Category Archives: Unorthodox Writing Tips
[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 44
Once Vic was up and eating, Argmon relented the controls to Tootsie and joined everyone, everyone save Mike, in the kitchen. He cooked yet another fabulous meal.
Joop-Nop snacked on another stick. It’d lost much of its green sliminess and was looking more and more like a tree with eyes and an oddly shaped mouth. June had seen many of Joop-Nop’s transformations, but this one took the cake. Why would any being want to be a tree? Even a mobile one.
Vic, despite sitting up, looked as if he’d been run over by a truck. The poison, according to the man who sold her the anti-venom, would make Vic weak and incapacitated for days, maybe even weeks. She knew Vic better than anyone else and he wouldn’t do well in this condition. She had tried to feed him, but he fought her off. He’d rather starve before being fed like an invalid.
“So where’s Mike?” he asked.
“He’s still in stasis in the cargo hold.”
“We’re going to have to move him. Once we land we need to get this ship loaded in record time. I’m not going to be any help aside from barking orders so June, I need you to be out there overseeing as much as you can. I’ll be online with Tootsie, but you’ll have to make sure all the actual work gets done.”
“Fine.” It wasn’t fine but she wasn’t telling him that. She had a problem ordering her friends around, unlike Vic. It was great, however, that Vic’s spirits were up to the task.
“We’ll put Mike back in engineering. I’ll figure out what to do with him once we’re back under way. We land in about ten minutes, so let’s finish up and get prepared. Argmon, I’ll land the ship. You go down to the cargo bay and help out as much as you can.”
“Look, I’ll be fine. I’ve got SPX-39 and Tootsie to keep me company.”
SPX-39 perked up. “So I don’t have to help?”
“I’d rather this went as smoothly as possible. You’ll be in the cockpit with me.” Vic scratched at the bandages on his shoulder.
“Don’t touch those,” June scolded. “Those bites are deep and you’re going to need them looked at as soon as we’re back on Planchar.”
“I will. I will. Why don’t you guys just get Mike taken care of and prepare to load this ship while I get us landed. SPX-39, take care of cleaning this up. I don’t want any stray dishes flying around.”
She knew Vic would be okay. Even though his orders weren’t issued with their usually aggressiveness, they were issued. He wasn’t going to let a little thing like a spider bite get in the way of him making money even if that spider bite came from one of his crew.
Vic left the room first and he struggled to do so, June could feel it. He could be a tough bastard when he wanted to be. Now was one of those times.
Someone in the room wasn’t so secure or holding up well. Joey? When she turned and looked at him he looked at the floor, put his hands in his pockets and left the room. What was his problem? Only two men left from Earth and they were both idiots. One refused to show how he really felt and the other’s insecurity prevented him from keeping anything hidden. It was like babysitting a couple of babies. She didn’t need this.
Still, Joey had only been here a short time.
He stopped and turned around, but didn’t say anything.
How should she ask him? “Are you okay? We’re about to load this ship and I don’t know how things are going to be once we land. You’re not going to pass out on me again are you?”
“Joey, look at me. I need to know that you’re going to be alright.”
He looked up. “We’re just loading a bunch of beer. What could go wrong?” He shrugged.
“I’ve been on this ship with Vic for some time. I’ve seen a lot of shipments that should have been easy go awry. We’re on a time limit with this one and everyone needs to pull their weight. If anything is going to happen, I’d like to know now rather than find you laid out on the deck again.”
“I’ll be fine.” He turned and sulked down the hallway. Something’s eating him up. What’s the problem?
June just hoped that everything would go alright. Perhaps there would be time to still get back to Munchkada and complete her deal. It still peeved her that Vic hadn’t thought about the possible risks of delivering the load of tonindrium. But she’d have to do her own sulking later. They were going to be on the ground in a few minutes. Good thing she hadn’t taken her suit off. Now all she needed to do was put her helmet on and get her guns.
Joop-Nop, Dexter, Argmon, and Joey all stood in the cargo bay looking at Mike’s body. She’d managed to forget about Mike with her concern for Vic and Joey. Men trouble couldn’t have happened at a worse possible time.
Men trouble?- That was it! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Joey’s reactions were jealousy! How cute. She smiled and knew this would be easier to deal with. Now to get Mike moved.
“Tootsie, turn off the stasis field on Mike.”
Tootsie buzzed. “Is that advisable?”
“Tootsie, I don’t have time to argue. I’m going to have you re-initiate the field once we’ve got him moved.”
The shimmer around Mike’s body faded. If Dexter didn’t hit him hard enough, Mike could wake up and then they’d have something to deal with.
Joop-Nop now had branch-like legs and no longer oozed from place to place, but still couldn’t lend a hand in moving Mike. Dexter took the head, Argmon took the body while June and Joey each too a pair of legs and they moved Mike into the engineering room.
Vic’s voice came over the con. “June, we land in five.”
“Got it! We’re almost done with Mike.”
