Posted in General

Everyone Is Afraid

Originally I’d planned today’s post to be on co-authoring, but in light of the reaction to COVID-19, I wanted to address the concerns plaguing the world. The fact is, the reactions we’ve seen are massive. Here in the US schools are closed or are having their spring breaks extended. In my state, there has been some talk of postponing the end of the year tests. Employees are sent home for a cough and told not to come back until they’ve been tested. National Emergency has been declared, and people are scared. 

This is reflected across the world. Canada. Ireland. Australia. Schools are closed, large gatherings are cancelled. People are told to self-isolate and travel is heavily restricted.  There are shortages of incredibly questionable items.

In the face of all this, things look grim. There are no concrete answers to what the next steps are even while researchers, scientists and medical professionals work to contain and combat the virus.

There are however, things to keep in mind and reassure yourself with. To start, do a self-assessment.

Are you currently ill? If no, do the things you would normally to stop yourself from getting sick–wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face and if you know someone who is sick, don’t hug or kiss them.

If you are ill, stay at home. Enjoy some of your favorite shows, drink plenty of fluids and follow medical advice.

If you need to stock up, please, please pick up reasonable amounts. Remember that although it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, there is such a thing as being over prepared. Also keep in mind that for those of you buying up large cases of water and toilet paper that you’re not facing a natural disaster, you’re facing an outbreak of a virus. Tap water will still be available. You do not need six months of toilet paper.

In the event you end up having to self-quarantine, even temporarily, there are plenty of ways to socialize without having to be around people. Messaging systems like Skype, Discord and FaceTime give you a way to be around people without having to be near them. You can call and chat with people even while they continue their day-to-day lives. Work from home if you’re able.

Above all else, remember that as scared as you are, everyone else is scared as well. The virus itself may never come anywhere near you or your family, but the actions you and others take out of fear will have a much bigger impact.  Fighting over basic supplies won’t help anyone. Checking in on your vulnerable community members and helping them get the things they need such as cough and cold medications or soap and hand sanitizer will help protect your community as a whole and minimize the spread and any potential deaths from it.

Posted in Exercises, General, writing

Mid-NaNo Struggles

Confession time: I haven’t worked on my NaNoWriMo projects for the last three or four days. Despite how excited I was for NaNo this year, a lot of the excitement wore off relatively quickly.

For one, my schedule in real life is packed, and very little of it can be ignored until later. For another, I’ve run into a problem where I have so many new ideas I want to work on and get started during NaNo that I’m struggling to stay focused on any one at a time.

Neither of those are insurmountable by themselves. I’ve noted before that I can write quickly, so I’m in no way concerned about ‘winning’ NaNo even with less time to dedicate to it than I usually have. As for the projects, the hardest part seems to be picking and choosing a project to stay focused on–which is again, where being able to write fast comes in hand. An hour or two might give me enough material that when I lose focus I can re-orientate myself with a quick skim.

That however, is addressing both sides of the struggle by themselves. Combined, it gets a little more complicated. I don’t always have an hour or two to get words down, and when I do, it’s also balancing things like writing a post or putting together an image for a short story. That might mean I only have a few minutes left in any dedicated hour to try and get something written, which might not be enough.

I knew going into this month that I was going to be a Rebel this year. While this should be all-new material, I opted not to work on a singular novel. I’d aimed instead to complete four novellas and perhaps some longer short stories. To that end, I’ve done one novella and two stories under 10k each. Getting started and finding a groove for brand new ideas is difficult.

Which is why for the last couple of days, I’ve been taking a new look at all the ideas I had jotted down to work on this month. Some of them are spin-offs from other short stories, which spun into larger works. Several of them are connected through worldbuilding and setting elements.

Knowing that part of the problem I’m having is based on lack of inspiration because I’m trying to get new ideas down to help flesh them out, tacking the dual problem of ‘not enough time’ and ‘too many new ideas’ means taking out one side of the equation. As I said above, by themselves, they’re not hard to solve. An hour or two’s worth of material adds up (for me) to be around three thousand words.

Which, means on stories that are connected through worldbuilding and character spin-offs, I probably have more than just three thousand.

These are still new ideas, but by choosing to focus on ideas that already have all the groundwork laid out like characters and setting, I’m hoping the last half of the month turns out to be a little more productive.

How are you handling your NaNo struggles?

Posted in blogging, writing

On Not Judging Myself

I think it’s safe to say that every writer on the planet has had a moment where they’ve faced internal judgement. That might be a case of ‘why can’t I write like Big Author’ or a case of ‘my writing is awful’. Internal judgement is a lot like self-doubt in that it crops up repeatedly, and that it comes up again and again. They’re little moments that make us feel like giving up.

Earlier this week I had one of those moments where I faced down that internal judgement, wondering why I couldn’t write as many books as some of the authors I admired. I’ve written one so far but a lot of the writers I look up to have fix, six, and even twenty or more books written. Some of them earned multi-book deals from their first book. Others make their living from writing.

Here’s the flip side of that: That’s not every single writer. It’s not every single author. And very few of those with multiple books or a sustainable writing income are at the start of their writing career. They’ve been working to get to that point for years.

Which is where I have to pull up a mirror and face the fact that the people I’m comparing myself too aren’t me.

The fact of the matter is that no, I haven’t written a multitude of books–yet. No, writing doesn’t provide a steady income, never mind being my primary means of living–yet. That yet is the keyword there. Getting to that point takes work. A lot of work. Writing is a long-term road trip.

