Take a Risk and Get to the End
My two guiding mottos for the month ahead
Hello, writers. Have you had a good first month of 2022? Are you getting your writing done? How are those writing resolutions handling?
February is often the time that we fall off the wagon creatively — we lose our focus, or we feel we’ve been so good, for so long, surely we deserve a break. But the writing doesn’t need a break, it needs you.
I’m in the thick of writing a new novel, and I know myself well enough to admit that I don’t always love writing. In fact, I often find it difficult, boring, a slog. What I love is having written. One of my recent episodes of Writerly Bites is all about that. I want the work to be done; I want the feeling of virtue and fulfillment with the day to have been magically filled up with writing. All without the hard, dirty work of slinging sentences together.
My two goals for the month ahead are about making my writing good and making it get done. The first is to take a risk: I want to make sure I’m not just writing vague, watery things about girlhood or nature or mothers, without having my characters actually incur some kind of risk. I can’t let my slippery characters get away with that. It’s just not acceptable. It won’t do. My pledge is that every scene I write this month will include a character risking some major harm — to their reputation, to their physical body, to their sense of self. They have to be willing to destroy themselves if they’re going to get anything meaningful done in the story.
And my other goal for this month is to get the scene done. Too often I dither and wobble about somewhere in the middle of a scene, getting my daily 500 word count done by writing a paragraph about the weather. In order to progress, I have to progress — so every scene I write must be completed, gotten to the end, within the week that I begin it.
These are tough goals to set, but I can be as slippery as my own characters sometimes, able to writhe out from under my own goals and ambitions. I’m determined not to let that happen, and you can hold yourself accountable in the same way. What hard and fast traps are you setting for yourself, to get the writing done?
The podcast has been back in full swing this month. Recently I’ve talked about embracing the unexpected, how dialogue is like a horse race, and how you don't have to be everything. There are some exciting new interviews and other episodes coming up, so don’t miss it. And please do leave a review on Apple Podcasts if you get the chance — it really helps the podcast reach new listeners.
Upcoming Classes I’m Teaching
• One day, virtual: Writing is Re-Writing, with Grubstreet
• One day, virtual: Finding Your Ending, with Grubstreet
• Virtual: Launching into your novel, with Catapult
•Virtual: University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies: Writing Short Fiction II
Your writing prompt:
• Do a google or flickr search for landscape or interior photos. Now begin writing with “This is where the incident happened. It was almost ten years ago now.”