While Dexter and Joey held Mike in his seat, June fastened the seat belt. She had to get her helmet, her guns, and should probably do something about the web. Still a lot to do and not a lot of time to get it done.
“Joey, Dex, Argmon, you guys go and get strapped in for landing. I need to get my helmet and clean up that web Mike built.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
Joop-Nop clicked two of its branches together and pointed at Mike’s funnel web.
“I’m not putting Mike up there in his web. I don’t care if he likes to ride up there. He’s too heavy.”
Joop-Nop flattened out and clicked all his branches together and continued to point at the funnel web.
“Joop-Nop, I don’t have time for this. We land in like three minutes and I’ve got things to do. Now get out of the way.”
She would have to figure out what Joop-Nop wanted later. They’d be on the ground any minute.
Unorthodox Writing Tips 41 – Once you stumble
I had an unbroken streak of writing daily updates that ran from the beginning of the year until just a few weeks ago. That streak broke while I was on vacation and I had intended to get back on the horse once I arrived at home. I got a few out, but not as consistently as I had done. It’s not so daily anymore, but rather than focus on what happened, I need to focus on what I need to do to get back on track.
Combined with the loss of focus, there are also a number of other things that are weighing on my mind. None of these things are under my control and there’s really nothing I can do about them, yet I’ve been obsessing about them for a few days now.
One was the loss of a family pet. You get very attached to animals. It’s not easy to just say “Oh, it was just a dog.” There’s now a hole where that dog used to be. It was very difficult for my favorite daughter to take and I keep worrying about her.
There’s also submissions I have out that I’ve been waiting to hear word back from. For several months now. Waiting sucks and while I obsess about one thing, why not a few others.
Then I read a few bad reviews of a story I wrote. The people I sold the story to loved it. It’s not getting bashed because the writing is bad. So I shouldn’t let this get to me. But I have.
And finally there is someone online that I respect and based on comments I’ve read and posts I’ve read from this person, I get the feeling that this person thinks I’m an internet troll for some reason. I could reach out to this person, but I’ve only had one interaction over the years and that was in person, not over the internet. So I’m unsure how the person really thinks of me. This has bothered my deeply but rather than be an internet troll and reach out to the person and ask “What did I do and how can I correct this?” I think the best course of action is to just avoid contact with the person all together. The last thing I want to do is gain the reputation of being an internet troll or anything like that.
So with all this weighing on my mind, it’s been difficult for me to type up words. Yes, I’ve been obsessing. Yes. I need to stop obsessing. How? I need to take my own advice. Just sit down and write. If I’m in the mood or not, the only way to get back on track is to sit and type like a fury. None of these things are under my control and as difficult as it might be to put them aside it’s better for me to just move forward.
I can’t bring a dog back from the dead. I can’t make a publisher or agent read my submission faster, I can’t change people’s feelings about my story (and it’s folly to try). I also can’t change a person’s feeling about me if, as I suspect, those feelings have been there for a long time.
What can I control? My word count. I can sit and write my stories. I can escape into my own little world that I have complete control over and have my characters do my bigging. I can bring them to life and hopefully entertain people along the way. I have a blast when I write and it helps me forget about all those things in my life that are out of my control. Even if it’s only for an hour a day, that little bit will get me further along.
Yes, I stumbled. I have a hole in my daily streak of writing. But I had a wonderful vacation. Yes, there are things that are outside my ability to control, but shouldn’t stop me from writing. I need to take a page from Jay Lake. The man has cancer. Again. This is the fourth time for him and the outlook is bleak. He’s still blogging daily. I’m not 100% sure but I think he’s still writing fiction daily. He’s a mess mentally (if you read his blog you’ll understand why) but he’s still writing. Yes, I can obsess and still write.
You can do the same. You can be depressed and still write. You can have something in your life that you can’t control and still write. If you have free time you can sit down and type words. Writing can be therapeutic. It may even help you get past that which you’re obsessing about. You might even be able to channel that negative energy into your character, have them deal with a similar situation, and have them resolve it. Write what you know. Use that negative energy to your benefit.
I’m going to go do that right now.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 40: How to Finish Something
Can I tell you a secret? You promise you won’t tell anyone? I’m going to let you into a secret on how to finish that book or short story you’re writing.
Type ‘The End’.
Okay, but seriously, how do you get to the end of a story. It’s such a long path. There are so many words you need to write to complete a story.
I use Outlook for my email. It’s easy to let the email pile up. It doesn’t take up much space. I can order it however I like. I don’t have to worry about how much space it takes up because it’s not physical. I can just let it accumulate and I’ll get around to organizing it later. Today I looked at my inbox. It was over 200. At one point I used to have over 2000 items in my inbox. I need to reduce that number. How do I do that? A little at a time. I’ll move items into folders if I don’t want to get rid of it and I’ll delete older items that I no longer need. I know I’ll be able to get it back to below 100 in a few days of spending a little time each day dedicated to reducing that number of items in my inbox and keeping that number low.
