On Discovery Drafts and Writing Fast

In case you hadn’t noticed, writing fast has become quite the thing lately.  This is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, if you want to indie publish, your fans expect you to pump books out one after another.  And you can’t maintain that pace if you write slowly.

Writing Fast

But I think it is also because writing fast works.  Again for a variety of reasons:

–When you write fast, you access the subconscious mind, bypassing the conscious mind which tends to be, um, critical.

–When you write fast, you get something, anything, down on paper. And once you have something down on paper, then you have something to work with.

–When you write fast, you bypass perfectionism.  And let me tell you, perfectionism breeds procrastination big time. Because if you’re putting yourself under pressure to be perfect, you’ll think of 5,000 other things you’d rather be doing.

–And besides, writing fast is fun!

It’s when you get to revision that the hard work begins.  Which I am learning as I take the first draft of my novel, which I wrote really fast, just working to get the story on paper.  Which leads us to…

The Discovery Draft

You’ll often hear the first draft of a novel (or a story, or a memoir, or anything) called different things. Like a rough draft, or a discovery draft. I’m guilty of most often calling it a rough draft, though I think the term discovery draft does it more justice. Because the most important thing to remember is that you are discovering the story.

You are not:

–Worrying about every comma and period.

–Fussing over not knowing everything.  Instead, when you get to a place you don’t know something, you insert a TK and keep going. (Using TK allows you to do an easy search at the end.)

–Stopping writing for a month when you don’t know what happens next. Instead you start writing where you do know what happens.

–Reading back over your work and editing as you go. Forward motion is the name of the game.

In other words, you are writing fast, getting the story down.  The discovery draft is for you to discover the story. Subsequent drafts are for you to figure out how best to present the story.

I am currently rewriting a discovery draft of a romance novel I finished in February, though in this case, the word rough really does apply.  There are vast stretches where I’m not exactly sure how it all goes together, and these pages are full of TKs and all caps notes to myself.  There’s lots of cursing and name-calling in those all cap sentences.  Not that it does much good to call myself names and tell myself what a terrible writer I am. But it does the trick to get those thoughts out of my head so I can keep going.

What I’m finding, though, is that the bones of the story are strong. I’m rearranging like crazy, dramatizing long stretches of narrative that were flat on the page, and making the characters more complex.  But my discovery draft, written fast, captured the story I wanted to tell.

So the moral of the story is: don’t agonize over every word.  Produce those pages and get to the end of your discovery draft. You’ll be happy you did!

Should you need help with your discovery drafts, learning how to write fast, or any aspect of your writing, I’ve got a couple of spots open in my coaching.  Pop me an email and we’ll set up a time to talk!

Photo by hisks.

Blocked? Try This to Get Your Writing Going Again

Before we get started, I have a guest post today over at the wonderful Samara King’s blog. It is called Born to Be Bad, and it is about the importance of wielding your creative power. Go read it!

Okay, so I promised you a tip for when you are blocked.  This is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to think I’m crazy, but it works. It’s based on one of the laws of the universe (possibly physics, though I am not scientific enough to know) with which you are familiar:

Nature abhors a vacuum.

And so does creativity.  And so here’s the idea:  you create a space in which to allow your writing to flow. I know. I told you it was simple. But it really works, because not only are you telling the universe are ready to riot, you are also easing yourself into the work.  Here are some suggestions as to how:

External

Open a file.  Opening a file is telling yourself (and the world) that you are serious. You’re going to do this thing. You are creating a place in which to actually write it. Woo-hoo!

Buy a notebook. Ditto above. Only analog, not digital. Claiming your space!

Create a binder. And ditto again.

Fill out a template.   This can be a character dossier, or a form (or forms) that you find in a book or online. Sometimes having somebody tell you what to do helps, and if they’ve given you a ready-made outline, so much the better. (Though take everything anybody tells you, especially even me, with a grain of salt.)

Title a blank page (on the computer or in a notebook) with Chapter One (or whatever). Now you’ve created a vacuum.  I’ve been known to have a file open or a notebook created for days or weeks at a time before actually writing anything in it. And that’s okay, because the energy is there, gathering. This draws on the Japanese productivity theory of Kaizen, which advocates small increases in productivity.  As in, one day you open the file, and the next day you write one word, and so on. Sounds crazy, but it works.

Kon-mari your workspace.  Creativity is messy and sloppy, yes, but getting things organized creates, yes, you guessed it, a vacuum into which words can flow. And yeah, I’m the worst person on the planet to be preaching this, seeing as how I’ve been re-organizing my office for years months.