The people I keep comparing myself to aren’t at the same point in that road trip. They may not even be taking the same route, or have the same end destination. I can’t compare myself to them because while yes, we’re all writing, we’re not all doing so in the same manner.

Since I can’t compare myself to others, the only person left to compare myself to is myself. Admittedly, that’s a dangerous thing to do. Most of the writing I have is very much still in the draft stage. Some of them have so many plot holes they’re like a sieve. They have enough grammatical errors they could be considered some sort of disordered dictionary. My word count alternates between ridiculous fillers to needing at least at least another twenty words per paragraph–all on the same page.

On the one hand, comparing my own writing to itself is problematic, because the writing isn’t technically ‘good’.

Here’s the thing: it’s a draft. The only reason I know what ‘good’ writing looks like is because I’ve read hundreds of books. Books that have been edited and re-edited before my eyes ever saw them. If I’m comparing my early writing with the writing that is again, at a different point, it’s still comparing myself to someone else.

On the other hand, comparing my writing is the best thing, because at least I know what sort of work I have to do. My worst writing is still writing, and that’s at least a step ahead of not-having-written. If I can get a step ahead of not-having-written then I can get ahead of every other problem later.

Maybe this draft doesn’t live up to my expectations. I can fix it later.

Maybe this section is just boring me. I can skip ahead and fix it later.

Maybe my writing skills just aren’t high enough to reach my vision. I can improve those skills by writing more.

Maybe this idea sounds too much like someone else’s idea. Every ‘new idea’ is just a remix of an old idea.

Maybe there’s too many other writers writing. If they can get published, so can I.

Part of not letting that internal judgement get to me is in answering all of the the things I judge myself for with a little bit of compassion and logic. I may not have a dozen books written–but there’s also nothing to say I won’t eventually have that many written. I may not have a perfect draft–but it’s only a draft.


Posted in General, writing

About Focus

The last couple of weeks I’ve been having a ridiculous time focusing on any one project. As much as it irks me, I also know there’s about a dozen different reasons my focus has vanished. Whether it’s stress, the fact the weather is changing, or maybe I just haven’t been eating as well as I should, the fact is my focus is gone. Pondering the reasons why I have zero ability to stick to one project also lead me into wondering why I’d determined I could only work on one at a time.

I am a serial un-finisher. I don’t want to even attempt putting a number on the drafts that are sitting in my writing folder that will probably never hit ‘the end’. I’ve long since learned when working on a novel that if I don’t manage to make it to chapter ten in a fairly short order…that poor novel is probably never going to make it to the end. I’ve done this so many times I can pinpoint the make or break point and it’s usually chapter ten. Anytime I start getting distracted before chapter ten and we run into the secondary problem:

Shiny New Project Syndrome. Oh boy is this one my big one. Because that idea seems so brilliant and I’ve hit a slow spot in the current project anyways, so maybe if I just write a little bit on it–and now I have six chapters of a new project and you guessed it, the original story is still sitting somewhere below chapter ten. I might eventually open up that project again and look at it, which leads me to:

Chronic restarting. I’ve mentioned a couple of times before that I’m a pantser or discovery writer, so I tend to just write and figure I’ll fix it later. The problem is, this leads to some plot holes, which make more sense if Character A is actually married to Person B, and then that sends me down a rabbit hole of wanting to see how that interaction would actually look, never mind putting that note down to work on it during edits. I’ve already long-since learned that trying to edit while I write is a bad idea for me.

All of this, I’ve learned, while not entirely alleviated, helps if I’m focusing on a singular project at a time–be that a high fantasy dripping with magic and honorable young princesses, or a sci-fi with a tech-savvy engineer running from an corrupt corporate overlord. Which is where we run into the problem where my ability to focus has taken a swandive down the drain.

While I’m trying to pinpoint the source of whatever is effectively stopping up my focus, I’m curious: What are the reasons you have for working on one or multiple stories at a time?

Posted in General, writing

Inspiration and Motivation

Two of the biggest struggles I have with working on a project are inspiration and motivation. This is especially true with editing. Although I have plenty of ideas for new projects, getting ideas on how to fix a draggy scene or how to support a saggy middle is harder. And sometimes the inspiration to do so sounds a lot more like it’d be easier to completely start over.

Motivation on the other hand is definitely the killer. With all those shiny new ideas, the energy to sit and work on something I’ve already finished can feel like a lot more than it took to finish in the first place. The question is then how do I keep focus all the way through editing a project?

Write side-scenes. Sometimes fixing a scene is as easy as changing it’s point-of-view. Other times, the problem with the scene is that the important stuff is happening elsewhere. In the early drafts I can always write scenes that either aren’t seen by the main characters, or that are from a minor character’s view. That gives me a chance to re-explore the scene and pick up new ideas for how to fix it.

A 2:1 trade-off. In the case of simply not wanting to work on that project, sometimes it helps to give myself permission to work on something else after I’ve hit a certain number of pages, minutes or words. Usually I try to keep it so that the second project gets about half as much attention, so if I’m writing for thirty minutes on my main project, I’ll only write for fifteen on the other.

Get away from the writing. In some cases, the best option is to do something that doesn’t involve actually writing or editing. I might put on a playlist while I’m doing dishes or folding laundry. I try to pick repetitive tasks that don’t need a lot of forward-focus so that I can work out and daydream on plot problems or new ideas. Often times this gives me an idea of how to fix things as well as helping me find the flow I need to sit down and get it done.

What are some of the ways you tackle inspiration and motivation?