first draft stinks, welcome to the world of every writer. Keep going until it gets better. It will. I promise. Sometimes you just have to stick with it.
  • Get involved with writing groups. Attend conferences if you can, but at the very least, find an online group where you can engage with other writers. There are so many opportunities available, from local writer's groups, to large organizations like ACFW. Find and join with other people who will cheer you on.
  • Write something unexpected. Let yourself think outside the box from time to time. Write scenes you may never publish. Consider an unexpected plot twist or locale. Write the first chapter of the story that follows this one. Even if no one ever sees these pages, they'll allow you to get your creativity flowing and will help you get to know the characters so much better.

Your turn! What do you do to keep the spark of interest in your story alive?


Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Debra E. Marvin said...

I always go back to reading a few chapters from my favorite authors. Sometimes space is good in any relationship, so a 'writer's date' with a good movie, a trip to a museum or yarn shop or people watching at the coffee shop...always helpful!

Great reminders, Ashley!

Casey said...

What a motivational post, Ash! Man, it seems that the last two weeks of posts have been written JUST for me, especially since I'm not writing right now. You've motivated me to try for another story idea and keep it up. Thanks, girl! :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Loved this, Ashley. Right now, my current WIP is stuck. I am stuck on figuring out a new subplot character, how I need to change the beginning.....stuck.

I like the ideas you've shared here, especially writing something unexpected.

GREAT tips!

Ashley Clark said...

Love these thoughts, Debra! The idea of space is a good one... Sometimes we just need a step back to regain sanity! :)

Ashley Clark said...

Casey, I'm so excited to hear that! I think after writing for a while, we begin anticipating all that may go wrong... The rejections, the boredom, the loss of contests, etc. and after feeding ourselves those thoughts, we can't see the big picture anymore. Can't wait to hear what you come up with! :)

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Jeanne! I know how it feels to be stuck! It can be really discouraging. But try to think of it as an opportunity to push your story to somewhere readers-- and YOU!-- never saw coming. I know your story is going to turn out great! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Ashley you wrote with your usual spark. I could see your smile as I read the cheerleading words.

Well done!

Well done.

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Mary! :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Awesome, Ash! Love these tips! I always let myself dream about my characters and their stories. I wake up thinking about the little plot twists my dreamlife wrote. I also love to go for a long run and crank up the tunes. I use the music like a soundtrack, imagine the emotions and how the story would fit with specific songs. (Though I absolutely can NOT write with music playing.) Weird, right?

Casey said...

Ashley that is absolutely right! That and I just don't think my voice is worth my time anymore. We will see won't we?? :-)

Ashley Clark said...

Case, don't sell yourself -- and your future readers!-- short! I can't wait to read your stories in print someday!

Ames, I am just picturing you running around, doing a little dance to a theatrical soundtrack! Love it!

Casey said...

Thanks, Ash. The same goes here! Which speaking of that, I need to go get your novella collection!! :D