These simple actions tell the universe that you’re ready to receive. That you’re serious. You’ve fashioned a vessel into which the ideas can flow.  And before you know it, you’ll be writing like crazy again.

Do you ever create containers for your creativity? What’s your favorite way?

And hey, don’t forget about connection calls. Just click here to schedule a time to chat about writing!

Photo from Everystockphoto.

What it Takes to Be a Writer: Part Three

You’ve revved up your brain, planted your butt in the chair, and now you’re ready to write. I sometimes envision this moment as that of a piano player: you place your fingers on the keys, expecting great music to pour forth….and nothing happens.

You freeze. You don’t know what to write. Or the words won’t come. Or you are so damn critical of the words that do come that you shut down the computer and decide to go clean up dog poop in the backyard.  Because dealing with that kind of shit is better than dealing with the crap you’re putting on the page.

Ahem. I have news for you. Writing crap is good.  Writing crap is desirable (at least in a first draft). GETTING ANY WORDS ON THE PAGE AT ALL IS YOUR ONLY GOAL.  So do it. That’s my first bit of advice:

Write Crap

Just write, even if that means reminding yourself how awful you’re doing as you go. My first drafts are full of all caps exhortations about what terrible work I’m doing. Like: THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE AND IT’S REALLY STUPID. Once I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can carry on with the rest of it.

Here is an unedited glimpse of what I wrote yesterday as I tried to get going:

Okay I’m just sitting here with the cat, staring at the computer.  What the f#%k. Staring never got the writing done. Just write something. This is where prompts are really handy!   Start with the image.

And I did. I started with the image and the scene flowed from there.  Writing crap, and reminding yourself of it, is incredibly freeing.

Write Crap Often

Like, every day. We already talked about making time and conserving energy for writing in part two.  Do your best to write as often as possible. It makes a huge freaking difference, I’m not kidding.  Doing this, you gain momentum. You have that lovely feeling that half of you is living in your fictional world.  And because of that, you’re in love with the real world you actually do inhabit.  And when you are in love, you want to spend more time with your beloved, correct? So you will be eager to return to writing your novel.  And that, my friends, is the power of writing every day. (Even if it’s crap.)

Plan Ahead

I’ve proven to myself over and over that I procrastinate and get distracted when I don’t know where I’m going.  This is why I like to write a loose outline for the plot of my novel, and why I’m such a huge fan of character dossiers.  The other thing I like to do is write notes to myself. I do a lot of “writing about” the project in my journal, and I just about always write little notes to myself in the manuscript as to where to go next.  Then when I open the file first thing in the morning, I know where I’m going. I often diverge from my plans, but at least I have a way in to get started.

Employ Systems

There’s lots of help out there for writers.  You can download Freedom, which will turn off your access to the internet for a predetermined amount of time.  You can use a Pomodoro timer that allows you to write in spurts (or just use your phone’s timer).  You can use Scrivener.  The point is, there are all kinds of tools out there that will help you in your daily writing. Find the ones that work for you and use them.

So there you have it. What are your favorite tricks to get words on the page?

Out of Sync

united-states-army-385786-h (1)I’ve been out of sync with my writing lately.  (And my blog posts, too, as you may have noticed.) Off my feed, unchained from my computer, thinking about things other than my writing.

I’m best when I write every day, or close to it. I get into a rhythm and it becomes just something I do, not a task I avoid, or a thing to obsess about (when I could just as easily be writing).  But as soon as something throws me off my schedule, I’ve got to find ways to get back to it.  I struggle a little bit, and sigh and wring my hands and think about how awful life is. How I don’t have any time to write at all, ever.

And then I remember that my life is pretty damn good and actually I do have time to write, if I would only take advantage of it. I quit sighing and struggling. But those are all just interim steps. I still have to find my way back to my groove.

Today, as I spent another morning doing something else very important besides writing, several items that will impact my procrastination fell into my lap. Well, more like my computer.  Anyway.

First was this article by Barbara O’Neal about how she started listening to dubstep and it increased her output exponentially.  I’m still experimenting with this. (And please don’t ask me to explain dubstep, I actually don’t even know it when I hear it yet.) And never mind that going to Pandora to find some dubstep led me to ponder if I should try Spotify. Of course the answer was yes, and that took a bit to set up an account and then I remembered that Beth Orton had a new release out and…you get the idea.

I really am out of sync.

