Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guest Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. with Applying Velcro to the Writer's Chair

Hi everyone! I’m thrilled to turn over the blogging reins today to an amazing fellow author (not to mention my kick-butt critique partner) Katey Coffing, whom I love despite the fact that her high energy levels make me look like a slug most days. Not only is she a coach for women writers, many of whom she has shepherded on to publication, but she also writes lush, drool-worthy fantasy romance, earning herself a Golden Heart final last year with the sumptuous Kiss of Fate, which is currently out on submission to find a home of its own. Katey’s writing is one of my favorite escapes, and her advice is always spot-on, so I thought I’d have her over to talk shop today. She’ll be in to chat, so please say hello!

A novelist's goal is to create a tale that will enthrall her readers. Sometimes the process of creating the story engrosses the author, too, and the novel practically types itself. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn't, and we have to painstakingly assemble the words. Sometimes writing feels like volunteering to get run over by a squad of bulldozers.

Most of us have figured out some tricks to keep ourselves going, even when the fun-seeking kid within us is shouting, "Noooo, I don't wanna!" In my years as a coach for women writers, I've discovered and shared many of these handy tricks, and here are a few.

Promise yourself a nice reward after sitting down and getting something done, whether that something is a scene, a page, or even a paragraph. Make the reward match the amount you get done (or how hard it was for you to do it). Rewards for different levels could include ten minutes to check your email or read blogs, half an hour of enjoying a favorite author's latest book, buying a new CD, or getting a shoulder and neck massage to soothe those typing aches. (If a massage therapist isn't in the budget, consider a mutual "massage reward" agreement with your spouse, a friend, or a critique partner.)

Write Out of Order
Who says you have to do Scene 5 before Scene 6, or even before Scene 27? If Scene 5 is driving you crazy, skip ahead to something that isn't. In the process of writing what comes before and after the problem section, you'll often discover the solution.

Deadlines Are Your Friend
Tell a critique partner or friend (or several of them) what you want to get done that day--and ask them to hold you to it. The potential embarrassment of reporting in empty-handed will get words flowing.

Timer Magic
A simple kitchen timer can do wonders for your determination. Set it and challenge yourself to write a certain number of words during that time. For more about how a timer can get your fingers cruising over the keyboard, see this:

If you dread filling a blank page, try writing the dialogue first. You'll end up with the bare bones of a scene you can flesh out afterwards. Plus, dialogue created this way is often snappier than what's produced during a slower, more thorough scene draft.

Writers, what else have you done to keep yourself going even after you just don't wanna? And those of you who aren't writers, I'm sure you've discovered favorite techniques to complete other "don't wanna" things, so please chime in.

Although I have client appointments today, I'll try to check in every couple of hours, and I look forward to having everyone share what works!

Goalmeister Katey Coffing, Ph.D. is a 2007 Golden Heart® finalist and a certified life coach who guides women writers to success. She delights in helping her clients complete and polish their manuscripts, create kick-ass queries and synopses, and get The Call from agents and editors. Discover more at


  1. Hi Katey,
    Thanks for joining us today! Your advice is spot on. So often we fail to take a moment to celebrate the small accomplishments that add up to bigger ones. Your blog is a good reminder to stop and smell the roses every now and then!

  2. Hi Katey! Thanks for being our guest today:-) I love your suggestions. Think I need to figure out a way to incorporate the massage thing into my personal reward system...hmm:-)

  3. Hi Marie and Kendra! Thanks for inviting me here. And yep, rewards are goooooood. :)

    (RE the woman being massaged, the smile on her face makes me want to beam myself directly into the nearest spa.)

  4. Very interesting! And thank you for sharing with us Katey. I have to say that I have never forced writing upon myself. Never done the timer or deadline thing. I will keep that in mind. I do know that one thing which really helps me when I am struggling with a certain part, is to move away from it...literally! Put the laptop aside and go do some inane, mindless chore like gardening or cleaning the fish tanks or vacuuming. I can't tell you how many scenes and total conversations have unraveled during those times! I am sure the cat thinks I am insane for talking to myself while dusting, but then he thinks all humans are insane anyway!

