Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter by Chapter, until it's done

Have you ever felt paralyzed by the overwhelming task of organizing the novel into something readable? When there's just so much to do and you're not even sure you can pull it off? After three weeks of feeling utterly cowed by the 30,000 not very good words I've got so far on my computer (wip), I decided to quit looking at the big picture and just take it one chapter at a time.

Aha! Now I can deal! The first chapter really isn't too bad, in fact after revisions, it's now the first two chapters. Time to move on to the next one. Maybe halfway through this mess, I'll have a vision of what it might be.

Funny thing, this is how I handle most things in life. When I'm feeling stressed, I forget about the big picture and focus on the little things. Like a friend of mine used to say, "When you don't know what else to do, sweep the floor."

Applying that to writing: "When you don't know what else to do, go back to the first chapter and make it as good as you possibly can." Then on to the second, etc. until before long there's a fresh, new and improved draft.

How do you move on when you're feeling overwhelmed by the work? When there's so much to do that you're paralyzed, and not even sure you capable of it? I mean, quitting isn't an option, is it?

Disclaimer: If you feel an overwhelming desire to comment on this post, it is due to me implementing the little tricks I learned from Tamara's blog, on how to brainwash people into making more comments. Hehehe, bwa ha ha (my evil genius laugh).


  1. I will NOT be brainwashed.. oh.. wait...

    And this might not be helpful, but when I get really freaked out, I stop. Take a break, work on other stuff, clear the mind and then go back. I always feel better after that. It does mean my editing is incredibly slow though. :S

  2. Oh bother. Got brainwashed again.

    Sweep the floor? No I check the dryer. It always needs to be checked.

  3. I watch or read something else with my story in mind. I always come up with new ideas from the Masters out there.

  4. I'm an outliner so when I'm paralyzed it means my outline ran out, and I have to settle down and sketch out some more ideas before I can continue.

  5. Yikes, you did brainwash me! I'm with you, Karen. I take it one chapter at a time!

  6. I usually try to plot 4 or 5 major points that have to happen, then if I get stuck, I study the next major point coming up, and figure out a way to get my characters there. I'm going to have to look into these brain-washing techniques... they seem to be working.

  7. I...must...comment....I...must....comment. Wait, I have nothing to say. I am not a writer and have never been overwhelmed by organization of a novel. I just read the final product and enjoy.

  8. BWA HA HA It worked! Soon I will rule the world!!

  9. Ha! Well, L.A., I guess that brought me back to the barnyard lol.

  10. Hi

    Oh please don't do the evil laugh - it's scary! I for one don't mind you ruling the planet! So long as I get to keep my cat and be allocated time to use the internet!


    Re: Chap by chap:
    Great advice! It's always disheartening when you get so far and you just go "aaaaaaaaargh"!! And just want to quit. Where were you when I needed you (oooh circa 2006??!!)

    Re: blogging away
    You know, blogging away and meeting such a diverse set of bloggers/writers - Jane Finchwood, I think you are a writer just by creating a blog :-)- has really fired up what I thought was a nearly-dead enthusiasm for writing creatively. Maybe it's time I dust off my half-written thing that thiinks it's gonna be novel resting in the bottom of my sock drawer and start again... maybe..!

    Take care

  11. Me...I have been known to allocate the pages to a yellow binder, known as the black hole for unfinished works and take a pajama day to lick my wounds. Once I have had a nice indulgent feel sorry for myself pajama day, I dust myself off...I feel a song coming on. Good luck with that ruling the world thing. :)

  12. Ann, this sounds like a very healthy attitude-- Pajama days are one of my favorite things! And who knows what treasures may unfold someday out of that yellow binder.