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Cathy: Getting back to business

After the long holiday hiatus I took from my manuscript, I opened the document the other day and worked really hard to pick up where I left off. It wasn’t easy. I did realize during the time I was away from it, that a character name I had was a little close to a character name in a book series I admire which handles the same theme. In fact, in re-reading one of the books during my hiatus, I had the not so fleeting thought that maybe my book was a little close to that one. Maybe a little too close.

Though I had not read it in about five years, it occurred to me that this was the book that inspired me to say I could manage to write a book for this age group and this length. It was doable. After all, I’m no JK Rowling with a story arch to cover seven rather lengthy books. I could write a hundred or so pager first time out. My Great American Novel could be shelved a bit longer than it already had been. Four years ago, that one was already shelved for about seven. By the time this blog community gave me the courage to say I could return to working on this four-year-old project, I had forgotten where my inspiration came from, but apparently not the story and theme.

I can fix it, it’s not that close, and there is a bevy of bully theme books for elementary readership. However when I was reading the inspiration book and even a character name was in kind, oops! She’s a secondary character, but still. That was it. Time to figure it out. But before I do that, I really need to finish out my plot.

So back to where I left off about six weeks ago: I feel like the Tin Man. Can’t quite get those legs moving by myself. I went back a few chapters to read up to date in the plot, but I’m still writing like I’m stalling — a paragraph here, a sentence change over there, a grammar correction or three. I lost my prior groove. Any ideas on how to get it back? It may help if I can squeeze in a yoga session before I write during Baby C’s morning nap, to clear my head, but that sends likely wake up time right into when I’m likely to recover a groove. Ugh. I can hear the resistance thoughts gathering momentum.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Here are a few tricks I use to get past the hurdle:

    1) Set a timer and just force yourself to write something/anything during that time. No looking backward, editing, or proofreading allowed. You must plow ahead.

    2) Same as above, only you must write as if you were your character, in first person, and either 1) write about the situation that’s bothering him/her.

    3) If you’re feeling really stymied, and the above doesn’t work, you could put your main character in a totally ridiculous situation (during my foray into NANOWRIMO, our motto was “just add zombies”) and write for the pleasure of it, just to see wat your character will do. A couple of my “crazy” scenes made it into my novel. 🙂

    January 13, 2009
  2. Addendum to #2 (oops!) or 2) If you’r already writing in first person, try writing some dialogue between characters to gain a new perspective or new information.

    January 13, 2009
  3. cathy #

    thanks, brittany! these are great tips. last night it occurred to me that i probably feel stuck because i have to come up with a new name for that other character. i think i have a few options i’ve narrowed it down to. once i start grazing through the 75 pages to make those changes, i think i’ll be re-immersed. if that doesn’t work over the next day or two, then i’m hopping on your suggestions.

    is Justine too obvious a name for a girl who always wants to be right or make things right? and i have anothe character josie/josephine already, too similar for 8-12 year olds?

    January 13, 2009
  4. Liz #

    Yey Brittany – I LOVE zombies! I add them just because.

    I was going to say the same thing anyway – a la NaNoWriMo. Forcing yourself to sit & write. Just take your character & make him/her do something. Anything. All of the sudden you’ll be thinking… “but he couldn’t get into the mall… because it was infested with zombies!” (or a more plausible conflict – your choice.)

    Don’t think that this has to be the book you write. Don’t edit, don’t think “Will this fit into my storyline?” Because chances are, it won’t. But you will accomplish 2 things:

    1. You will break the block.
    2. You will write something interesting that you hadn’t considered before that might be the missing piece to your Novel.

    And #3, if you’re really into it – you’ll write the best grammar school Zombie bully book EVER.

    January 13, 2009
  5. cathy #

    lol! liz, i think my boys would be more likely to read it if it’s a zombie bully book!

    January 13, 2009
  6. This is where things like Dr. Wicked ( can sometimes help. I know you weren’t a fan, Cathy. For me, the hardest part is getting my butt into the chair, and then actually working on the intended project. Maybe set the timer for ten minutes and don’t stop typing until the buzzer goes off? No editing, no reading. Just write. And if zombies show up, the more the merrier 😉

    Remember, you have made amazing progress, and you are going to finish this project. Just show up, keep plugging away, and you’ll get it done.

    January 13, 2009
  7. cathy #

    gee, thanks, miranda, but it’s not feeling so amazing at the moment. i have 4 weeks to my 2nd self-imposed projected deadline and being stuck sure sucks and brings the nerves to ‘amonth?! i’ve got a month to fix the name, finish the basic plot, and re-research the science parts and write them into the middle!’ my 4 solid pages a week that i previously worked well at, ainta gonna get me there. i know it’s my own deadline, well, maybe it’ll work…

    January 13, 2009
  8. cathy #

    i last left off with “he walked into the kitchen”

    where the human interest journalist is getting a cup of coffee from his father for the last interview he’s giving about discovering the comet. but i need the conversation to happen. i can ‘see’ it, but it ain’t happenin! it’s like i’m watching a silent movie in my head. erg.

    January 13, 2009
  9. hmmm, repeating what you just said above “it’s my own deadline”…yes, that’s the beauty of self-imposed deadlines. you have the power to change them. i’m not the type of writer that you guys are, so i don’t know how much my advice will help, but i’d say just step back and take a few good walks. i know you feel like you had a couple weeks away from it over the holidays, but holidays are so incredibly busy that sometimes they’re far more stressful than the daily grind. i’m a walker…i think best when i’m walking….i have conversations with myself when i’m walking (and sometimes get some really strange looks because of it), but it works for me. you’ll get your groove back!

    January 13, 2009
  10. Kristine #

    I can understand your frustration when you realized your book was a tad too similar to your inspiration book. While I agree that you should change character names, etc., to make it original, it’s important to remember that there are no new story ideas or themes. EVERY writer brings his or her own talent to a story.

    Get into your comfort zone and then tell YOUR story.

    You can do it!

    Getting the writing groove back after a hiatus is always difficult. Boy, do I know that from experience! Good luck.

    January 13, 2009
  11. cathy #

    kelly! you hit the nail on the head! i haven’t been walking! this summer and up until illnesses in house and cold setting in, i walked daily with dog and baby c. i was writing regularly during that.

    and kristine, thanks for the reminder that all good stories are told over and over again.

    January 14, 2009

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