Scheduling Writing

Everystockphoto_211230_m As I work on my novel rewrite, I keep trying to find the writing schedule that works best for me.  To my mind, there are two main ways to fit working on a big writing project into your life:

1. Make time every day.  Get up early, stay up late, write during your lunch hour, ignore the kids, whatever.

2.  Clear stuff away.  Spend a few days getting every single thing on your to-do list finished so you have time–a day off, the weekend–to work on your project.

My preferred method is number one, and it is the schedule I most often recommend to people.  I like it because it keeps you attached to the project, keeps the words in your mind and the momentum going.  In many ways, it is time efficient, because you don't have to go back and re-read where you were when last you managed to make time to write.  It is also good because, let's face it, most of us have so much going on it is impossible to clear everything away for even a day.

And it is this type of schedule that I've been endeavoring to keep this summer.

It is this type of schedule that I find myself failing to keep this summer.

What happens is this all-or-nothing thing.  I get going on my novel, get engrossed, and work on it to the exclusion of all else.  Like today.  I had to pull myself away from the rewrite to get this post done.

But then what happens is that I've got fires to put out.   Lots of them.  Things I've been ignoring, urgent to-dos, phone calls and emails and life in the real world.

So I end up veering between the poles of writing fiction and the rest of my career, even though I try my best to keep up a steady-as-she-goes pace with the rewrite.

Part of this may have to do with the fact that this is the most social summer of my life, with weddings, out-of-town visitors, and family galore, all of which I love.  But most of it has to do with the fact that I love, love, love writing fiction.  And when I get going on it, I don't want to stop.   The reason I sometime stop myself from starting a writing project in the first place is because I know that once I get into it I won't want to stop.

But I'm still pretty sure that the first option is the saner one for a writing project.

How about you?  How do you schedule writing?

The Value of (Groan) Structure

Structure_building_sunset_237219_l So, it was a weekend spent mostly away from the computer.  Two days spent celebrating my birthday with family and friends.

And suddenly it is Monday morning again.  Besides numerous manuscripts to read for people and a bunch of unfinished assignments, there's the novel rewrite to get back to once again.  And despite the fact that I'm feeling just the tiniest bit unfocused this morning, I am on it.  No really, I am.  On it.

Or at least I will be once I finish meandering about the internet writing this post.  But here's the deal–when I do get back to the rewrite it is going to be simple to ease right back into it.

Why?

I'll tell you why: structure.

Because I have a structure for rewriting in place.  Because when I finished up on Friday, I reviewed what I had already done (five chapters!) and looked ahead to where I would start after the weekend.  This was easy to do because of the structure I've created for myself.

Here's the deal: as writers and creative types, we resist structure.  I know I do.  I want to be wafty and spontaneous and free.  And yet this resistance has led me astray on several occasions.  Jumping into writing a novel without having the vaguest idea where I was going, for instance (I'm not talking about my current novel here, but an earlier one I wrote).  Or starting a knitting project without figuring out a pattern.  And don't even get me started on how many times I've headed off for an appointment without finding the address ahead of time.
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Even though we resist structure, it is inherent in writing.  For instance, just by choosing a genre, you're imposing a certain amount of structure on yourself.  Say you decide to write fiction over non-fiction, you've already narrowed things down.  And then you can choose even further, if you want to write romance, mysteries, thrillers or literary fiction.  Each of these has a certain structure that you'll need to follow in order to get published, or even have a novel that makes sense.

It is easy to embrace the romantic notion that all you have to do is start writing, and voila, after a few hundred pages you'll have a novel.  Go ahead and try that and see what you come up with.  I've done it myself and gotten only pages of writing on yellow legal pads to show for it.

So, don't resist structure, it is your friend.  That being said, it can be a wobbly friend, or a rigid friend, or a fair-weather friend.  You can create a loose outline of events in your novel that is more like a list (what I did for this current novel), or you can create a very rigid, OCD-type outline, complete with roman numerals and all that.  But come up with something. 

And after you've created a structure for the actual novel, come up with a structure for how you will approach it.  Will you start at the beginning of one draft and go all the way to the end of it?  (My preferred method; actually I think it is the only way to write a decent novel for a variety of reasons I don't have room to go into here.)  Or will you be one of those writers who has to polish every word and every sentence before moving onto the next?  (The mere thought of working this way makes me cringe.)  Again, it is your choice.  But choose something.  Because once you have a plan, a structure, in place, it is so much easier to proceed.

