Monday, February 3, 2014

Just Do it


by Becky Martinez

Just do it.
That’s a great sounding saying, but how easy is it to do that? From losing weight to starting an exercise program to writing a book, what does it take to “just do it?”
It sounds so promising when you say it, when you’re thinking about it. Then you’re all charged up and excited to get going. Maybe you are at a conference or out with a group of writing friends talking about your book and brainstorming ideas and you know exactly what you want to do.
Then the regular day kicks in.  You go back to the real life. How can you continue to “just do it” when you’re back to your normal routine.
The truth is you might want to do it, but you can’t just start and automatically make it happen.   Even if you start out filled with anticipation and excitement immediately, how likely are you to do the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next until you actually can say you are just doing it and you will continue?
How can you make it happen? There are a number of ways to start building that daily chore into a daily routine or habit.
Try baby steps. One thing that I have done successfully in the past is to begin small.  Take that story idea and start developing more than just the vague thought about a man faced with proving his innocence in the murder of his wife, or a woman who wakes up 500 years in the future and isn’t sure how she got there.  Those might be great premises, but what do you do to come up with a story behind them?
Well, you might start developing your character more or pushing that plot a little bit forward. Who is she? What does she want?  What does he need to do to solve the crime? Who is he and who was his dead wife? These are baby steps that can when answered can move your story up another level. 
Keep going. Try doing those baby steps again tomorrow. Continue to develop that character or your plot. What is the first obstacle he or she is going to face now that she is in the future. Is she mistaken for the commander of a space ship? Start bringing in challenges or small new problems for each of your characters. Is your hero’s blood on his wife’s shirt she was wearing when she died? 
Start to own it.  Make it as steady practice to keep considering where you want that story to go or what you want that character to do. Begin to look for ways to get your characters out of their scrapes or to put them into new ones. Develop your setting more. Where does that murder story take place? What about the world where your heroine finds herself? Give it more depth until you can begin to truly see it.
Fight against setbacks.  Nothing is going to come easily or immediately and you will eventually be hit with something unexpected. That might happen to you or your characters. You’re run into a dead end with your new world. You have no idea how to propel someone into the future? What would make such a thing happen? How can you explain that to the reader? Does that obstacle make you want to give up? How can you fight that?
Plan for chaos or be ready for it.  That’s one way to fight back. Have an idea of how before you set out and just begin blindly writing the story. It goes back to item number two  and three.  If you keep developing and owning your story, you will begin to see some of the things that might happen and plan for them. 
Don’t let the doldrums get you down either. Sometimes even the ordinary can bring you to a standstill. You find yourself in the sagging middle of the book where the same old stuff is occurring. How many aliens can this woman battle? How many times can this man face another challenge that puts him at the murder scene.  
Shake things up. This might be a good time to look at some of those early challenges you came up with earlier, but didn’t use. Clear your brain and then come up with some sort of twist. Perhaps someone else from the past comes into the heroine’s new world or perhaps the husband finds out his wife was having an affair and that man might be the killer. Look for a twist to bring new life into the humdrum story. 
Recall past successes.  If you’re still having trouble making that story come alive, think about how you dealt with this in the past? What did you do other times that got you through the tough points?  Think about what worked before and see if you can apply it again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it gets tougher.
Consider your overall plan. What is working for you and what is a problem area. Write that down or keep it in mind. Are you coming up short in the character department or in your plotting? What needs more work?
Know where you want to finish. Whether it is the ending of the story, where she conquers the final alien leader or your hero proves his innocence and uncovers the real killer, think about where you want that story to end. That can go a long way toward helping you through some of those earlier steps when you get bogged down or you aren't sure what you want to happen next. Knowing how you want to end helps you know which direction to go.
Have you thought about what your writing process is? Now may be a good time to examine what you are doing that is working and what needs changing.  Come up with a process that you can use again and again.  And when that gets old, then change it up again. Be strong enough to follow the program, but always be ready to be flexible.
In the next month I am going to be going through my own writing process and bringing in some of the other processes used by other writers that have been successful for them. Think about ways to develop your own writing process.


Maybe then you’ll be ready next time you just want to “do it.”

 

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