Sunday, September 13, 2009

Focus!

For the past several November’s, I have participated in NaNoWriMo. What’s this? Well, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You take the entire month of November, turn off your internal editor and dedicate every second possible to churning out a story of 50,000 words. The goal is to get the story down start to finish and not worry about editing a single line. You can’t fix what you don’t have on paper, right?

I have always written like this. No plotting. No real planning. Just an idea floating in my head with characters and a good start. My first novel took me about a year and a half to complete. I didn’t write non-stop or even day-to-day. Shoot. I went weeks at a time without writing a single word. But in the end, I had a 100,000-word manuscript with characters that I fell in love with and a storyline that often shocked the socks off me. The writing is my favorite part. No boundaries. No second-guessing. No sitting for hours trying to find that one special word to tie that sentence into a tight but emotionally packed bow.

To date, I have five finished manuscripts this way. One has been polished to death and as of just recently is being sent out to agents and editors. I’m struggling to figure out when it’s time to move on. When do you put that beloved story away and work on the next one? I don’t want my characters to disappear. But at some point I have to face reality and give one of these other stories my attention and their shot. Several haven’t even seen the light of day since I typed THE END.

Focus in my downfall. I’m happiest when I have several different stories going at once. But talk about added stress and confusion. It’s not easy to keep them from blending together, especially when you’re not a plotter.

So I searched for ideas on how to keep focused. Hey, I’m up for anything at this point.

Eliminate Distractions - Okay. Yeah, in a perfect world without kids one might do this. LOL
Clear your desk. (Suggested putting it on the floor to deal with later. Huh?)
No internet or computer programs open that are not necessary. (Does this include Facebook!?)
No TV or Radio unless you find it productive. (Okay, music works)
No noise. (Got it covered. Headphones with ipod.)
No phone. (Nope. This won’t work for me. Gotta be available for my kids.)
No email or feed reader. (Don’t know what a feed reader is, but I can do without email for a little bit. LOL)
Just my project and me. (Heaven!)
Visualize – Yes. I can do this. Do this all the time. :)
Take five to ten minutes and picture your project and what you need or want to do overall for the day.

Planning – Okay this is where I’m going to start pulling my hair out.
Write out a plan and the major steps from start to finish in a basic outline format. (I could be writing!)
Write out the steps it would take and approximate time. (I have to set a time to finish it in? To structured!)
Breaks and Rewards - Now this sounds like something I can live with. :)
Use a timer to stay on track. Plan a reward for meeting your goals.
Take Action - This is where I struggle. Get bottom in chair. Put fingers on keys. Type!!!
Keep moving forward. If you find yourself distracted go back and review your plan. Be strict with yourself to keep distractions from creeping into your writing time. (Ah! Strict! I’m not even strict with my kids!!)
Don’t be afraid of a first draft - You can always edit it into a masterpiece. (Yes! Just what I wanted to hear!!)

Some of these I can use. Others would just kill my creativity all together. It all boils down to finding and using that magical plan that works for you. The minute it turns out to be more work than fun, I feel like it’s just not worth it anymore.

How about you? How do you focus in today’s chaotic world?

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