Staying focused

originally posted by nate

hey janny,

how do you stay focussed? when i try to write, i get a chapter or so into a book, then a change of mood, or a dissatisfaction, and i scrap the whole thing in pursuit of a new idea, or a new style…

perhaps i need to develop a tolkienesque background before beginning the [main] work… do you think? i remember reading that you started developing the idea for the wars twenty years before you began to write it (did i get that right?)

anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated…



How to stay focused - the answer is, at first, DON't!!!

If you wander into a change of mood - incorporate it! Keep going, using that new impetus. This happens. Keep following the live movement.

Two things will happen: you'll learn WHAT thread means the most and it will resolve. OR you'll find all the threads applied, you just didn't know, yet how they connected together.

Stay with the passion in "creation" mode.

"Edit" (destroy) later, when you KNOW what focus you are reaching to define.

"Dissatisfaction" is edit mode (destroy). chuck that voice. Gag it. You are DRAFTING (creating) and you don't pause to judge, now. Let it BE stupid, badly written or 'dumb' - so what. Underlying there is the germ of a valuable idea. You will edit LATER, and fix the stupid, badly written or dumb.

But if you disparage now, you'll never find the live idea, underneath.

What you want to write NOW, are driven to write, NOW is the live idea.

This is not to be confused with discipline - wherein you know you have a live idea, but you have to work on it.

Writing is the hardest of all I have done. Bar nothing. Some days it's discipline and work.

Let your book change meaning and mood as often as it takes until you KNOW what you are writing. DO NOT EDIT at the same time. That's for later. Have the discipline to put the words DOWN. That's not always automatically easy.

Know the difference through sounding by experience.

originally posted by nate

thanks janny - i see your point, and the wisdom in it… if only it didn't require so much patience… i tend to be a tear and scrap writer (which explains why i haven't written anything to date).

do you sit down to write whenever you get the "live idea" or do you find that as soon as you're in the right frame of mind (ie sitting with pen - or keyboard - in hand, ready to right) the ideas begin to flow?

i find that i have ideas at the most inopportune times, and by the time i go to write, all the colour or life has been sapped from the image, leaving dull actions and events…



If you can train your muse to come at the "opportune" moment, bottle it and sell it. You'll be rich.

nate, in my experience, it's a dance. You carry a pencil and snatch ANY scrap of paper when the live idea "hits" - record it. Tends not to happen twice as you've found out. If I can't write, I'll do every thing I can to "tag" the idea in memory - recall initials, burn it in as a picture, key it to something I have in my environment, so by association, I can call it back up - in ghost form, if nothing else.

The flip side is, you have to make the SPACE. If you don't, the odd idea can't happen in, and won't.

So - half discipline, putting the seat in the chair with the blank paper or screen - if nothing comes, after a serious brainburn, pose the question "What or why?" Walk away, do something else, sleep on it, the answer will ring in within one to three days.

Do I stall for 3 days while waiting? No. I dance on and off the concept, while working on refining an older scene, OR - reassemble the ideas as "what if I tried this scene this way, or that way, or shifted character point of view."

Just keep on knocking on the door, stepping back, peeking in again - until the idea pops in a form that moves.

If 3 days pass and I am totally stuck - it's because I tried to control the approach too hard. Thought the scene "should be" this and refused to move into another angle.

Bored myself out of the passion. Not enough conflict in the scene as posited.

Find a way to heat it up - add intensity. Sometimes another approach, sometimes another scene got shorted, or, sometimes there was an element missing.

Three day stalls require a revision.

Idea cooking means stir the pot like crazy, look at all the angles you COULD do - then step back. They'll boil up, and you'll know.

Stirring the pot - that's the discipline. Having the confidence to step back and "let" the inner process leap the gap and arise as inspiration - that is trust in your creative imagination, and you can't do without that knowing it is THERE intact, inside you. You have to allow it to emerge. Fearing it won't will shut you down, every time, or fearing it's not going to be good enough - that will choke you too.

Someplace around here I copied in an indepth post in this chat on "blocking" – try a search for that.

These things are what work for me. Everybody has their own recipe.

The related post was in the Narrative Technique thread, in this topic –

originally posted by nate

thanks janny,

i took a look at the narrative technique thread, and it has certainly inspired my thought process…

so arithon, for example, is striving to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict which is tearing athera apart. but this is not his driving passion, but rather the action which his passion, ie "compassion", takes… is this kind of on the right track?

i have a tendency to think of a story as events driven instead of character driven, which is probably why the characters seem lifeless - they're just pawns playing out a series of events, instead of characters driving the events (making them happen)… ah, enlightenment!! (followed closely by a feeling of being lost in a sea of endless horizons… oh well, it's a start… hehehe)

thanks again - that really helps!!