Short or Long?

Sometimes when you’re working on novels you can get to a point where progress seems so far away, and sometimes you can get disheartened. Even want to quite, or procrastinate.

There was a talk Adam Savage gave once where he said at some point in every project he feels like he has no business making. A man who creates amazing replicas, props, and cosplays that the world loves. A man who does one day builds that many would struggle to do in a month. Someone who has working on major motion pictures, and The Mythbusters. And he feels like he has no business making.

And that’s how I feel writing a novel. I am sure that many creatives feel like that, like they are an importer and shouldn’t even bother trying to create whatever it is you are creating. I get so far into a novel, hit that wall, and it feels insurmountable. But I keep going, a little at a time, pushing to get to the end because I know once I reach it I will have something awesome.

I’ve picked up little tricks here and there to help me get through it. One of them is writing short stories when I’m really stuck. At the moment I have been editing a few of the finished short stories I have, and trying to finish four other short stories. Since they are shorter I can usually finish one much faster than a novel, and that little boost keeps me going for the larger projects. Plus the stories I am working on currently are science fiction, while the novel I am working on is fantasy. This allows me a change of scenery, so to speak, and take a breather before going back to the novel.

Speaking of the short stories, I think I’m about ready to publish some of them. Another pass of the editors wand, and they should work well as an anthology. Oh, and a cover. The other four short stories I am still completing I already have a cover for, I just have to finish three of the shorts.

But the novel is still my priority. I’ve been working at a (mostly) steady pace trying to get through the second half of the book. I’ve hit a few snags with the plot, but I think I’ll be able to untangle them. Plot holes, they are my nemesis! Funny, it used to be fight scenes. Now I have a system for the fight scenes and I have more trouble with the time line. I think that’s because the story is taking place over the course of a year and I want it to reflect that.

My daily word count goal dipped a little in august, so I’m working hard to get them back up to what I consider a good pace. I still want to hit 1000 words a day by the end of the year, which means pushing harder and making fewer excuses. But I’m working on it.

By the way, here is a really good video about why many of us procrastinate, and some great ways to fight against it.

Now… off to write about dragons.

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Being Productive

Today has been an incredibly productive day, and it’s only 8:30. It feels weird.

I finished reading two books. Dungeon Born, which was amazing, and First Blood, which was a decent short story.

I also did some editing on both my second litRPG book, and my second Half Blood Sorceress novels. Both are coming along pretty quickly, and is awesome.

I’ll probably go write a little more tonight because this is all energizing, and I have time. It’s fantastic!

Productivity for the win! I’m going to hang onto it for a while because I know the days will come that aren’t productive and I’ll feel guilty, but for right now I’m going to enjoy it.

On Sleep

Yesterday I went to work, like normal, and about half way through the day I just started feeling run down. My eyes burned, my throat hurt, and I was exhausted. Sure, I didn’t have a full nights sleep, but I rarely do and it shouldn’t have come on so quickly.

I had to work half my shift, so I forced myself to get through the last hour or two before coming home. As soon as I laid down I fell asleep, another thing that never happens, and I slept for about five hours before waking up. If I hadn’t been so hungry I probably would have gone back to sleep, I was still exhausted. I tried…I really tried to stay awake for a little while. Gregg and I watched a little tv together and I started falling asleep leaned up against him after only a couple hours. So back to bed I went.

This morning I woke up at 8am and I felt a little better. My eyes didn’t burn, and my throat wasn’t as sore. I didn’t feel exhausted, just the normal amount of tired for waking up to go to work. And I did. I went to work. I lasted about half the day before I started getting really tired and had to go home again. Got home, climbed into bed, and fell right to sleep for another five hours.

I did manage to stay awake this time for a few hours, but it’s midnight and I’m starting to fall asleep at the keyboard again….so I’m going back to bed. Thankfully it’s my weekend so I can get over whatever this is that’s keeping me down. I’d really like to get back to normal.

