Just do it!

by PD Martin

I’ve always been the kind of writer who LOVES applying expressions like this to my writing…

  • Just do it!
  • Bum on chair!
  • Focus!
  • Never surrender!

I eat those phrases up for breakfast! (Sorry, I know that’s way too many exclamation marks, not to mention clichés, but they need to be there.)

I’ve also been lucky enough that I’ve never really suffered from ‘writer’s block’. In fact, the hard-ass part of me says writer’s block is self-indulgent. Now, I’ve probably got loads of readers (well, the authors) up in arms at this point. I know there will be lots of people who disagree about writer’s block.

The thing is, I’m not saying there aren’t days (or even weeks) when writing seems harder than normal—sometimes WAY harder. But, I’m a practical kind of girl, so I either write through it (eventually it starts flowing again) and edit later, or sometimes I move projects all together. That way, I’m at least writing. Besides, at this point I know I can finish a novel, so it’s not like I’m going to wind up with loads of unfinished manuscripts. It’s just a temporary focus shift.

I did this earlier this year. My plan for 2012 was to finish my mainstream drama novel and then while I was querying agents, I’d work on my Pippa Dee novels as part of my ebook strategy. But after I sent my mainstream novel to Beta readers, there was one problem I simply couldn’t decide how to solve. There was one character who everyone disliked. But what to do with her?

So I guess that was kind of writer’s block, but it didn’t feel like it because I decided to move on to my Pippa Dee novels while I waited out the decision. I could let it tick over in my subconscious. No way was I going to let it interfere with my productivity. Told you I was practical.  

So I focused on The Wanderer and Grounded Spirits and once they were finished and up on Amazon, I moved back to Crossroads and Deadends. Two weeks ago I finally finished the editing process and started querying agents. Remember my blog on the writer’s rollercoaster?

Anyway, obviously the querying process has taken up a chunk of time over the past two weeks, but I still feel extremely unproductive. And I’ve been bringing out the big guns, internally telling myself to:

  • Just do it!
  • Bum on chair!
  • Focus!
  • Never surrender!

But, to no avail. Well, not much at least.

However, it’s not writer’s block. In fact, when I do spend time on my current work in progress (the follow-on to The Wanderer) it flows very easily and I’m excited by it. But for some reason I’ve really been letting the distractions rule these past two weeks. Facebook, emails, scheduling Amazon freebies, and who knows what else? Where have the days gone?

And there have also been some days, when I haven’t felt like writing or trying to write at all. I mean, the rest of this year I’ve been eating lunch at my desk to maximise my work time. Seriously! With Grace starting school in February this year and my shift to ebooks, this has been my year for working hard.

So what’s going on? Where’s my bad-ass writer gone?

I think part of the problem is when I finished Crossroads and Deadends I was conflicted about what to work on next. My 2012 ‘project plan’ says next in line is The Guardian Arises, book 2 in my Wanderer and Guardian trilogy under Pippa Dee. Problem is, sales of The Wanderer and Grounded Spirits have been such a small percentage of the sales of my PD Martin stuff, that I’ve realised that middle grade/YA fantasy novels aren’t the most popular ebooks. So, from a financial point of view, I probably should work on the follow-up to Hell’s Fury, but that book will take me about six months to write, whereas I reckon I can write The Guardian Arises in six weeks, especially because I’m already 20,000 words in and it’s officially middle grade so will probably be around 50,000 words.

So, how can I get myself back on track? One thing’s for sure. Something’s gotta give. What do you do when you lose your focus and/or get distracted?

By the way, I’m aware that this blog is in sync with some recent ones here. Collective unconscious? Pari’s rebooting, Stephen’s decided to take the writing slower and devote more time to family, and Martyn (Tania) found a change in location the key to kicking his current WIP along. I think maybe the answer for me is to go away for a couple of days without internet. That’d sort me out! 

15 thoughts on “Just do it!

  1. P.A. Wilson

    I'm having the same problem. I've started a new romance series and it's very different writing from what I usually do and I keep losing confidence in my ability.
    I just keep plowing through at this point because it 's the first draft and I know I can fix it.

    A couple of things I try when I'm stuck with fixing things is look at character and deepen my understanding. Do a tarot reading for the character, work out their astrological sign (you don't have to believe in these things, they just help you dig in), write a back story, write a dream. When I get a better understanding of the character, I usually find a way to fix the problem.

    Good Luck

  2. Jake Nantz

    If you need to get away, just don't start watching the Olympics. The patriot in me wants to see every moment, and my wife and I just watch and get teary-eyed and watch some more and get frustrated (or drop a "bless his heart, he was so close" once in a while) and watch some more and then SHIT, where has my writing time gone???

    So yeah, don't do that.

  3. Lisa Alber

    There does seem to be a theme here on Murderati. Most everyone is in a state of transition of some sort. or another.

