Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write, write, write!

Right now I'm in the middle of one of the craziest times ever! We're moving out of our former apartment, and boxes sit everywhere. Stuff's overflowing. Need: boxes, moving truck, markers, tape. The packing stuff can only be bought on a weekday since papelarias (paper-products stores) are only open a few hours on Saturday morning in Brazil.

On top of that, our three-year-old son - who has hydrocephalus - has been vomiting and complaining of headaches, which can be indicative of a problem with his shunt/valve. Read: life-threatening. Instead of finishing packing, we rushed him to the public hospital, where the doctor ordered a scan that (as we found out later) is so backlogged with other patients that it'll take three months to get to our son. (Which we can't do, of course, since his case is life-threatening, and we're not even planning to be in Brazil in three months). So we'll have to find a doc on our own.

On top of that, our car broke down with a mysterious ailment (even the mechanic is baffled) that totally destroyed the engine. In Brazil car engines aren't replaced but repaired, piece by piece, and since ours is a Korean import, it's going to take around the same magic three months to fix.

On top of that, I had two special friends from the U.S. arrive in Brasilia yesterday morning - my first visitors ever in nearly eight years of living in Brazil - so we borrowed a car and hurried to pick them up. We rushed around preparing the room and getting things ready. (While our apartment sits a heaping mess of un-sold clothes, toys, and silverware, and the paper stores closed).

On top of that, we're moving in temporarily with my husbands' parents while we move out of our apartment, my husband finishes his last 30 days at work (40 in Brazil now, by law, in order to receive severance), save money for airline tickets, and get ready for our international move. We've hit an unusual cold front (I know, in tropical Brazil) and for the past five or six days it's been FREEZING - unusually cold temperatures, constant rain, dark and gloomy weather. No insulation. Digging through bags and suitcases trying to find a rogue sweater for our son (because, as you know, it's not like we wear sweaters every day in Brazil) and coming up with swimming trunks, tank tops, and sandals instead. My jeans are at the costureira (seamstress), so I've been wearing, in this cold, the same pair for five days straight. We went four days without finding our son's matching shoe.


Why am I telling this whole wild story? Is it for pity? Well, maybe... :) But actually it's because I've learned a few things while writing under deadline and craziness, and I'm hoping it might help you. This isn't a post about how to uncover more time to write (as I've posted before). I DON'T HAVE any more time. It's getting down to the wire. We're planning to move to South Dakota in December, and my dad (with whom we'll live temporarily) doesn't even have Internet in his renovated turn-of-the-century log cabin! This post, instead, is about beating stubborn writer's block and squeezing every last drop of juice possible out of the limited writing time we've got.

1. My first word of advice: ALWAYS FAVOR NEW MATERIAL OVER REVISION. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! Even if your novel or story stinks, WRITE IT OUT TO THE END. Don't stop. Don't go back over and agonize and edit portions, and don't start off your writing time by scanning over the last chapter of what you've written. Just stop doing that! It's a time-waster, and you'll get so bogged down in fixing things that your time producing new material - the real gold - will be pinched and limited. In the end you'll have a much clearer picture of what needs to stay and what needs to go anyway, and many of your preliminary revisions won't matter anyway. If you need to redirect and scrap some parts, fine - but in general DON'T EDIT OVER WHAT YOU'VE WRITTEN, in hopes of making it better. You'll make it better by finishing the manuscript and having something to turn in! Things tend to fall into place, problems resolve themselves, and solutions appear when you simply WRITE TO THE END.

2. Ask for help! In one of my novellas I'm writing based on Yellowstone National Park (contracted for 2013) I sent out a cry for help to my critique partners listing EXACTLY my problems: 1) I hate my male lead, 2) I hate my story, and 3) I don't have any other ideas. Believe it or not, my wonderful partners sent back some excellent suggestions that not only used the material I had already written (praise God! It was several chapters' worth), encouraged the progress I'd already made, and threw in some new twists that excited me. Before I wrote them, I was THIS CLOSE (picture fingers pinched together) to scrapping the entire 7,000 words I'd written for the novella - and in the end, I'm probably going to only need to scrap about 300 and will simply redirect.

3. DON'T USE THE INTERNET!! I know people always say this, but it's true. I got the most work done when the Internet was down for a day and a half because of rain. I know I need to use the Internet to research, especially when working on a historical fiction novel, but it's far better to USE STICKY NOTES and write down your questions about small details rather than research every one. My rule of thumb has been this: If the research I'm looking for is absolutely essential to a storyline (like whether or not a particular line of reasoning is going to work) then go for it, and get back to writing as soon as possible. However, if it's just detail research your after (like what kind of stitching a World War I canteen case would have used), then WAIT. You'll only get bogged down in research, wasting valuable writing time.

4. Pray! This is one aspect of writing and work that people who don't know God can't understand. But as believers, we have another (greater) resource available to us every moment. He has given me inspiration when my brain is stuck, caused friends to send suggestions that fixed my quandary, and has given me unexpected blocks of time to write. It's His work I'm doing, and He'll make it happen as I do my best and give my utmost to make my deadlines. I've given it into His hands.

Happy writing! If you've had a tough deadline, can you tell us about it? What busts your writer's block? How do you get your projects done on a tight deadline?


  1. Oh dear, you are having quite the experience! I hope things go much more smoothly from here on out. Hope your son is in good health as well.

  2. From Brazil to South Dakota? Brrrr. Seems like with your dad having no internet, you should be busting out the word count soon. :)

  3. Great tips...and...WOW you have a lot going on! I was feeling sorry for myself because we just moved and I can't get in the writing groove. I'll take your tips for sure! Thanks!

  4. You are an inspiration Jenny, and have my prayers over every aspect of what's going on in your life right now. And still you offer us great ideas for pushing through it all. Your faith is a spirit lifter. What a story you'll have to tell us by next February!

  5. Solid gold on the writing tips, Jenny. My husband has hydrocephalus (diagnosed when he was 12--really late, as most kids are diagnosed earlier) and he's lived with a shunt for 25-plus years with no problems (well, except for the high cost of insuring his life because hydrocephalus is still listed as a life-threatening ailment, but that's another story). So I will be praying for your son's health and your move.