The same thing works for getting a piece of fiction (or non-fiction) written. For me, I try to knock out at least a little bit each day. I know how many words I want to write and how far I need to get. I have a clear and measurable goal. Each day I keep track of the number of words I’ve written and I can see the number of words I need to write to complete a work go down. I dedicate a little bit of time every day and just type.
Honestly. It’s that simple. Even if you only spend fifteen minutes a day writing you’ll get closer to your goal than if you spend no time and try to cram all your writing into one binge session. Yes, it’s possible to write in a binge session, but for me I’ve found it easier to write a lot of words in a shorter time. If I have two or three hours of free time I’ll fill it with something else rather than sit and write. So I try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to write.
Well that’s not a lot of time, is it?
For me, it is. I type quickly. I can type up to 2500 words in an hour. Yes, writing fiction. So it’s not difficult for me to take 30 minutes and write 1000 words. It’s harder for me to find the free and quiet time. Once I have it, I know it’s not a lot of time and I need to get writing from the word go. If I set aside a lot of time, I’ll find myself playing angry birds, temple run, reading a book or comic book, or even watching TV figuring I have all this free time, let’s see what else I can do.
That’s where I need to restrict myself. If I write for my 30 minutes, great! Then I’ll do something else. If I don’t write for those 30 minutes then I know I need to spend my time writing. If I get done with my 30 minutes and I feel like going longer, awesome! I’ll write longer and see just how many words I can knock out in that given day. So far this year I’ve had a few days where I’ve written over 6000 words. I don’t even feel I’m writing at my full potential on those days because I took breaks, played games, watched TV, and other things instead of just writing, but perhaps that’s what pushed my forward. Knowing that I could do more than I was doing.
I know I’ve said this many times, but writing daily and keeping track of your progress is helpful in many ways. It keeps your goal in front of you at all times. It makes you think and rethink the choice of playing a game or writing. Should I watch another episode of True Blood or should I sit down and write first? Will I find inspiration when I read that comic book, or will I feel rewarded after I’ve written and then enjoy the comic?
Type a word. Type a sentence. Type a paragraph. Continue this until you type ‘The End’. You don’t have to write for hours every day. Once you get the hang of sitting and writing in those little periods you can see your word count go up. It’ll go up dramatically faster than you think it will. You just need to make the time, sit down, and write. You can do this.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 39: Fearlessness
It’s easy to find yourself afraid at some point in your life. For many people it starts with a fear of the dark or the fear of being alone. Perhaps a fear of high places and the fear of falling. Fear comes in many forms and some people never conquer these fears.
My mom is afraid of anything that is alive and flies. If it’s alive and it’s in the air, she’s freaking out. That’s just how it goes for her. I had a buddy whose son was terrified of butterflies. Some fears are tangible, others not so much.
Some people are able to look fear in the eye and not flinch. They live for the rush. They fly the fastest planes, they do double front flips on BMX bikes off massive jumps, they risk life and limp to do things that normal people wouldn’t even thing of doing.
Then there are people just like you and me. We lead normal lives for the most part. We not out driving cars at 200 MPH but instead driving at the posted speed limit (maybe we’ll creep a little bit over) on our way to the grocery store or to drop off the kid(s) at a sporting event. Our lives are filled with many mundane things. Something fearful might rattle us, but for the most part we understand what scares us and either avoid those situations or know how to handle ourselves.
If you’re reading this and you’re like me you also write. Or you want to write. Or you’d like to write more. Deep down there’s that lingering fear. What will others think of this when they read it? Will anyone read it? Will I be able to handle the rejection if someone doesn’t like it? What if I get a terrible review? Is my writing good enough? This is an awful lot of work to put into something that I might never make any money doing.
That’s where you need to realize what this fear really is so you can face it. It’s the fear of the unknown. People face this under normal circumstances. My Favorite Daughter is afraid to go on Space Mountain because she’s never been on it and can’t see it. Yet she loves Thunder Mountain because it’s (for the most part) on the ground. She’s scared of what she can’t see. Her only way to over come this fear will be to face it head on and deal with the aftermath of her decision once she’s ventured forth.
That’s what writing it all about. It’s putting aside that fear for a moment and trying it out. Then putting that fear aside again and continuing. It’s putting that fear in a box, locking it away and pushing on. Once you’ve completed a work, it’s keeping that fear and doubt in check and sending your work out for others to look over or to send it to an agent, a publisher, a market. Yes all those bad things might happen. They all might happen on your first work. They might all happen on your second through tenth work. It might happen over and over again.
This is all a learning process. Even established writers still struggle with these same fears, but they’ve understood that if they write something to the best of their abilities, learn from all those early issues their work had and applied it to works going forward. They not only learned from those early works and what needed to change with their writing, they also learned to manage that fear and keep sending out work despite the knowledge that even though they’ve been published before, this might get rejected just as quickly as anything they’d previously written.
