Stop. That. Right. Now.
While we are being thankful for other things, we need to take time out to consider what we have accomplished as writers. What have we learned this year that we didn't know before? What have we done? Have we written a few new chapters? Revised a manuscript? Written a new draft? Sent out queries with better responses than previously?
We have to give ourselves some credit, because face it, we're not likely to get much from outside ourselves. Thanksgiving is a time to be proud of our own accomplishments.
Here's a trick. While we're being thankful for everything else, let's write down three things we've done right in our writing lives this year. They can be big or small. And remember, that's three more than all those people who sit around saying they are going to write a novel, someday, if they ever have time.
I've heard from a lot of friends recently that they won't have time to write again until January. First and foremost, that's okay. As long as we're not feeling guilty or pressured about it. For the rest of us, aka the guilty and pressured, here are some things we can do in our heads even when we can't get to the computer:
- Fine tune plot elements. Look for holes and question every coincidence to make sure it is substantiated. If it isn't, find a better way for things to happen.
- Review character motivation. Ensure that everything every characters does has a reason that jibes with that characters goals and needs. Make this true for minor characters, too.
- Deepen characters. Make sure they all have quirks, likes, and dislikes. Do they each have traits to make them stand out from the other characters and make them easily identifiable? Describe every character in a sentence--and see if they sound interesting and unique. Twist them to make them just a little "out there."
- Check subplots. Do they all have a resolution? Do they all weave together into the theme or the main plot in some way? Are there enough? Too many?
- Assess world-building. Make the setting and world specific. Answer the big questions, but simultaneously shrink it down to details. What small, surprising things can bring the story to life? Think like JK Rowlings with her rich, surprising magical details that underscore that life at Hogwart's is magical, or Stephanie Meyer who shows us what it is to have vampire strength in a game of baseball.
- Consider theme. How do plot, subplots, characters, and worldbuilding work together to add meaning to the story?
- Shuffle scenes. Rate them. Rank them. Are any weak, lacking in tension, or just plain dull? Stand them on their heads, shake them up, and bring in something new and exciting.
The holidays are full of small, mindless tasks, many of them thankless. Turn them into writing time. Fuel the imagination. Inspiration doesn't come without preparation. We have to kick start it with a question or an observation, something to get it going, but it rewards us by continuing to puzzle at problems long after we've gone on physically to something else.
Happy holiday and happy writing,