What I learned on my book vacation

That should be “vacation” really since I didn’t go anywhere and it was kinda stressful. In anticipation of my end of March deadline I dedicated 20 days to focus on the new book which is now officially called Scapegoat. So here’s what I learned:

1. I will never be a pantser again. Right before I began the 20 days, I realized that there was no way I was going to write 2000 thousand words a day (a goal I considered to off the charts crazy!) if I didn’t know where I was going in the book. So I sat down and brainstormed with a friend. And got out some pink index cards (which are really outdated property pass cards from work — I used the back side) —

Possibly the most boring picture I have ever posted

And then I got down to business and figured out the rest of plot. I wound up with about 15 cards that I taped up in order on a piece of board and placed it strategically where it would always be in my line of vision as I worked. All I had to do once I finished a scene was glance up and I knew what was to happen next. I cannot express how much easier this made the whole process. And I can promise that from this day forward I will be a planner and will outline the next book from start to finish before I start to write. Things may change as I go but at least there will be someplace to go.

2. I can write more than 1000 words a day. Most days I wrote around 2500 words. This was very eye-opening for me and made me realize when the pressure’s on I can rise to the occasion more than I thought I could.

3. It all goes a lot faster if you write directly on the computer instead of writing everything out longhand and then transcribing. A lot faster. (Duh.)

4. It was still hard. Every single day. It was still a challenge to make myself sit down and just do it. Because I had outlined, though, most days once I got going I could keep going.

5. Every writer gets stuck. Or has trouble getting going. In my former life, I was a smoker and I always wrote outside on my deck. Whether the sun was beating down unmercifully on me, whether I was so cold that even with my fingerless gloves (necessary for holding a pen) pain shot through my hands, or whether I shoved the Adirondack under the barely big enough overhang when it was raining, I always wrote outside. And when I was stuck, I would smoke and look out at the view — the pine trees in the distance or the night sky. It was very effective. When I quit smoking I wasn’t sure I would be able to write again. I just didn’t know how to do it. I thought, Well just go outside and write. But I didn’t or at least I didn’t very often. Especially if it was cold. Or hot.

I eventually learned to write again, just sitting in my living room, feet up on the ottoman. But I didn’t have a replacement for my view when I got stuck. Until now.

Slightly less boring

It’s been cold here, being winter, and I made a fire every day during my vacation. And one day when I was stuck on a tricky scene I got up to tend to the fire. As I sat there my brain began to wander and before you know it I had my next sentence and knew where to go. After that, whenever I was in jam, I would stare at the fire and it worked every time. I think what this indicates for me is that my brain, as a matter of course, is not in the free, relaxed state it needs to be in for me to be creative. But by, sort of, passively focusing on something it can be unlocked. It’s the best thing I’ve discovered in a while. Just not sure what I’m going to do when it’s too warm for a fire.

6. But perhaps the most important thing I learned on my book vacation is that you can’t back out of the garage unless the door is up. Really, you can’t.

This blog post is 712 words — including these :-). Can I put that toward my word count for the day?

Bookmark and Share

12 thoughts on “What I learned on my book vacation”

  1. So interesting! Seems like it is all about planning, routine & then some flexibility! So excited to read Scapegoat! (I hope your car is ok!)

  2. Sounds like a great book vacation! I could have told you about the garage door…Of course you only need one reminder for that! 🙂 Can’t wait to see the end result of your hard work!


  3. I’m ever intrigued by how others write, and how different one persons approach is from the another. Pink cards and plans seem so sensible and sane.

    I’m a dreamer myself. Whether I’m writing or designing. I lie down at night with an image in my head, and wake up the next morning with the solution and the words.

    What’s a panster by the way?

    As for the garage door . . . made me guffaw. Thanks for that!

    (Nice read Dawson.)

    1. Thanks, McQ! I think any method that works is a good one. I’m just glad I’ve found a better way for myself. Pantser as in flying by the seat of. 🙂

  4. Amy, one of your best blogs. I really appreciate your sharing your ‘lessons’ with us. I share the excitement about your new book. Hope to see you soon (in Orlando).

    ps still laughing a little about the last one.

  5. See! I knew you could do it, Amy. Congrats! I think I’m a pantser, but then it’ll all come to me one day where the rest of the book is going. Like in parts. Then I have to decide how to get to each part. Again, congrats, though.

  6. Aw, you’re such a good one, Chris — thank you. (Though I never said any of it is good — that remains to be seen!) Your method sounds interesting — and it obviously works!

  7. As you relinquish your pants, someone’s got to wear them now!!! Ta-da… presenting… the official pants wearer!!! BTW, nice thong 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *