Christine Kohler

Children's Book Author, Editor, Writing Instructor

Double Knot Photography

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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog


October 5, 2018

Tags: how-to writing, recursive writing, National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO, novel writing, writers block

photo by voltamax
by Christine Kohler

Even though Iíve admitted to not joining in National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO), this topic would help aspiring novelists to make their goal in November. I, personally, donít like to drag out writing a first draft for a multitude of reasons. For me, itís easier to revise words on a page than it is to get those initial ideas down on paper. For many writers, they never finish that first draft. It becomes the ďnovel in the drawer.Ē Imagine how many novels those type of writers could have completed and polished during the time they dragged out for a year (or more) writing the first draft.


I bought ART & FEAR for my daughter, but started reading it myself. I donít usually recommend books I havenít finished, but this is one Iím really enjoying in unexpected ways. I donít think of myself as being fearful to create art. However, being introspective, I do some things that show fear, causing me to procrastinate before writing sessions. For one, I circle like a cat before settling down.

Examine ways that you hold yourself back from plunging into writing sessions. Are you critical of your writing? Do you compare yourself with other authors? Do you self-edit to the point of hindering moving forward? Do you get stuck easily, then delay days before writing again? Once youíve identified the fear that holds you back, then itís easier to face, and break those negative cycles.


Iíve confessed before that Iím a pantser, but mid-way through I reverse outline. However, if you are on a really tight deadline, outlining prior to writing the story will move you forward at a swifter and steadier pace. It doesnít have to be a formal outline. Or a long outline. But just enough so when you begin each writing session that you know what comes next.


Figure out how many words or pages you write on average per hour. Then figure about how many words or pages you expect your novel to be. Often a certain line for different publishers pre-determines length. Or if youíre doing NANOWRIMO, you have a word goal for one month. Then do the math. Once you figure how many words or pages you need to write per day, and how long that will take, write it on the calendar. If necessary, make set appointments with yourself based on your schedule between work and family. If this seems unrealistic, keep in mind that if you do get a coveted book contract with a publisher, you will be expected to work on a tight deadline. Itís the old adage, ďYou make time for what is important to you.Ē


When you need to end a writing session, do so in the middle of a sentence. Or write the first paragraph of the next scene, or chapter. I write myself a note in brackets telling what comes next. Otherwise, if you end a session at the end of a scene or chapter, itís harder to pick it up the next day and move forward. You may spend too much time circling the block, or from the kitchen to the bathroom to a chore, trying to figure out what comes next. Leave yourself fresh breadcrumbs in the forest of doubt.


Iíve written about recursive before in a blog article ďGetting Unstuck.Ē Recursive writing is when you write one day, then the next day you go back and read and tweak what you wrote, then move forward. The trick is that you canít start from the beginning after your second day of writing. Also, donít get bogged down in heavy rewrites or you wonít be able to move forward.


Again, I recommend you read my article ďGetting Unstuck.Ē [Articles on this Authors Guild website are easier to find by title on the Blogletter tab than they are on the Blog tab.]

Twice Iíve been in family-life situations where I could not write long hours and every day. Both times my first draft dragged out longer than usual. And in both instances, I had a harder time getting into the writing each session, and got stuck more often. What I did in both cases was this little trick. When I found myself taking excruciating long to move forward, I wrote what scene needed to happen next in brackets, then skipped writing that scene. When I told myself in writing what needed to happen next, I didnít bother to do so in the tense or person or voice of the novel.

For example, I donít drink or go to clubs. But I needed to write a scene where the protagonist is at drinking and dancing at a club, and discovers her stalker is present at the club with her. I must have been stuck for two weeks on not being able to write that scene. So, finally, I put what needed to happen in brackets, then moved to the next scene where my protagonist leaves the club, drives home, and is arrested for DUI. I had no problem writing that scene and rolling forward.

What happened in the cases where I skipped writing out scenes, but made notations to myself in brackets, was that in revisions I told myself, ďYour only job today is to write this scene.Ē In some instances, it took me two days to write that scene. But when I did it was fully developed.

The main thing to keep in mind with all of these suggestions, from overcoming fear to getting unstuck, is that the first draft is like finger painting. Your job is to get the idea down on paper. Itís not a finished work of art. Itís only the line drawing, or the colors smeared around. Finger painting is messy. But have fun with it. Revision is where you flesh out the characters and scenes and strengthen the story arc and plot strands. Itís where your finger painting takes form and shape and because a recognizable picture. Tell yourself, ďThis is the first draft, itís supposed to be messy.Ē Then just do it.

Selected Works

E-Book, Non-fiction, writers
e-book on Kindle for those interested in writing biblical-based stories, articles, poems. Ideal for supplemental curriculum for homeschool.
This series covers everything you need to know to organize a glee or show choir.
"...Internet sites that are kept up to date and used as a resource for students writing research projects. The Report Links provide such useful sources as documents, photographs, and illustrations...." ĖLibrary Media Connection, October 2006
Refugees: Hear their voices. Read about children who lived through wars, and sought to find safe homes. They moved to a new country for a better life.
A young man. An old soldier. A terrible injustice. But should the punishment be death?
Anthologies, Collections
Activities for outdoor play, sand and water play.
Activities for teachers to help children ages 3-6 learn about the world around them.
100 activities for teachers of children 3-5
Fiction, ages 5-9
When Jennifer and Scotty Harper encounter problems in life, they come up with solutions to overcome difficulties, and learn to trust Jesus in the process.

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