WRITING FEATURE Keeping your focus in the holidays

Christmas is coming…. For many of us, a time of overeating, presents and family fun, but what about creativity? Caroline Deacon suggests ways to keep your writ-ing mojo going over the festive season, or indeed during other super busy family times.

It can be hard to keep focused on your writing over the Christmas break, especially if you’ve already written yourself into the ground with Nanowrimo, but if you let everything slide it’ll be even harder to get back into the writing frame of mind in January. However, rather than fighting against the distractions, I’d like to suggest you can work with them to develop your writing in other ways.

For instance, avoid working on projects which involve total immersion. For me that would mean forgetting about being deep into a novel. Instead, plan your work to fit the time and mental space that you do have. So don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t do and work with the time you have, not against it. Here are some ways of writing which could work right now.

25 minute writing sprints: use them for getting bad words on the page or for sitting with pen and paper and brainstorming ideas. Those ideas will continue to percolate through your subconscious while you digest the turkey in front of whatever classic film you choose.

And on the subject of watching films: use this as an exercise in analysing story. Have pen and paper handy and jot down thoughts that occur, but your aim is to watch as a writer. How are they creating char-acter? Is there any interesting dialogue you could learn from? Phrases? Dialect? Look out for that classic three act structure.

I discovered Save the Cat - Writes a Novel this year, which is based on the famous Save the Cat screenwriting book. This is an excellent book to spend gift tokens on, and great to learn from to at this time of year when there is a surfeit of film to analyse, especially films you already know and love.

Now is also the time to dip in and out of those other ‘how to’ write’ books. Scatter them around and read the odd page when you’re passing. Use some of those nice sticky labels you will get as a Christmas present to bookmark any insights which will help when you get back to writing proper.
That lovely new notebook you got for Christmas? Use it start a book journal. Make a new year’s resolution: every time you read a book, you’ll create a review of it in your journal for yourself as a writer, noting things like how the author created charac-ter, thoughts about point of view, structure, etc… All this will help when you return to when writing.

Finally, if you are still desperate for new words on the page but know you can’t have the total immersion needed for a novel, why not try short stories, poems or picture books? Those can be started in a spare hour and returned to whenever there is a little time to spare. I already have a list of ideas for picture books I might work on in between visits to baste the turkey.

All pictures: Caroline Deacon

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at www.carolinedeacon.com

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