authors, life, NaNoWriMo, writing

Camp Update, and an unexpected rant.

Well, it’s now halfway through the month and for the first time in ages, I am on track. Actually, I’m ahead of schedule!

I know, I’m a little shocked myself 😉

My editing muscles are well and truly flexed at this point, seeing as that is mostly what I’ve been spending my writing time on this year. I feel like I’ve fallen into a rhythm with it and this makes me happy, but also nervous. I’m making great progress (and, if I wasn’t studying, or editing for others as well, I would be done my own novella by now, and onto the next), but at the same time I’m wary of the ease… I am not sure I trust myself, and there is an underlying sense that I can’t be doing a good enough job.

I think this is tied into the myth that writers must bleed for their art, they must SUFFER in order to create great stories. I don’t really buy into that belief – after all, so much of the first draft at least feels like I’m riding a rollercoaster and I LOVE rollercoasters. It’s like getting a shot of adrenaline or being able to feel every ounce of the worlds wonder, it’s blissful, intoxicating. Better than almost any other high.

But just because I don’t buy into all those myths about what it takes to be a writer – you must drink a lot of coffee and/or alcohol, you must stay up into the wee hours of the morning bleeding words into your preferred writing tool, you must be crazy/have a muse/talk to yourself/get intense bouts of writers block/spend three days finding the right word to describe a situation, you must struggle with your words, and suffer for your art, you have to be a starving artist, and in general, it seems the belief is that the more you struggle (not just with those words, but with life in general) the more emotion, impact and weight will be present in your story – it doesn’t mean that somewhere under the surface I feel like they might be true.

Because maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

Well, I call bullshit.

Yeah, some writers drink coffee and load up on booze or drugs, but that’s not a prerequisite. Not all writers have muses, or mental health problems, and not all writers are night owls who forsake human contact. Not all writers bleed, or struggle, or live entirely inside their head – hell, I am far too rooted in the real world, in my legit every day problems and getting the kids fed, educated, and geared up for a life following their own passions to possibly indulge (yes, I said it) in the myth of being a writer. While there are some truths in those myths, they are not the foundation, core, or bottom line of being a writer. Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle, but there is always that joy in words, in making things better, in crafting a world and putting it on the page to share with others. I don’t have time to wail about the challenges, or indulge in writers block or adopt a struggling artist persona.

I have time to write.

I put words on a page. I make those words better, and in the near future I will publish those words. And that makes me a writer, not any of the other stuff.

And I’m not going to buy into those myths on any level. Not anymore. I’m doing just fine.

This wasn’t going to be a blog post about writer myths or struggling for your art, it was just going to be a quick update to say – hey, look! I’m actually doing stuff and it’s going really well! As is the case with blog posts though, these things seem to morph.

By all means, enjoy the things you enjoy, struggle with the things you struggle with, but I would kind of like it if people quit buying into this writer mythology, it’s not glamorous to be depressed or to abuse our bodies by consuming too much alcohol/coffee/drugs/depriving it of much needed sleep. It’s not aiding our creation. Wouldn’t it be better if we could be happy, thriving, and loving our work? I know that’s the ideal I’m going to be working towards from now on.

*For the record, I know lots of wonderful writers who don’t buy into the ‘writer’ myth. They are awesome people, and write awesome stories, and they don’t need to have dramatic lives or desperate struggles in order to do so. These people are far more productive than many ‘struggling writer’s because they use their energy to actually do the thing we’re all meant to love so much. Write.

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Two steps back to move forward

I’ll confess to feeling a little stuck with the writing of Sun-Touched this last week. Once the after-outline bliss had worn off I was left feeling somewhat lackluster about the novel and couldn’t seem to figure out why.

ACK. I hate it when that happens.

Funnily, Merrilee posted just a few days ago about wishing she’d figured something out a week ago, and now I’ve had one of those moments of my very own.

The shiny new outline I made for the novel negates some of the things that happened in the second to last scene I wrote in Sun-Touched. Really small details, but apparently details that were tripping my brain up. I mean, they were so tiny, such SMALL changes. Normally I would just leave them for later – I know what needs altering, so it’s no big deal. For some reason though, I couldn’t sink myself into the next scene and everything felt off.

So after getting a fabulously motivational email today (Thanks, Merrilee!) I sat my sorry butt down and read through that scene. I started making those changes, cut out about 500 words which shouldn’t happen then, but later in the novel (don’t worry! I saved it to another file) and kept on writing.

OH, it’s so much better now. My brain feels less twisted up and that low lying crankiness that’s been nudging at the surface of my mild manner has been dispersed. Everything lines up (apart from the OTHER changes that need to happen earlier – I’m thankful for whatever bizarre brain reasoning means I don’t have to do that as well before I can continue) and I can now go back to indulging in the fabulous world I’ve created.

So, my advice – if you are feeling stuck, if a scene isn’t working or you just feel off, take a look at the scene before it, take a few steps backwards in your novel until you find the problem. It’ll be there somewhere. Remove the obstacle – whether that means you delete it, paste it into a new document, change the font to white so you don’t have to look at it, whatever works for you – and then get back to writing.

Happy writing!!

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Breathing in the story

Since I set aside Saving Tomorrow, I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I was struggling to write it. Well, to write anything at all, not just the novel. I was stifling my creativity with the desire to be further along the path than I was. I was frustrated with the lack of time, and the lack of progress, ending up in me being blocked and unable to make any forward motion.

So I quit.