But I did manage to write a little before I passed out again. Now… Off to bed.

For today:

Word Count: 180

Duolingo: 2 module

Steps: Not achieved

Art: none

But that’s HARD!

I recently got an email from a young writer (young in her writing, I have no idea her actual age) and she described her writing to me in the same way I would describe mine. I write until I come to a hard part, jot down a little note, then skip to the next easy part to write. Anyone who is just trying to get their words down for the day has probably done this, or skipped that spot of dialog that didn’t quite work, or put down “battle scene with hero as the winner” or some such. I do this a lot for battle scenes because it takes me a while to puzzle through the moves to make it right.

The problem becomes, and this is me talking more about myself than anyone else because this is where I am in my writing… eventually you have to finish something or you have to admit this is just a project novel. Like that project car your dad had in the garage when you grew up. He kept it to tinker on, and play with, but never really got around to finishing it.

So here I am, 40, with hundreds, if not thousands of ideas in my idea journal, half written novels and partially written short stories, and only a small fraction of them finished. I keep putting aside the hard parts because… it’s HARD!

And damn right it’s hard. It’s hard because you’re writing something that is actually worth reading. Something with detail, and heart, meant to move people and get them to read. If it was easy then everyone would do it. If it was easy then there would be no value in it, but a book on a shelf has a value. People buy it and read it, then take their time to review it. If you expect people to spend time and money on your words then it should be good.

But there is good, and there is perfectionist. Finding that balancing point where you can actually finish stories, and get them out there in good order vrs tinkering on the story for years…that’s the edge that you walk.

Sometimes I do have to walk away from a story. Maybe it doesn’t work, or something isn’t quite fitting together right, so I put the story away and I work on something else. I’ve been working like this for years, and I have over a million words banked in my folders, waiting to be finished. (Here’s a picture, but this is not ALL of the stories I have started. The blue are published short stories and novels. Pink are finished, but not published. The rest plots, or started stories, but never finished.)

I have a whole shelf filled with tinker stories. I add a few words here and there, I might even binge through a few chapters on a novel, but finishing one isn’t easy. There’s always that point where it’s just hard, and I skip it.

I need to stop skipping it. I need to write down why it’s so hard and get my head back into the game. Last year was my worst word count in almost five years. That’s not acceptable, and neither is never finishing another novel.

So here’s to the hard parts! *Cheers!*

What is slow?

I just read this article about slow writers, and their place in the current Amazon world. They make some valid points about certain authors who advocate for writing fast and not editing. I also advocate just getting that first draft out and on the page, and then turning it over and writing something else. That is because a person who writes often, and a lot, has more practice then someone who does not.

But I digress, the question today is “what is slow?”

I know the guys over at Self Publishing Podcast can crank out the wordage. They managed to publish quite a few books last year. I think they are slowing down this year to focus a little more on their brand and put a little more time into their writing, but even then they still crank out more words in a month then I do in three.

Dean Wesley Smith writes TONS of words every single day. He also advocates Heinlein’s Rules about writing fast and not editing (unless your editor tells you to.) He has some great reasons to do so. He also has good examples of published writers who do write incredibly fast. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and every other author on this list. From authors that wrote a short story every week (because no one can write 52 bad short stories) to those who wrote several novels a year.

Then there are others who wrote one single book and earned great acclaim. Withering Heights by Emily Bronte. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Gone with the Wind by Margret Michelle. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. All books that have made their way into the national culture, film, cartoons, spin offs, etc.

A huge difference between Ralph Ellison and Stephen King… One makes a living as an author. The other made his living in other things and also wrote a fantastic book that has inspired generations. Not to say that Stephen King hasn’t written some wonderful things, some of which might inspire others along their path. Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick and Isaac Asimov were all extremely prolific authors who made their living writing. Their works are now considered classics that will inspire and influence our culture for a very long time.

