Kickstarting a Book

It’s February 26th today.  I’d like to have a book done by May 1st.  That’s approximately two months from now, and the next eight weeks includes lots of travel, and speaking, and the kids’ Spring break.  I can do it.  But I have to be focused, and motivated.  I’m not focused yet.  Not really motivated, either.  I’ve so enjoyed seeing all my readers and friends these past three weeks, but I confess, I’m dragging a little.  The hopping on and off airplanes and burning the midnight oil with early flights and different time zones has made me long to crawl into bed and sleep.

Maybe I will tomorrow.  Maybe tomorrow will be a stay-in-bed morning and rest.  Or maybe it’ll be like today.  Jump out of bed at 6 am and tackle the inbox with its endless stream of emails and to-do reminders about blogs I need to write that I haven’t yet written.

But Monday when I return from Seattle, after heading up to Bellevue this weekend for my Sunday Barnes & Noble book discussion and signing at 2 pm (can you make it?!?), I’m clearing off my desk to get serious about new book as it will be time to get started.  But how?

How does one kickstart a manuscript when time’s short, or energy’s low?  How to take that little spark of an idea, and make it sustain an entire book?

First: Make sure your characters have sufficient motivation

 Writing a book without motivated characters is asking for trouble.  Characters that lack clear, strong goals—and goals in opposition to each other—will drag your plot, and pacing way, way down.  To write fast, to write tight, compelling scenes, your characters need to want something, and not ‘down the road’, but immediately.  They need goals that are going to be foremost in their thoughts, burning strong within them.  If you’re not sure about the goal and motivation thing, grab Debra Dixon’s book, GMC, and study up!

 Second, Choose characters, a setting or time period that interests you

 As writers, we’ve all tried to sludge our way through stories that don’t grip us.  So don’t write a story you’re not crazy about.  And if your characters seem just so-so, what would make you really love them?  What would make you fall in love with your plot?  Think about the fire you like in a heroine, the strength or humor in a hero, think about the tone or sensuality you respond to when reading a book.  Give this life, this vitality, for your new project.  Sometimes we decide we’ll save the ‘great idea’ for the next book, or a book in the future, but pour your heart into this book because it is your future.

Third: Change what’s bogging you down

 If you find you can’t write at your desktop lately, get out of the house.  Use a notepad, your Alphasmart (my Alphasmart is my savior!), laptop—whatever you need to put you in a different place, away from your ordinary distractions.  If you feel too sleepy—add an extra cup of coffee, go for a walk, play lively music—whatever it takes to jumpstart you.  If you find you can’t concentrate, or tend to daydream, set a timer,  tell yourself that for the next 15 minutes all you’re going to do is write.  Just write.  No email.  No editing.  No researching.  No fussing with words.  Just fresh new stuff.  And for ten minutes, or fifteen minutes—do it.  I can almost guarantee that by the end of the 10 or 15 minutes, you’ll be in the groove and in the middle of a great scene.  The secret really is to not make excuses and to work through the mental block.  Successful authors all share one thing—effort.  They really apply themselves.  Be nice to yourself, but don’t give up.  Set some goals and work to attain them.

 Fourth:  Get Inspired

For inspiration—and we all need it—play some powerful music, read one of the books on your keeper shelf, watch a classic film, head out to Mother Nature and walk, hike, or sit and breathe in the fresh air.  The key thing is finding something that will charge you…fill up the emotional and spiritual well.  Sometimes I just need to be with my kids and play.  A trip to the park, a hike in the woods, gathering leaves of different colors.  Take care of you.

So that’s the plan.

Let’s see if I can follow through!

What’s your plan for the next week?  Anything you’re trying to get started?  Anything you need to get done?  Fill me in and you could win a prize filled with gift cards and books and an incredibly gorgeous box of chocolates from Schmids, a fine chocolate company, here in San Clemente!  Contest will run through Sunday, March 3rd with the winner announced on Monday.  Please, please check back on Monday to see if you won.  I have boxes stacked all over my office of prizes going unclaimed!

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