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Monday, December 29, 2008

Write the Moment

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

There are times when writers are inspired to write the moment. It’s a place, time, event or a significant moment with a loved one that can inspire the writing muse within us. But what we may be inspired to write is something other than the next scene in our current work in progress (WIP).

Why is this a problem?

Because if we do not discipline or redirect the impulsive urge to write something new, we may never finish our current project. Many talented authors, published and unpublished alike, have a number of unfinished manuscripts. You can’t sell what isn’t finished. Nor can you experience that feeling of accomplishment if you haven’t completed it. And if you’re on deadline, you MUST abide by your contract and meet your deadline on that specific book.

You might feel that you can’t write your best if you aren’t in the mood to write, or if you’re feeling inspired to write a Scottish Medieval and your current WIP is an American historical. Your best writing is when your internal muse is inspired. So how do you take advantage of writing the moment when you’re on deadline or determined to finish your current WIP?

My advice is to go ahead and write the moment so you can get it out of your system and back to your current WIP. It may be a scene, several different inspiring phrases on a particular subject such as the sea, the woods, or the snow. Keep a log of these inspirational scenes and phrases. There are days when a writer’s well is dry and you may need to draw from your over abundance of past writing muses.

The last time I was at the beach, I was in the mood to write, but my current WIP was a historical set in Hartsville, South Carolina with no nearby beach. So I sat on the balcony, overlooking the ocean and the rising sun shining across the rippling surface of the water like shards of crystals and wrote at least twenty different phrases that described the waves crashing upon the shore and the atmosphere of the sea.

I keep a log of novel phrases and these will go under the category of “Sea Descriptions” in my log. Next time I’m writing a novel with a beach scene, I’ll pull out these phrases for inspiration. I may use a few as they are or they may inspire me to write something fresh and new. The point is that I didn’t waste writing the moment. I stored it away for a time when it will be useful.

Create a Novel Scene Log and Novel Phrase Log on your computer. Set up a few basic categories and add to it as you go. I write my log like a book in Microsoft Word and I set up the categories as headings and subheadings. I then use detailed Table of Contents feature so I can easily search for the phrases and topics I might want to look up later. This log system will help you when your creative well runs dry and it will also take advantage of when you want to write the moment.


Hi Jennifer. Great advice. I know that I wake up in the middle of the night constantly with brand new ideas floating around in my head. I have a whole notebook devoted to these "dreams" but I make sure I never stop on my current wip. Sure, I take breaks here and there when life gets in the way...Well, that's probably not good either, but I'm working on it! :)

Hi Jennifer -

Thanks for commenting at my blog.

Your advice is timely. A few days ago, the Christmas story supercharged my writing instincts.

Yet, time is an issue. I'm on deadline with a devotional that is giving me a hard time, and my WIP hasn't seen the light of day for a month.

I jotted down the basic idea. Your logbook is a great way to keep track of all the bits and pieces. Thanks for the advice.

Susan :)

Great advice Jennifer! Right now I'm almost done with my wip and I just can't seem to find the will to write the ending. And yet new scenes from new stories keep bugging me.
I love how you thought of twenty different phrases for the ocean. Amazing exercise.

So true! I blogged about this recently, too; about the "snapshots" that happen day-to-day, lending themselves to written pieces. Great post!

And thanks for stopping by my blog. :)