And then when you come back from a weekend away and say to yourself, now where was I on that rewrite? you'll know the answer.  And you can get right back to work.

What are your favorite structures for planning and for doing the actual work?  Do tell.

Deconstruction of a Rewrite

EJmanuscriptnotebook Years ago, I asked one of my MFA mentors how to go about rewriting the novel I was then working on.  As I recall, she told me to sit down with the manuscript and re-read it.  Um, not the most helpful of advice.  Yes, it is imperative to reread a manuscript when you are going to rewrite it, but what are you reading for?  What should you be looking for?  How do you figure out what to do?  It is incredibly daunting to hold a 350 page manuscript in your hands and try to decide what to do first.

As most of you know, I've set to rewriting my novel this summer.  This after I was convinced that the 8 rewrites I had already completed would be enough.  But then an agent read it, said she was interested, and gave me comments on what she would look for if I cared to rewrite it.

Key word: comments.  Because hers gave me a way with which to begin the rewrite.  They fell into two areas:

1.  The main character, while funny, kick-ass and brash, is also bitchy and difficult to take at times.  (She's a woman who does what she wants, when she wants, and of course, if she were a male character, her behavior would not be an issue.  But that is a topic for another time.)  The agent felt that she would have better luck presenting the novel to editors if Emma Jean were more reliable.

2.  Some of the secondary characters are not fully developed.  Because Emma Jean is such a powerful character,  the others exist as sort of satellites to her.  While I understand Emma Jean intimately, I never pushed to truly get to know some of the res of them.  

So that is my charge, to make Emma Jean relatable and develop the most important of the secondary characters.  Before I began, I also kicked these comments around with my writing group (who have read the book every time I rewrote it) and other writers who've read part or all of it.  And here's how I have proceeded so far.

First of all, I took a trip to Office Depot. (Brief aside: when I was working on my MFA, after each residency I would take part of the money from my student loans and go buy supplies at Office Depot, so it is a bit of a ritual for me.) I bought a ream of three-hole punched paper on which to print the novel, and a pretty pink binder to put it in.  Then I languished in the journal aisle and eventually, after much pondering,
bought two small spiral-bound notebooks, one red, one black and white.  One became the journal I
wrote about the characters in, and the other became a place to take random notes that occurred to me as I worked on the characters and reread the manuscript.

Next, before I did anything else, even read the manuscript, I returned to the characters, specifically the three the agent mentioned as needing development.  I started by putting each of them through the Ordinary Day exercise, which I found incredibly revealing.  In some cases, that was enough.  In others, I did a bit more work, whether through time lines of their life or writing specific bits of backstory.  All of this proved so helpful that I did it for everyone of the characters, though some only got a few pages of effort.  I wrote it out in longhand, in one of the new journals.  For me, writing longhand seems the more direct route to my deepest self.

A note here: for reasons unknown to me at the time, I felt it important to work with the characters before I reread the manuscript.  It just felt like the right choice, and also I was a bit daunted to face reading the 350-page tome.  It proved to be a good move, as I was able to come up with fresh insights that would not have occurred if I already had evidence of what I thought they were like in front of me.

By the time I finished with the character work, my little red journal was starting to get lots of good notes and ideas in it, all written as they occurred to me, without making an effort to categorize them at this point.  Now it was time to read the novel.  But first, I pulled out as many colored flags and post-it notes that I could find (should have bought more at Office Depot) and made a key.  I used pink for Emma Jean's lover, orange for her husband, purple for the throughline about her bitchiness.  The point was to be able to track the characters and themes I really needed to focus on in this rewrite.  
EJmanuscriptopen

Finally, basket of flags and post-its at hand, I began reading the novel.  I made notes on the manuscript pages and in the little red journal, and flagged character arcs and throughlines madly, as you can see in the photos. (Interestingly, most of the flagging happened in the first two-thirds of the novel, which is where most of the rewriting will happen.)  I also made a list of chapters and what exactly happens in them, because I know from past experience how easy it is to forget.  (Does she meet Ava in Chapter One or Chapter Two?  Oh that's right, I made Chapter Two into two chapters, so now it's actually Chapter Three where they meet.)

So now I'm ready to actually rewrite, right?  Not quite.  Because my notes are a mish-mash of thoughts and ideas, scrawled as I read and wrote bios. 

