Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

by Carla Damron

One piece of advice I always give writers who are working on a novel: KEEP WRITING. Don’t take a break longer than a few days, because you’ll lose touch with the project and may lose momentum. Once you’ve vacationed from the novel-in-progress, it becomes easier to stay away from it, to let it gather dust.  Avoidance wins.  How many half-completed novels sit in closets or dusty hard drive files?

So I always tell writers: even if you just have fifteen minutes, sit down and write. When you’re not at the computer, think about the characters. Imagine what they’d be doing right then. Mull what you can do to advance or enrich the story. Don’t let the novel leave your consciousness. I even use my Kindle to help with this; I let it read my story aloud to me when I’m driving home from work. There are many ways to honor your relationship with your project, but devoting time and mental space to it seems critical. Right?

Except I went against my own advice. Working on this home renovation project has taken me away from my novel-in-progress for way too long. And now, as I try to return to it, I feel like I broke up with a boyfriend and don’t know how to get the relationship back on track. Not sure how to dive back in, I chose to begin at the beginning.

Problem: I saw the project with different eyes. I wasn’t the this-is-so-wonderful-I’m-in-love-with-it author. I was the holy-crappola-this-sucks editor. Almost every sentence needed fixing. I usually go through this phase AFTER completing the first draft, not in the middle of it. I try to hold off the evil editor until I’m done because otherwise, I never WOULD be done. But alas, the evil editor had taken charge.

I see so other option, so I’m trying to work with the evil editor.  Yes, I’m fixing sentences, but not stalling on those that need more time. I need to plow ahead, but I find I can also polish and fix some things along the way, and this makes my evil editor enormously happy.  Compromise seems to be the key.

But then another problem emerged: my characters seemed to be mad at me. Caleb Knowles, my protagonist, wouldn’t speak to me for days. Apparently, I’ve been neglecting him and he’s not sure I’m competent to write his next adventure. Never mind that I have a beautiful new office where I can write him, and I’m ready to give him the attention he deserves, and who’s in charge anyway?? Who knew some characters carried a grudge?  But after a little nudging, he’s letting back into his world.

It’s okay, Caleb, I learned my lesson.

So I’m back in the saddle with my writing. I’m listening to the voices (of my characters). I’m holding the evil editor at bay.  It’s not my preferred writing method, but it’s the hand I’ve dealt myself.  And next time there’s some huge distraction in my life? I’m going to freakin’ LISTEN to my own advice and make TIME to write.  

I WILL write, I WILL write, I WILL write ...
How do you handle breaks from your writing?  Do you have any tips for handling the evil editor?




Gloria Alden said...

Carla, how nice to have a new and I assume, neat and organized office to work in. I hope Caleb cooperates and you get book #4 finished and out there soon because I can't wait to read his next adventure.

Unfortunately, I have too many breaks in my writing. Right now I'm doing the final edit on my 3rd book after being away from it for months, and I'm actually finding it exciting. I'm rereading chapters I'd forgotten I'd written. Of course, I'm making some changes and edits I'd missed before but I'm also finding things I like a lot. But I'm not a writer, who works straight through without editing along the way. After I send my chapters to my critique partners as I finish them and get their input, I go back and do revisions then. I think no matter how many times I'd go back I could find new things to change. Sometimes it's best to just say it's okay and let it go. At least that's how it is with me.

Warren Bull said...

Like Gloria, I do not work straight through a novel. Sometimes when the writing seems stale I will leave it to simmer in it's own juices while I work on different material. After a few weeks or a month I return more energized.

Paula Gail Benson said...

I had taken a break from writing and was finding it hard to return. Then, I attended a book festival and listened to authors describing their characters with such joy. I wondered how to return to that feeling. I made a vow to start writing each day, even if I felt dissatisfied in the results. Sure enough, keeping at it brought back the joy. Listen to Caleb!

carla said...

It's fascinating how we have different approaches, especially related to taking breaks. What matters is that we get back to it!

Jim Jackson said...

When I am editing one book, I find it nigh on impossible to write another. Therefore I end up with breaks all the time.

I’ve found that one way to help me get back to writing is to make sure to stop at a non-stopping point. What that means is that I will stop smack dab in the middle of a scene—one in which I know how the scene will end. That allows me to reread that scene and jump right in.

If the delay has been too long, I usually have to go back several chapters to catch up on everyone’s story line. I will only change typos, no other edits allowed.

Firm rule: repeat after me. Fix typos, no other edits allowed.

I know the first drafts will have problems and when the editor in me appears, as surely he will, I kick him aside by reminding him he’ll get his shot, but only in scenes that actually make the cut. That usually shunts his energy back into writing the first draft.

~ Jim

Sarah Henning said...

I've gone through breaks and then had the evil editor come out, exactly like you, Carla! My most recent MS just sort of fell out of me faster than anything else I've ever written. I don't usually write like that, but I felt like this book needed to come out like that. But I do usually appreciate stepping away from it after it's done and then looking at it with fresh eyes. If I can, I let it "marinate" for a good week or two before revision. I think it does help to get away from it, even after spending every day with it for 10 weeks.

Kara Cerise said...

I work on one story then switch to another project if I get stuck or dissatisfied with what I’m writing. Like Warren, I look at an old story with new eyes after taking a break. The downside--I feel removed from my characters and it takes time to become reacquainted.

Enjoy your beautiful new office, Carla.

Shari Randall said...

I had to laugh when you talked about how sulky Caleb got when you spent too much time away from him - I've had characters give me the cold shoulder, too!
The writing goes so much more easily without interruptions - but big uninterrupted stretches of writing time are hard to come by. They must be guarded jealously!
I LOVE my Evil Editor - I think I am more Evil Editor than writer. The Evil Editor must be kept at bay with a circle of salt and a firm promise that she will be able to get her hands on the manuscript - just not right now....