Writing is an unsure prospect. It’s not as easy as quitting your job at one company and looking for a job in another company. In publishing things change quickly. I’ve read many stories about an author well liked by an editor at one publishing house only to see that editor get replace with one that can’t stand the author’s work. Suddenly they went from a near sure thing to being right back where they started. This has been happening to mid-list authors for years.
There’s a lot to be afraid of when it comes to writing, but there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the actual act of creation. If you’re seeking publication then it’s a matter of perseverance. It’s a matter of facing the fear of rejection and moving on. It’s a matter of being the type of person that will continue to type out stories and put them out there to see what sticks.
Writing isn’t easy. I’ve said this many times before. Those who face the challenge, learn from this mistakes to improve their craft, and face their fears head and and continue even when it seems like you’re the only one that likes what you’re producing, those are the ones that will find publication. Those are the ones that have a chance at making this into a career. Don’t be afraid. Sit, type, submit. Repeat as many times as needed. It does get easier as time goes on and you’re realize it’s not as scary as you’re making it out to be.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 38: Maturity and Experience
I’ve noticed lately that the authors that I really enjoy reading are old. Not just old, but gray-beard, pot-bellied, been-around-the-block-more-times-than-(you get the point) old. Just take a look at a picture of George R. R. Martin. He’s old. Really old. He’s been writing like forever. Robert Jordan, old. Mike Stackpole: He’s getting there. Tad Williams: Well, okay, but he’s still been out there and writing for a very long time.
Even the long dead authors were old when they were in the prime of their writing career. Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, the list goes on and on.
My point is that the writers don’t just sit and knock out a best seller out of the box. Most of these guys have been at it and honing their skills for a very long time. They’ve paid their dues, they’ve learned the business, they changed when the times called for change.
Then I look at myself. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been writing on and off for the better part of 25 years, but nothing that I’d call consistent until this year. Yes, I’ve gotten a lot of words down over the years, but I could have written so much more. If I had written just a little every day over those 25 years I’d be much further along than I am.
My early writing was just what you’d expect from an early writer. It was fast-paced, choppy, and not really that good. I’m not saying that everyone writes bad straight out of the gate, but as a general rule the younger you are the less critical you are of your own work. Heck, there are some people that’ve been around for a good long time that need to take a look at what they’re producing with a more critical eye.
With each story or book I completed I got a little bit better at telling a story. But that’s going to happen to anyone who sits and writes and gets stories out. There are some other things that I’ve learned over the years. One is a great amount of patience. I didn’t used to be as patient and I would write, quick edit, send out. Now I know that a story needs to marinate for a while before I do a thorough edit. Before I send it to beta readers and get feedback and line edits. Then I’ll send it to a market and hope for the best or I’ll self publish the work because it’s a re-edit and reprint or I just don’t feel it fits a given market. Yes I’ve had choices, and making the right choice for a given piece has been critical to that piece finding an audience.
Back to maturity, this is something I’ve had to work on. Having a level head and understanding that just because I want it now and self-publishing (Indie publishing if you like) is a choice that must be made with a level head and not something to just jump into. I self-pubed Astel: Chosen because I thought it would be the right choice for that work. I’d shopped it around, gotten some good feedback, and decided to put it out there. I know now that I should have done a better job with the editing of that work and I can still do that, but for now I have other works I’m concentrating on. Before I self-publish another novel I will be hitting Astel hard with edits so that it’s a stronger work. That’s the joy and benefit of putting out a ebook.
But I can sit and look at these options because I’ve experienced enough of the publishing end to know what I’m doing out there. Do I know everything? I ask this a lot and each time I laugh.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot over the years and each time I look at what I’m doing I learn a little more. I see people do things that go horribly wrong and I make a mental note not to be that person. Want an example? My Story Emperor’s Fist got a review that I would consider not as good as I was hoping for. Yes, I’ve seen glowing reviews for this little steam punk effort that I did for Tee and Pip. They were delighted by the story, put on a great cover, got the work out there. And the review wasn’t impressed. Hey, this happens. Not everyone is going to like what I do. It was called (I’m paraphrasing here) unoriginal and not what they’d come to expect from the penny deadfuls. I was a little hurt in that I thought I had done something that none of the stories had done. I’d gone places they hadn’t gone.
Did I get involved with the reviewer? No! Did I want more feedback about what didn’t work on this story? Well of course I did, but one thing an author needs to be able to do is separate themselves from their reviewers. It’s not my place to shoot down a review even if I disagree. That’s maturity in that you need to be able to not react to something that you’re not happy about. Maturity to keep going in the direction you’re going and know that the right people will find your work and enjoy it. Maturity to accept and move on.
This also adds to your experience. Until you experience this you’ll never know what I’m talking about. I’ve gotten bad reviews for Astel as well. Mostly for the editing, not the story, but still poor reviews. These hurt and I know that I should have done a better job with getting the book edited. I need to learn from that, do what I can about it, and move on. There’s a lot of words that need to be written and if I’m immature and reactionary and don’t learn from these lessons, I’ll never become a better writer. What I will become is a self-serving, excuse-making, bad author.
