The Writing Wall Or How Plotting Is Like Cleaning Tape Off Of A Whiteboard (part two)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
When I left you at the end of last week's post, I was downtrodden, bruised, beaten, and in the lurch. But I stand--ahem sit--before you today a changed--well, slightly less useless--individual.

How did I crawl up and over my Writing Wall? What the heck does cleaning tape off a whiteboard have to do with any of this? Why am I asking so many questions?

Why, for dramatic purposes, of course! ;)

First, I'll tell you The Writing Wall I hit was a good one. I was creatively stumped. I stewed for hours, then days, trying to make something happen. It didn't, of course. Not on its own. So, I ventured into my office (where I sometimes write) and started pulling out the tricks of the trade. Notebooks, pencils, post-its, index cards, markers, highlighters (all of the above in varying colors), poster board, dry erase markers, and a whiteboard.

For those of you quick on the uptake, THIS is where the whiteboard comes into play.

Standing there, above all my favorite toys (yes, I'm dead serious here, I love my office supplies) I notice that damn tape was still marring three quarters of my new, large and lovely whiteboard. I pushed it aside, determined to stick to a notebook and poster board. (By the way, I do have two other whiteboards, but they are currently occupied with other projects, thus, no erasing will happen until said projects land on the page.) I tried working through these issues, I tried walking away, ignoring the plotting problem, tried figuring it out in the shower or letting my dreams take over (both of which usually work). This time, nothing was working.

My plot was stuck and so was my brain.

After ambling around for a few more days, I decided cleaning off the whiteboard might be my best option. I had convinced myself that if I had a whiteboard, so much miracle-ing would happen.

Yes, I make up words. All the time. Judge me not, least ye be judged -Yoda. (though I'm about a thousand percent sure he never said that. Just roll with the punches here, people.)

Moving on . . .

While I grabbed a scraping tool from my garage and went to work, I was struck by how tenacious I was about getting that damn tape off. Little by little, it was all coming together. Tape was peeling off in tiny strips and chunks, and my mind was working, behind the scenes and above the cursing. I worked as hard as I could, fighting through some of the really sticky patches, and in less than an hour and a half (no lie), the board was free of tape!

I did my little Snoopy dance, spiked the ball of tape into the garbage, and started plotting.

The funny part, I only wrote two plot points on the board before switching to a notebook and writing page after page each day.

A few more days later I realized it hadn't been the whiteboard that I'd needed, it was working on something else for a while. Again, I didn't get anywhere sitting on the couch and waiting for some TV show to do it for me, instead I worked very hard, in silence, on another task, refusing to give up.

The in silence part turned out to be very important.

While I was scraping, my thoughts kept coming back to my characters and the difficult places (both emotionally and physically) where I had left them. How did they feel inside? What would they do to change things? What would they give up to move forward? So, by the time the tape was gone, my creative juices were a roaring river of Peach Iced Tea. Why Peach? Because it's awesome, that's why!

It's been a few weeks since The Whiteboard Incident of 2013. I have more of my plot down, and I've even started putting words to the page again. I may not be moving as fast as I'd like, but I'm starting to realize this book is going to take a lot of time.

So, there you have it. Stepping away, but still working hard helped me fight my way up and over that Writing Wall. Plus I got a brand new whiteboard. Though, and pay attention because this is the real punchline, after spending all that time and effort scraping away on my whiteboard, the tape left a tacky residue that I can write on, but NOT ERASE. Basically, I could have left the damn tape right where it was, around the inside corners of the board, because I wouldn't have been able to write on that part of the board anyway.

The ultimate headdesk? Yes, I do believe so, but that still doesn't change the fact that focusing on that medial task helped me out of The Pits of Writing Despair (cue ominous echo) and reminded me that there is no substitute for hard work.

This concludes today's program. Thanks for coming back. And please, feel free to laugh at my idiocy in the comments. My ego doesn't bruise too easily. :)

The Writing Wall Or How Plotting Is Like Cleaning Tape Off Of A Whiteboard (part one)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I'm currently in the early stages of drafting a secret project. This makes me extremely happy, because I'm way ahead of my deadline so I won't be rushing to finish it. It also freaks me out a little (read: a ton) because I've never written a third book before--or finished a series.

