Spooky Middle Grade Authors Talk About Writing During the Pandemic
During these difficult days, I reached out to the Spooky MG Authors to see how they were coping and if they had an advice for other writers. Here’s their responses:
I’m honestly writing more, because my kids’ schedules and working outside the home add logistics that steal a lot of hours from my day. Being quarantined removes all of those things. My day job is a s busy as ever, but I’m back to my old writing routine of settling in around 8 or 9 pm, having a bit of downtime, then writing until I’m too sleepy to keep going.
My main recs, especially for those who typically leave the house to write or write when the kids are gone, are: Use cancelling headphones and music. Any day it’s warm enough, write outside, or kick everyone else outside. Wait ‘til they’re all on tech (or withhold tech until you’re ready to write) then write like the wind. If you’re on Zoom all the time and are sick of screens, go analog and use a notebook.
The hard part for me is focus. I’ve done a ton of book promotion and graphic design tasks since quarantine started, i.e. stuff that I can easily do while my brain is somewhere else. The hard part has been conjuring the kind of deep emotional focus I need to write a novel. I’m getting better at it, but it’s taken a while to regain that ability to turn off the real world.
I have started a new chapter book series, kind of a Dr. Dolittle Jr. meets bugs with a STEM twist. I have been kind of stuck, so I ordered some books on bees and bus and a few chapter books to get me inspired.
I’m struggling to write despite currently working from home, which means I have two extra hours in the day that I would normally spend commuting. The only way I’ve been able to write is through Zoom writing sprints or write-ins. Something about hear hearing other people clacking away keeps me motivated. Otherwise I have no focus to sit and write. I feel so anxious all the time.
When the Covid-19 scare began, I was mapping out an altered view of an old idea I had for an MG story. I didn’t think the outside world would creep in. But it has. Even turning to my go-to inspiration of research hasn’t helped. Cyberspace is corroded with all the negative, making it hard to research online. I find myself dazing off thinking about all the possibilities. It’s not all tear drops and woes, though. I’ve spent precious time with my husband and kids, and I’ve also had extra time to guide our German Shepherd in her training, which is almost as tough a feat as writing this next MG. I’ve also cut out most of my news watching over the past week or so and turned to prayer, which has cleared my mind. I’ve been able to point some meat on my story ideas, so I’m headed in the right direction.
I have been writing during the pandemic, but it has been difficult. My motivation is that I’ve been on deadline for my next book, ARROW, so I’ve been forced to get to the page. But it has still been hard to focus. My better days are ones when I don’t look at the news and what’s going on with the outside world. I still want to know what’s going on, but I’ve been trying to limit it to afternoons and only a couple times a week.
When I can focus on my writing, I’m finding it wonderful to be in the story’s world and outside of my own for a short period. To stay focused, I’ve also been trying to find the beauty in my own life, the trees, flowers, birds out the window.
I’ve been able to work on a new book. That’s the good news. But I have a book out late this summer and who knows how that will come together? And another out next summer.
Mostly however, I’m anxious. Both my husband and I are in the compromised group. Our son lives in Seattle. I do not want to get this virus. And I’m worried for the world.
But we have a cabin in the mountains, and that has been such a safe place in the midst of this – it’s remote but has (poor) internet and no television, so we can truly get away. That’s why I’ve been able to write. Being able to walk, to breathe clean air, to feel safe at a distance – that’s a true gift I wish I could share.
I’ve gotten very little writing done. Part of that is because I’ve had a ton of teaching work to focus. I’ve tried to write but grading other people’s writing has been easier. One thing I’ve done, though, is set up a Zoom write-in with my local writers’ group—plus one or two others. One of my crit partners and I had been meeting in person every Friday afternoon for a couple hours at a coffee shop—pre-pandemic—and it really helped to focus us. (I’d even started something new.) So now we’re meeting via Zoom. Usually 3-5 of us at a time. We chitchat a bit, but mostly we just write (or work). One week we did a table read of my friend’s sitcom for him. That was blast. We’ve also done our monthly manuscript critiques this way.
I had a baby in winter, and then, you know, the world turned upside down, and now I barely know where I am. Writing-wise, I’m pretty much unmoored. I’m alone all day with one five-year-old and one four-month-old and no childcare (my parents were helping with the baby, but we haven’t seen them or anyone else in over a month and a half). If I get up around 5 am, before anyone else is awake, I can sometimes squeeze in a tiny bit of writing, and that is saving my sanity. But by the end of each day, I am mentally and emotionally DONE. The strange thing is: I am overflowing with story stuff right now. I have four big projects bubbling, and poems and short stories popping up, and all I want to do is sit down somewhere quiet with a giant cup of coffee and lose myself in other worlds, maybe for a very, very long time. But I can’t. And I have no idea how long it will be before I will get to focus that way again, which is a question so big that I try not to think about it at all.
For the first few weeks of the shelter-at-home, as the true impact of the pandemic descended, I couldn’t write at all. I had started a new MG story prior to the chaos, but as the magnitude of the pandemic took hold, I went totally blank. I had to start doing practical stuff like housework, cooking, baking—I’ve learned how to make a sourdough starter and fresh breads! I guess I needed to see something positive accomplished—if only for a short period with the housecleaning anyway. Then with the encouragement of my writers’ group through our weekly Zoom sessions, I made myself start working on my story again. Writing became a way to filter out the real world and retreat to another world, if only for a little while. Although at our last writers’ meeting, we discussed how much our WIP will need to reflect our current changed world—virtual learning, masks, no crowds. It is indeed a challenging time, but I find great comfort in our efforts to stay connected and supportive through it all.
A few final tips to help keep your writing on track:
- Make a Progress/Accountability Chart
- Set goals—daily, weekly, monthly
- Carve out a specific writing time/schedule
- Challenge yourself to generate new ideas
- Finish a project you’ve already started
- Or if you just can’t write, participate in webinars or other learning tools on improving your craft
The plus side of this crisis—extra reading time. We hope you’ve jumped into some great stories. We will do our best to continue writing them for you!