Working Through Procrastination

I was still procrastinating by checking on my grades for my last unit of my Masters and reading the comments that had come through from my tutor, Rosie. And she repeated comments from earlier in the term – that I had started too late in the story and it was confusing.

Ok – I thought I’d fixed that but if Rosie said it again, clearly not.

Instead of going into panic, which I have done in the past when confronted by such criticism, I stopped to think about what Rosie was actually telling me. Chances are she was right. She is published after all and has been teaching for some time, she knows what she’s talking about.

And so I immediately opened a new word document and starting drafting a paragraph about the life my character had in the “real world” and her relationship with those around her. I also thought about how I could link the skills she has the “new world” with those she might already have.

The words flowed magically across the page and I produced a couple of rough pages that led me to the current start of my story. These two pages (about 500 words) will expand to around a 5000 word chapter that will set things up and introduce my character better than what I have now.

But I am not going to write that chapter now. Instead I have jumped back to the middle where I was stuck and powered through the rocky road to produce and clear and compelling story (I hope). I did this in a similar way to redrafting my beginning.

I made some dot points comparing what I had and what I needed to happen. I then spent some time rethinking my characters and what they were doing during this time and whether or not it was within character and showed any emotional growth. Then I was ready to redraft the problem chapters.

Although I also need to do this with the beginning, I will come back to that once I have finished this draft.

This process has crystallised for me the importance of having others read my work.  I will need to find myself a good editor/proof reader and consider a second beta reading group for when this draft is completed. But I don’t want to let that search way-lay me again. Focus first, particularly while I have some focus, and then work on the publishing side when it is ready.

Do you have a problem with procrastination? Share how you work around this to get your writing done.

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The Procrastination Monster

 

Procrastation Monster

 

The past week (or so) has been one of procrastination and stalling. The Procrastination Monster has raised its ugly head.

I’m nearing the middle of my story and it needs a bit of work. I’m worried that it isn’t really going anywhere and I’m seeing some gaps I hadn’t noticed before. Some focused thinking, a bit of playing, some journaling and even some simple drafting could fix it.

I’m sure it could.

But am I doing that?

No.

I’m reading about plotting, and structure, and fluffy romance novels (not even fantasy). I know I’m stalling but I just can’t seem to help myself. I had a sick child at home for a couple of days – that was some extra time while she convalesced on the couch. But what did I do? Watched Barbie movies with her and longed for her to drift off so that I could watch the end of Game of Thrones series 3 (even though I’ve read the books and knew exactly what was going to happen.)

Now I have wasted a good week and a half.

Why?

Because I’m overwhelmed. It all seems too hard at the moment, too difficult to fix the mistakes and make the story sing.

I have noticed is that a major relationship in the story has shifted and I have not clearly shown how or why that happened. If I don’t fix that a lot of what comes next will not make sense or ring true and the reader will not be as invested in the story.

So what am I going to do about it?

Sit in front of the computer and turn it on would be a great place to start.

Sometimes you need to force yourself to start and then the stress and problems don’t seem so big. I am still writing my daily sentence but with a pencil and my daily planner.

I need to play with some ideas. Play with what should happen between what I’ve got and the next serious action point. Or decide to push straight to it. Look at whether I am filling pages with fluff to get me to the next point. Consider if two chapters could be condensed into one, or the next two or three reworked and repositioned.

To work out where to go I will read what I have and what comes next and then draft out a rough idea (in a paragraph) as to what should go between and then make it happen.

It means pushing myself to start the process. Push the procrastination monster away and start. And hopefully clarity will follow close behind the determination.

Do you know why you procrastinate? How do you work through it?

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Goal Setting to Reach Your Mountain

 Mount_Mulanje Painting

We started the year with a discussion around goal setting and that you need to know where you are heading before you can start. Or perhaps, like myself, you needed to check that you were on the right path that led to where you want to be.

I asked you to think about that path and where you wanted to be. To focus on your values and what is important.

The next stage is to think about how to get there.

There are different ways to set your goals. There is a lot of advice out there and many goal setting tools, some easier than others. When I started drafting this post I had it all mapped out for you, but I think it would be better if I just pointed you in the right direction rather than drag you down my chosen path. So here are some steps that I think are important no matter how you set goals…

 

Write your goals down

It helps to see where you are going when you have it laid out in front of you.

