Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Workshop – Downtime: Best thing since...

Spending time away from your story is as important as writing until your knuckles cramp. With the holiday season tumbling upon us, it is easy to not write as much as you wish. Gift shopping alone can distract the most focused of writers.

But, as we go about our business, our stories are on our minds. I often think about my characters, scenes or work out how I am going to get from plot point to plot point without losing continuity. Being pen and paperless can do wonders for a sticky situation. My mind can go over and over the scene changing details without wasting ink scratching out entire sentences or cramming words in-between my already close lines.

Sometimes though, we need to not only keep our fingers away from our manuscripts but our minds as well. A clean break can revitalize our brains. Distractions can sweep away the clutter that may be dragging down our writing.

Reading a book or watching tv or movies can work. Until you think about how you would have done it. Or you think about how something is similar in your story. The best option is to read or watch a genre in which you are not writing.

Doing a hobby can also work. Unfortunately as writers, writing is our main hobby. Other creative outlets can move your mind off of your characters and plot for a spell.

Surfing the internet is a great way to spend countless hours not thinking of anything. For me though, I use my internet time to either research for my books, check my email, or do other book related stuff.

I have found that my best downtime distractions come in the form of select computer games. Playing a word game such as Text Twist helps me muddle through the barrage of words that can swarm around in my head at times. This works great when I need a break from editing my manuscript.

Another game I have recently found to refreshingly entertain my mind is Skyrim. I can spend a few hours actively bashing baddies in a variety of ways. One of the best qualities of a game like Skyrim is that I can do more than mindless point and shoot. The quests and random activities help keep my mind occupied so that when I do return to my manuscript, I have fresh eyes.

Non-book related downtime allows you to keep your story from getting stale. Staleness is often seen in word or scene repetition and cliche use. Stagnation can be a writer’s worst nightmare but, with some well placed downtime it can be eradicated.

Spend some time this holiday season with your family, friends, or your lonesome. Sing carols; go shopping. Decorate until your surroundings burst with cheer. Your manuscript will thank you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dark and Light

Thanksgiving has passed. I hope everyone had a great holiday. Mine was a delicious blend of golden roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, sautéed green beans with bacon, cranberry mold, and cranberry relish.

In the week that followed, I got some shopping done. Leftovers morphed into green bean and stuffing frittata and turkey chowder (even using the leftover gravy). The Christmas decorations have emerged from their slumber.

Slowly but surely, the outside of my house gets greener. Small trees adorn my wrap around porch and my stained glass door. A large green wreath contrasts beautifully with the plain red brick of the 70s style addition. This year we added gold bows and ribbon to the lighted wreath.

Soon, a wreath and matching garland will join the pot of white silk poinsettias at the front door. Along with the lighted old yew hedges, they will brighten the dark night as well as our spirits.

Brightening our spirits in the dark times is what all the lights and decorations do for us. December in my northern climate promises cold days and even colder dark nights. My neighbors’ and my month long lights remind us that even though cold and dark days lie ahead, warmth and radiance can be found if we just know where to look.