Posted in blogging, General

On Being Overwhelmed

Normally I like to set one project a month to focus on, for a couple of reasons. One, I’m not as likely to get distracted by a million other projects I want to work on. Two, it makes it easier to break down huge tasks into smaller ones. In a perfect situation, that means I’m not juggling a multide of things to do.

Life being what it is however, that’s not always the case. For this month, I’m not only juggling my main project, but also a new job, and trying to put together some semblance of a plan for what I’m doing with Crimson and Gold. Faced with the first round of edits on my current project, wanting to start NaNoPrep and figuring out what I need to do for a launch, it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day.

When facing a seemingly insurmountable task–or tasks, as the case very well is–often it helps to take a step back. Some of that overwhelming feeling comes from picking up more things and forgetting not everything has to be done right now. Often it helps to figure out which tasks can be done later. In this case, that happens to be my NaNoPrep.

Another part of that is also to break the large tasks down into smaller tasks. For my first round of edits, that means breaking it down into doing a plot overview and an outline so I can fix a couple of larger plotholes. For sorting out Crimson and Gold, that means taking a day or two and coming up with a plan so I can check things off as they get done. After all, I’m at least a few months away from publishing that, which means plenty of time to organize myself so I’m not swamped by huge amounts of work.

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed?

Posted in General

On Not Letting Doubt Win

Writers often have many companions. The muse that brings us inspiration. The lurking block sulking in the corner when we chase it off. A few stray (and possibly sentient) dust bunnies in the corners of our homes. Numerous characters who are absolutely insistent that the best time to talk to you is when you’re in the middle of something else and can’t stop and write down all the interesting bits to go with their story.

And doubt.

Doubt comes in a lot of forms. Doubt that maybe our story won’t sell, or maybe our query letter isn’t strong enough. Doubt that we can come up with another idea, write another story. Doubt that we’re too old, too young, not good enough, can’t write well enough, will never be as good as that person over there–

Doubt is a writer’s frequent companion. Self-doubt is especially strong. The reasons for that are probably based in statistics and science that I don’t happen to have my dears.  Ask any of your writer friends you know and they’ll probably have at least one or two doubts that they admit to having. Popular writers have admitted to doubt. Prolific ones have.

While I wish there was a simple solution to dealing with doubt, it is rather unfortunately, what has stopped many other writers from continuing to write before they’ve even finished their first draft. Writing is hard work, and the reward is sometimes minimal. Having doubt hanging around your shoulders only makes it harder. What are we supposed to do when doubt bites?

Do it anyways.

Write your story. Send your queries. Hit publish. Do whatever it your little toothy nemesis is telling you you can’t do, or that you shouldn’t do or you’re not good enough to do.

Take a look around and you’ll find dozens of stories of doubt and the writers who fought with it. Ones who thought ‘maybe I’m not experienced enough to write this’. Ones who are a little afraid they’ll never be able to write another story as good as the first. Ones who were starting to doubt they would ever get published or sold. You might also find a reoccurring theme there.

A lot of those doubts are things that they have since overcome. Doubt your book is going to get picked out of the slush pile? Throw it in anyways.  Doubt you have anything new to write about? Write it anyways.

Writing is hard work. Doubt makes it harder, but there are two things to remember. One, your path is different than anyone else’s. Everyone starts somewhere a little different, with a little uniqueness to bring to the table.

Two, it’s hard but it can’t get any easier if you don’t give yourself a chance. Every chance you take in spite of that doubt is one chance closer to the one that works for you. That’s not to say you’ll get it right a hundred percent of the time. But if you’re not trying, you’re not getting it right even five percent of the time either.

Posted in General

A Look Ahead

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, now is a good time to start looking ahead. For me, that’s seeing where I am on the goals I wanted to achieve for this year, and what I still want or need to be done.

At this point, I’m pretty happy with where I’m sitting for what I wanted done this year. As September closes out, I’m looking at what I’ve gotten written and where I need to go with it next.

First up on the list of projects is one I mentioned in the beginning of August. About halfway through September I realized I had two major problems with Hero Stones. The first being that I had too many points of view. Part of that was because there are a lot of ideas I feel like I can use. The other part of that is because the characters I’ve created are ones I find interesting, which naturally tends to breed more inspiration about what their lives and struggles might be like.

The other massive issue with Hero Stones I’ve run into is a major problem with the timeline. For the first drafts done back in July, timeline holes weren’t an issue, but as I’m getting ready to start on edits, it needs to be worked out. Because I already have a general idea of what’s happening thanks to the drafts I’ve already completed, working out the timeline for the first ten or so has been fairly easy.