In the final step before the actual rewriting, I spent a pleasant morning at my neighborhood coffeeshop with my friend and web designer (my website will be up soon!),making sense of my notes.  With legal pad, little read journal and list of what happens in each chapter, I began.  Going through the legal pad, I wrote #1 on the first page, #2 on the second, and so on, for 23 pages, which constitute the 22 chapters and one epilogue in my novel.  And then I went through my notes, and when something had to change in chapter one, I noted that on the #1 page, and so on through the book.

So now I'm ready to do the actual writing.  Which, I must say, will be far and away the easiest part.  I've done the heavy lifting already.  The pondering, figuring out, and conceptualizing are what is tough.  Now all I have to do is flip through the pages and add stuff in.  Easy, right?  Well, if you believe that I have a bridge for sale that I'd love to talk to you about.

Ah, nobody said writing a novel was easy.  And that is what makes it so much fun.  What about you?  What are your methods for rewriting?  Do you do as much pre-writing as I do?  Have a great tips to ease the process?

The Recalcitrant Character

Recalcitrant:

re-cal-ci-trant

-adjective

1. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory

2. hard to deal with, manage, or operate

This describes exactly one of the characters in my novel.  Actually he's very passive aggressive in the novel, but as I've been trying to get to know him better, he's been recalcitrant, unyielding in giving up his secrets.  Which has made it difficult for me to move forward on my novel rewrite.

I'm going through and deepening my understanding of my secondary characters as a precursor to actually starting the rewrite.  Yesterday and today I've been working on the husband of my protagonist.  But he's balky and remote and really didn't want me digging around in his psyche.

Finally, through perseverance, I managed to get him to talk, and I learned a lot about him, interesting things that will flesh out his character in the novel.  This got me to thinking, how, as with all fiction, what you need with characters is a way in.  You need to find the key that will unlock who they are for you.  And sometimes you may have to try a variety of techniques to accomplish this.

Here are a few:

1.  The Ordinary Day.  I wrote a blog post about this recently, and I still think it is the most useful character exercise you'll find anywhere.  But what works for me, may not work for you.  Honestly, what works for me this time through might not work so well for me next time through–that's the nature of fiction writing.  So I reserve the right to fall out of love with this exercise.

2.  The Interview.  All your journalistic types will like this one.  Pretend you are going to write a feature article about your character and interview her.  Or, imagine that you are interviewing him for background on a certain aspect of his life, say, his work, and ask questions.  Often if you can get a character talking about a specific thing you can keep him talking. 

3.  The Character Dossier.  Write down all the specifics–height, weight, appearance, style of dress, mannerisms, etc.  The basic exterior stuff which can often lead to interior stuff.  For instance, perhaps you see your character as very tall and then you realize she stoops all the time.  From there its a short leap to understand that she's embarrassed about her height and that knowledge can lead to all kinds of revelations.

4.  Dressing the Character.  I got this from Robert Ray, author of The Weekend Novelist, which has fabulous prepping exercises for writing a novel.  (His website has some pretty good stuff on it, too.) Have your character go to her closet and write what happens as she dresses for the day.  This can be folded into the ordinary day exercise.

5.  In the Dream.  Another one from Robert Ray.  What does your character dream?  Ray recommends that you use the phrase in the dream as a starting point, and continue it throughout: in the dream, the sky was purple and the moon blue, and she was walking through a forest.  In the dream, cats barked and she understood everything they said to her.  In the dream...I've found this an especially useful, if sometimes odd, way into those totally refractory characters.  (Note the use of the word refractory, which means, hard or impossible to manage.  I just learned that this morning, while looking up the definition of recalcitrant.)

6.  Action.  The novelist Darnell Arnoult tells her students to give themselves short assignments and often these involve characters in action.  So, for example, write about your character under something, breaking something, cleaning something, above something, shopping for food, buying gas, whatever.  You get the idea.  The beauty of this is that you can often write it when you only have a little bit of time.

Okay, those are my suggestions.  What about you?  How do you deal with recalcitrant characters?

Giving Up, Or Why I Should Once In Awhile

Friday I hit the wall.  
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As is my usual wont, I woke early (6ish), grabbed my coffee, and went to work on my writing.  Lately I've been thinking deep thoughts about my novel rewrite and writing them down, which leads to more deep thoughts and more writing.  I'm writing about characters, trying to get to know them better, and pondering plot points.  All of this is intense work.

On Friday morning, I wrote a couple paragraphs and stopped, because I knew I was done.  Just…done.  My pen wouldn't move.  I couldn't form any more thoughts connected to the novel.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.

