Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Ways to Jumpstart Your Story

After The Swan Bonnet reached the HarperCollins Editor Desk at, I began a total rewrite.  An agent had expressed interest and I wanted to do something about my protagonist being among so many adult characters.  I made her a few years older and added chapters.  Never having added chapters to a work that way, I worried that I might not be able to jump in and imagine them.  These are ideas for jumpstarting your story.
1.  Sleep on it.  Literally doing that might help.  I haven't actually slept with the manuscript under my pillow but I've slept with it near my head.   I've found written notes in my bed.  Creative writing often emerges from the unconscious as dreaming does.  When I first began writing, I used to put my typewriter in its case because I tended to brood on my story.   Over a fresh day and during sleep, I collected thoughts about my WIP.  Often, the hurdle I couldn’t jump was no longer there the next morning.

2.   Revise into your blank page.  Ernest Hemingway said that he typed at least the last paragraph he wrote the previous day before writing a new paragraph.   It might seem wasteful but I often find that retyping a page or more improves the flow.  However perfect a writer is as a typist, they hardly ever write down the perfect paragraph the first time.  If a person has a busy day ahead, they might have trouble landing down to the next sentence in the WIP. 

What are those flowers?    Photo from
3.  Do some fact checking.   Solve some concrete details in the WIP. You have an idea of your character's taste in clothing, cars, or food.  Go shopping for her or him, even if it's in another time period.  Look up information about your setting or find facts that build on an event or scene.  Write it down.  Describe.  Did you know that Margaret Mitchell wrote a character study - an individual history of every character in Gone with the Wind - before she began the book?

4.  Free write.  Before I begin anything, I usually get out a pen and simply write on notebook paper about my project.  You can free-write at any time.   Take a fresh page and let yourself go.  Write around your next page.  Speculate on character responses or "might-have-beens" in your WIP.  Something behind the story might be preventing the story from simmering.

5.   Change your surroundings.  Some writers pick up and change place.  I felt unleashed when I first got a laptop.  I could write in any room and in comfortable positions.  Once, writers used portable typewriters but electric typewriters and PCs put them through a desk period.  Now with a tablet that came with a small keyboard, I can write anywhere, as long as I'm not trying for speed.  Alone, a writer might become too self-conscious.  In most jobs, we work around and with other people.  The solitary time of writing can become a lazy time.

          And here in Northern Minnesota, I often take time off in the summer.  Our summers are so precious that I can easily abscond from the writing habit.   Somehow, when school begins, I  focus again but I might need a jumpstart.  Looking back on writing I’d done, I wasn’t sure that the grind was a good thing.  Discipline is, but taking time to gather the thoughts and absorb the present is a part of the creative process.   Writing again, well, hopes are that the keyboard  is that bicycle and a writer might whizz on it when they want to.

The Swan Bonnet is on a blog tour this month!   Here are the blog stops from As You Wish Tours, blogs to check out for books, reviews, and new releases.

Tour Schedule
Aug 10JuliaHendrixAs You Wish Reviews
Aug 11CrystalAllmonOut There Reviews & Stuff
Aug 12AnnSnizekRambling Voices In My Head
Aug 13ChereeCrumpConfessions of the Paranormal
Aug 14KellyPowellKelly P's Blog
Aug 15RaeBethBudaThe Writing World
Aug 16CassieChavezSassy Cassie's Reviews
Aug 17S.Cu'AnamPolicarCu's Ebook Giveaways
Aug 18MelissaBakerBuried Under Books
Aug 19AndreaBuginskyAndi's Realm
Aug 20TinaDonnellyReading For Fun
Aug 21ChristinaIrelanIntoxicated by Books
Aug 22ItaraSosaMy Midnight Fantasies
Aug 23KatherineHolmesGMTA