Checking your goals regularly helps and knowing where those goals are is important – in your planner/diary, on the study wall, desktop. Wherever it is you need to be able to see them.

 

Each goal needs to lead to your overall goal or value

You have spent time thinking about where you want to be, the goals you now set are based around how you are going to get there.

To help determine these goals consider:

  • What you need to do every day or month to reach your goal.
  • What skills you need to learn or sharpen.
  • Who can help you.

Some goals may be short, or take longer to achieve or may lead onto other goals. You will have a range of goals that lead to your ultimate state or mountain.

If you need some inspiration to reach your mountain, check out Neil Gaiman’s inspiring speech.

 

Write each goal as a positive, achievable statement

Write each down as you want to achieve it.

For example: I will be a happy writer, spending each and every day writing exactly what I want to.

 

Set deadlines for your goals

Know when you want to achieve your goal by. Open ended goals simply don’t get finished, they just go on and on and on.

Consider:

  • When do you want to be living your dream?
  • And when will you complete each step on the way?

Working full time as a writer is on my 10 year plan. But I would prefer it to be my life in five years…so what do I need to move forward? Or do more of to get there faster? This is what I consider when I set my annual and monthly goals.

 

Use to do lists and action plans to reach your goals

Writing down your goals is not enough, you need to act on them every day.

 

Share at least one goal that leads to your mountain by clicking reply.

 

Photo by africankelli africankelli (originally posted to Flickr as Mount Mulanje) and adjusted by Georgina Makalani
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Making Time to Write

by Georgina Makalani

Clock

We want to write but we struggle with finding the time to sit down.

Or we don’t think there is enough time. Quite often I hear, “I can’t find the time.”

Maybe it is a case of making the time rather than trying to find it.

And it is possible to write quite a lot in a small amount of time. It is a matter of being focused and making the most of the time you do have.

 

How much time do you have?

We all have the same number of hours in a day but it is how you use it. Before we start, I am in no way suggesting that you work flat out for 16 hours because it just isn’t possible. In considering the time you have available you also need to consider your energy levels and cycles.

 

Finding free time

Closely look at what you do over a day and determine when you have time to write. It may be more than you realised.

  • What time do you do get up? Or are you a night owl?

I’m an early riser; I love the peace and quiet of the pre-dawn hours that I just can’t find at any other time of the day. And the kids are still in bed, so the only possible interruption is the cat and she is easily worked around.  You may be comfortable with those night time hours, when everyone else has gone to bed. It’s a different kind of quiet but it might be what you need.

  • If you work, what do you do between meetings or during lunch time?

I get an hour for lunch and I do use three a week for the gym, but two of them (and occasionally more) are available for writing.

  • Other times?

When could you squeeze 10 or 15 minutes worth of writing into your day?

Such as sitting in the carpark waiting for school to get out, or when your husband/wife/partner is out with mates; or while the washing is on…

I’m also able to use those free times that pop up, like arriving early for a meeting somewhere. To be able to do this you will need to carry appropriate things with you.

 

Booking time

I find that booking writing time works well for me. I have the first hour of my day booked for writing. And knowing that once I’m awake and made my cup of tea that I sit at my desk and write is somewhat comforting and the routine helps me find the flow quickly.

 

Creating time

Sometimes we can’t find the time and so need to create the time

  • Cutting out non-essential tasks – Are you able to create more writing time by reducing the amount of time spent on other non-essential tasks? Everyone will have a different idea of what non-essential is. For me it’s ironing and washing floors. I do them, but not all the time. Actually they can become a great unblocker if needed. Sometimes you need the space to allow your mind to think over stories, or a problem area and the ironing can be a great way to do that. Same with weeding or mowing the lawn (tasks that I have outsourced completely now)
  • Cut out distractions (tv) – I find at times that I’m sitting watching goodness knows what rubbish on the box when I could be doing other things, like writing, or planning. There are times that the two can be done together (depends how you go with noise); and there will be times that you need that down time, to re-energise. But don’t waste precious time watching rot.
  • Arranging time with partners/family – My daughter knows that if I’m at my desk on a Saturday morning to leave me alone. I will emerge in time to get her ready and take her to ballet class, but that time is mine. Discuss what you need and want for your writing with your family and their support will be invaluable in several ways, one of which may be that your partner will occupy the kids or at least leave you alone to write at agreed times.

 

Making the most of the time you do have

Now that you have all this time that you have discovered or created what are you going to do with it?