But here’s another one, a TedX Talk about how to find fascination in the every day. It really is worth a watch.  Thank me next time you’re staring at a pile of dishes in your kitchen sink.

And then, trying to be positive, I thought about the things I’m doing to get back in sync. That would be writing in my journal every morning (call them morning pages if you like), playing around with writing to prompts, and rereading my WIP.  Organizing my craft closet (not by choice–a huge yarn avalanche occurred when I opened the door and fell all over my office floor). Thinking deep thoughts.

I’ll get back to it soon. I have to, because I have another rewrite to accomplish.  There will be deadlines and such. Or at least I hope so, because giving me a deadline is another surefire way to pull me out of a slump.

What do you do when you get out of sync?

Photo from an army contest in 2004. Go figure.

Why Resistance to Your Writing is Sometimes Good

Burning Writing Of An Dark-Illuminated Paper Sheet

Here is one thing I have learned for certain in the gazillion years I’ve been writing: that resistance always has meaning.

Always, always, always.

It is up to you to figure out what that meaning might be.  But here’s the deal: once you do figure it out, then you can explore it.  And get over it.  You’ll understand more about how you approach your writing, and also your current writing project.  As far as I’m concerned, that covers pretty much everything.  So let’s look at both these categories.

How You Approach Your Writing

Your very own wonderful little self longs for expression.  And I’d venture a guess that for just about anybody reading this newsletter, that wonderful little self longs for expression through writing.  But sometimes that same wonderful self does things that are counter to that longing of expression.  Like procrastination, for example.  Or being a perfectionist.  Or being harshly self-critical. Or being all loosey-goosey and not discerning enough. (Sending out a first draft, anyone?)

You know which one is your own personal favorite form of resistance.  Mine is procrastination, and I’m very good at it.  I can even convince myself that what I’m doing when I’m not writing is critical to my well-being.  I can surf the internet and the whole time convince myself it is crucial to research for my novel. I can scroll through my phone and convince myself I’m doing social media (when really I’m looking at cool photos on Instagram).  And so on.  Insert your favorite distractions above.

But because I know this is my form of resistance, that this is likely how I’m going to approach my writing when things get tough, I also can call myself on it.  And the funny thing is, because I understand how I resist writing, I can also see how I resist other things in my life.  Like exercise.  Or gardening. Or cleaning the house.

It is important to not get all judgy on yourself.  At first, just observe.  Watch what you do and how you react and think of how interesting it all is, how clever a brain you have atop your body.  Next time, realize you’re doing it again.  And carry on.  After this happens enough, the observation of it will stop you—because you’ll grow weary of observing this pattern over and over again.  Trust me, watching oneself sputter and flail about does get boring pretty quickly.

 Your Writing Project

 The other aspect to resistance is your WIP (work in progress).   You may hit upon a scene or a chapter or a segment of it that you start to avoid.  You can be writing merrily along and suddenly something just isn’t working.   You marshal your forces.  You attempt to carry on as usual.  You forge ahead.

But nothing works.  The words fall flat on the page, the dialogue sounds wooden, the scene just won’t come together.

Okay, remember: resistance always has meaning.    writing-1560276

And in this case, something is wrong.  Here’s a handy checklist to divine what it might be:

Your setting.  Most often, this is it for me.  Maybe the scene is currently set inside and needs to be outside, or vice-versa.  Maybe you’ve set too many scenes in the same place.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changes the location of the scene and suddenly it comes alive.

 Your characters.  Are the correct ones in the scene?  Does your character need to confide in her best friend or her mother? Or maybe an old woman sitting on the park bench? Play around with the characters in the scene to see if you can’t get it going again.

Their motivation or backstory.  Perhaps you think your heroine is motivated by greed—but when you take the time to dig deeper you realize it’s the opposite.  Maybe you think your antagonist is a cranky jerk because his father died when he was young, but really, it was his mother who passed.  Etc.

The placement.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the scene, but where you’ve got it set in the plot isn’t working.  This is harder to figure out until you’ve finished a full draft, but worth considering.

These are just a few suggestions—I recommend looking at every aspect of the story until you figure out what’s going on.  And for my money, the best way to figure things out is to write about it.  I like to call this writing around, and I probably write about three to five times as many pages in writing around as I do in my current WIP.  It is how I figure out everything.

So, there you have it—proof that your resistance is a good thing.  The catch is, you have to deal with it.  But that’s much better than giving up writing for a week or a month or a year.

What are your favorite strategies for dealing with resistance? Please comment below.

Photos from freeimages.

