So for months, the only writing work I've been able to successfully accomplish involved not CREATION but only REVISION. These are not equal activities. I can tell a big difference between CREATION which takes a clear, uncluttered mind and longer periods of blank, free time -- versus REVISION, with I can do in short snippets and in between non-writing activities. (And while on call, true.)
I have two different books out on submission right now. (commence the nail biting!) That means waiting and doing ... something. So, the best activity is to write the second books to follow each of those submitted ones. Mission accomplished on one of them (I wrote book #2 a few years ago, thank goodness!). But the other book/series? I turned in the 2nd book for submission in June and immediately started thinking about a sequel. Every day, think, think, think. Come on, sequel. No words would come out. Weeks went by. I'd hit a terrible wall. Then came a little kernel of idea. A snippet of dialogue. A scene paragraph. But that was it. Nothing more would come.
The more I fretted about the lack of words, the less the words came. A vicious dive down a black hole that kept getting worse and worse.
I even managed to come up with a very rough outline. It was ... meh. As they say in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "...dry like toast."
Then I did what any good doctor -- I mean writer -- should do. I took a dose of my own medicine!
Why was I starting with a plot point or a need to write a sequel? Why, when every other book I've written has started with the tiny kernel of idea and ... CHARACTERS.
You see, I had committed a key writing sin. One that I did years ago on my most difficult book to write so far. I didn't create my characters first. Didn't do the 10-page character interviews. Didn't use character motivations to generate conflict or plot. I had skipped a big step. Tried to jump straight to the drafting stage, which I know is quick and relatively painless for me. In short, I GOT GREEDY. Or lazy. Pick which word suits.
Here's what I realized -- the reason the drafting process had been relatively quick and painless in the past had to do with the fact that I had done my homework: character interviews, events/plot points, outline, and a super detailed outline. Then -- and only then -- came drafting. Come on, writer, you know better than to take shortcuts!
What do you know? Those detailed character interviews and insights led me to the conflict and plot. And bingo, bango -- we've got a book to draft.
Moral of the story: 1) don't take shortcuts and 2) when you find a process that works, don't mess with it!