Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Keeping Your Book Fresh When You Aren't Writing

On deck right now:
--Six articles to write
--6-8 storyboard scripts to complete
--One freelance book proofing project to wrap up
--One gratis article about the recent flood

I'm not listing this out to be a look-at-how-busy-I-am whine, because I think most writers and creative types end up with a lot going on. But it's more to point out that there's one thing missing on this list. Do you see it? Yeah. My book. Where is that?

Like the half bag of lettuce that got stuck in the back of the produce drawer, it's wilting beneath the other projects. Good projects. Needed projects. Welcome projects, even. But my favorite thing to do is work on that book, and time has not been in abundance.

So how can I ensure my manuscript stays fresh? How can I keep my characters from, as Stephen King put it, "going stale" until I can dive back into their world?

I once heard a writer say in an interview that if the only time you spend with your characters is when you face the written page, then you don't know them well enough. So, in the midst of other writing demands, I'm trying spend some time with my characters.

How would they react to the traffic I'm sitting in?
If I had lunch with one of them, what would it be like? What would they order?
At this time of year, what kind of clothes would they be wearing? Where would they shop?
Would they have let that man cut in front of them?

All kinds of little things. Frankly, when I get far away from my work in progress I start to forget sub-plots and the sequence of clues and timelines and all those other really important things that you shouldn't lose track of. Fortunately, I've got those written down for reference. But it's the voices of the characters I don't want to lose. So I try to spend time some quality time with them in my head until I get to sit down with them once again.

What do you do to keep a project fresh when you can't get to it?


  1. Hi Lisa! This is perfect for me today! Thanks for the post. I just hoped back on the novel front and wrote for an hour and a half.

    One idea to keep the writing fresh would be to create a playlist. Creating a playlist of songs that your characters would listen to or that relate to the story in some way helps motivate and drive the story forward. I love music! It always inspires me!

    Happy Writing!

  2. Btw, hoped is supposed to be hopped...I'm such an airhead today! Doh!

  3. Thanks, Ashley! Your idea of creating a playlist is great! I had not thought about that, but music is so subjective—a really good indicator of what is under the surface. Congratulations on hopping back on the novel front!
    P.S. Airheads are safe here. No worries. ;)

  4. Oh, that's a tough situation, Lisa. I would say, I'd probably try to carve in a couple hundred words a day on the WIP, just to keep it going. Or maybe carve out an hour or two on the weekend to work on it. Otherwise I'd lose momentum in a big way.

  5. Jody- I know. Momentum is a huge problem right now. A lot has to do with the recent flood here in Nashville as well. Previous writing time has been reallocated to volunteer stuff, which is needed and it won't always be like this, but I do miss my WIP and try to find ways to keep it going, even if it is just in my head.

  6. I can see where your temporary priority right now is to use your WiP time to volunteer, and I love how you are keeping your characters in your life and fresh. But I too, like Jody, would have to at least do 10 minutes of light editing or writing each day, just to keep the story from growing cold. Otherwise, for me, it's hard to get back into it.


  7. Lola-You & Jody are absolutely right. It's like your first day at the gym after neglecting it.

  8. I like to keep characters fresh by getting into character, like an actor. jotting notes and post-it notes also helps

  9. Ee Leen Lee- That's a really neat technique. I'll have to try it sometime! Thanks for the comment.

  10. Great ideas! I know for me, when I haven't written for a few days (or even when I have written) helps me to get to know my characters (and helps me fall asleep!) if I lie in bed thinking about scenes. Not only scenes that are going to happen in the book, but just scenes with my characters. I think not only do we get detached when we aren't working, but even when we are working I think sometimes we forget to make the characters real to ourselves. They become characters on a page and not real people, it helps to stop thinking with words and start seeing it as a movie in your head. For me anyways. I know when I'm writing, I get caught up in the words and what's happening and sometimes forget what the characters look like. Maybe that seems strange but thinking about it in terms of movie scenes helps and helps me connect with them :)