You can be young and experience a lot. You can be mature beyond your years. It will still take time to get to your overall goal. For someone like me, it’s taken years to get a level head to the point where I know what I want and I’m taking the correct steps to get there. I’m no longer wallowing in self-pity because I keep getting rejections and I’m having a hard time getting people to read my work. I’ve learned from my tantrums, from my rejections, from my missteps.
It took me a long time to learn these lessons and grow from them. Too long. It’s put me far behind where I should be. But that hasn’t detered me. As I said in the start of this. Most authors that I enjoy are far older than I am and have been only writing for a couple of decades. If I can get a start now then I’ll be in good shape to have a long writing career and I can be one of those pot-bellied, gray-bearded writers that people enjoy reading.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 37 – Getting Back on the Horse
I had a vacation. I also had a few days off before my vacation actually started where I was busy getting ready for my vacation. I also quite busy with work once I got back from vacation. All that meant I had precious little time to actually sit and write words. I wrote my daily blog posts, but I didn’t get any fiction written. That means that I have a long streak with no fiction writing.
Unfortunately that means I need to get myself back into the fiction writing mode. My fingers aren’t used to typing fast for long periods and I’m also not used to thinking ahead of where my fingers are typing. This is an interesting way of typing where my mind will actually be several words ahead of where my fingers are at so I’m always pushing forward. It’s just the difficulty of getting my brain back into that gear and now that I’ve had a number of days without doing this task, I need to get back on track.
How do I do that?
I’m so glad you asked.
I sit and write. No, seriously. It’s that simple. I keep saying that this writing stuff is as simple as just sitting and writing. I sat down and wrote a blog post. Those come easy for me and require little thought. I can just type and go for it. I then wrote a movie review, then a book review, then another book review. With each of these they 1) added to my annual word count and 2) got me back into typing fast and getting ready to jump back into my fiction.
The story had already been written so I know what’s going to happen. I just need to sit and let the action happen. The words will come out fast and furious. It’s all about practice and there’s nothing better than just sitting and doing. For me it doesn’t matter if I haven’t written for 5 days, 20 days, or 3 years. If I don’t sit and write I know it’ll only be that much harder tomorrow. Each day I let slip is a day that I’m not practicing and a day that I need to work at getting better again. It’s not like riding a bike. You don’t ride a bike for years and you can just hop back on and go. With writing you need to be actively thinking ahead and knowing what you’re going to write so when you get there it’ll flow along better. Sure you can write a lot in one sitting, but if you’re not writing on a consistent basis, it’s that much harder to get to the end.
At least for me it is.
I’m sure there are some people that can write brilliantly by writing once a month and cranking out 5000 or 10000 words in a sitting. I write a couple thousand words a day (on average, in fact of this writing I’m averaging only 1447 words per day due to a slow start and vacations) and I’ve written over 280000 words so far this year. That means if you write 10000 words a month you’ll have 120,000 words. Slow and steady is getting me up to my goal and beyond what I could do with burst writing. I used to burst write. I’d write a lot over a couple of days, then nothing for a couple weeks, then a lot over a couple of days. I’d get about 100,000 words done and I’d be fine with that. I’m no longer content with just writing what I now consider such a small amount. I want to, NAY! I need to write more than that. This is what’s driving me to write as much as I am. To prove that I can do it and to keep doing it over an extended period of time.
Remember, I’m doing this as a part time job meaning that I need to spend time as often as possible and write. Writing a little bit each day is serving me better than writing a lot only a few times a year. It’s also helping me get better because I’m at it daily and not just poking away a block here and a block there.
Back to my point, being that I haven’t really stopped writing something on a daily basis I was able to sit down and get back at it a little faster than I used to. Back when I burst write it might take me a couple of days of looking at the screen before I found the motivation to write. Now I have the motivations at my finger tips and can just sit and go. It feels great. It really took a long time to make this a habit of sitting down daily and writing. They say that it takes at least six months of doing something before it becomes a fully formed habit. I’m over that six month mark and I see no signs of stopping.
Hopefully I won’t fall off the horse often. Vacations will do that, but I know now that I can sit and write after I get back. My fiction is there waiting for me. The characters are calling me. I can hear their voices inside my head begging me to get them through their adventure. I’d better heed their call.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 36 – I Will Never
I will never be the world’s strongest man. I will never be the richest. I will never be the smartest, tallest, fastest. I will never be the world’s greatest writer.
All of these have one thing in common. They’re all true. The last is the only in the list that is subjective and some people may (some day) think it is true.
I can become stronger by lifting weights and working out. I can become faster by running. I can earn more money by learning more and working toward a better paying job or starting my own business. I can become smarter by reading, taking courses, and reading. I’ll never be taller (maybe I should have left that example out)
I can become a better writer. By writing. With all of these examples (okay, okay, most of these examples) there are measurable ways to note your progress. You lift more weight, you reduce the amount of time it takes you to run a distance, you have more money. When it comes to writing there really isn’t a way to measure your success.