I want to be very clear about something here – there is a HUGE difference between not writing because you are blocked, and not writing because you’ve made the decision not to. The first breeds irritation and kills creativity. It causes a negative loop which can be really hard to break out of. A surefire way (in my experience, anyway), to free yourself from this is to quit writing. Set everything aside and say ‘to hell with it. I’m not doing this anymore.’

Of course, you’re usually fairly sure you’ll be back sometime, but you have to say ‘NO’ for awhile. You take a breather, relax, fill yourself with books or conversation or music – whatever works for you. The guilt disappears, because you’ve quit. You start to feel the pressure dissipate. And then one day, you wake up feeling like you want to write.

During my rest and relaxation period, I read Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg. For a huge chunk of the book I wasn’t finding anything new. It’s a meandering writers guide, blending chunks of her life with writing advice. It wasn’t until I very nearly reached the end that I started to grasp the revelation that has helped changed my mindset – the realization that is now allowing me to write without the pressure, to breathe in the story and exhale it onto the page.

My best writing comes when I write the story from beginning to end. When I write it full, when I infuse it with the details that make the characters and world come to life, those quirky things that are vital to the who and the where.

And the problem is that I have so little time, and I have been in such a rush that I have been skipping through my stories. Writing the bits I thought were important and glossing over everything else. I’ve been sketching scenes, not breathing life into them. It’s the difference between drawing stick-men and creating a full colour masterpiece. The stick-men may get the point across, but it’s not as rich, as full of life and wonder as the masterpiece.

It’s no wonder I was feeling dissatisfied.

So now I am writing slow – not in words per minute terms, but in that I am stopping to smell the roses. I’m breathing fullness into my world and while the progress is decidedly slower, I can SEE it in my mind. I can hear my characters and imagine the smells that permeate this world that I am creating. It is vivid, and real to me, and the writing is working better because I’m not skimming. I’m diving headlong into each scene instead of just skipping stones across the surface, trying to get to the other side as quickly as possible.

So, my true issue WAS to do with time. But it wasn’t that I have so few minutes available, or that I can’t type fast enough, it was that I wasn’t going slow enough. I wasn’t stopping to breathe in the story.

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Trying too hard

I wrote yesterday. To be more precise – I wrote, I deleted, I wrote, I deleted, I wrote, I saved a few sentences and deleted the rest, and then I wrote again.

At some point in the day I wondered just how many times I was going to begin and then delete the second scene of the story I am working on. It’s only a first draft. I don’t normally delete this much/often in a first draft.

And then it hit me that because I am increasingly aware of my bad habits as a writer (telling, not showing. Using a passive voice. Scenes which don’t move the story forward much/could be blended with other scenes. Other little things), I’m working harder not to include them in the first draft. Wouldn’t it be lovely not to have to correct those things?

One day, I’m sure I’ll get to that point, but for now I really need to find a balance between making changes to the way I initially write and ACTUALLY GETTING THE WRITING DONE. Once again it comes back to that good old ‘you can only edit words you’ve written’ thing.

So, today I’m just going to write. I’m going to pick ONE thing to stay conscious of and keep that in mind as I write, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I can’t keep learning if I’m not actually writing. And I need to get this draft finished. It’s just the first draft, regardless of whether I eliminate all my bad habits in it or not, it’s still going to need work.

Is this why some people get writers block? They are so worried about making the same mistakes again, so conscious of trying to put out their best work on the first round that they simple don’t/can’t make any progress at all? It’s the first time I’ve considered that this might be why – though for the life of me I still can’t understand why it would stop the words from happening for longer than a day or so. You sit down, you write. You can make it better later on.

I think focusing on one issue at a time will work better for me, otherwise I might find myself ‘blocked’ too.

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The Wall

I hit it yesterday. I should have known it would happen, but I really didn’t see it coming.

I’ve been loving writing hard and fast on TCM, thoroughly enjoying playing with the new ideas surfacing out of the story, developing characters, building to the point at which they finally leave Earth.

And they did. I got to the new planet and… blergh.

It was a combination of sheer exhaustion from every day life/broken sleep, and excitement over getting off the planet. I’d failed to set up any situations to occur once they had arrived. I mean, I have this incredibly vague outline which suggests that some things happen, but I hadn’t stopped to actually think about what those things might be in any greater detail than ‘weird things happen, little things, stuff goes missing” (that means something to me in context of the story, though I’m sure it sounds extra vague to you!).

Duh. No wonder I hit the wall.

I didn’t feel like writing at all, and when I started to write it was a really lame scene. The worst of the novel so far (I even wrote that in the novel, as in halfway through a sentence you’ll see ‘this scene sucks hard, I have no idea where it’s going and it’s definitely going to need cutting when I go through and rework this novel. What on earth was I thinking?’)

All the suckingness and lameness aside, I wrote anyway.

It’s what I do.

I don’t really believe in writers block (I could have called that block, but really it was just down to the fact that I hadn’t put enough (any) foresight into the details of where I was going). I could have let that trip me up and depress me, but I’d rather just keep writing. Eventually I know that I’ll come out the other end, and it happens a damn side faster if I just keep working at it.

Anyway, the girls are asleep, and seeing as Hubby isn’t home to do any baby holding tonight I best get my write on or I won’t be adding to the wordcount very much. I’ve pushed through half of the wall, and now I need to break down the rest.

Just keep writing. It’s the best cure for a block. Write crap, write whatever – you can ALWAYS go back and cut it or make it better in another draft or edit. You can’t edit something that you haven’t written though.