Moodling and Other Tips for November SuccessGetting ready for NaNoWriMo? All set to write exactly 1667 words per day, no more, no less, until the bitter end (of the month, anyway)? Have you done this before, or are you simply wise, and know that your own brain will be your worst enemy in November? Fear not. I have a couple suggestions for harnessing it, whipping it, riding it hard (to the places you want it to go), and putting it up wet.
First: moodling.I get this word from Brenda Ueland’s classic If You Want to Write. This book is more cheerleading than practical tips on the technical aspects of writing, but one thing I took from it that has stood me in good stead is that in order to have something to write, you must give your brain time to moodle.
Moodling is, in essence, daydreaming. Not active keyboard time. No notepads. No goals. It doesn’t mean you’re just staring out the window, either (though if you have time for that, good for you). Do you have a long commute? Do you punish your physical manifestation with long hours of cardio exercise? Do you craft? Congratulations—prime moodling time. Some people might say that music or other background interference will lessen the quality of your moodling, but I find that anything familiar enough to ignore (like the same playlist I listen to every single day while taking my walk) doesn’t hurt the process.
If you moodle with the general aim of thinking about your book—not setting yourself to solve problems, only congratulating yourself over what you’ve written, mulling over what you might write later, and wondering what problems need working out—your keyboard time will be far more fruitful because when you sit down, you’ll already know what you’re going to write. You will have filled the proverbial well.
The second is to turn off and tune out.This tip is inspired by another classic, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. How does a drawing book help writing? More to the point, how does a drawing book that is all about turning off the verbal side of your mind help with writing? I know it doesn’t make sense, but it works.
Betty Edwards’ advice for drawing well is to stop putting the thing you are drawing through your filters. Stop thinking of it as a symbol. The sun isn’t a circle with lines coming out of it. An eye isn’t an oval with a circle right in the middle. Turn off the shoulds and musts and preconceived notions, and just draw what you actually see in front of you.
Something like this works well for writing, especially for writing emotionally charged scenes. Do you have ideas about what your characters are like? Do you have—heaven forfend—archetypes, or even worse, caricatures for them? Do you have lists of acceptable unconscious reactions for different emotions? Have you read too much pulp fiction, and are phrases like “steely glare”, “shot a glance”, and “licked her lips” proliferating in your fiction?
Or, even worse. Can you not write the scene because you’re so bound up with ought-to-bes and won’ts that you just can’t write it? Turn off your filter. Dig deep inside. Possess your character and ask yourself: what makes my skirt fly up right now? What’s the primal scream? What clenches my guts (or pelvic floor)? If no one was ever going to know about it, what would I do?
Let your fingers type it. Don’t watch the screen. Do move your lips along with the words. Sigh. Pant. Groan. Growl.
Did you get something down? Is it overwrought? Crazy? Sexy? Insane? Furious? Is it leaden with doom and dread?
Good. You’ve started your emotionally charged scene. Now do it again. You can edit later.
So there you have it: alternate working your brain hard and letting it rest. That’s how I get the most out of my writing time. Of course, everyone is different. Do you have brain-tricks to maximize your writing output? We’d all love to hear.
About the Author
Katharine Tree lives in the Puget Sound area with her husband, daughter, and cat. When her characters aren’t demanding attention, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, gardening, and taking long walks in the woods.
And then her settlement is sacked, her family murdered, and Perry thrown into the power of a young soldier. He saves her life, but to do it he takes her straight to Bear Hollow, exactly the sort of place Perry was warned against. To complicate matters, a steamy romance develops between them, which runs contrary to Perry's moral compass . . . but which she can't resist.
Can Perry swallow her pride and live among the degraded townspeople? Might her father have been wrong about them, or only too right? Might Bear Hollow provide Perry the man, the home, and the family she always wanted . . . or will it suck away everything she valued about herself?
The Bear's Wife is available at Amazon.