    Perhaps you need a vacation from your project plan and finances and all that very uncreative stuff? Maybe for just right now writing what you're enthusiastic about is the thing to do — forget about money stuff. That'll get you every time.

    When I'm distracted/unfocussed I do freewriting to free up my brain. I just let the BS fly and also ideas and anything else. It helps me.

  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    As much as I love Lisa and always agree with her, I would like to play devil's advocate and say that YES, taking some time to figure out what you most want to write is always essential, but also don't ignore what your gut seems to be telling you about the feasibility of The Guardian. You SAY you could get it done fast, but you know writing ANY book is such a burnout… do you really want to go further down a road that isn't paying off for you? Middle grade really is a tough sell in the e book market.

    I think you MIGHT be blocked because you need some time to get quiet with yourself and be sure what you really want to be writing – in a practical AND a creative sense. Big picture stuff.

  5. Lisa Alber

    Gotta say, it is easy for me to urge going with the project you're most enthusiastic about because I have yet to earn money from my novels. 🙂

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Well, and in a perfect world the project you're most enthusiastic about is going to be the most profitable, spiritually and materially! I'm a big believer in "Do what you love and the money will follow."

    But I was getting the sense from Phillipa that she's conflicted for a good reason.

  7. PD Martin

    Hi PA. Great ideas about the character stuff. I do quite a bit of character work but I've never done a tarot reading for them! Nice idea to try something new 🙂

    Jake – very true! And the funny thing with all the Olympians, is that they really have made those commitments – just do it, bum on seat (well, bum at training), never surrender, etc. But it does add another possible distraction to my list! Lucky for me I'm not a sports lover. Gymnastics and diving are the only two that really hold my interest.

  8. PD Martin

    Hi Lisa. Yep, transitions all around I think 🙂 Well, for a lot of us! But that's probably a sign of the times, too. It's definitely a sign of the times in the book world (ebooks, publishers struggling and getting more conservative, etc.) but in loads of other industries, too.

    Maybe I do need a holiday. In fact, I've got one coming up in 10 days' time! Might be just in time 🙂 Although I'd still love to go away for a couple of days to write. With no internet connection. That seems to be my main distraction at the moment.

  9. PD Martin

    Alex – I think you're spot on! My head KNOWS a Hell's Fury sequel is the SMART thing to do. Mind you, I have changed my plan a bit – I was going to write the whole Guardian/Wanderer trilogy before going back to my new PD Martin series, but then I decided I'd write book 2 only, then go back to the Hell's Fury follow-up.

    Plus, as I'm sitting here thinking about it more (and your comment about the novel burnout thing), I think perhaps I've got more of that burnout from finishing Crossroads and Deadends than other books. You see it was/is a very emotional and personal novel for me and I've really 'bared my soul' so I think it's partly that. It opened up some old wounds that I thought were healed…and they're not as healed as I thought.

    Maybe the holiday is a good idea! But my time is running out. Soon I won't have school times to write.

    Anyway, I also agree that in the ideal world the project I WANT to finish next would also pay me 🙂 Time to get that lottery ticket again!

  10. Reine

    I have fond memories of major shared writing blockages in school during Reading Period. This was when we had the several weeks at the end of a semester to write our exams and read all the stuff that would make that possible – that we should have read earlier in the term.

    We dressed in cammies, and after every 1,000 words would run out into the hallway pretending we were shooting machine guns and yell out something like '1,000 words down 9,000 to go' or 10 pages down, 30 to go! Any hall mates nearby would pretend to throw grenades in support. During the '92 Olympics we had a "Go for the Gold" theme… not nearly as effective.

  11. Reine

    PD, glad you like air machine-gunning… does help lots! I forgot the best part. That would be the last night of Reading Period with the Primal Scream tradition, itself a part of The Streaking. At midnight on the last night of Reading Period, before final exams begin, students from The College and all schools of the university, go outside at midnight and scream. That tradition is followed by streaking through The Yard, at least one lap around, even in the ungodly frigid New England winters. Some of the streakers dress in capes and masks, or top hat and tails, but with genitals exposed – all while the school band plays. It's really a lot of fun. Then those who don't have to stay on for written exams go have a few traditional draughts and sing and scream all night to cheer the unlucky ones on.

  12. Reine

    You probably don't want to do The Streaking, but the Midnight Primal Scream is really good for the soul, especially if you have friends to do it with. Cheers.

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Sheesh, I start reading a post about how do you get your writing mojo back, and end up reading about exposed genitals. I think I shall have to go and lie down in a darkened room …

    I think writing is simply a rollercoaster experience, with all the highs and lows that suggests. But if you're not convinced about the viability of another YA book at this stage, then maintaining enthusiasm to the end is definitely going to be draining.

    Good luck with it!

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