I’ve been having a bit of trouble kicking myself into gear after the holidays. I know my plans for 2017: Finish Kayla’s Challenge, my novella for the Tiny House Collection; write and publish Ride to the Altar, the third in the Circle Bar Ranch series; start writing Southern Challenge, the first in my Challenge series for which Kayla’s Challenge is a prequel. I’d like to finish it by the end of the year. In other words, I’d like to up my game to two books and one novella per year. Maybe even a short story or two.
Knowing my goals and actually doing them are two different things. I managed to finish Kayla’s Challenge late last year, and it’s in the hands of some beta readers now, but I need Ride to the Altar by the middle of May, and I’ve barely cranked over four thousand words into it. I read what I’d written last year and hated it—both tries at it. I’d written two different openings to the novel and wasn’t crazy about either. Then, I allowed myself to slip into the What am I thinking? I can’t write! blues. I don’t know how many authors experience that particular shade of blue, but I go through it three or four times a year. Then I have to shake myself out of it and remember that this is my job, and if I really was that horrible at it, I wouldn’t have all those five-star ratings on Amazon.
So, I had to wake up my creative side and get started. Here are a few tricks to get yourself going:
- The ever-popular word prompt.
I love prompts. Some of my favorite short stories have come from prompts. There are several story prompt sites. My favorite is Random Scenario Generator. This one is just downright fun to play with because it gives options of creating a scene prompt or a dialogue or a plot—even down to character traits. I flip around until I find something that tickles my fancy, then scribble freely until I have a short story.
- The also-popular picture prompts.
I like to flip through my favorite photo sites under categories that are generally titled “people,” or “faces” and come up with stories for them. Here are two I found that I’ve already written stories for:
I have several others, waiting for me to get to them. And I will. Writing short stories based on picture prompts is fun.
- Grab Katie’s Outlining Your Novel Workbook.
You may remember I did that great outlining experiment not long ago and became enthusiastic about outlining even though I’m more of an intuitive writer. I hate to admit the enthusiasm didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. Once I started writing, I did exactly what I’d preached against: writing the events in order to put a check mark on the outline. In other words, it was shallow.
But her book does help me get my brain into gear. She has great questions to prompt you to think about plot, character, and conflict. All it takes is a few minutes with this workbook, and I’m cranking again.
Most people write in journals, meaning they’re never really out of the swing, they just need to redirect it. I’ve tried to do that and never really could get into it. Or haven’t been able to ever since I discovered the moving men ripped the lock off my diary and read it when I was a kid. I’m hesitant to put much of anything personal in writing anymore. But these are my favorite ways to get back in gear.
What are yours?