Saturday, July 24

How I Write: Week Six – Motivation or Getting through the Dreaded Middle

How-I-Write2-banner Starting has always been the most difficult and scariest part of writing for me. My internal editor kept me for starting so many times that when I was finally through the start, I could hardly stop myself. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m struggling with working on my current project. Not because I’ve lost inspiration or motivation but because of the current situation life has found me. Besides the obvious obstacles we all face with life interrupting our writing, there are several reasons the middle is considered the ‘dreaded middle.’

The middle can be less exciting and less rewarding to write. Pantsers may find that they’ve lost the plot in several threads of subplots while Plotters may just be plain bored with the story and characters. There are several things that can help you push through and finish that book. Some are related to you and the changes that help keep your motivation up while others are tips and advice on slogging through the sagging middle of your plot.


Goal-Setting. We’ve already discussed how important setting goals are. Goals that are practical and reachable can keep you moving along steadily. However, there are times when goals are meant to be not met. Playing hooky from your writing might be just what you need. Be intentional in your breaks. Plan for them by writing more over several days before your planned day off and you’ll feel less guilty the day after.

Write or Die. In a future post, I plan to review in depth some of the writing software I use. However, I would like to mention Write or Die. A brilliant piece of software, it allows you to set a timer, eliminate distractions, and get to work. A pause in typing will change the color of the screen and then set off an annoying sound that is sure to get you back to work. Writers with more courage than I can set the program to eat their words when paused for too long. The online version is free and a desktop option with more settings is offered for $10.

Change your Writing Set Up . Sometimes a little change can get your creative juices flowing again. If you tend to write in the same place at the same time, pick a new location and/or a new time. I love to write at home but have also found some of my most productive sessions have happened at coffee shops and bookstores. Mornings tend to work best but pulling my laptop out at night on the bed can be a refreshing change.

Change your Settings for Writing. This may sound a little oversimplified but I love changing things around on my workspace. Flipping from one text editor to another, like moving from MS Word to yWriter or Storybox or Scrivener, can give your WIP a little makeover. A change in font sizes, types, and colors can also give you a little boost. Writing is a mental game. Do anything to keep the fun alive.


First, you must ask yourself if you and your middle have done (are doing) the following things. Does it keep the action moving? Have you kept your reader interested and invested? Have you set up the ending?

In the middle of this WIP, I wrote out a synopsis, which helped me to further strengthen the plot. Taking a look at it and answering these questions showed me the weaknesses (and possible strengths) to the storyline. James Scott Bell’s book, “Plot & Structure,” is also a great resource with some tips on ‘energizing a lethargic middle’ and ‘trimming an overweight middle.’ Some of his recommendations include adding a character, a subplot, or complication for those slow middles or cutting characters and subplots for those bloated parts.

At this point in my experience, I believe that writing should be kept separate from rewriting/revision/analysis. Some blocks are purely the result of overthinking and overworking your plot. Keep your fingers on the keyboard and your eyes off what you’ve already written. Plots can be fixed, characters can be made over, and scenes can be reworked….once you have the words down. Keep the devil at your back, keep moving, and the middle will surely turn into the end.

Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.


Michael Hauge’s Story Concept Template – to give a little structure to the way you view your plot.

Mastering Subplots – Since subplots tend to pop up in the middle, here is Leslie Kelly’s take on adding them in.

Writing the Novel Synopsis – A Forward Motion workshop.

The Writer’s Toolbox – A great resource for writers put together by Lisa Gardner. Her synopsis workshop is a must to checkout.


Plot & Structure – A very helpful read, Bell’s book is easy to follow and gives example to help you craft a great plot.

My WIP Notebook – Jeannie Ruesch’s WIP Notebook can be used to keep your WIP details organized. 

Friday, July 23

Packing Again or Why Posting May Be Erratic Here

Earlier this year, my husband and I received notice on where our next assignment would be. We imagined a well-coordinated move that would involve overseeing movers boxing our belongings. They would be transported two and a half hours away while we enjoyed a few months of R & R. During this break, we would enjoy our families, spend some time visiting childhood haunts, and enjoy the food we miss so much. We did not, on the contrary, imagine that my sons and I would whisk away early from post, spending several weeks living with family while my husband worked and prepared our home for the big move on his own. There were no family health emergencies, no trips to the hospital, no cars being broken into, and certainly no other unforeseen problems in our plans for this summer.

We were wrong. Very wrong.

I’m writing this with only a week or so left to go. Movers came today to pick up our air shipment and all of the goods we purchased on our trip. On Monday, our car will be picked up and it too will makes its way to our future home. I say future home, lightly. You see, at this point, we don’t actually have a home. Post has not been able to secure one yet for us. For the next month (or more), we will be living in either a hotel or another house. There will like be no internet and, for me, that means no connection to my friends and family in the States. It also means that the ‘settling-in’ period has just been expanded until we’re finally able to move all of our worldly possessions into a more permanent home.

In the next week, I’ll be posting some of the “How I Write” posts out of their scheduled dates. I missed this past week and will be posting that later today. I may be MIA for several weeks but will be back as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 14

How I Write: Week Five – Getting the First Draft Completed

How-I-Write2-banner I’ve done it. I really have. I started and completed a category length novel in November but still I struggle with finishing my current project. Life intrudes and it’s not always easy to ‘show up’ when you’re either in a car on the road or in someone else’s house. There are a few things that have helped me soldier on.

