How to Write When You'd Rather Netflix and Chill and the 15 Steps to Get There.

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You’ve made progress on your novel. You’re on your second draft and past the halfway point. You can’t believe it. Once you’re done with this, the novel will need work, edits, polish, maybe even one more rewrite.

The second draft is coherent in a way that the rough draft was not. The rough draft was a mess. Once you have finished the second draft, you have finally finished a book - a novel that needs work, but still a book.

Then your monkey mind starts swinging through the trees and your ADD goes off the chain. You can’t focus.

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You remember you forgot to pay the garbage bill. Then while you’re on your phone to pay that bill, you see 2 Facebook Messenger notifications, and wonder who is reaching out to you?

You open them only to find out it’s a nudge to say hello to your latest Facebook friend and another is an annoying group chain.

You leave the conversation and scroll through your feed only to find garbage. You wonder why don’t have the nerve to disable your Facebook account because the bastards are violating your privacy anyway.  

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Then you remember that you forgot to pay the frigging garbage bill, and if you don’t pay it today you’ll be charged late fees. So you actually pay the bill, and suddenly, watching your favorite Netflix series sounds like the perfect reward for paying that garbage bill at the 11th hour.

But wait a minute. You haven’t written your pages today. You didn’t write your pages yesterday either, or the day before. You feel the stirrings of panic in your belly and guilt weighing your shoulders down into the I-hate-myself slump.

You lose momentum when you miss writing days. You know every day you miss writing only makes it worse because then the Shame Monster comes to life and laughs in your face.

“Slacker,” the Shame Monster chortles. “You’ll never finish that book. I knew you didn’t have it in you.”

I like happy endings.

So in this version of the story, your will resurrects from the dead and comes to the rescue.

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Step 1) Tell the Shame Monster to go *%$# itself;

Step 2) Grab a notebook and pen.

Step 3) Write every bit of nonsense and distraction you can think of, every random thought that comes to your head. Write freely and keep your pen moving. Write until you feel calmer, more focused. If you want to time yourself, go ahead.

Step 4) Have a light snack. This step is optional.

Step 5) Open your laptop (or typewriter, some people still use these) and get to the last chapter you were working on when you got distracted. Read that chapter out loud.

Step 6) Any awkward places or light editing that comes to mind, go ahead and make those changes. That gets you back inside your story.

Step 7) When you get to the last lines of the unfinished scene, WRITE. Even if your writing is clumsy, KEEP WRITING until you finish that scene or that chapter.

Step 8) If the writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.

Step 9) Have a light snack.

Step 10) Keep writing. If finishing that scene or chapter didn’t bring you to your minimum word count goal, continue writing the next scene or chapter until you have.

Step 11) If your writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.

Step 12) Write past your minimum word count goal. You’ve slacked off and you need to push through that resistance until you’re in love with yourself and your writing again.

Step 13) Once you feel complete, close down your laptop.

Step 14) Do a happy dance.

Step 15) Netflix and Chill without shame.

For more advice on how to discipline that ADD monkey mind, click here.

What a Fabulous Conversation! How to Write Great Dialogue.

DialogueWritingAdvice

I love dialogue.

Of all the elements of fiction, dialogue is my favorite as both a writer and a reader. I get excited when a come across a long stretch of dialogue in a novel, and as a writer, I work on dialogue for hours.

There is no resistance. I love picturing these scintillating conversations between characters, and I have no complaints working out the kinks as I put those talks to paper.

If anybody has come across some of my work-in-progress excerpts, you would find a lot of dialogue because I love it so much. If you’d like to check that out, go here.

Maybe I should have been a screenwriter. Because splendid dialogue between characters on a movie screen makes me high for days.

For example, Pulp Fiction is one of the best dialogue movies I’ve ever seen. Without the exquisite dialogue in every single scene of the movie, Pulp Fiction would have been awful.

As far as the characters and the plot are concerned, the stories are disturbing. Generally speaking, all the characters are out for themselves and nobody has a moral compass.

There are exceptional scenes of personal growth, like the choice Butch made to save Marcellus Wallace from a hideous fate, even though Marcellus Wallace had put a hit on him.

Also, the epiphany of Jules to quit the hit man’s life, walk the earth as a holy man, in the final scene when he spares the lives of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, made a breathtaking end to a film that boggled the minds of most people who saw it.

Pulp Fiction took black humor to a new level. Throughout the many psychotic and psychopathic events, the audience laughed hysterically and savored every moment (or almost every moment), and I believe it was because the dialogue was that brilliant.

This was during the days when Quentin Tarantino collaborated with Roger Avary. Either Avary was the dialogue genius, or the two of them needed each other for that magical precision of back and forth verbal volley between characters. All I know is the dialogue in Tarantino’s films has made cringe once they fell out and parted ways. Too many monologues.

I love good dialogue in a novel. I relish the chance to imagine these fictional conversations in my mind and put myself in the story as one of the characters.

The dialogue in Tom Robbins’ work (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker) makes me want to dance and celebrate the glory of life. But his characters and his plots are every bit as magnificent as the dialogue they speak.

Back in the day, Jane Austen had some pretty luscious dialogues set in Regency England. But Jane Austen had far more fodder to work with. We’ve gotten lazy and unskilled in the act of communication. For centuries, conversation was an art that most people wanted to excel at.

Now that my rant about my love of dialogue is finished, the nuggets of advice I can offer on how to pen dialogue are:

1) Practice and Read Your Dialogue Out Loud. That’s the only way you can hear the rhythm and flow of a conversation.

2) For anybody who really struggles with dialogue, I suggest writing dialogue between the writerly YOU and your principal characters. I suggest doing this one character at a time, to open yourself up to an impression of who they are as people and how they sound, even their quirky and unique expressions. A few exercises like this and you’ll be creating dialogue between the characters with little to no trouble.

I’m also happy to share a lovely article that gives more detailed tips on gorgeous dialogue. Click here.