While trying my damnedest not to be overwhelmed, I jumped right into the book and started typing away. So far I'm a few chapters in and was doing several #1k1hr sprints on twitter with old writing friends and making new ones (score!). Here's where I'm at so far (I'm also going to try to keep the new word count meter on the right hand side of the blog up to date as well, for those interested).

          Secret project
7724 / 50000 words. 15% done!

Woo-hoo! Beginnings are difficult for me, so 15% is nothing to shake a stick at.

However, while writing last Sunday morning, almost all the way through my first thousand words for the day, I hit a complication. Okay, you guys, I'm not going to sweet talk you, give you some flowery writer version of why I couldn't go on, instead I'm going to give it to you straight.

I hit The Wall. You know, that thing runners talk about when they just can't go any further--not that I'm a runner (yet), though I'd love to be. Where was I again? (And any of you are surprised I can't concentrate on one title at a time?)

Oh yeah, The Writing Wall. Now, I could have gone on, forced some gibberish that I'd have to cut later in the edits stage, but why? I've learned, from a lot of trial and error, that I tend to be a clean drafter. I'd rather take the time, maybe step away from the laptop if I have to, and figure things out in a notebook or white board before returning to Spartacus (my amazingly wonderful laptop).

Here is where I should say that I have a rough outline for this book done, but it's very brief, too brief, I've discovered, for this book. (sidenote: for me, every project is different--as I've said about a thousand times--a rough outline might work for another story, but not for this one).

Now, some of you may be hardcore pansters. You will hear no judgments from me. I do still write by the seat of my pants occasionally. This post might not be for you, and that's just fine, or you may see a technique I use while plotting that you may be able to incorporate into your work style. That's fine, too. Whether you're a pantser or a plotter, I'm not here to change your process. I'm here to shed some light on mine.

Okay, back to giving the draft some distance. WARNING: Stepping away can be risky. It can open you up to so many hardships. If you unlatch yourself completely, there is a serious risk that you can let yourself get lazy. Thinking does not mean sitting on the couch eating Cheetos--though that does sound like an awesome writing reward--it means getting out, trying something new, or staying in and talking things through with yourself via a digital recorder, or jotting down notes in a notebook or on a whiteboard.

Speaking of whiteboards! You may be asking yourself where the "cleaning the tape off of a whiteboard" part of the title comes in, and you're in luck, because ... right now!

A few months ago, the fiance (then boyfriend) came home from work with a huge, beautiful, sparkly whiteboard in his hands. My eyes were like saucers when I grabbed it out of his hands and the two of us danced (awkwardly) in the middle of the living room (the whiteboard and I, not the fiance and I. He may have brought to me, but I have my priorities. Heh.)

Then I noticed something had marred my perfect new amazing whiteboard. Tape. There was gross, clear packaging tape about four inches from the borders, all the way around it. The fiance explained his work used the whiteboard to hold a monthly calendar and that they didn't need it anymore and were going to trash it, but he saved it for me. (Yes, I do already have two other whiteboards--we will discuss that in part two next week.) He said "it's yours. All you have to do is clean the tape off."

Easier said than done, I discovered. I struggled with it for days, resulting in tools and tiny ripped pieces of tape all over the house. I could only take the abuse and frustration (and yes, I'm not over exaggerating or joking here, this was a really hard road for me), I gave up, pushed the whiteboard into a corner of my office and swore to forget about it. Until the day I hit The Writing Wall on my latest project and realized I needed it.

Now I had no choice but to try and tackle both my problems, cleaning tape off my whiteboard and plotting my book. I couldn't push them aside or put them off any longer. But neither job would prove to be easy.

And, unfortunately, this is where I leave you to ponder the mysteries of the universe--or, you know, how I overcame the plot troubles and what the heck that has to do with tape on a whiteboard. It will all come together next week. I promise. (hint: it's about perseverance.)

So, until then, thanks for stopping by and see you next week, same blog time (Wednesday), same blog channel.