Thursday, January 10, 2008

Motivation in the face of distraction

After two weeks of writing heaven, I'm back at work. Not that teaching 400 kids the beauty of art is bad, but it means I must be very efficient with my free time.

My kids are great. We all arrive home around 3pm, catch up for a few minutes, then scatter. This leaves me about two hours of free time before dinner prep begins.
Oh, what to do?
I write. Or blog surf. Or download pictures onto my art blog. Of course, the first one is what I should be doing. Especially if my goal of landing an agent or editor is achieved this year. But sometimes it's hard to focus. I've come up with a strategy for eliminating the distractions.
Sounds simple, but here's the thing. I'm a visual person. I like perusing blogs and downloading art pictures because the images inspire me. So I try to make my writing projects visual. No, I don't write picture books, nor illustrate them. So how do I make my projects visual?
Character boards. I posted a link a while ago showing my boards. Check them out. Here's how to make one:

  • Decide whether you want a notebook or a poster that hangs on your wall. If you want a poster, go to your local craft store and buy a piece of foam core (that stuff that kids use for science projects). It's great because not only can you tape and glue pictures onto it, you can also tack them on. Trim it to the appropriate size with an exacto knife or hack away with scissors. Neatness doesn't count here.

  • Thumb through the latest Teen Vogue, Girls Life or even American Girl Magazine for images that capture your protagonist and her slew of friends. (Don't have any recommendations for Boys...even though I have boys. Sad, I know.) Paste them in a notebook along with clippings of clothes your character might wear, jewelry, what their bedroom looks like, favorite quotes, favorite snacks, etc.

  • Get colorful. Nothing is more boring than black and white. Get out highlighters, markers and even those fancy stickers and have fun!

Ultimately, your characters should be treated like your children and everyone has scrapbooks of their children, right???

My second project, Ainsley Archer/What Boys Want/Hopelessly Untitled, is the story about a sister of a disgraced junior golf phenom who is desperately trying to get out from under her sister's mega dark shadow. This is story that will appeal to hip, boy crazy teens as well as provide a glimpse into the world of high school golf. So for my "Ainsley" scrapbook, I've also searched for articles in golf magazines. Part research/part inspiration, I compiled teen golf interviews, pictures of beautiful golf courses, etc.
This is what motivates me. Flipping through my scrapbooks or glancing at my posters immediately places me in the book. I want to know what happens next. I can't wait to write about it. Even if I have thirty minutes, I'll do the same thing. Thirty minutes is better than nothing.


  1. I couldn't open the link to see your character boards, but love the idea of a detailed character board. Though I'm not sure how much success I'd have with this, you are far more artistic than I am.

    I just listen to songs or look at an item that reminds me of my character.

  2. Oops about the link...I think I fixed it. Thanks!
    You don't have to be artistic to create a visual board, just good with scissors and glue. Although, I've seen how that can be a problem for some!
    Listening to songs is something I know other writers do...R.L LaFevers for one.

  3. Hi Patty--Do you realize that your next blog entry will be your 50th? Golden Anniversary time! Congratulations. I really like the clarity of your slightly redesigned blog. Makes it even more fun to read. Like the word count, too.

    Don't know anything about the cost or details of the conference in March. It was supposed to be posted on Friday, but I didn't see anything when I checked on it. I will keep looking.

    Should we try a mini-critique group while we are waiting for Val to come back? Sounds like you have been very productive.


  4. Maggie-I did not realize that!I guess that means I've almost averaged one per week. Not so bad.
    yes, let's do a mini critique. Maye look at more than one chapter. We'll talk!

  5. Love hearing about your current WIP! And I know that you have what it takes to B-I-C!! It's hard with so many distractions, but they aren't really distractions as much as material, right? I feel bad saying this, you'd think with kids as old as mine, you wouldn't think I've spent a lot of time away from my writing over the holidays. But I have. I've spent a lot of time concentrating on the family and special moments and smoothing the transition of living in two places. It all gets a little overwhelming. But I know it some how informs my writing. That's what I tell myself anyway:) Let's hope so. It's so funny, some days I find myself writing in my head, desperate to get it all down! Miss you guys!

  6. Couldn't agree more!
    Talk soon,


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