Oh, sure, you can look at number of publications, number of books published, size of advances, but does any of that mean you’re a better writer? I’ve read a lot of people I would consider famous authors and I can’t stand their work for some reason or another. Perhaps it’s their style, or I don’t like the content, or something they’ve written that throws me out of the story. Perhaps it just plain bad writing.
I always look at what others have done and wonder how I could have done it differently. I don’t mean better, I just mean differently. If someone got published by a major publisher or printed in a major magazine, someone liked what that author wrote. Someone thought it to be good enough to pay the person for their words. If I don’t like it, it’s on me, not on the publisher, right? Not everyone liked the ending of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I thought it was brilliant. I absolutely hated the ending of Under The Dome. Others loved it. Two books, one author, two different reactions. Like I said, I look to see what I would have done differently, not better.
I don’t fancy myself a master wordsmith. Hopefully I’m entertaining and people enjoy what I write, but I don’t think of myself as someone who’ll one day be so rich I can just sit and decide which masterpiece I’ll carve out on a given day. Even if I do find myself as a full-time writer, I’ll still need to churn out words to make a paycheck and keep money coming it. It won’t last forever. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does. Most likely I’ll have to maintain a day job and have a side-job as a writer. That’s more the reality I’m looking at.
That doesn’t mean I think I’m a bad writer either. As with any of the above examples, strength, speed, financial gains, they’re all obtainable to a certain level if you work hard at them every day. You can’t run ten miles one day then rest for a month and think you’ll be better the next time you run. You can lift 250 pounds once and think you’re done. You can’t earn a million dollars and… okay, maybe that’s a bad example as well. My point is that you need to work at getting better at whatever you’re doing in order to actually get better.
I spent ten years working on one book. I didn’t commit to it fully at any time. I would write a little here, write a little there. Piece things together. It was, for the most part, a mess. I left it. I abandoned my child and moved on to other works. I wrote fast, I write aggressively, I wrote consistently for a good length of time. I know I got better. My writing actually improved and over the course of a couple of years I wrote several more books and a good number of short stories.
I stopped writing. It’s no surprise that I had to re-learn much of what I’d already learned. I had to take steps to build my skill back up and to improve the confidence I had in my writing. At no time did I ever think it was going to be easy because it’s not. It’s taken a lot of hours over a lot of days. Writing daily has helped me get to where I am faster than all those years I spent dabbling with my writing. Sure, I could stop and come back to it a few weeks later, but I’ll lose my momentum. I’ll be taking vacations later this year. I’m far enough ahead of my annual goal that I’m not afraid of missing that goal. I know I’ll hit my 450,000 word target. I’ll likely surpass it. All because I’m writing daily.
I’m not just getting better, but I’m getting faster. By sitting every day and writing and typing for a hour here, an hour there, I’ve gotten much faster at sitting and getting words down. There’s no reason to wait to start. I set my in the middle of December and started writing that day. I didn’t wait for January 1st to get going, I got going as soon as I decided I wanted to be serious about writing. You need to do the same thing. Get better, get faster, and start now! Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait until you feel like you’re organized and ready to go, just get going. There are so many tools available to help you writing that you just need to open one. Notepad, textpad, google docs, wordpad, word, scrivener, there are so many tools, just pick one and go.
I didn’t build a mountain of words by waiting. I built them by sitting and writing. As I said at the start, I’m not the best writer in the world, but I’ve been improving because I’ve been doing this daily for 159 days. I’ve added to my word count each and every day. It’s difficult to get going, but it’s also difficult to get a train moving. Once it’s on a roll, it’s hard to stop. You need to be that train. You need to get yourself started. The only way you’ll get better is to sit down daily and write. I cannot stress that enough.
Ignore me. Stop reading this right now and go and write.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 35 – Even When it Hurts
There are days when I don’t want to write. Sure, I usually want to write, but sometimes I just don’t feel the magic. My brain doesn’t want to allow the words to come out. It’s difficult. I have headache. My dog is sick. My favorite daughter has practice. I’m tired. My sinuses are bothering me.
There are a lot of times when I just do not want to sit down and write.
I want to be a writer. I know the joy of having written something and thoroughly enjoyed writing it and others get a joy from reading it. I know that if I sit and get some words written, I’ll be that much closer to getting that story or that book done. It’s just a matter of sitting down day after day and getting it done. There is no replacement for persistence.
I used to be what’s known as a ‘burst’ writer. That means I used to be able to find a free couple of hours and just bash something out fast and furious. I could finish a short story in a day or two. Give me enough time and I could get a lot of work done. I didn’t see the need for sitting down every day because I didn’t want to write every day.
