There I was chugging along with my novels, when CRASH! I hit a metaphorical brick wall. There are two layers to this wall, first and foremost being my husband and I spent 10 days with my parents.
After years of therapy, I now find spending time in my childhood home enjoyable. The only problem is my mom likes to indulge my husband and me with all kinds of yummy treats. This past visit included a dozen artisan cookies from the Wegman’s bakery, as well as their ultimate white cake, 18 double-chocolate chunk cookies, a 6-pack of cupcakes, Rice Krispie treats, ice cream, and a hamburger cake.
My husband and I ate all of the above with abandon and glee. Our bellies are evidence of these facts, as they have gleefully abandoned us by expanding like balloons. More than that, though, we felt AWFUL, with all the sugar, gluten, dairy, preservatives, etc., as the leading source of fuel for our bodies; essentially, we laid around on the couch a lot.
Consequently, I did not do a lot of writing on my novels. Other writing, yes, but the novels, no. I kept trying not to be too hard on myself, but let’s face it – it’s impossible to be a novelist without having written a novel. In addition to having my children’s stories and short stories published, published novels are up there on my list of writing goals.
But the food and laziness was not my real problem. That was the second layer to my metaphorical brick wall. In one of my novels I had plotted out the major points and I knew where I wanted to go. I did not necessarily know how I was going to get there.
Some of you may know this as a classic debate in writing: are you a pantser (meaning writing by the seat of your pants) or a plotter (meaning you outline your story)? I was content to fall somewhere in-between. Until, I wrote myself in a direction I had not anticipated.
As it turns out, the main character in my one young adult novels is about to start junior high…which I did NOT realize when I started writing. Oh, sure, I knew she was thirteen because her thirteenth birthday is how the book begins. But it never occurred to me that she would have to go to school at some point during her thirteenth year… DUH!!!! But that meant thinking about a class schedule, teachers, friends, enemies, etc. All points I had not even thought about when plotting out the storyline.
I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of having to create a junior high and all the freaks and geeks glory to it. I also wondered if I even had to include all that anyway. It’s not as if we know what characters do every single day of their lives after all. So I let the ideas of what I was writing sit and marinate while I ate myself to oblivion at my parents’ house.
Once my husband and I got to our new housesitting job, we got started right away getting our lives back in order. And when I say right away I mean right after we finished that last super-sized bag of M&M’s; although we did end up throwing the rest of it out only for one of our new charges, a black Lab named Smudge, to dig it out of the trash can when we forgot to lock it. Thankfully, we caught him before he got very far.
So better eating. Check. Less laying around and more exercising. Check. Back to writing. Check?
Again, I was doing some writing, but no novel writing. I reached the point where I was thoroughly frustrated with myself so I did a classic psychology move which has been shown to improve productivity – I got started on the task, even if it was just a baby step. In my case, this was write 100 words in my young adult novel.
Something so simple and yet, it worked! Not that day, but the next day when I was putting my shoes on it hit me how I could write away chunks of time in a school year once I introduced the school to the reader.
Then, I came across a book in my Kindle library that I had purchased several weeks ago from Amazon’s daily BookBub email (if you have never checked these daily e-book deals out, I highly encourage you to. Some of the book are even free!) entitled, Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition by Libbie Hawker.
I have found the book to be incredibly useful, especially because it directly addresses the problem I was struggling with in ending up somewhere unanticipated. I admire writers who only “pants” it, but with the way my mind works that style of writing just seemed to leave me overwhelmed and frustrated. But with the skills and techniques, I’ve gleaned from this book, I’m again feeling invigorated with novel writing. Yahoo!
This book is not the icing on the cake, however (metaphorical cake, that is. No more real cake for me until I feel healthier and less jiggly). The real treat is that as I wandered around the public library here I came across a young adult novel, Fat Angie, by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo. This entire book takes place in the life of a high school freshman, yet there are very little specifics about her day-to-day school schedule. It’s an excellent model for how to only keep the relevant and delete the mundane because it’s not like anyone wants to read the mundane, anyway.
So it feels like I now have enough ammunition where I can blow up my brick wall. I’m excited! I don’t really care for explosions but I think this will be the good kind. Only time will tell…well and I’ll tell, too. I’ll make sure to update my progress in the coming weeks.
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