Rigid Expectations – Keeping to my goals no matter what has helped at times. Showing up and getting my fingers on the keys seems to be the best way to go. The first few words (or hundred or so) may be painful, each one getting ripped out from me but, at the end of the day, I’ll be grateful for each one. Keeping a calendar, graph, or data chart is a great way to keep yourself moving. It’s difficult to not reach a goal when you’ve been doing so for a period of time. It’s always motivating to keep from ‘breaking the chain.’

Treating Yourself with Compassion – Treating yourself unkindly is one sure way to block the words from coming. It was a hard lesson to learn but one I’ve taken to heart this summer. It doesn’t mean you take your writing less seriously than the other stuff in your life. It’s knowing when you need a break from those big number days. It’s knowing how to pull yourself away from the keyboard when your wrists are hurting or your back is aching or when your family needs you most.

Writing Inspiration – When a book or article gets my energy up to pound the keys, I take note. These are the tools I refer to when I need a little push. Give me some Anne Lamott or an article by Stephen Pressfield and my fingers begin to get an itch. The thing is to know when you need the extra push and to give yourself permission to seek it out.

Story Inspiration – Sometimes all you need is the very inspiration that comes from your characters or plot. This is where creating vision boards or files may fit in to the writing process. I’ve collected several images and photographs related to my novel. Some are related to scenes, while others are simply representational of the very feel of my novel. The same goes for music. There are songs that just get me from thinking about the story to feeling it. Once you get to feeling it, it’s hard to keep from getting those words out.

A Group of Writers – Writing is a lonely activity. Joining a group of like-minded writers online or in-person can be a great way to keep you going when you feel like giving up. Whether you’re ready for a critique or an ‘old hand’ at giving them, the right writer’s group will introduce you to different writing styles and give you accountability. Finding a writer’s group by be as easy as visiting your local library’s bulletin board or searching online. If you’re first foray into a group doesn’t succeed, don’t give up. Not all groups will be for everyone.


Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.


Vision Boards as a Writer's Tool – a small article on how to build a vision board.

Deviant Art – I love this site for inspirational images. Whether your setting is a city or a fishing port, you’ll find something to inspire you.

Misusing Writer’s Groups and Critiquing Improperly – Two articles by Bob Mayer about writer’s groups and giving critiques.


Bird by Bird – I love her voice and I love what she has to say. This Anne Lamott book is one every writer should read.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Learn about Resistance and how to beat it with Stephen Pressfield

Tuesday, July 6

How I Write: Week Four - How to Start

The first step can be the hardest on a WIP. It involves a big leap of faith and the belief that your story, your characters, your writing is enough to create a novel. It's a declaration and a dedication of your time. It's more than I WILL write....It's I AM writing. Before I ever started putting words on paper, I was a writer that didn't write. Today, I'm a writer no matter what I'm doing, it's a shift in my mindset and the way I view myself and it all happened when I finally started.

For over a year, I surrounded myself with books about writing. My blog reader was (and is) filled with blog posts from writers. I needed to immerse myself in the world of writing before I ever sat down to write. This can only take you so far and it was the day I finally sat down with my hands on the keys, my butt in the chair, that I finally became a writer. Below are some of things that helped me and continues to help me to hit that first key.

Hurry Up and Wait
Think about what you're going to write. Dream about your characters. Imagine conversations, settings, and plot points but don't write. Set a date to start your WIP and stick to it. Build up motivation but hold yourself back. It' a mind game but it really does work to help you to get through that first step and continue on.

Goals, Goals, Goals
Be realistic and practical. Write them down and stick to it. If you're honest with yourself and set appropriate word counts goals, you'll find that they keep you writing when you'd rather be sleeping, cleaning, or loafing. If you're just starting out, a small daily goal like 250 words might be better than, say, 2,500 words. Always try to end you're writing shift in the middle of a push. That push will get you through to the next day and have you sitting down with your computer or pad as soon as possible.

I love trying out new software, especially anything related to writing and productivity. The problem with new 'shiny software' is that it can derail your attempt to start (or move on) with your WIP. Either learn it before you start or hold off until you've finished your goal for the day. Do not let tough learning curves get in the way of your daily writing goals.

Once you've set up goals, you need to hold yourself accountable to them. Join a writer's group online or in person. Share your goals with friends or relatives. Keep a calendar or goals chart. Be proud of yourself and every day you reach your target. For every met mark, you'll find yourself hesitant to stop for fear of losing momentum or breaking the chain.

Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series. 


How to Write Your Novel in 100 Days or Less - a program to get you from start to finish on your novel
How to Write a Book - Easily, Passionately, Skillfully - Starting Now - a site dedicated to getting started and moving forward
A Guide to Beating the Fears that Are Holding You Back - Fear is paralyzing. Read this Zen Habits post on how to beat it.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days - the founder of NaNoWriMo, a wildly popular phenomenon that gets writers (and previously non-writers) to write a 50,000 word novel in the busy month of November
This Year You Write Your Novel - Author Walter Mosley gives instruction and motivation to get that novel written.