All that changed this year. I set a goal to write each and every day. Not just once a day, but whenever I had time to write, I would write. I set a goal for how many words I wanted to get written for the year. 450,000 sounded like a far more words than I would write in a year, so I decided to include blog posts in there as well. I honestly thought that I would write a lot more words for blog posts than I would for writing fiction.
I was right, but I was off. I’ve written only a few thousand more words as blog posts than I did for writing fiction. Well what does that mean? It means that I’ve written just slightly more than half my annual goal as blog posts which include daily updates, Unorthodox Writing Tips, Movie Reviews, Book Reviews. The other half is fiction words.
Remember my overall objective here. I want to be a writer. If you’ve done any study, more writers don’t earn a lot of money. That means they still need to keep their writing skills sharp in other areas. Like writing reviews and essays. Writing books is good, writing articles will bring in a little more money. Writing reviews will as well. People will pay for words if they feel those words are worth publishing.
So do I feel bad that I’ve only written half my goal as fiction? Pfft. Silly reader. I’m writing. That’s the whole point. I’m learning to sit, write, finish. I’m also learning to sit and write whenever I need to not just when the mood strikes me. I’m learning to type faster to I can make better use of that time when I have it available. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time writing things that are making me no money and will likely never make me any money, but I’m practicing. I’m getting better at sitting and going. I’m getting better at getting distracted by something and jumping right back in.
I will never be able to say this enough. If you’ve followed me throughout my journey so far this year, you know I’ve written every day. I’ve blogged every day. I’ve written when it’s raining. I’ve written when it’s sunny. I’ve written when my sinuses feel like they’re crushing my brain. I’ve written after cleaning up after one of the dogs gets sick. I’ve written when it’s easy and the words flow like they’ve come from some magical realm and I’ve written when each word felt like I had to etch it in stone.
You need to write to be a writer. You need to write every day to become a better writer. Don’t just assume that words will happen when they happen. Those days are few and far between. There’s nothing like sitting down day after day, hitting the keys, and watching words appear. They won’t always be the best you can do, but it’ll add to that total word count. At the end you’ll see progress. You’ll feel better. You may even feel the need to write more words just because you now feel good about having written in the first place.
A writer is his/her own worst enemy. You will be able to come up with many excuses not to write. Turn that around and start coming up with excuses to write. Don’t let yourself get in your way. Write. Daily. Even when it hurts.
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 34 – It’s Time to get Real
Can I be honest with you? You won’t think less of me after I tell you this, will you? I’ve got one simple thing to say.
My writing sucks.
No, seriously. It’s awful. It’s been rejected time and again by publishers, agents, and editors big and small alike. It’s been turned down time and again. I’ve gotten a lot of rejection letters to prove that my writing is awful. Oh, sure I’ve had a couple published, but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. For the most part what I write is terrible.
Isn’t that what it means?
Remember what I posted last time? Quantity produces Quality. This little quote by Ray Bradbury should still be in your head. It should be branded onto your brain. You should understand what these three little words mean to you, me, and any writer out there. Can you have quality without quantity? Well sure, but if you produce a large amount of work, quality will happen if you want it to or not.
Many people work hard on one thing for a very long time. I did that. I spent nearly 12 years working on my first book. It sucked beyond compare. Even after many starts, stops, re-writes, edits, friends reading it and suggesting things. No matter what I did with that one piece, it still sucked. Oh, sure, there were parts in there that I liked and worked for the story’s betterment, but overall it was a big turd.
Then I wrote something else. And another thing. Then I worked on two things at the same time. I wrote even more works and I kept going writing more and more. I could see my work improving and I started sending out novels and short stories. I sent them where ever I could. I got a lot of rejections. Some day I’ll go back and add them up, but I knew rejection was part of the process. I tried to let it roll off me, but rejection sucks and a lot of rejection sucks even more.
Know who else got rejections? Ray Bradbury. He got rejected 499 times before he got a publication on his 500th try. Stephen King had a nail he would push rejection letters onto and then he’d go back to writing his next story. Tobias Buckell recently posted about his rejection counts (I admire his tracking ability and wish I had done the same when I had started doing this writing business). Even Scott Sigler suffered the rejection merry-go-round of write, submit, get rejected, submit somewhere else.
You’ve been told this before and you’ll hear it again and again: No one is an overnight success. I’ve said many times, writing is hard work. It takes a lot of perseverance. It takes a level of commitment most are not capable of. It requires you to grow a thick skin and continue pushing your work out there in the face of rejection, bad reviews, and more rejection. Your writing sucks. My writing sucks. Everyone has writing that sucks at some point.
But you can never make it better if you don’t write it. You need to start some where and you need to start some time. You can’t just let the fact that your writing is awful get in the way of you getting it out there for people to read, critique, and share. If you don’t write, you won’t learn. If you don’t share, you won’t learn. If you don’t read, you won’t learn. It’s a long road you must walk. You will suffer rejection. You will get people that hate your work. It’s going to happen. Not everyone will think your writing is awesome.