I suggest having a plan for your writing, knowing what stage you are at and what you want to achieve either in the coming period (week) or during that writing session. It is also worthwhile having your writing on hand so that any time that crops up you are ready for.

I carry my current chapter on a flash drive and print outs of what I’m editing so I can work on either at any time. I also carry a slim folder that has my to do lists, plans and notes.

How much free time can you find in your day for writing and how are you going to make the most of it? Share your plan in the comments box below.

 

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The Ripples Caused by Editing

By Georgina Makalani

Chapter 8 editing

As I have discussed multiple projects already, it will come as no surprise that I do have several things on the go at once. One of those projects is this website and blog and I’m learning a lot as I go. I am also starting to draft my next novel, very rough and all over the place.

But my first writing priority is my current fantasy novel which is in the editing stage, mostly. Some chapters need more work than I previously thought, and so it is not just editing, but rewriting and reworking some sections.

 

I’m editing for:

Story/Narrative

I am attempting to ensure the story is working (and from some readers some parts need tweaking) making sure that narrative moves the plot along at a reasonable pace and doesn’t get lost along the way. That it is believable and credible and pulls readers in. No strange jumps between events or sudden shifts in character behaviour.

Characters

Characters, as mentioned above, are an important part of the overall narrative. I believe that the best stories are character driven rather than plot driven, yet both aspects interlock and overlap. It is important that characters remain consistent and relatable yet grow emotionally and realistically over the course of the story.

Description

Description is an area I struggle with, always worried that I’m not using enough. There needs to be enough to fully immerse the reader in the setting and story, but not too much to distract from it.

 

Over the last couple of weeks I have:

  • Reworked and rewritten parts of chapters 7 and 8, bringing some events forward in the narrative
  • Introduced earlier foreshadowing of the main event/climax
  • Incorporated better description of the setting and characters to enrich the story
  • Further developed a set of characters to become more engaged in the narrative
  • Read several non-fiction books (or parts of) on description and deep point of view.

 

My aim is to provide a fully engaging reading experience. I love to get lost in books, disappearing into a new world, finding myself somewhere else, with different people, living different lives.

Pure escapism.

I want to provide that experience to my readers. In an attempt to do this I am researching the various techniques for producing engaging writing so that I can develop my own writing.

Funnily enough I do get lost in my own writing. When trying to edit I find myself five pages on and just reading. This may be because I have a connection to the characters and the story; I have lived with them for some time, after all. Whether the words make it to the page or not I can see the story unfolding in my mind. The aim of this edit is to ensure those images running through my head reach the page so that you, the reader, see and feel it too.

The changes I’m making to improve the story are having a ripple effect on the rest of the story. The reworking could kill the current ending, or bring it on too fast. I am hoping that the changes smooth out a wrinkle in the current draft causing a smoother, tighter narrative in the end. Either way, there is still a lot of work to do to bring the story to the level it needs to be. And I’m enjoying the process far more than I thought I would.

What part of the writing process is your favourite?

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Multiple Projects

projects

by Georgina Makalani

There are differing schools of thought as to whether it is a good idea to work on different writing projects at the same time, or focus all of your energy on one project at a time.

For some of us there will be little choice, or we have very different things on the go at once. Such as, a blog/website and our writing. But what about trying to write several books at once?

 

Here are some options for working on multiple projects:

Different types of writing

Blogging verses fiction

We all have different projects on the go, you can’t simply focus on blogging and ignore that novel or vice versa. Most of us have day jobs that involve some forms of writing. Most of my reporting at work is financial, but I am still able to sit down at lunch time and work on my fiction.

 

Writing projects at different stages

Drafting verses Editing/Proofing

I like the idea of trying to get as much out as possible. If I don’t start the next novel until the last one is going out the door it will be years between novels, many years.

 

Serious verses Play

We all have work we want to be taken seriously, or are polishing to a standard for publication. Try something experimental such as a silly short story in a different genre for your writers group or create a poem or song that might fit into your current work. Creating something fun and different takes the pressure off, and may free the mind to refocus on the serious writing.

 

I think working on multiple projects helps in preventing or combating writers block. If you get stuck with one work, you can move to the other to free the mind and keep the writing flow going. This may not work for everyone and I strongly recommend against drafting several stories or novels at the same time. I would also stress not trying to work on too many projects at one time. We don’t want to cause greater pressure on ourselves, it would not help any of the writing you do.

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