Writing Through Difficult Times

Yesterday I finished a chapter analysis of DisasterMinds and today I begin rewriting the chapters.

This is a HUGE deal.

The last couple months brought major challenges into my life and I had choices to make.  I could take an extended break from writing and come back after things settled down -OR- I could find a process that would keep me writing through all the set-backs.  I chose the latter---not because I'm super stoic and can write through anything dammit and thank-you-very-much---but because writing is my therapy of choice.  When I write, I escape my troubles for a while.  I refresh my soul.  I need to keep writing.

So what's a writer to do with such a scattered brain?  Only one thing works for me:  plan and chart.

Each note card stack contains:

  • beats for the scenes

  • an arc for the chapter

  • sensory detail

  • characters

  • tension and stakes

Each chapter hangs on my little bookcase line in order.  If I have an element in a later chapter that needs foreshadowing, I gaze along the line until I find the place for it and add a note.  I mark problem chapters and determine methods to make them less problematic.

By organizing in this way, I'm able to divide my book-writing into manageable pieces.

While life is throwing rocks at me, the manageable pieces keep me writing.

How about you?  Do you have tricks to keep writing through the difficult times?


  1. I do know what you mean - writing is therapeutic for me, too. I think I pretty much wrote myself out of depression over the last year. Really hope you get through your difficult time soon.

    I don't know that I have any 'tricks' exactly, but I do find that having a detailed outline helps immensely, either with keeping me writing, or helping me get back into it if I've had an attack of page fright. :D

    By the way, what exactly does an arc for a chapter look like? Haven't come across this particular terminology before, but it sounds interesting. :)

  2. Thanks for the response, Ruth! I just pulled together an explanation of my chapter arcs for you. I posted it here: http://johannaharness.com/blog/2011/06/03/chapter-arc/

  3. Although I use writing to get through difficult times, my method is pretty much the opposite of yours. This is when I am least likely to be able to concentrate enough to really organize chapters and scenes. Instead, I just start daydreaming. I escape into the world of my imagination and pull my characters in with me, then I just watch what they do and record it for future reference. Later I rewind the tape and write down what I observed. Although the results are usually pretty rough, they nearly always provide the foundation of the scenes I need. Then, when times are better, I can go back and organize and polish. In the meantime, watching my characters endure and conquer their problems has helped me get through the rough spot in my own life. Hope yours is back on track soon.

  4. There have been times I've gotten through by doing what you've chosen: just keep writing. To feel at least one part of my life was under control *and* set me free from the hassles of life for a while. Lately I'd forgotten how to do that. Perhaps it was just overwhelm. Regardless, it's time I got back to what worked so well in the past. To get control of something that lets me soar. Thank you, Johanna. I wish you strength and peace through these difficult times.

    Take care,

  5. I love seeing how you keep writing. It's fascinating how many different approaches there are to the same craft. Thanks so much for the well wishes too!

  6. Yes. The less I can control other aspects of my life, the more I need to write. Following a path that's worked in the past makes a lot of sense. Thanks so much for the well wishes, Jess!


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