Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bum Glue

One can't be part of the writing community for long without coming across the concept of "butt in chair." This is writer speak for show up and do the work, whether you feel like it or not.

Contrary to popular myth, writers can't just wait for inspiration to hit before they get to work. For published authors, there's an editor-imposed deadline. Miss that deadline without a monumentally good reason and a black mark appears on your track record. Industry professionals have long memories for multiple marks of this type.

Unpubbed authors or those without contracts may not have an externally imposed deadline, but we better have an internal one or the book will never be finished. It's like saying you'll do something some day... Reaching The End is hard work, making self-motivation essential.

So why all this talk about getting the butt in the chair? Well, not all manuscripts just flow out of us in a sparkling river of words. Sometimes they have to be dragged out one grueling piece at a time. Or certain parts don't come easily, like the synopsis I'm currently hacking to pieces. (Instead of killing 3 pages I added 1.5. Ugh!)

Though it isn't always the case, most times this difficulty leads to avoidance, creating an uncomfortable cycle that keeps me away from writing. After a bit of reflection time, I simply have to force myself to work, one paragraph at a time, until it gets easier. And it does; each time I dread plopping my butt in the chair a little less.

I ran across a reference to this phenomenon recently as "bum glue". Charming, huh? But I have a feeling that if I could bottle and sell it, I'd make a fortune. Writers, especially newbies, are always looking for some magic formula to make this daunting process even a smidgen easier.

However, its just plain hard work. (If it wasn't, everyone would do it.) You either do it or you don't. For me, love of the process—no matter how hard it is at times—becomes the "bum glue" that brings me back to the chair even if I don't feel like it. Memories of the days where everything flows like magic are what keeps me there.

So how long does it usually take you to force yourself into the chair? Any motivational hints or stories you'd like to share? Any suggestions on how to bring this synopsis under control?!?!



Linda Winstead Jones said...

Bum glue -- a favorite Christmas gift among writer friends. :-)

Y'all know I'm really big on "just write the damn book" which is another way of saying butt to chair. But that doesn't mean you have to spend your life in front of the computer. It's all a matter of balance.

Yesterday, I was in my back yard cutting down trees and trimming bushes. Yes, the trees were small -- but many were taller than me, and they were trees. The garden at the retreat and last week's trip to Bellingrath Gardens with my hubby has me wanting to transform my backyard. I'm taking a break. I don't work well if I don't get away from the computer now and then. Someimes I need that distance in order to see clearly.

Oohh -- writing as gardening. I spent all day yesterday cutting away what the backyard doesn't need, and when that's done I can see about planting new stuff. Do that with your synopsis, if you need to shorten it. Clear away what's unnecessary before you even think about adding.

OK, it's too early for me to be philosophical. I'm still on my first cup of coffee. :-)


Problem Child said...

My motivation is obviously "go teach the Aenied and Inferno." My AWOL muse is banging down my door these days...

Smarty Pants said...

How long does it take? Let's see... how long has it been?? I really haven't written anything of consequence other than editing drafts since I finished that writing challenge, oh, around Nationals time.

I need to get my dumb plot down on my storyboard and build a cohesive outline to start. I have to reign in my brain a little bit, at least give it a plot to follow, or I'll get lost in the middle.

I recently edited a synopsis and I guess using your GMC and building your black moment as a guide helps. Cut out any plot details you've included that don't contribute to that. I guess I'd also bulk up any details that help your book feel like it fills a niche in the line you're targeting.

I know, I'm not much help. But its early. Plus, I killed far too many brain cells Saturday.

Playground Monitor said...

When I haven't had a short story contract in a while that's real motivation to fill up the editor's inbox with a few new ones. Or the editor will post on the email loop "I need (insert whatever kind of story she needs)" and the competitive nature in me will want to win that race because I know everyone else has seen the same post, has put on their thinking caps too and will be vying for those slots.

LJ... do we just go to Office Depot and ask for "bum glue?" :grin:

Instigator said...

I need some Bum Glue. I'm having a very difficult time getting into this book. I know I'll get there, it's just that the hard work is competing with everything else in my life so by the time my writing session rolls around at 8PM it's more difficult to find the energy to sit.

Instigator - who's decided to loop her flash drive around her neck and wear it every second of the day in the hopes that it'll help

Anonymous said...

Amen, Sister!

I'm such a horrible procrastinator that my self-imposed/internal deadlines seem to get pushed back a lot. Maintaining my blog helps me make myself write something nearly every day, and that usually flows pretty well into the book, but I get distracted so easily! I also have more than one manuscript in the works, and I have a hard time staying focused on one at a time.

One thing that has helped me recently is that I've forbidden myself to work on any of the others until I finish the one I'm currently working on - getting to dig out the next one will be my reward for getting to THE END on this one. To me, rewards are great motivators, even if it's something simple. This has held up for me for about six months now, and is apparently working because the current WIP is nearly finished.

