Category Archives: Unorthodox Writing Tips

Unorthodox Writing Tips 22: Keeping Track.

I’m a geek. I can’t lie. I love sitting at a computer and typing away. I love creating excel spread sheets and going crazy with formatting and layouts and charts and graphs. I mean… seriously. I can sit down for hours and just toy with my spread sheet. Even though that might sound counter productive, I’m proof that it’s not. Let me explain why. (NOTE: If you’re not as geeky as I am, don’t worry, I have alternatives below)

I have a goal. I intend to write 450,000 words during the year of 2012. Now up front that sounds like a lot of words. I started with 500,000 and scared myself so I dialed it back. I didn’t want to be too ambitious with the new year starting. I had been an on again, off again writer. I’d write three or four days in a row and then BAM! Nothing for two weeks. I’d write for a couple of weeks then BAM! Nothing for a month. I’d do NaNoWriMo and I would get deep in and then just throw up my hands and stop.

Okay, that obviously doesn’t work. I needed to come up with a better way of doing things. After all I wanted to write more than I was currently writing and what I was doing just wasn’t working. In December I decided to start keeping track of what I was doing. It all started out so simple. I had Excel. I would have one column for my current word count (I called it start) and my ending word count (end) and a third column that would take the difference. So if I started on 15,250 on a story that went in the start column and after my writing session I’d put in the final word count. Let’s say it was 16,750. That’d be 1500 words and I’d feel great. Then I added a column for date so I could see how many days in a row I would keep at the writing. Needless to say there were gaps. Lots of gaps. It looked like my teeth when I was a kid. BIG OLD GAPS!

Keeping track made me see a pattern very quickly. Start, stop, start, stop. It wasn’t working for me. I also hadn’t made up my mind that writing was the right thing for me to be doing with my spare time. I had other things to do. I had TV shows recorded that I hadn’t watched. My favorite daughter had volleyball practice. There were a lot of other things to do.

No, I want to be a writer. I want to write. I want to be published. I want to see my name in print. If I was going to be a writer, I needed to keep track. I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants and hope for the best. Sure I’d written a large number of short stories and a few novels, but I wasn’t consistent. I needed to be consistent. Heck, I still need to be consistent.

Once I looked at my spread sheet, I said to myself I was going to hold myself accountable for writing words daily. Not just when I felt like it. I was going to write when I didn’t feel like it. I would take on deadlines. I would push myself. I didn’t want to see any more gaps in my spread sheet. I was going to leave that gap toothed kid in the past where he belonged.

That brings me to today. I’ve got a streak going of writing daily. Not always fiction (which I intend to change) but I’ve written every day. Something. Anything. I’ve tracked all the words I’ve written from blog posts, book reviews, short stories, novels, everything. I made a LOT of adjustments to my spread sheet. I figured out how many words I would need to write per day to reach my goal. It’s roughly 1230 words. Heck, I figured that’d be easy. I can knock out words like it’s nobody’s business. This was going to be a cake walk to get to 450,000 on the year.

So I started tracking. I’d see the number go up daily with each daily blog post (another goal for 2012). There were gaps in my fiction writing and there still are, but there are no gaps in my daily writing. My spread sheet expanded because I kept adding more columns. I added one for where I should be at (day of year + 1233). I added a column for where I was at (words written added across). I had a column for blog posts (these count as blog posts), one for short stories, one for novels. I added a column for what I was working on. I added a LENT section, a JuNoWriMo section, a NaNoWriMo section. I expanded and kept going by adding coloring to the spreadsheet to show when I’d hit my daily goal (green) when I got close (yellow) and when I just plain missed (red for under 500 words). I also added coloring to the Lent section. I had fun with it. But you know what, I have a string of writing each day because I know I need to update that spread sheet. Every day.

Here’s my spreadsheet:

You’ll notice a gap in there (fiction gap, not blog post gap) when I didn’t write very much. I had taken a trip to San Francisco for work training and I spent the evenings with friends so there wasn’t much to do other than eat, sleep, train, and talk.

Now I said I’d have alternate methods, right? Simple. You want visual low tech. Buy yourself a calendar. They’re cheap, right. Now buy some stickers. It doesn’t matter if they’re stars, spongebob, ponies, whatever you want for a theme. When you write a blog post, put a red sticker (red pony, smiling Buzz Lightyear). When you write fiction put a smiley face, a pirate ship, whatever. Now if you’re keeping track write in the number of words you typed that day. Don’t feel like you need to stress the word count, but stress that you wrote on that day. Start a chain and you’ll not want to see that string unbroken. Why? You’ll have to start over. But do NOT let missing a day be an excuse to not write more. It’s just that. An excuse. It’s not a reason like you broke you hand and spent the day medicated in the hospital while the put you in a cast from your wrist to your shoulder. Excuses will stop you faster than a reason, but you should be able to dispell them just as easily.

It doesn’t matter if you go low tech or high tech or if you find another great way to keep track with pictures of cows or cuts on your arm (I don’t recommend this method) or by putting hair clippings in a jar and watching the contents grow. When you see a running chain of numbers start to stack up and you realize that every day counts toward hitting your overall goal you’ll quickly realize that you can do this writing thing. You can sit at the keyboard and type and see progress. All those words each day will add up and soon you’ll have a short story, a series of blog posts, a novel, a couple of novels! I’m serious when I say that you can do this. You just need to take some time to set a clear goal and track you way to that goal. I’m not on target to his 450,000 words for the year. I’m on target to hit and possibly pass my original 500,000 word goal. No, really. You could be doing this too.

Got a different tracking method? Want to share your spreadsheet and word counts? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Me? I need to go make that word count grow by leaps and bounds.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

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Unorthodox Writing Tips 21: Cleaning

It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or if you’re 80, you’ve got something that needs to be cleaned out. Think about it for about 30 seconds. Do you have a dresser drawer with all sort of random things in it? Perhaps a drawer in the kitchen you call your junk drawer. Maybe it’s a box under your bed or a shoe box at the top of your closet. When was the last time you decided to just dump that drawer out on the floor and start going through the contents and seeing what you had in there? Maybe it’s the glove box of your car or even your trunk. How about that dark corner of your garage you’re afraid to enter. Heck, go under your sink and check out what’s been living under there.

Now is your chance to do some digging. Get that drawer and start cleaning (or where ever you’ve chosen). Don’t just clean, DUMP! Don’t leave everything in a huge pile, group things together. Start with piles of stuff you know is junk, what you know you need to keep, and odds and ends you have no idea how they got into that drawer in the first place. Keep sorting the piles. Tools, nuts, bolts, screws, old receipts, envelopes you’ve drawn on, bulbs, fuses, mittens. Keep sorting the piles, but don’t throw anything away just yet.

Let’s start with that trash pile. The one with the broken thumb tack, bent nail, empty card box, mostly used book of matches, and strange round things you’re not sure if they’re rat poop or not. