Many of my fellow writing parents tell me that the summer school break is a menace to their writing schedule. There's no denying that it's a challenge that takes juggling and creativity. I've already completed the first road trip of the summer, and here are the five benefits I've found (so far).
1. The importance of "location, location, location."
New places and new people add grist to our writing mill. The dysfunctional family at a rest stop..the wise waitress at the roadside cafe..the twitchy person at the front desk of your hotel. They are all new characters, and new things to describe when you are stuck.
On our last trip, there was an older man who had Middle Eastern music blaring out of his pocket at the breakfast buffet. Like all around the buffet. He was a total giver who walked to every corner of the room, so he could share with everybody.
I don't know about you, but I can't think before coffee. I especially can't think over drums and violins before coffee. I was bonkers within five minutes of the Music Man sitting next to us. I put my coffee in a to-go cup, went upstairs and got this dude out of my system and onto the page in a hilarious scene. He was so much fun to write, and I never would have run across him in my usual writing cocoon.
I know most writers are cave dwellers who often don't leave their homes (or their pajamas) for days on end. *hitches up flannel pants* But a new environment brings a fresh view to your story. When I think a scene is boring, the easiest fix is a change of scenery. Go to a coffee shop, or the library, or the park.
2. It takes a village.
Don't be the only set of eyes reading your manuscript. Especially if you don't have a critique group, your summer road trip can be a godsend to your book. Read that baby out loud to your driver. If you're the driver, make your passenger read it to you. You'll clearly see what's missing when you hear your book read out loud.
3. Nothing replaces paper.
I don't know why this is, but the eyes see new things in print than they do on your screen. Every writer I know recommends a printed copy for final revisions.
I also use paper to be able to write in the car. Sometimes my eyes can see the plot better, and the view out of the window can add to the experience. Additionally, I can read those pages to my Dragon software so that the work makes it to the page for more revision. I freak out a little bit if I can't see forward progress, and then all the work gets stalled. God bless Dragon!
4. Take a nap.
Susan and Harry Squires did a fantastic post about Talking Back to Your Brain. They explain why it's important to ask yourself small manageable questions as part of your writing process.
The Squires recommend you not ask yourself large esoteric questions like: "Why am I stuck?" or "Why do I suck, and I can't finish this chapter and I'll never finish this book..." (You get the picture.) Instead, formulate a small specific question like: "I need to get my character from the beach to the mountains. Who should they travel with and why?" You get the picture.
Think small and be specific.
It is completely true that if I'm thinking about an issue with my manuscript and I nod off for a nap, I'll wake up with - if not an answer - at least a potential solution to my issue.
There's cool brain stuff involved in this, so be sure to click the link and read that post!
5. An hour is golden.
As long as you don't get carsick, setting "time chunk" goals is a great way to use your passenger time on a road trip (or the school line, or your lunch break) for writing.
I don't know about you but, if I'm in a timed sprint I write faster. I don't know why. But it just seems like the act of setting a limit on it makes my brain stop lollygagging and bring out its "A" game. I talked about this group sprint concept quite a bit in my Holy-Moly-I-Won NaNoWriMo article a few months back.
Most of all, be flexible and creative. If you need the writing time, find ways to get it. We're writers...we know how to find creative solutions to problems. Or perhaps you'll give yourself permission to just take a break from writing altogether and enjoy your summer break. You're allowed to do that if you don't have a deadline! Really, I promise. You can take a writing break as long you put a specific date on the calendar to get back in the writing saddle.
Bonus Link: Here's a great article on self-editing: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book by Blake Atwood at The Write Life.
What are your most valued tips and tricks when school breaks and vacations smash your writing schedule to smithereens? Do you love the summer break, or hate it? (Enquiring minds want to know!)
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.