How To Have Writer’s Block

Blocks_262707_lI don't know about you, but I sure want writer's block.

I have absolutely no interest in writing quickly and easily.  Or feeling like the words are tumbling off my fingers so fast I can barely keep up.  Uh-uh, not me.  

I would MUCH rather sit and stare at the blank screen on my computer.  And when that gets boring, look out the window.  I'd prefer to do laundry, or scrub the kitchen floor.  Or organize my junk drawer. I don't know about you, but I find that surfing the internet all day is vastly preferable to getting a lot of writing done.

But, writer's block.  No matter how hard we try, sometimes it is just damned hard to get there.  So I offer the following suggestions so that you, too, can spend whole days not writing:

1.  Don't know where you are going.   Start randomly anew each day, without any concern for what came before.  Just pluck inspiration out of thin air and write.  Because, you know, that happens.  Not.  But fortunately you don't want it to, so you are all set!

2.  Don't do any prep work.  Similar to above, remember that you don't need to know anything about your characters, or where they live and work, or the theme, or absolutely anything about anything at all.  Just tell yourself to write!  Not knowing any of the above will bring on writer's block faster than you can whisper grammar.

3.  Don't write regularly.  Nah.  Much better to give yourself, oh, say an hour every month or so. Because then by the time you've remembered what it was you thought you might write, your time will be up–and you won't have written anything!  Which is, after all the goal.  Writer's block, baby!

4.  Focus on how blocked you are.  Because, you know, what you focus on, you get more of.  So pondering your writer's block in all its glory is a surefire way to make sure it sticks around!

5. Check email every five minutes.  Surely something to distract you will have arrived.  Oh look–here's a missive from a nice man in Nigeria who wants to give you money.  It's probably worth writing back to him, don't you think?

Wait, what? You're tired of having writer's block after all? Your kitchen is sparkling, your laundry is finished, and there's nothing happening in the world worth reading about on the internet  You want to write again?  Geesh.  Some people.  Well, if you insist, here are the antidotes to the above suggestions:

1A. Always have a place to go.  Hemingway famously stopped mid-sentence at the end of a writing session.  That may be a bit much, but leave off somewhere that you know what happens next.  And/or, write yourself a note about where to go.  Time and time again I find that I flounder when I'm confused about where I'm going.

2A.  Do your prep work!  This will help enormously with #1A. A really fun approach is this book called The Writer's Coloring Book, which I just discovered today.  But even if it doesn't suit your style, do some advance work.  Think about character, setting, theme and plot.  It will pay you huge dividends if you do.

3A.  Write every day.  Just shut up and do it.

4A.  Good, better, best.  The Qi Gong master I follow emphasizes this.  Do your best in the given moment, whether that is five minutes of writing or two hours.  And focus on what you've done, not what you are not doing.  Good is better than nothing.

5A.  Shut out distractions. Ha! I'm the queen of checking email and looking up news stories.  But I also use Freedom, which disconnects me from the internet for a pre-set amount of time.  It is a lifesaver for a writer, and at $10, a steal of a deal!. (I just went to the website to check the link, and you can also download a tool that blocks you from social media.)

That's it for my suggestions.  How do you encourage writer's block–or find ways to get over it?

Photo by wbd.

What to do When Your Writing Stalls

English_door_blue_223130_lYou're sitting at your desk, staring at your computer.  Maybe the chapter of your current project is up on the screen.   Perhaps you don't have the freaking slightest of clues what to write next. 

Your brain is empty.  It's like there's a brick wall between it and what comes next.  You simply can't figure it out.  Your writing is stalled.  We won't go so far as to call it blocked, as in writer's block, because that term is big and scary and implies people burying their heads and not writing for years. 

But, you are stuck.

And you don't know how to get yourself unstuck.  

However, I do.

Because, over my many years of writing, I have figured out a thing or two about getting stuck. Namely, that there's always a reason.

Always.

So all  you have to do is figure out the reason, and voila, you will be writing again!  

I know.  It's not always that easy.  What follows are some suggestions for discerning why your writing progress is stalled.  

1.  Look at location.   This is the first thing to check.  Is the scene set in the right place? Sometimes moving a scene makes all the difference and it is an easy, quick fix, which is why I say to look at it first. Can you move the scene outside and make it more active? Does it need to be in the bedroom rather than the kitchen, or vice-versa?  You'd be surprised at how much insight looking at setting can bring when you're stalled.

