When Summer Is the Hardest Time to Write

For several summers in a row, I have had difficulty putting words together. July and August have been writing dead zones. Each year, I have inadvertently taken a complete writing hiatus in July and come back slowly in August – writing blog posts, but not making progress on my novel.

When the weather cools, the days shorten, and the kids go back to school, I get more writing done.

But I don’t like the break. There is always a little voice in the back of my head telling me I should be writing more. And the further I get into the summer, the louder that voice gets.

Next year, I think I will actively take a break from blogging in July – line up a few posts in advance and relax about the blog. I might even take a vacation from trying to produce new work as well. I could treat it as a mini-sabbatical, a prolonged period of feeding my muse rather than asking her to produce.

In the meantime, I am trying to turn August into a productive writing month. I started well with a post over at An Intense Life about getting ready for new schools for all my kids in September. And, I have devised a little project for myself.

I am a Camp NaNoWriMo Rebel. If you haven’t heard, the people who bring you NaNoWriMo in November started a pared-down version that happens in June and August last summer. I thought about participating last year, but I didn’t want to start a new project and my work-in-progress was in a stage of revision that didn’t fit with the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month. So, I skipped it.

This summer, however, I have a lot of first draft writing I want to do. In my class this winter, I did a lot of work sketching out more plot elements and discovering weaknesses in my characterization. I pruned heavily after that class, leaving gaping holes that need filling with new text.

And, NaNo is a great motivator for me to write a lot of new text. So, I am a NaNo Rebel, a NaNo participant who is not following the rules in some crucial way. Some NaNo Rebels write something other than a novel, some work on a work in progress, some work on several pieces; all break the rules but shoot for the 50,000 word count.

I believe in using writing challenges to serve your project. If the challenge doesn’t quite fit, modify it. So I am using the word count challenge as a challenge to generate material to fill the holes in my manuscript. At the end of July, I wrote a list of 31 things to write that will enrich my novel and I will work through those prompts as August continues.

So far, I have followed these prompts:

  • A detailed physical description of the antagonist and the prison from which he escapes (character development)
  • The story of the initial capture of the antagonist (backstory)
  • A phone call between the protagonist and her mother after the first scene of the novel (character development)
  • The first manifestation of the protagonist’s magical powers (backstory)
  • Diary entries in which the protagonist writes about the five kids at school who most impact her life (backstory and character development)

I am not sure how these bits of writing will fit into the next draft of the novel, but it is clear they are going to enrich it. The phone call between the protagonist and her mother is going to go right where the prompt says it should – but the way it turned out means that I will need to add another scene later about how the protagonist and her grandmother respond to the call.

It’s exciting. The novel is moving. My muse is shouting at me; I’m having trouble keeping up.

This is the kick in the pants I needed to get me back to the computer on these beautiful summer days.


About Kate Arms-Roberts


Posted on August 4, 2012, in NaNoWriMo, This Writing Life, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. “I’m having trouble keeping up.” That’s a great feeling! Good luck!

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Thanks, Andrea. It feels great to be writing a lot of new material again rather than revising on the macro scale. I love writing new material and precise word-smithing, but the macro scale editing is really challenging for me.

  2. One foot in front of the other, Kate. I too am having a lot of trouble writing this summer and the guilt is only part of it. This week, I was able to steal away for two hours of writing time
    and it was AMAZING. I felt like I’d met up with an old friend and we were so thrilled to be together again. Today, an adverture is planned for the little one, and although I am tempted to join in, I think I’ll stay behind and meet up with that same friend again.

  3. The macro scale editing is really challenging to me too. Do you think you’re getting any better? I almost have to change my life and be more leftbrain, disciplined, self-denying in life too. Method writing sort of like method acting. 😉

  4. I signed up my homeschooled 11 YO for Nanowrimo for youth. Wondering if anyone has tried it with kids. I’m tempted to try it myself but would have to tweak it like you did. Can’t start a new novel now.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      I tried it with my son last year and it didn’t work, but mostly because I wanted it but he didn’t. If I had truly let him choose his goal and backed off it would have been better.

  5. Go Kate! Glad your challenge is inspiring your muse and advancing your story.

  6. Love your list of 31 things to get your going again. As far as not writing goes, I do think it’s easier when you realize you’re not going to be able to focus on the writing and give into it. Resisting takes so much energy. I had a crazy July and just had to give myself permission not to work on my novel. But I’m excited that you’re back at it!

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