So I thought you might want to see a few questions I asked P. Anastasia recently and her brilliant answers!
Q. Are you the type that outlines?
A. I do not generally do outlines. Only periodically. I do research as I move forward (as needed), and to make effective use of your time, you simply have to write. 1 word or 1,000 words. It is better than nothing. To flesh out a story, I may write a thin draft of the scene with dialog, general ideas and actions and then on the second go-over/ first editing phase, I fill in the nitty-gritty details. Add more atmosphere, really let myself steep in the scene instead of rushing to just get it down. Imagine the place. The smells. The colors. Really let yourself be in that environment and try to convey the sights and sounds of the scene. If I find myself trapped at the end of a scene and unable to move forward, I back up a few pages and begin combing through the entire scene again --- this often helps trigger the mind to begin filling in the gaps. I’ve heard other writers tell me to never look back after I write something down until I am done with the entire piece. This NEVER works for me. I have to stop and rewind quite often to get my momentum back up. It works for ME.
Q: Can you tell me how to be effective in my writing time? Make the best use of the time I’m given?
A. Although I absolutely love writing, In general – I often have to force myself to sit down and actually do the work. As Neil Gaiman once said: “ You write on the good days; You write on the bad days.”
Sometimes you’ll write utter rubbish, but it will always be better than a blank page. Some days I wake up chomping at the bit to get to work, and other days I stare at a blank screen for HOURS, unable to stop fidgeting or thinking about the next meal I’ll be cooking or TV show I’ll be watching. I don’t outline full stories, but I do sometimes spend a day outlining certain events I know must happen and I put those parts into some logical order so I can flesh them out later.
Sometimes I skip forward to write an event and leave it for a bit as I’m not always inspired to write the tedious chapters that connect the more exciting ones. It’s OKAY if you want to write a fun bit and then get back to the less interesting stuff afterward. Write what you are called to write. Just do it. You can connect the dots later!
Setting an ultimatum for yourself every day will also help. I did this while completing my latest novel because I couldn’t get the drive together to do it. Basically, I told myself I had to write 2,000 words or I wasn’t allowed to do anything leisurely. After a few days/weeks of that, my brain kicked into create mode and I found writing the words each day easier and more efficient. Make sure you facilitate this by giving yourself a proper work environment. No distractions. Clean your desk of any and all things that get into your mental space. Use a specific computer or room for writing only and nothing more. This way, when you sit down, your body KNOWS you mean business.
"Don’t let anything get in the way. Think of it as solitary confinement for the sake of art! Stories can be shy beasties at times and need to be coaxed out of hiding."
Train yourself. Writing is like exercise. If you don’t do it for a while, you’ll get weak.
You’ll have to keep a set schedule to do this (if you can). Sometimes I end up going to bed at midnight even though I aim to be done with writing at 7 or 8PM, because the words ultimately choose when to come. Not everyone has this liberty -- so if you don’t, then simply give yourself a nice quiet hour each day to try. If nothing comes, so-be-it. If you do this over time, you’ll find your mind should begin ticking around the time you go to sit down. If it doesn’t, don’t be too hard on yourself. There will always be good writing days and bad. Don’t forget to take breaks so you don’t burn out, too.
That being said, you can EASILY go weeks and months without writing and when you get back into it, you’ll feel like a blob of can’t-write/how on earth did I ever write anything ? I’ve done this and I’ve promised myself from this point forward to never take more than a month hiatus from writing because 8 months off nearly murdered my newest novel.
Once in a while, I set a word count and stop right at the end of it, even if I’m in the middle of a rousing scene – that way, when I return the following day, I’m excited to jump in and get going on the rest of the action. Other days I’ll hit way over my quota and return the next day to a blank chapter heading and end up sitting there for an hour wondering what was going to come next.
The more you write, the better you will become. I also recommend working with an editor whenever you can. A professional editor – not a friend or friend who is a professional. Get someone who is unbiased of your work but who is interested in it. Work with them. It is worth the investment.
I’ve learned so much from my editors over the past few years that I’ve been able to catch most of the my mistakes now myself and fix them before they have to tell me to. (I still need my editors, though! EVERYONE does) My writing has become cleaner, more polished and less redundant the FIRST time around due to my experience.
I think that’s about the best advice I can give you. Write what you are called to write no matter what. Don’t let others tell you what or how to write it. Take advice from your editor(s) with a grain of salt, and do listen. They can help you substantially, but some editors can hurt you, too. This is your work, not theirs, so remember that. Always.
Good luck in your journey! It will be a rough one. Some days the sun will shine and birds will sing. Other days there will be torrential downpours and ten feet of icy snow. You have to make it past the bad days to get to the good ones.
Nothing can replace the feeling you’ll experience when the last word of the story appears on the page.
TAKE CARE AND HAPPY WRITING!
P. Anastasia just released an all ages coloring book that I think looks like a lot of fun! It's available now on Amazon HERE