Let me ask you this, Playfriends - do you write your synopsis before or after the ms is complete? If before, does it help guide your story? I'm not an outliner, so I generally can't write the synopsis until I have the entire story on paper - doing it after the fact helps me fill in plot holes. To answer your question, though, I agree with both LJ's and Smarty Pants' sound advice about editing out the superfluous crap (okay, they didn't put it that way, but that's what I try to do). ;)

I think you should bottle the bum glue idea, Angel. You could make a fortune. Maybe I'll put it on my Christmas list ...

Lori Borrill said...

Well, three things help me:

1) I think I'm the odd-woman-out in that reading sparks my creativity to write. I write for Blaze, so I've got about 50 Blaze's on my bookshelf, some read, some not. When I can't seem to get past a mental roadblock, I start thumbing through them, and usually within an hour of reading, something hits me and I'm back to my own wip with new vigor.

2) Sometimes I have to get up and move. It's most efficient to write on my pc, but sometimes when the screen looks too blank, I grab a pad and a pencil and go somewhere else. Like Linda said, sometimes gardening or housecleaning, just simple motion, kickstarts my brain. Sometimes it's just moving to a more quiet or more comfortable place.

3) Lastly, there have been times when I can't get motivated to write because the scene I'm envisioning just isn't terribly exciting. You know how those go. Those "bridge" scenes that get you from awesome scene one to awesome scene three. They're more necessary than fun. But there are times when I take my idea back to the drawing board, rethink the entire approach and come up with something better that does "inspire" me. So there are times when I think that lack of motivation is a sign by my subconscious that what I've got planned isn't as great as it could be.

When above fails, I resort to Bum Glue. LOL!

Angel said...

J.B.--about the synopsis:

Well, I'm probably not the best one to ask about this, because I'm the plotter of the group. That said, I don't usually write the synopsis until I HAVE to. Because I hate doing it. I could write it before I finished the book, because I already know the essentials of what will happen, but I think it is more fleshed out and real if I write it after the first draft.
Of course, that's what I'm doing now and it doesn't seem to be helping.
I've never had a synopsis run quite this long. Part of the problem I have is that there are some things that, while not essential plot-wise, seem to be essential in motivation for later actions. So I'm kind of stuck in a loop there.
I think I'll just cut it as well as I can and then let the playfriends tell me where to cut some more.


Smarty Pants said...

I start with a basic outline, which is a synopsis of sorts. About halfway through, especially if I'm after a contest that requires one, I do a synopsis. Usually by the time the book is done, however, the synopsis has to be redone because the end of the book has completely changed.


Kathy said...

I've seen one of your synopsis' SP and you know how to do it right. I'm still amazed!

Be brutal, Angel. Sometimes, like a scuptor, you have to chisel away at the marble until the image calling from within is revealed. (MichaelAngelo's process!) Like LJ said, cut away the chaffe, then add what you need. Then again, as SP knows, I have no clue what I'm talking about. LOL. Better take their advice.

Butt glue, huh? I definitely need some. However, I have so many other responsibilites, and I know I'm not the only one, that finding time to insert butt into chair if often asking for too much. It's hard to commit your butt when chores, activities, external agravations and doubt attack your psyche at every turn. After so many years of trying to be all to everyone it's hard to break the cycle. I'm trying but it seems that when I finally get the chance, the writing doesn't flow or I'm exhausted.

Right now, I've got a scene to write that I'm hesitating to do because I feel held back.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

I CAN write a synopsis before I write the book, but it will bear very little resemblance to the actual finished product.

The creative mind is an odd thing. For months, I've been thinking of writing a YA book. I have five grandkids now, and I like the idea of writing something they can read before they hit the age of 21. But nothing came. I would have vague ideas now and then that came to nothing, but to be honest, I've been working pretty much nonstop this year, and I had no spare brain cells. So I'm taking this time off. I retreated with the gang, then worked on organizing some closets, then went on a short vacation with the hubby. On the drive home, I plotted the next Berkley books, which are strictly in the planning stages. I came home and started landscaping. This morning I had to go to the grocery store. We were pretty much out of everything, so I had no choice. On the way home, the main character of my YA was THERE, and the first sentence of the book popped into my head.

The mind is a strange and wonderful place. :-)


Angel said...

Awesome, LJ!!!

I'm right there with you Kathy! Though I've taught my children from a young age that "mommy is writing", right now there are several life projects that are sucking my time away. That's not a good thing, but it's just the way life is right now.

Hence the "forcing myself to put butt into chair" spiel. Because if I let writing slip too low on the priority list, I'm afraid... well, I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, but I just know I'll lose something precious. So even if it is just a few paragraphs per day, I need to do it. I have done it, and it is getting easier. Not easy, but easier. :) It's never easy when the chore of the moment is a synopsis.