Writing sometimes feels like a race to the finish line. Especially when working on a deadline. I’ve learned over the years to ask for plenty of time, but even so, I begin to wonder about halfway through if I’m going to finish at all. The characters by this time are real and they don’t always like what I have planned for them. They talk back. They dig in their heels. It doesn’t help to grumble and say, “Who’s in charge here?!” Actually, this is the best – and worst – part of writing.
It helps to go out and drive around. (This makes Rick nervous because he’s concerned I’m not concentrating and will end up in a ditch or T-boned at an intersection.) I listen to music; my radio is permanently set on KLOVE Radio. Sometimes I put in a CD. Today it was Navajo drums and a pan flute playing. Did I come up with fresh ideas? I started thinking about a road trip through the southwest. Wouldn’t it be fun to follow Route 66? Ah, the Grand Canyon. I’d like to see that again.
I often forget what I know. Rule #1: Do not think of this project as writing a book. If you do, it will be overwhelming. You’ll panic and know you can’t do it. Rule #2: Take it one day and one page at a time, hopefully more than one page a day. Three would be good, four even better. Rule #3: Forget all the rules and just plant your backside in the chair and put your fingers on the keyboard. Unleash your mind. Rule #4: Be sure you have plenty of coffee and chocolate in the house. And dry-roasted, honey-drenched macadamia nuts.
Every year, I go on retreat with a group of awesome writers in Idaho, hosted by an awesome writer and her patient husband. (Imagine being the only male around when ten women move in for four days. He quickly found things to do elsewhere!) As we “pray, plot and play”, I always learn new things. For example: a cork board is a great place to keep ideas so they don’t get lost on a desk. I now have a cork board, stick pins, note paper and sticky notes. In various colors, just in case I can come up with a color code system. Another great idea is to work out a one sentence Moral Premise (read The Moral Premise by Stanley Williams, Ph.D.) The moral premise is always there. I just didn’t know how to put it into one sentence. Every scene will be centered on the moral premise. If not, the scene can probably be cut. (Imagine the relief of my editor if she doesn’t have to cut another 40,000 words from my manuscript this time. Imagine my relief if I don’t over-write by 40,000 words!)
All to say, the mid-project panic is gone and I’m jazzed about the work ahead. Now that I have a cork board beside me, I won’t have to rummage through my pile of notes to find what I know is there – somewhere.