Writing Between Interruptions

Pulled from the files of “things I didn’t think about when I sold a series.”

Last summer, while I was waiting on my edits for Incarnate 3, I started working on another series. I was crazy about it. I wanted to do nothing but write the book. We were meant to be together. I called it Broadway Story (even though it has nothing to do with musical theater).

Then my edits for Incarnate 3 came in. And I had to stop working on Broadway Story.

Before Incarnate sold, when I had an idea for a book, I dove in head-first and didn’t look up until the first draft was finished. But since selling and being given deadlines, I can’t do that. Well, I could, but people might get mad if I kept blowing deadlines.

Sometimes I can power through a first draft in the couple of months between copyedits and pass pages—or whenever I have a decent stretch of non-deadline time—but sometimes I just can’t. Which means I have to do a lot of stopping and restarting.

And I’ll be honest: that can make it really hard to keep going.

So much of my enthusiasm for a story is caught up in that honeymoon phase, when the idea is still new and shiny. That’s how I write first drafts: in fits of fiery passion.

But when I have to stop and come back to it later, sometimes that passion wanes, and getting through the first draft starts feeling like work.

Last week, Sooz and Sarah had a great post about Maintaining Passion for a Story, which had some great techniques and ideas. But here, I want to talk a little about how to keep that kind of enthusiasm going even when you can work on a project only when deadlines (of any kind) allow.

1. Keep reminders of why you originally loved the story enough to write it.

With Broadway Story, it’s the conflicts between the main characters, their dance around each other as they each grow and change. I reread my “his and her” pitch1 every time I come back to it. The interactions between these characters is what originally drew me to the story. It’s also what keeps me coming back to it, even if I need to be reminded sometimes.

2. Keep really good notes.

It’s easy for me to reengage with something that’s already written, because it’s already on the page. The passion and excitement is already there. I don’t have to conjure it up again. But with something only partially written, I’m in danger of forgetting where I was going, what backstory I had planned, and how everything is going to go down2 in the end.

Because I know and distrust my memory, I’ve gotten much better at taking notes any time I think of something that has to do with my story. I also keep a detailed synopsis that discusses not only plot, but character motivation and scene purpose, as well. That way I always know why I did something. (Even if you’re not a planner, you can still keep a running synopsis. It’ll be handy later, when all you have to do is trim it to turn it in.)

3. Play mind games.

I don’t usually recommend having writing rituals that can become a crutch, like needing lit candles or complete silence or a certain desk chair. After all, you might not always have those things. But sometimes they can be useful.

I use music.

When I start writing a new story, I pick a song that feels like my story, even if the lyrics don’t match up. For Incarnate, that song is “Drought” by Vienna Teng. For Sparkle Story, it’s “Pirate Moon” by Thea Gilmore. And for Broadway Story—the one I’m in the middle of drafting now—it’s “Drown in You” by Daughtry.

Any time I listen to one of those songs, I’m immediately thrown back into that giddy “oh my commas I love this story!” feeling. It’s like magic.

This isn’t a new idea! In fact, lots of study tips include listening to music. Another popular one is scent. And do we have any Fringe fans here? I’m suddenly reminded of Walter Bishop’s obsession with food. He frequently used the foods he was eating while working on certain projects in order to remember what had happened during that time period.

What about you guys? Any tricks for maintaining enthusiasm when you have to keep putting your story aside?

  1. Like a romance book pitch. Paragraph 1 is her story. Paragraph 2 is his story. Paragraph 3 is how their stories combine and hilarity ensues.
  2. Look, I’m cool! I said something’s going down!

10 Responses to Writing Between Interruptions

  1. PK Hrezo Apr 9 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Oh yeah , starting and stopping is a way of life when you have a typical day job as well as kids. And it’s so hard to get motivated sometimes. But I do the same thing: review my chapter timeline and pour over it til I get excited and can’t wait to dive in. I used songs a lot with my last ms and it always put me in the mood too but I haven’t quite found the right one for this new one yet.

    Thanks Jodi!

    • jodimeadows Apr 9 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Yes!! I’m lucky enough to not have a day job, and I don’t have kids. So when I think about people who do have both of those things and STILL manage to write, I’m always crazy impressed. You are a superhero!

  2. Andrea Apr 9 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    “oh my commas” – love it ;D

    Similarly to your first point, an author once wrote about how she created ‘love lists’ for all of her novels when she started writing them. Whenever she needed to rekindle her passion for a story, she would read through her list of all of the things that originally made her fall in love with it. (This could work for relationships as well – and then you would already have an easy, romantic, and inexpensive gift for your significant other if you cut out all the reasons and stick them in a jar.)

    • jodimeadows Apr 9 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Ooo, that sounds like a great idea!

      Once, in an attempt for group bonding in dance team, we all wrote out things we liked/admired about the other dancers. Then someone compiled them and made a list of all the anonymous nice things for each girl. It was lovely. 😀

  3. Blond Duck Apr 9 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Songs work for me too. I thought I was the only one who assigned a story a song! 🙂

    • jodimeadows Apr 9 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Not at all! I know several writers who do this! *high five*

  4. Alexa Y. Apr 10 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    This post could not have come at a better time. I took a break from my WIP last December and it lasted through February because I was busy with real life things. Now that I’m coming back to it, it’s a bit difficult because I didn’t make extensive notes about what I wanted to happen and the like! I’m slowly but surely rewriting it, but I’ll definitely bookmark this post for future reference.

    • jodimeadows Apr 10 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Oh that’s rough! Try rereading what you had. See if you can find the spark in there again.

      Hang in there! (Keep writing.)

  5. Valerie Jun 28 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Thanks for this.

    I just got interrupted and then insulted because I was irritable. Words are hard to find and once I am in the thick of writing, it feels injurious to be pulled out of my ‘trance’

    I have to grow up enough to forgive people for making mistakes. I am not the queen of everything, though when I am writing I sometimes have a little theo-mania (thinking I am a god).

    Glad to know I am not alone!

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