My brain, however, seemed to have plenty of room for thoughts about, oh, the missing child in my city, Kyron Horman.  Or the oil spill in the Gulf.  Or the World Cup.  (No, I'm not really a soccer fan.  I'm trying to be.  I have this idea that it would be really fun to buy season tickets for the new pro soccer franchise that is coming to Portland.  But first I have to learn to enjoy the game.  And that seems to be slow going.) 

In other words, my brain wanted to focus on anything other than writing.

My brain, poor thing, needed a break.

What I should have done was recognize this right away and take some time off from thinking and writing about my novel.  Lord knows I've got tons of other things to work on.  Or, if I didn't feel like writing, I could read.  Or take a walk.  Or go look at art at a gallery. 

But did I do any of those things?

Of course not.

Instead, I soldiered on.  I was determined, absolutely determined, to get more done on the novel rewrite.  So what if my brain didn't want to work on it anymore?  "Pathetic, lazy brain," I told it, "buck up and let's get going here."

And you can imagine how well that worked.

Yeah, right.  About as well as….well, I can't think of a metaphor so provide your own.  And so, instead of intentionally deciding to take some time off and give my brain a rest, I kept at it.  And ended up reading endless updates of the Kyron Horman case and pondering all sorts of interesting websites I'd never seen before.

This kept up all day Friday and Saturday.  Finally, by Sunday, my brain had had enough rest, the dam broke, and off we went again.  However, I suspect if I had just taken the time off on Friday morning, I'd have probably been back at it by the afternoon.

Lesson learned: it is not always a good thing to soldier on.  Though the prevailing point of view in this society would have us believe otherwise, which is one reason I think it is so hard.  In the future, I'm going to do my best to pay attention when my brain rebels and give the poor hard-working thing some time off.

What about you?  How do you know when you've hit the wall?  What do you do when you splat against it?

Guest Post: Networking: An Essential of the Writing Life

Please welcome my good friend Linda Busby Parker to Wordstrumpet today.  I'll let Linda tell you the story of our friendship, but I want to urge you to go visit her blog, because she is starting a book club on May 1st, and let me just tell you, nobody deconstructs a novel the way Linda does.  You'll learn so much about writing, trust me.  So check it out.  And now read on:

My good friend and fellow writer, Charlotte, invited me to occasionally post on her blog.  She favors me by doing the same—posting on my blog.  Here’s my first post for Wordstrumpet.

NETWORKING:  AN ESSENTIAL OF THE WRITING LIFE

I first met Charlotte in the fall of 2001 when we both entered the low-residency MFA in Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.  We were both in a workshop taught by Sena Naslund, author of AHAB’S WIFE, FOUR SPIRITS, and ABUNDANCE.  Charlotte submitted a terrifically good short story for workshop—I still remember it.  It was subtle and understated.  For whatever reasons, we hit it off right away and became companions at meals and joined a group of other students after hours for a glass of wine to close the day down. 

Our circle of writers in the MFA program grew.  At the last residency in the fall of 2003, Charlotte and I participated in a novel workshop.  Each of the five participants submitted a completed novel for critique.  That workshop was led by writer/professor Julie Brickman.  The five students in that course plus Professor Julie became close friends, colleagues, and supporters of each other.  We called ourselves THE NOVEL GODDESSES. 

It’s been nearly seven years since that workshop convened, but the novel goddesses are still friends and colleagues.  Two members of the group—Julie and Deidre—reside in California, Charlotte in Oregon, Maryann in Michigan, Katy in Kentucky, and I’m in Alabama.  We’ve enjoyed one writing retreat—all six of us came—on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.  In the fall of 2010, we will again convene as a group—all six participating—in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

In the intervening seven years since we first met, we have supported each other through many writing triumphs and disappointments. We’ve also given advice to each other when asked to do so.  On a personal level, we’ve seen each other through the deaths of four of our collective parents, the major illness of one husband, and the marriage of one daughter.

Having these writing sisters has sustained me more times than I can count.  They are the first group of friends/colleagues I go to when I’m terribly disappointed about what’s happening in the writing world in general or my writing world in particular.  It’s also the first group I go to when I want to share a great joy in my writing life. 

