If you're like me, then when the writing is going well, nothing can stop you. Not food, not family, not that little notification popping up in the corner of your screen to tell you that you have a new twitter follower. There is nothing outside of the words bleeding from your fingertips. But maybe things aren't going that well. Maybe you're not happy with the way a character has developed, or that scene just isn't moving the story the way you wanted, or you've written yourself into a corner and can't figure out how, with all your meticulous plotting, it could have come to that. Now what?
The best solution I've found is to get away from your work and do something away from the computer for a while (see Writer's Block: On the Value of Manure). How often do I really do that though? I'm at my computer already. I can do something writing related on the Internet. That’s kind of like writing, only different. Opportunity abounds, but even legitimate reasons to surf the Web can be devastating to your productivity.
This is a dangerous one. I'll be the first to admit that I spend a ton of time researching. Just looking up word origins to make sure they are period appropriate can consume large chunks of time. The Internet can provide a wealth of information (though you always have to be careful of your sources). The biggest threat, in my opinion, is all those glorious links.
Oh, it starts innocently enough. You need information on a particular piece of gothic architecture. You find several pages on that subject and start clicking links. Before you know it, you've been wandering links for over an hour and are currently reading about a local beer festival. If you’ve gone off course, bookmark the page to come back to when you aren’t on your writing time and get back to work.
Another great opportunity to whittle away writing time. Learning about writing is never bad. As authors, we should always work to improve our craft. However, learning must be balanced with doing. Perhaps you notice too much filtering in you writing. You search the Internet for help and come up with these two articles:
- Filtering (Leslie's Writing Exercises)
- Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction? (Write It Sideways)
From there you follow links to:
- Filter Words and Distancing Point of View (Let The Words FLow)
- The Reason Editors Reject Manuscripts (Fiction Factor)
And from there you follow links to...
Well, you get the idea. I'm not saying these aren't all great articles. I've followed this thread and read most of them. There is some fabulous information here. The trick is to not become so immersed in all the information available that you never get around to applying what you've learned. By all means, learn everything you can, but discipline yourself. Take a half hour or hour to read up on something, then get back to work and revisit it another day if you need more help.
The time-eating monster. We all know how we're supposed to be building a fan base and getting ourselves out there in the writing/reading world before we've even published a book these days. That is a tall order, especially if you’re new to social media. You can spend hours just finding the people you should be following on Twitter. Then you can build your own blog and maintain it and find the blogs you should be following and comment on them and...
Yes, it can go on for days. The best thing you will ever learn in this area is something I heard many authors talking about at the last conference I went to. Schedule time for this every day and set a timer if you need to. Do not fall into the trap of spending all your time in social networking.
Still here? Shouldn't you be writing? Shouldn't I?
Go. Research. Learn. Network. Above all, write.