Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tricks for Writers

Not tips for writers, you'll notice. Tricks! I thought since I am now the proud owner of a writing award - thank you Elizabeth Spann Craig - I would stop being nostalgic about my youth and write something about writing. What a concept!
I am a normal, lazy person. I don't really believe in the concept of laziness you understand. I believe it is always at the heart of it - fear or didn't want to do it anyway. Be that as it may, I have some tricks for getting myself over the muddy wallows of writing a novel - or anything else too. Sometime in my murky past I wrote publicity pieces for a company I owned. I also wrote for a weekly newspaper. I would get tired of churning out the publicity pieces - using the same trite and tired phrases that soon became leached of all meaning - 'rising star', 'world debut', master technician, great depth of feeling, blah blah blah. In that world, to get over my laziness - I would write something totally bad. Remember that these were the days before email so I almost never got caught writing that the upcoming pianist was a social disaster who didn't know how to put his pants on right let alone inspire confidence in his ability to tackle Mozart. So that was a trick to get me going.
Nowadays I need a different sort of trick. Though getting mad at stubborn characters is still something I might use from time to time. Here are some more:
  1. Title a chapter. Just call it whatever name pops into my head - to give you an idea, for The Rock Walker, I had titles such as 'Sinatra', 'Home', 'Jellied Salads', 'Remorse', etc... giving myself one word was sometimes all it took to move the plot forward even if I eventually chucked the title.
  2. Imagining myself entering the space of the novel and asking questions like "what's going on here?" "how come you look so sad?" and listening for the answers.
  3. Imagining the location and see what stands out - what is in the landscape that needs the attention of the protagonist?
  4. Inventing a new and absolutely fun character - that has carried me through lots of muddy wallows. Especially to find characters that aren't what they appear to be - old ladies who are wildly adventurous, young men who are persnickety detail freaks, 9 year old girls who are mad for war games, etc...
  5. Pretending I am my character's therapist and asking them what they want to change.
  6. When really crazed - I invent wonderful rooms - quirky ones that tell a lot about the character. My main character has an obsession with decorating so she always notices the spaces of the people she interviews (she's a cop).

How about the rest of you? Any weird and wonderful ways you get going when the wallow beckons?

11 comments:

Stacy Post said...

Congrats on the award, Jan! I love your idea of writing bad publicity pieces to get out of the wallows. I haven't tried that before and I'm in a spot that seems to sag a bit. I'm going to try this to see if I can spark something interesting. (I also like the 9 year olds mad for war games!) Thanks for sharing some of your writing ideas. I look forward to reading more!

Helen Ginger said...

I wish I could say I had wonderful techniques like you, but... If I get stuck, I re-read what I've written, then, if I'm really stuck, I take a nap. Usually I dream about the character or problem and find the answer. The trick is to remember the dream.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Stacy & Helen - happy to share the award with you two! Very fancy company I'm keeping wha? (that's newfie).
Yes Stacy, the nine year old is in my recent wip and she's a constant source of amusement for me. And Helen - dreaming is a very time-honoured method of moving along! I highly endorse that one.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love your tips! Thanks for sharing them, Jan. Your award looks handsome in the sidebar. :) I love your blog and your thoughts on writing.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Congrats on the award. I do exactly what Helen said.

Watery Tart said...

What great ideas! I tend to just go forward and write something LATER so that I can come back and fill in, but calling something Jellied Salad sounds MUCH more fun... only with me I would probably call it 'Bad Boys in Drag' or something.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I wish I could jump forward; I can't. I have to muddle my way through. Thanks for sharing some of your tips! There will come a day when I know one of them will help push me through...

Elspeth

Jenn McKay said...

Hi Jan, your tips are great! I especially like imagining a funky new character and pretending you are a character's therapist.

I don't have any cool tricks like this. If I'm stuck, I just take a break.

Jenn

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Elizabeth S C! And thanks for the lovely award. I will be looking to bestow it soon though I think you caught everyone I've got!
Elizabeth B! Thanks and dreaming is always in order!
Tartlett - oh Bad Boys in Drag - must have that!
Elspeth - I don't jump forward either much though I did in the NaNoWriMo because I simply had to!
Jenn - the secret thing is I am a therapist so that is sort of sneaky of me! Thanks for visiting!

Watery Tart said...

I didn't know you were a therapist! I have a masters in psych, so while I'm a researcher, thought processes are very much my thing too... yet another bond...

Jan Morrison said...

Why yep I am! A Buddhist one so that is a person who contemplates contemplation. Yoicks. Think I'll have a snack now.