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Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Welcome Carol Henry
Chapter Four Blues –Finding a Way Past Them
Carol A. Henry
Destination: Romance – Exotic, Romantic Adventures
Amazon Connection, www.thewildrosepress.com.
What happens when you polish your first three chapters, have a 3-5 page synopsis ready, got your pitch down perfect, and you send it off hoping an editor or agent will love your baby and snap it up. Now what? Where do you go from here? More importantly ‘how’ do you keep going? Where do you find the inspiration, the energy, the impetus to keep writing right on through to the happily-ever-after?
I’ve got to admit, I’ve been there, so I know how hard it is to not just sit back and wait and hope and pray that an editor or agent will snap up your manuscript before you decide to continue writing the darn thing. It’s easy to say you’ve put so much energy into editing and polishing the first three chapters that you’re so exhausted you feel you owe yourself some ‘free’ time. Time to recoup your energy, catch up on all those things (like housework, gardening, catching up with friends) before you can feel invigorated enough to sit back down and write more of that manuscript that you’re now not sure is good enough. And besides, you haven’t heard back from any of the houses or agencies you’ve submitted to. In fact, you’re beginning to have doubts that it wasn’t good enough to begin with and you’re ready to scrap the whole thing.
Your first mistake is setting the manuscript aside and waiting to hear back from someone. Anyone! Another mistake might be that you were in such a hurry to send something out that you really haven’t thought the whole plot through to the end and are now stuck trying to figure out the ‘rest of your story’. Especially chapter Four!
A long time ago I gave several talks on Setting Goals—Choose to Write Stress-Free, Guilt-Free, and Stay Focused with Basic Goals, and used the following quote from Alice in Wonderland:
“Cheshire-Puss…would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
This could be said for writing/plotting your novel, as well. Now. I know there are a lot of ‘pantsters’ out there, but really, you do need an idea of where your story is going if you want to get to that ‘happily-ever-after’ stage, and especially past that third chapter. Like your goals in life, your story and character’s plots should be specific, action-oriented, and realistic so that they are easily defined and attained. Your plots, like your goals are choices that your characters must carefully consider before they are implemented. Therefore, each lead character needs to consider the following goals:
• The goal must be something they really want.
• The goal must be something they can see themselves doing.
• The goal must be specific – it must say how much and by when.
• The goal must be something that doesn’t hurt anyone else.
• The goal must be something they are willing to pay the price for.
So, before you set your first three chapters aside, and you think your synopsis is worthy, go back and answer the above questions for each of your main characters. And start writing that 4th chapter; even if it’s a paragraph or two. Even if it’s all ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’. Many times when I’m working on a scene, I start out telling what I want to happen, and start adding dialogue, then go back and edit. Before I know it, I’ve got several pages of the scene completed. And sometimes, yes, I need to go back and make changes to those first three chapters that have already been sent out – too early as it turns out. Because now my story is a much better story and my characters really do have more depth to them.
Okay, so you’ve learned that you need to slow down and really polish and add depth to your manuscript before you send it out. Now, you need to evaluate yourself and your writing habits in order to determine how effective you are at working on your own goal of becoming a published author. Below are a few writing habits to consider:
• Do I complete projects I begin?
• Do I rehearse my goals in my imagination?
• Do I have a number of bad habits I can’t seem to break?
• Do I have the same daydreams over and over about my success in writing?
• Do I know where I’m going in my writing career?
• Do I think of my writing as just a hobby, or am I really (REALLY) serious about it?
Here’s where I get into the Goal Setting topic for you, the writer, to find time to write. After you answer the questions above, you need to dig deep to discover what is really holding you back. Is it your day job, your family responsibilities, spending too much time on Email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, watching TV, or other outside distractions that keep you away from your manuscript? Be honest with your answers. Once you determine your habits and stumbling blocks, work to correct them. Try to find positive sides and use them as stepping stones.
I once sat down and worked up a time management sheet. Years ago I had to do a time management study for a job – I thought it was stupid then, as did we all – having to keep track of every second, minute we spent at the office, including when and how long it took us to go to the restroom! But now I was frustrated at not having enough time to write. And although I’m a very organized person, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have time to write. So, I forced myself to do a time management study for two weeks – minus the restroom breaks. What I discovered was, that I really was spending a lot of time writing. Much more than I thought. It made me feel a whole lot better.
Still, there were a few places that I could be more frugal, and I began to balance things out with my writing habits. For instance, I don’t have a housekeeper. So, I’ll start a load of laundry in the morning, go to my office and write for the specified time it takes to do a load of laundry. Once that time is up (I usually go over that time), I take a break from my computer, get the exercise walking down stairs to the laundry room, do what ever needs doing, maybe take a pit stop, grab a cup of coffee, start thinking about my writing, and head back to the office. The key is not to stay away from your office/computer for too long a period of time. 15 minutes is long enough to refresh the eyes, stretch those finger and shoulder muscles, and get the circulation back in those legs.
When I get stuck and need some brainstorming, and another break, I head for the treadmill for 10 – 15 minutes, then head back to my computer. I’ve worked through several plotting problems while walking (even taking a walk outside helps). And, I’ve gotten real good at cooking supper in a Crockpot or doing a one pot roasted oven dinner. I time for when I need a break from writing, and then prepare everything all at once.
Okay, so some things can wait, others can’t, and of course there are always the family interruptions and emergencies that you need to work around. Finding what works for you is the ultimate goal. Eek out what time you can, when you can, but don’t stop at the end of the third chapter. Jump right into that fourth chapter before you push your chair back and call it a day (or whisk your manuscript of in the mail). You’ll find yourself over that Chapter Four Blues in no time. In fact, do that at the end of each chapter, and you’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll be writing that happily-ever-after!