I’ve established other networks of writing friends here locally in Mobile and at both Bread Loaf and the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, but the Novel Goddesses constitute the largest of my writing networks—the Goddesses have remained a close group and continue to offer support for each member in the network.  I cannot stress enough the importance of forming networks if you are a writer.  The writing highway is crooked, the hills steep, the disappointments numerous, but joys are also a part of that crooked highway.  Networks get us through the crooked bends and twists in that highway and give us sustaining friendships when it’s time to celebrate!

Linda Busby Parker is author of the award-winning novel, Seven Laurels and is a professor of writing at The University of South Alabama in Mobile.  She also teaches in a low-residency program in Continuing Education—The Writers’ Loft—at Middle Tennessee State University.  Her blog is www.lindabusbyparker.us 

Follies: Festive Friday 2

It's Friday again!Everystockphoto_193639_m

This is going to be a brief post, because I am in Nashville.  However, I couldn't leave you to your weekend without another installment of festive Fridays, now, could I?

In case you have forgotten, we're designing a crazy dance party for either you or your characters.  You can read the original Friday Folly post here, and the first Festive Friday post here.

And now, on with the party.  Today we are going to concentrate on what the characters look like.

  • Describe several of the main people at your party.  All the things you'd say if you described them to a friend.  Height, weight, hair color, eye color, mannerisms, gestures, etc.
  • What's the dress code at your party? 
  • Take several of your favorite characters (or friends in real life) and describe their outfits.  Remember, as above, so below.  The way people dress totally reflects who they are inside.
  • What's your favorite outfit?  Why?
  • Who do you wish you could dress like only you don't have the nerve?  What would you wear if you could?
  • What is the absolute most favorite thing in your closet?
  • What item of clothing should you get rid of, but you can't bear to?  Why?

Okay, that's enough for now.  Have fun and feel free to post answers to any or all of these questions.

Friday Follies

So here it is, Friday again. Since I often have a busy day on Friday, and sometimes don't have a lot of Clown_child_parade_266345_l time for a blog post, last week I asked for ideas about a short, useful feature to begin on Fridays.  I got lots of great suggestions, because, well, I have the best readers on the planet, and many of them centered around the idea of asking a question.

I have taken this idea and run with it.  However, me being me I am not content with one question when more would do.  I'm a novelist, not so much a short story writer (all my short stories end up long) and this pretty much sums up everything.  My motto in life is, more is better, and for living proof, come knock on my front door.

And so I am starting a series, in which we see how far we can go with the letter F and questions related thereof.  Some posts will be stand-alone, and some will be part of a mini-series.  When I run out of F-words (don't go there)that I like I will start with a different letter.  Or come up with a new plan.

Just to whet your whistle, next week I'm starting a series called Festive Fridays, because Fridays are festive and fun and that is one thing I love about them.  But until then, you need a question or two to ponder over the weekend, and I have one for you, but first I want to explain something.

When thinking about the questions I pose and answering them, bear in mind they can be used three ways:

1. Answer them for yourself.  Hopefully, they will be cause for some introspection and interesting journal entries.

2.  Answer them for a character.  This can be a great way to deepen your understanding of a character, fictional or otherwise.

3.  Answer them for the alien who lives next door.  Kidding!  Try answering them for both yourself and a character you are working on.  This is the approach that John DuFresne recommends in his new book on writing a novel called, Is Life Like This?  It is something I've always done and find very effective because getting to know yourself better helps you to understand others better.

Okay, without further ado, here are today's questions, keyed to the word folly, which in case you need a refresher means, according to Dictionary.com, a foolish, action, practice, or idea.  (It also once meant a revue with glamorous female performers but that is not common usage any more so we'll ignore it.)

So, where's the folly in you or your character's life?  What foolish action or idea are you hanging onto that it is time to let go of?  What foolish practice are you indulging in?  What would your life look like without all this foolishness in it?

A Place You Go

800px-Laguna_Beach Yesterday I wrote a blog post called Have a Place to Go in Your Writing.  It was about how important it is to know where you are going when you begin a writing session.  You can go back and read it here, but you don't really have to in order to understand this post.

This whole thing about place grew out of a journal entry from a few weeks ago.  I started out by writing on the topic of yesterday's post–having a place to go in my work and what a difference that made.  And then the journal entry morphed into how important the concept of place itself is in my writing.  The fact that place is front and center in my work is not news to me.  I wrote my critical thesis for my MFA on the role of landscape as character in the works of Willa Cather and Flannery O'Connor.  (And for the record, I'm a huge, raving Cather fan.  O'Connor***, not so much.)