2.  Is the scene necessary?  This week, I was working with a client who'd gotten stalled.  We looked at the beginning of her next chapter with an eye toward moving the location (see #1) and realized that there was no reason for the scene.  Everything that came out in the first part could be fed in later in flashbacky dribs and drabs or through dialogue.  Sometimes you are blocked because you're trying to make something work that simply doesn't need to be there.

3.  Do you know everything you need to know about the plot?  I got stalled on my WIP novel at the start of the summer.  I'm a believer in having lots of irons in the fire, so I moved over to working on some shorter pieces and continued to ponder.  And as I pondered, things started popping.  A new character introduced herself, as did a crucial plot element in the form of a rolling pin.  (It makes sense in context, truly.)  My main character confided a deeply-held desire that changed everything. And I realized I had needed to take a break in order for this information to come through.  I likely wouldn't have thought of any of it without the mental bandwidth stopping working on it gave me. This might be the case with you, as well.  

4.  What about your characters?  I write somewhat on a "need to know" basis.  I'm a big believer in planning, but I abhor over-planning.  So I start out writing character dossiers, figuring out what I need to know about my characters to get rolling.  And then, as I write, I'll realize I'm in a place where I need to learn more about a character and I go back to my dossier or character backstory and fill more in.  So maybe you need to get to know your people better if you're stuck.   Use prompts and freewriting to uncover their secrets.

5.  Do you need to do more research?  Maybe you don't know enough about something important to the novel.  Do you need to study rocket science? Practice tying five different kinds of knots? Learn more about the genre you're writing in?  Find out what kind of grass grows in Louisiana? The smallest of things can trip up a writing session.  Learn what you need to know and it will enhance the novel.

A couple bonus pieces of advice:

6.  Trust the story.  You're stalled for a reason, and the story knows what.  It's also trying to tell you, if you'll but listen.  Look at all the elements and see which one wants changing.  Trust your story. Which leads me to the reminder that:

7.  What you resist, persists.  So if your writing stalls, be Zen.  Go with the flow.  Move over to working on something else.  Let thoughts percolate.  Sometimes you just can't rush the creative process.

What's your favorite way to get unstuck? 

Photo by val-j.

Just Write It

As you all know, I teach writing, and I coach writers and I write about writing on this here blog.

There's seven years worth of posts here–over a thousand of them last time I looked–and they all have something to do with writing.  In truth, I don't write a whole lot about the actual mechanics of writing. What I tend to focus on the most is helping people get the writing done. 

And here's a true confession:

The advice I offer to my clients, my students and my readers is one and the same:

Just write it.      Shadow-nike-3912603-h

If only it were that easy, right?

Why is it so damn hard to sit down and just write it?  

If I had the answer to that, I'd be a millionaire many times over.

There's a million reasons why we don't write.

But bear in mind, all you really have to do to be a writer is get yourself to the page, and write one word.  Then another.  And another.

Sometimes the simplest reminders are what propel me back to my work again.

What helps you get back to the page?

Photo by ktylerconk.

While I am Out: My Old Friend Paralysis

Note: I grew up in the printing plant my father owned, and he had a whole stack of pads titled While You Were Out, with check boxes and lines to fill in about things that happened in his absence. I am going to be out for a few days at a wedding, so I thought I'd fun some oldies but goodies.  Here's the second, from back in 2010:

My Old Friend Paralysis 6a00d8341cb7f353ef0120a91af143970b-320wi

Yesterday, all writing and other activities came to a screeching halt.  This happened suddenly.  Oneminute I was in the middle of a writing session.  The next minute I was paralyzed.  I realized that everything I had written was complete and total crap.  And that there was no use writing anymore, ever, for the rest of my life, because any new words that I put on the page would be even worse. 

Because of this epiphany that I could no longer write, I turned my attention to my to-do list, as long as always.  But nothing on it interested me. 

"Buck up", I told myself.  "It isn't supposed to interest you, it's your to-do list."

But I couldn't connect with a single item on it. Instead, I sat at my desk, paralyzed everywhere except for my over-active brain, which told me I was an impostor, a failure and stupid and unattractive to boot. This went on for a few minutes until I finally got up and cleaned the kitty litter.  Did some dishes and straightened the house.  These are all chores that generally go undone until I run and do it all in a panic at the last minute before someone gets home.  By the time I'd exhausted all the mind-numbing chores, I had only a few minutes left to write.  I forced myself back to it, and got some words on the page.  They weren't words that I was happy with, but they were words on the page.  By then, it was time to go to my acupuncture appointment, thank you God.