You will find people that do love your writing, though. There will be people that clamor for more. They will be the few that understand what you wrote and want more of it from you. Unless you get the words down you will never find those people. If you never get the words written you won’t get those rejection letters to learn from. You won’t be able to share those stories with your friends and watch them cringe as they read that awkward phrase and ask you what you meant. That means you won’t learn what you did wrong and get better. You won’t have that story that does work and does connect with readers.
So get out there and write and know it’s going to suck. Know that it will get rejected. Understand that it will take time before it sees the light of day and readers will get it and understand it and enjoy it. As difficult as it is to get the words down on the page, it’s far more difficult to get them published. It’ll be worth it in the end and you’ll be far happier that you didn’t give up on your piece and just let it flounder in uncertainty. Write those bad stories. Write a lot of them. Eventually you’ll have a gem hidden among those awful stories and you can move forward from there. If you don’t start, you’ll never finish. If you don’t suck, you’ll never be great.
Get out there and write. A lot!
Until Next Time!
Unorthodox Writing Tips 33 – Be Voracious, Be Prolific
I’m writing this on the day that Ray Bradbury died. Some of the best writing advice I ever got was from his little book, Zen and the Art of Writing. It has little to do with Zen, a lot to do with writing. Some of Ray’s biggest advice that I took to heart was to write as much as possible as often as possible. And read. Don’t just read, but READ! Anything and everything. If you can get you hands on it, read it. Read inside your genre, outside your genre, read good books, bad books, magazines, anything. And write whatever your brain decides it wants to write. The only person that can put limits on your creativity is you.
Be voracious: I’ve said this in posts before and I’ve said it different ways. If you want to be a good writer you need to read as much as humanly possible. I read multiple blogs about a variety of topics. I read comic books. I read science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, erotica, alternate history, horror, biographies, autobiographies, research papers, shampoo bottles. Heck , if it’s got words on it, I’ll take a look. I don’t always like what I read, but I read far more than people know. This year I’ve committed to reading and writing as much as I possibly can. If a day goes by that I don’t read or write I feel like a little bit of me has died. I try to make up for it the next day. I currently have 160 books on my kindle (unread). I’m sure I’ll add more. I also have 5 magazine subscriptions. I will get through all of it and if I run into something that I just can’t read, I have no trouble with putting it aside and moving on to something else.
I’m a voracious reader. I can’t tell you home many times I’ve read a story and thought “I’d do that a little differently” or “There’s a hole here, I’d think it should be filled in.” I’ll do that all the time. I’ve also downloaded a lot of free ebooks lately giving many indie publishers a try and a lot of them are awful, but some are pretty good. I would have never found them if I hadn’t given them a shot. But all this reading gives me encouragement that I to can do this writing thing if only I commit myself.
Be Prolific: I don’t limit myself. Yes, I’ve set daily goals and I try to meet those daily goals, but sometimes I miss. I don’t beat myself up over it. Life it going to happen. But I do try and get back on track and keep at it. I know I’ll most likely never have a full day to just sit and write and I don’t expect that. I do think that I’ll have free time here or a lunch break, or time right before I go to bed, or I’ll get up a little early and try to get some words down. Every little bit helps and adds up faster than you would think. As I write this I’m coming up on 240,000 words on the year and mostly likely when you read it I’ll be over 250,000. I’m not writing at breakneck speed by doing 10,000 words a day in a 20 hour marathon session. I’m writing for 1-2 hours a day almost every day. Some days I’ll get in 3-4, but those are rare. I’ve started to type much faster so I can get words out a lot quicker than I used to.
I also don’t limit myself when it comes to what I’m writing about. My stories are all over the map and I love that. It helps when I’m working on anything in that I can bring a little something from one piece, mix it with another, cross genres, blend character traits, merge story lines. Basically I have a lot of fun when I do sit down and write. I have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t work in a story and I let it go from there. By reading as much as I do it’s easy to bring in a new idea or concept into an idea that I might not have fully formed in my head and run with it.
Because of Ray Bradbury I’ve released the bonds of my own creativity. I try my best to not get locked down and not let something happen in a story because of preconceived notions. I let my mind run wild and fix the story if I think things have gotten a little out of control. Like I said, I’m only limited by my own imagination. Once you start to read as much as you can and write as often as your schedule allows you’ll find it easier and easier to write more and more.
Once upon a time I had a story idea. It was my only story idea. I wrote that book, but I read more books. I worried about what would happen when I finished that story. What would happen to my creativity well? Would I ever be able to write something else? Reading as much as I have and writing as often as I now am I have a new fear. I’ll never be able to bring all the stories I have in my head to fruition. I have so many ideas, characters, plots, snippets of story that no matter how fast I write, I’ll never get caught up with them all. More come to my head every day and those that stick for more than a couple of days, I write down so I don’t lose them. I’m glad I’ve got a file for this because I’ve got over 100 different ideas and the list keeps going.
Don’t put limits on yourself. Be voracious. Be prolific.
Until next time!