  5. Hi Katey!
    (Aunty waves madly at my SVR Chaptermate) Thanx a bunch for blogging with us today!

    I'm with Sharon, when I'm stuck, I like to get away from the story. I've had more than one break through driving to and from lunch with my BFF! The other way I let my subconscious "work" on my storyline is to think about it right before I fall asleep. I often dream scenes from my WIP and some of them even make their way into the book!


  6. Heh heh, Sharon, cats do have that opinion, don't they! Thank goodness they consent to live with us anyway. (Sez the woman with four.)

    Ways to solve a sticky scene problem could fill a whole other post (or a couple of books, really). The solution you've discovered is an excellent one that a lot of people find helpful. (Amazing how cleaning has side benefits, isn't it? Don't come to my house to check on that, though, 'cause it doesn't work for me. (grin))

    Other people have solutions pop up while they're driving, in the shower, while staring out the window (my personal favorite)... Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way ( encourages walking, and I've found that useful, too. There's something about the body moving while the brain gets to zone out (but not too much while driving, we hope) that lets the subconscious find the answers.

  7. Cindy!!! Great to "see" ya here, and I'm so glad I get to run and play with all the Casa authors today.

    I totally agree with you on the subconscious stuff (123jinx!). Like you, I've had luck hammering out a particular problem right before sleep, and my favorite time is before getting out of bed in the morning. (Not only do I get to hit the snooze button, but I get to do it guilt-free. :D ) There's something about that half-asleep, half-dreaming state that engages the mental solution-maker.

  8. Oh yeah! While sleeping! I am quite sure I have dreamt up whole amazing, Pulitzer prize winning novels while asleep or drifting off! Ha! Too bad I usually am only left with vague impressions when I wake up. But, many times the scene has played out so vividly that it sticks with me. In fact, I began this whole venture in writing because I had dream-scenes playing over and over that just refused to go away!

    I do a lot of staring into space. My husband laughs at me all the time. And, to be perfectly honest and warn anyone driving in the central valley of California, driving back and forth to work can be an inspirational time!

  9. Hi Katey, great blog! Love this site, too! I do like these suggestions and I have seriously never tried the reward system before. I'm going to figure out what my PRIZE will be for finishing 5 pages a day and then maybe having that prize dangled in front of me (like a picture on my wall) will motivate me! I like it! I'm going to give it a try and I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks!

  10. Sharon, I'm going to wish you more inspiration while driving (and continued good driving skills while doing it, LOL).

    Theresa, you GO, girl! Have fun earning those wonderful rewards. And you know, if you have a photo that reminds you of the big reward you'll give yourself for finishing, tape it to your computer! (This reminds me of some old cartoon--maybe a Bugs Bunny one?--in which a character wore something on his head that literally dangled a carrot in front of his eyes...)

  11. I keep a calendar on my bulletin board. I get to put a sticker(yes, a sticker, just like in kindergarten)for writing a certain number of pages.

  12. Visual reinforcement! That's wonderful, Mary.

    I keep an Excel log to track my writing, so I do something similar--but I doubt it's as much fun as stickers. :)

  13. Welcome Katey, and thanks for the good and practical advice. I do the timer trick too, and the dialog trick. I'm going to try the rewards trick next--that sounds like the best one!

  14. Hi Katey, some great ideas. So far I haven't run into a problem of not wanting to write, or needing rewards. But I will certainly keep the ideas in my back pocket

    I did find after the death of my mother this past Christmas, that everything I wrote for three months was so depressing I had to toss it and start a completely new story. That really came as a shock. And huge catch up problems.

    I do believe in taking regular breaks during the day, stretching my legs, and eating healthy lunches, are a must. Doing something mindless, will sometimes clear up a plot problem or present an amazing insight and perhaps send me down an unexpected path.

    I have to have a voice activated tape recorder when I'm driving, otherwise I try to write notes on my knee. lol.

    It really is a good idea to think about these things and be conscious of them. Thank you for your expertise

  15. Thanks, Christina and Michelle. Yes, mindless, that's perfect--the "zen zone" that also yields creative ideas!

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