29 March, 2016

Mini Projects for Mini Amounts of Time

After my second son was born in August last year, I told myself I wouldn't rush getting back into writing. Full-time care of two kids under two was enough! For a few months I couldn't even contemplate finding time, but at the start of this year I couldn't wait to write any longer.

In some ways I was desperate to get back to the novel I'd been working on up to my due date, but I knew that would be a bad idea.Writing a novel is a huge investment of time. If you only get a few minutes a day to work on it, a single draft can take years. It can be disheartening to have no completed pieces of work month after month. Before launching back into that marathon I decided I needed to do some shorter races, just to be able to tell myself I had written, edited and refined an entire piece of work.

I had been asked to write a guest post for The Faraday Institute about evolution and faith, and this was the ideal way to get back into writing. Non-fiction is refreshing when you spend your life in make-believe worlds. It was good to stretch my mind into matters of faith and science from its usual resting place of nursery rhymes and nap schedules!

Getting back into fiction was harder. I wanted two short projects - flash fiction preferably - that had some element of structure and challenge to them. The part of writing I find hardest when short of time is idea-generation. I don't have the head space to be thinking "what if...?" all the time, so I don't think of new plots often. Structured competitions give me soemthing to work with - a frame to hang some ideas off!

With that in mind, I chose to enter a competition to re-tell a Bible story for modern adults, and to write a short story using dialogue only.

The first challenge was simple enough. Re-telling a tale is a good way to ease back into writing, as the plot has already been written for you! The second competition was harder. When the organisers asked for only dialogue, they meant it - even dialogue tags ("he said" etc.) were banned. The story I ended up with (an adaptation of a story I wrote years ago) wasn't great, but I enjoyed the challenge very much. Most importantly, when I finished it, I had completed three full pieces of writing - more than I've done for years!

In this last week I have launched myself back into my novel. I've already sorted out a major plot issue and am working on some more research so I can start planning Draft Two in earnest. Then all I've got to do is write the thing. Easy, right? Chloe the Writer is back!

What do you do to ease yourself back into writing when you've had some time away?

6 comments:

  1. Welcome back, Chloe. I think competitions are a great way of staying focused. You have a deadline, a theme (usually), and a word count. Just add words!

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    1. I nearly always enter themed competitions. I need restrictions!

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  2. Good to hear you're back in the writing chair, Chloe!

    I too find competitions the best motivator to get back into writing, although sometimes the ticking clock of the deadline can add an unhelpful level of stress to the situation. Usually, though, it does the trick.

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    1. And you are too modest to add, of course, that you are really pretty good at competitions!

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  3. This is nice. I'm not sure if someone has already asked you this question but do you spend a set number of hours a day working on your novel, or do you just work on it when/for as long as you feel?

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  4. This is nice. I'm not sure if someone has already asked you this question but do you spend a set number of hours a day working on your novel, or do you just work on it when/for as long as you feel?

    ReplyDelete