My acupuncturist, Hana, listened to my whining, told me I was probably having a healing crisis (I've been doing lots of acupuncture and hypnotherapy lately) and stuck extra needles in my crown and third eye chakras.  During the rest time, I dozed and snored for awhile, and then I woke up and started thinking about the novel.  Thoughts and ideas flooded in.  Oh wonderful movement, which feels so much better than being stuck!

I came home and made notes, not only on the novel but the entire process of being stuck.  And here are some of the antidotes I came up with, just in case this ever happens to you:

1.  Choose something, anything to do or work on, it doesn't matter what.  This is the Tough Love antidote.  May not be pleasant, but it will probably work.

2. Get in touch.  Maybe you've lost your connection.  Meditate.  Go deep.  What do you really want to write?  What do you really want to do at this moment?

3. Get away.  Go for a walk, clean the kitty litter, do the grocery shopping, whatever.  Sometimes just getting up from my desk allows the ideas to flow again.

4.  Move your body.  Take a walk, do yoga or Qi Gong, dance, march in place.  It is amazing how moving the body can sometimes loosen a logjam in the brain.

5. Take a nap.  If all else fails, sleep.

6.  Do something that gives you confidence.  Go back to something you're really good at and work on that for awhile.  It'll give you a boost.

7.  Listen to a motivational CD.  Never underestimate the power of some rah-rah attitude!  I put a CD in on my drive to acupuncture and it was already helping to lift my mood by the time I got there.

Okay, so those are my suggestions.  Anyone have an antidote to add?

What To Do When The Words Just Don’t Sound Right

(Note: I was going to call them damn words in the headline, because sometimes the words feel like they need cursing.  But then I censored myself, because this is going out in my newsletter, and I don't want to offend people.  Do words like damn offend people?  I don't know.  You tell me.  I wouldn't be offended, but you might be.  Anyway…)

Lettering_letters_close_260818_lI had an email this week from a young writer whose friendship I treasure.  She is in her early teen years and an avid writer.  Or has been an avid writer.  According to her email, all of a sudden, when she writes, nothing sounds, well, right.  It comes out cliched.  Doesn't ring true or feel authentic.  And she asked me what she should do.

It is a very good question, and a difficult one to answer.  When I think back to the answer I gave her, I'm not sure it was particularly helpful.  So this is my attempt to rectify that and maybe help some of you who've struggled with this as well.  (Who am I kidding?  I'm also doing it to help myself–because yes, this happens to every writer at some time or another.)

Process, not product.  We too easily get wrapped up in thinking about the end result of our writing.  The same impulse that causes writers to inquire of me, "I've got a great idea for a book, how do I get an agent?" (answer: write the book first) also causes us to worry about the end result.  When first you are starting a project, your job is to get words on the page and not worry how they may or may not be.

Do the work, don't judge it.  This goes hand in hand with the above.  Because if you're judging the work, there's a good chance you're not allowing yourself to get into the flow of it.  Again, write.  Throw words at the page.  Let yourself get swept away in the wonder of the creative process.  Fall in love with writing again.

Creativity comes in cycles.  This not liking your work is a stage, and probably a sign that you're onto a different level in your writing.  Because, in the past you might have been satisfied with the way these words sound.  But now you're not.

Mind the gap.  Riders on the London Underground are familiar with this exhortation to watch the space between the train and the platform.  But gaps happen in writing, too.  There can be a huge gap between the story you see in your head and your ability to get it on the page.  And this can cause frustation as you struggle to master your craft.  Of course the best thing to do is:

Keep writing.  In truth, at a time like this, you should write more.   Write journal entries, poems, flash fiction, political polemics, personal essays, character sketches, or anything else you can think of. It doesn't matter so much what you are writing as that you are writing.  Because the more words you throw at the page, the more understanding you will have of how to put them together so that they sound pleasing to you.

Don't second guess yourself.  Commit to something and write it.  Don't question whether you should be writing a novel or a memoir or a short story, just get started on a project and work at it. And please don't second guess you decision to be a writer.  

Finish things.  I will confess: I'm terrible at this.  I abandon stories when I can't figure out where they are going and I despair over longer pieces and give up.  (And you should see my yarn closet, it is full of half-finished pieces.)  However, I'm working to get over this tendency, which stems from bright shiny object syndrome, because finishing WIPs puts you in a different place.  You know more about your story when you get to the end and you've learned more about writing when you complete a piece.

So those are some suggestions that I hope you will find helpful.  What do you do when you find yourself in this situation?

Photo by clix.