Because of those two major issues, I’ve decided to trim the focus down to just one hero. Unfortunately, that means an almost complete rewrite of four of the completed ‘episodes’ so far. Hero Stones is going to be my NaNo project (rebels unite!).

My second project is several years older. It’s been on and off the back burner for the last three years at least. While I give myself a break from Hero Stones before NaNo, I took it back out and found a lot of places where my writing skills simply hadn’t been up to par for what this particular project needs. Until I have an actual draft of that done however, it’ll remain fairly under wraps, but I’m leaning heavily towards trying the same episodic format I’ve found for Hero Stones on it.

Ideally by the time December closes out, I’d like to have at least the first five episodes of Hero Stones completely rewritten, as well as an official working title for my second project.We’ll see how October and November go, and what ends up happening.

What are your writing goals for the end of the year?

Posted in General, writing

Your Drafts Don’t Have to Make Sense

One of the things I hated most out of any class in my school career was hearing the words “your drafts will be graded.” Partially because I am very much a discovery writer. My early drafts are largely out of order, miss entire sections necessary to make sense, or even worse, are centered entirely around the wrong thing. Partially because in the case of school essays, because it was expected that early drafts made sense.

Thankfully that fact does not hold true, especially not in creative writing. An early draft is you learning the story, and hearing from the characters what they think happened. It doesn’t need to make sense because it is, in essence, the base materials for building your house or garden or whatever you choose to think of your story as. You always want to have extra materials on hand, and sometimes you’ll simply decide that the paint scheme needs changing.

Early drafts don’t have to make sense because they’re little more than you determining what sort of puzzle you’re putting together. Maybe it’s one of those glow in the dark ones, that only reveals a hidden picture when you turn out the lights. Maybe it’s simple and goes together pretty easily. Or maybe it has lots of details to form an intricate final scene. Perhaps its one of those ones with no border.

That’s not to say that early drafts make no sense at all. Dumping a few thousand words into the same story is bound to make something, after all. As a writer however, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to share those early drafts. The only person who has to grade them in the end, is you.

Posted in General, writing

Writing From Experience

Over the weekend while cleaning out our garage I injured my wrist and will be in a brace for the next week. Naturally, I’m right handed and it’s my right wrist in a brace. It’s amazing how much you use your dominant hand for up until you injure it or its supporting joint. Of course like many writers, while chicken-pecking this post out, there is a tiny part of my brain filing the information gained from this away for the next time I need to injure a character or otherwise impede their ability to use their limbs.

There is however, something to be said for writing from experience. Not merely writing from what we know, but from our perspective. Some of you may know that I have severe anxiety. To date I have only drawn on that particular experience with one (currently shelved) fiction project. Part of the reason that project was put aside was that I had only recently learned about my disorder and didn’t feel as though I had the knowledge or the right to write a character like that.

The irony in that idea isn’t lost on me. I write primarily in the fantasy genre, and yet aside from whatever magic created by words on the page I have none of my own. That has never stopped me before. In my forays into science fiction, I am happy to rely on research, and the same applies when checking historical data. Yet when it came down to something I live with everyday, my experience felt invalid.

The reasons behind that could be numerous. Perhaps its partially due to the heavy stigma still surrounding mental health. Perhaps it was due to the relative newness at the time of finally having a name for the constant buzz of worry-energy-fear always in my thoughts. Perhaps it was a lot of things. Regardless of what it was, that project sat untouched for more than two years.

That is, until Sunday morning, while trying to puzzle out how to get sugar from the bowl to my coffee cup with my very non-dominant left hand. It occurred to me that this was a temporary obstacle in my story. I will be back to the regular use of my right hand in a few days. Perhaps with a marginal amount of skill in my left, but returned all the same. I’m lucky in that.

There are however, others who will not have such luck. Their injuries may be permanent, and they may be learning to use one hand on a permanent basis. And the challenges they face also change with their unique situations. The same can be said for all of us, whether we face a mental health struggle, or a disadvantage because of social or economic factors.

Writing from experience isn’t merely writing a character who would make the same choices we would, it’s also writing about the same struggles and obstacles we face. Writers have a unique way of casting light on places that are often times left in shadow, and bringing empathy out of our readers.

If there is one thing I do know for certain, it is that if one person thinks it, another does as well. And I certainly know it would have been nice to have a name for my anxiety much sooner than I did. If I can bring a little light to someone else by writing from my experience, then it’s time to do so. Once I’m out of the brace, I’ll be dusting off that project.

Are there any projects you’ve written from your experience?