Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I open this blog to discuss the writing craft and what it means to be a writer, the stuff hardly anybody else talks about.
I’ve now had books published for four decades, and almost every time I’ve put a book to bed, I’ve known exactly what I wanted to write next. In fact, I could hardly wait to get started. But not this time.
Oh, I have plenty of ideas. Most writers do. There are books I can write, but nothing that won’t wait. There’s a nonfiction book so far along in development that I have a huge box of reference books getting in the way under my desk. Two potentially strong characters each want to have a book, perhaps a series each. They’re also happy to wait.
When not writing, I’m a shopaholic online and off, whether for myself or as gifts. One day a friend, AJ Macpherson, writing as Maggie Gilbert – http://tinyurl.com/jex9dsa – shared the rule she uses to decide whether to buy a particular item. Is it a gotta wanna must have? Running potential purchases through this filter saves me a ton of money and shopping mistakes.
Can this useful phrase help you decide what to write next? Is this project a gotta wanna must write?
If an idea has stuck around for months or years without pushing you to write it, then the answer might well be no. The best stories are those that keep you awake at night thinking about them. The best characters are the ones insisting you write about them.
A gotta wanna must write story doesn’t give you a choice.
Successful New York Times’ best selling author, Chuck Wendig, says the answer is to “art harder”. Bryce Courtenay recommended “bum glue” – sticking your anatomy to the seat of the chair and getting on with it. Both work – some of the time.
But at a time when the book market is awash with books, either indie published by their authors, or trad pubbed, does bum glue work? Yes and no.
Thinking about writing doesn’t get anything written, far less your master work. And as you battle to get the words down, you can’t know whether you’re writing a bestseller or wasting your time. Not one successful author knew which they were writing. Not J K Rowling, not George R R Martin. Not even Shakespeare. http://tinyurl.com/jcffftk Okay, maybe James Patterson, but he’s in a category all by himself.
There are three things you can do to get yourself moving again.
- Stop fretting and write.
In this, Chuck Wendig is right. The harder you art, the more likely you are to stumble on what you need to be writing. It may mean discarding the current words and tackling something else, but at least you’ll know what you don’t want to write.
- Fall in love with the words you’re writing now.
Writing books is like an arranged marriage. Sometimes you have to take the step and hope to fall in love later. Many times, a publisher has asked me for a book that is far from a gotta wanna must write, but I’ve taken on the project and surprised myself by enjoying the journey. Not always. The book I was asked to write about doing your own plumbing comes to mind (yes, it was a real thing). However, saying yes to that project made me determined to write books I could put my heart into, leading to a long career as a romance novelist.
- Don’t be afraid to stop writing
If you’re a born writer, and only you know that, the drought won’t last forever. I was there when writers of the stature of Morris West announced their retirement from writing. Yeah, sure, whatever. You’ll be back. And they were. Story ideas will nag at you until one becomes that magic thing – a gotta wanna must write. Then you’ll be lucky if you can art hard enough to keep up. Welcome back, writer.
Are you struggling to find your next project, or to finish one that’s gone cold on you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below so we can all benefit. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
PS Since writing this blog, a new idea pushed its way into my head – a gotta wanna must write idea. Stay Tuned!
On Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound released MAY 12
via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)
Google Play (All devices except Kindle)
iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)
Kobo (All devices except Kindle)
Full list of titles and publication dates http://www.valerieparv.com