Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Guest Post: The Post-Holiday Slump by Valerie Estelle Frankel

Written By: Tracy - Jan• 04•12

The Post-Holiday Slump

The ornaments and back in their box, the wax has been chipped off the menorah. You had your night of waltzing around the New Year’s floor and your day of recovery. The holidays are over. Now what?

If you’re like most writers, you have the half-finished novel, perhaps written in November, that you promised you’d finish “after the holidays.” Or the article postpone because you had “months and months” to complete it. Now you have the time. But you’ve lost all momentum under a pile of holiday chocolates. How do you get it back?

Here’s what I suggest: Just write one sentence. Wherever you ended your half-finished manuscript, find that spot. (If you’re like me and work on a dozen different places at once, just pick one.) Gaze at the last line. Then ask yourself, what would they say or do next? One line is always possible. And if you can write one, maybe you can write another one and another. Pretty soon, you have the next page.

Personally, I give myself permission to write whatever I feel like, as long as I finish my two pages before I get up. This scene isn’t working? Skip until later and write the climax—that’s the fun part, anyway. Can’t see the character? Stop and write a biography or her life story in first person—maybe you can fit it into the manuscript somewhere.  Don’t feel like writing action? Scribble down PUT IN ACTION SCENE and move on.  I only consider my manuscript done when I’ve filled in all those gaps.

I’m also allowed to goof off—check email, surf the web for research, check Facebook (okay, maybe not Facebook—that place will just suck you in and drain all the free hours out of your still-twitching corpse). However, whatever I do, however much time I waste, I don’t get up until somehow, two pages of text have managed to write themselves. It’s been a successful system for me, though I know some people prefer writing by the hour instead of the word count or page.

I’ve also had really good luck reading similar books to what I’m writing. I know some people hate doing that, but it helps put me in the right zone. And it’s not just books—I always feel like writing epic fantasy after watching Lord of the Rings or Narnia. The upsoaring music, the heady emotions, the triumph over evil—I can feel all this inside me, bursting to get out, so I rush for the computer. They’re good movies too.

I pretty much always tailor my reading to my writing. I don’t want to steal characters or scenes—more like the energy of a moment. When Robin Hood and the Sherriff must work together against a common enemy in Parke Godwin’s Sherwood, they stage a fight that’s mostly distraction, but with some honest animosity buried in it. I remember channeling just the emotions of that fight into two very different characters who likewise hate that they have to work together. Right now I’ve been writing a steampunk novel, and I’m reading Victorian authors, biographies, and history books, but also period romances, even Westerns just to get my head into the time period. And I’m getting swept away in the fiction, which is more fun than taking notes on a textbook.

Bottom line, look at your successful days and decide which system works best for you. Decide when you have the time you can earmark for writing. But whatever you choose—I’ll write at seven in the morning before everyone’s up, I’ll write between ten and ten since that produces better stuff, I’ll check who’s calling but not pick up unless it’s an emergency—you make your rules and stuck to them. That’s the only way to get the pages done. Happy writing to us all!

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Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend and Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey (McFarland 2010, 2012). Her project on fandom, called Harry Potter: Still Recruiting will be coming in 2012 from Zossima Press. Her shorter works have appeared in over 100 anthologies and journals including Inside Joss’ Dollhouse, Illuminating Torchwood, and Rosebud Magazine. Her parody, Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, was winner of the Indie Excellence Award and was a USA Book News National Best Book. Once a lecturer at San Jose State University, she’s a frequent speaker on fantasy, myth, pop culture, and the heroine’s journey, with many fans of all ages. Come explore her latest research at www.vefrankel.com.

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