Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Writing on the Fly

When I first started writing, I had a part time job and young kids. It often seemed as if I never had more than twenty minutes at a time to write. So I adapted and I got a heckuva lot of writing done in ten to twenty minute spurts. Sitting in the car, waiting for soccer practice to be over, at the park while the kids were playing nicely (that never lasted longer than twenty minutes!) during a quick cartoon on TV, whenever a small chunk of time landed in my lap, I was ready.

Of course, this works best if you always have a notebook or laptop nearby, which I highly recommend.

Writing in spurts can be so effective that even though I write full time now, I still use the technique to either jump start my writing or when the writing just isn’t flowing. So if you only have ten to twenty minutes to write, consider:

1. Jotting down a quick conversation between two characters, but only the dialog, as if you were eavesdropping on a conversation. You can fill in the rest of the scene (Physical actions, character's reactions, etc.) later.

2. Block out a scene. Make a list of the physical actions that you know have to take place in a given scene. For example, Theodosia needs to come up out of Long Term Storage, look for her father, stop outside his office, overhear Clive Fagenbush’s scolding, have him see her when he storms out of the office. Just the bare bones actions of a scene, but then the next time you have a few minutes, you can just write one of those sections of the scene.

3. If you know the POV character’s overall character arc, brainstorm some baby steps she’ll need to take as she grows.

4. Do some quick character journaling to help you get to know some aspect of your character better. Write about a traumatic event that occurred during her childhood, at age seven or twelve, something that shaped her perception of herself.

5. Brainstorm a quick list of the next few scenes, plot points or events that need to occur in your story so you won’t have to grope around wondering what comes next when you have some time to write.


dee said...

Incredibly timed advice, as usual.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom. It gets so frustrating sometimes, having so much going on in myhead but not enough time to get it all out. I just need to learn to do what I can, when I can. Writing in spurts is MUCH better than not writing at all. Right?

Robin L said...

Absolutely!! Just a page a day will get you an entire book in a year! Work with the time you have, it's the consistency that counts.

Sheri said...

A page a day--now hard can that be? *grin* I know what you are saying--sometimes the story just flows out so fast that I can't keep up with it, and at other times it just dries up and is gone... I think of whole dialogues in my head between characters while driving the bus, but my digital recorder only records about 2 minutes at a time and I still haven't gotten over feeliing stupid when I use the darn thing... Plus, gotta pay attention to my driving--can't be talking into the recorder all the time!! But I like the writing in spurts idea--I can probably do that. Won't hurt to try--thanks for the advice!