There's a scene in my recently completed novel where the heroine, Emma Jean, who is a bestselling novelist, dramatically announces to her husband, "I cannot live someplace that does not inspire me."  While this is true for me, what is even more true is that I can't write about a place that doesn't inspire me.  And, bear in mind, I use the term "inspire" loosely.  I love writing about LA, though I have no desire to live there.  But something about the place inspires me as a location.  Conversely, though Nashville is one of my absolute favorite places on the planet, I've not yet been able to write about it.  I've set fiction in Portland (where I live), in Santa Fe, and in Sun Valley, Idaho.  I love the Oregon Coast, but have never been able to use it as a setting.  Weird, huh?

 And furthermore, getting the location set is as important to me as coming up with a character to write about.  To me, a character is so intricately linked to place that if I change the place she lives, that can jinx the whole book.  And, if I don't have a place firmly in mind when I think up a character, there's a good chance the story won't go anywhere.

Perhaps this odd thing about place that I have is about wanting to explore the parameters of a location.  It may not be that I have to love the place to write about it, but just that I want to know more about it.  LA, for instance, despite the many times I've been there, is a vast mystery to me.  I still marvel at the sunshine, the palm trees, the freeways, the cars.  I am still amazed that people actually live there.  Manhattan is the same.  A couple years ago, attending a conference there, I rode in the back of a taxi from the airport, staring at people walking down the busy sidewalks, flabbergasted that so many people lived in this place where you can't see the sky.  Try as I might, I could not figure out what it would be like to live there.

And maybe that is what it is all about–trying to figure out what its like to live someplace else.  Because, really, isn't fiction all about trying to figure out the someplace else and the someone else?

Thoughts?  What role does place play in your work?  Is it important or something you don't really think about?  How do you choose a setting for your writing?

**The photo is of Laguna Beach, where my dear friend Julie Brickman lives.  I've had the picture on my computer for awhile, but I think it originally came from Wikipedia.

***Now that I've dissed Flannery O'Connor, let me point out that today is her birthday.  She was born on March 25, 1925.  I just learned this while finding the link for her.

Have a Place To Go in Your Writing

When writing, it is important to have a place to go. 

For instance, Ernest Hemingway always ended a writing session in the middle of a sentence, thus insuring that he had a place to go when he started the next day.  I've relearned this lesson over and over again in my own work.  If I wrap up a chapter all nice and neat, the next day I flounder about as I start a new chapter.  But if I leave myself some room to work, things go much easier.  

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I've scheduled a writing session, usually first thing in the morning because that is when I like to write fiction, and come to it unprepared.  And it is dangerous, for me at least, to be unprepared because that is when the internet and email beckon.  (I have this bad habit of clicking over to my email inboxes or yahoo home page when I stop to think.  I tell myself it is to give my brain a break, but…you can be the judge of that.)

When I am unprepared for a writing session, I lack clarity on what it is I want to write.  And clarity is one of the most important things, in writing and in life.  (Clearing is actually one of the seven practices of the prolific and prosperous writer that make up my Writing Abundance workshop.)  Without clarity, I have no place to go on the page.

But clarity can be ridiculously easy to come by, at least the kind required to know where you going when you turn on your computer and get ready to write.  It just takes a little advance thought.  So here are my best strategies for having a place to go on the page:

1.  Make Notes Ahead of Time.  In advance of your writing session, go through what info you've collected and make notes, either of where you are at or what you want to start.  If you know you are going to be working on a character sketch for your new novel, make a few quick notes.  Your amazing subconscious mind will take what you've written and start working on more.

2. Read Your Work Over.  Re-read what you've read, the night before if you can.  (This works especially great if you are going to get up and write first thing.)  Reading your work over reminds you of where you are, so you don't have to reinvent everything during your writing session.

3.  Make Like Hemingway.  Don't write to the end of a chapter.  Stop a few paragraphs short.  You can even go so far as to stop in the middle of a sentence, like Ernie did.  This automatically gives you a place to go.

4. Carry Your Work With You.  When I'm in the full heat of working on a novel, I carry the little spiral that I use for notes around with me everywhere.  Not only is it at the ready if I have an idea, but there's something about the act of carrying it around that acknowledges the novel's importance and keeps it front and center in my brain.

So those are my thoughts on always being ready.  What are yours?  Comment away.  And keep the phrase, have a place to go, in your fertile brains because I'm coming back to it tomorrow.