To me I suppose when I say I am slow it is because I am unsatisfied with how quickly I am writing. I know I can do more, spend more time at it, and get the ideas out of my head and on to the paper.

I think if you want to make a living at being a writer then you have to write enough to sustain that career. Every author who has come forward to say they are currently making a comfortable living off of their writing has said the same thing: they write almost every day, and they write a lot. You can not sustain a house, cell phone, car, water, and electricity off of one book in a lifetime… not unless that was a REALLY good book. And striking that really good book isn’t likely. It happens to one author every couple of years. Do you know how many authors there are out there right now?

There is something to be said for writers who are still learning their craft, honing their skills, and fine tuning their instruments. A pianist doesn’t go out to play in front of a crowd until he’s had years of practice. And those of us who started writing as children have an advantage. We had those years of honing our skills while others were out playing kick ball and hop scotch. You, the beginning writer, need to take that time to hone those skills and become more comfortable with your words. Take that time, get it right, and then decide what you want to do with those words. What level are you comfortable at.

There is also room for the part time author. The author who has a “day job” while they write. (That’s what I’m doing.) I am still an author. That is how I think of myself, and how I introduce myself, because that is what I am even if I don’t make my entire living off of it.

How slow is slow? That depends on your goals. For me I feel slow because I know I can do more, and I feel that I need to because I want more then anything to be writing full time. To get out of the rat race once and for all. I need to write faster, which for me just means less time gaming and more time on scrivener.

But you have to make your own decision. You have to find what your comfortable with, and decide if that fits the life style you eventually want. It might mean you are perfectly happy with exactly where you are. It might mean putting in extra hours every week to learn that skill, to get better on your instrument so that you can finally play for the crowd.

(Also listen to this great podcast with Neil Gaiman who comments on the subject of writing every day, finishing, and breaking through the wall.)

Back tracking

zombie miniA while ago I started working on a short story called Zombie Swarm. I even came up with a cover that I really liked.

So why isn’t it out? Because as much as I liked the concept and several of the scenes of that story, it just wasn’t good enough.

The biggest problem was easy to fix. I added a few more characters. The whole situation wasn’t very convincing or suspenseful enough so it ended up falling a little flat. Most of the story takes place inside of once little lab, but with only two people working in a lab you don’t have a lot to work with. I added three more people and suddenly things started coming together. There were more issues between characters, more problems, and more strife. Then the creature they are dealing with, I didn’t have to change it much, but I did have to add a few more scenes to the original plot, and a lot more detail.

So it meant going back, completely reworking the original plot line, and rewriting it. I threw away the 6000 words I’d already written to start all over again. But I know I’m going to have a better story because I did that, even if it really REALLY sucked throwing away 6k words that I wrote. I’m also expecting the finished story to be twice as long, at least, so that’s a plus.

Don’t be afraid to throw it out and start all over again.

Creative Blocks

So today I did my Vlog about frustrations of finishing, and publishing, SOMETHING. Anything. Well, especially my trilogy that I’ve been working on for all of 2014.

Well, it’s 2015, and I guess I needed a break. My boyfriend gave me a little pep talk (Crissy, you need to write, stop making excuses.) and I sat down to do so. But I couldn’t face my trilogy again. Not after all that time spent on it. So I switched to another project, the one that I was actually going to work on once this trilogy was finished. And what do you know, in 15 minutes I’d already written 500 words.

Sometimes you need to take a break. Sometimes you need to mope for a few minutes and get your frustrations out. And sometimes you just need to shelf the project for a little while and work on something else. So that’s what I’m doing. Mermaid’s Curse won’t be shelved forever, but it will probably be a week or two before I get back to it. A month at most. Till then I have to work on something. So I’m working on Eternal Tapestry book 1. (You know, the book that comes before Forgotten Ones. Can I never write anything in order?)

(BTW, I finished with 750 for the night since it’s already midnight and I have work tomorrow. But that’s way better then zero.)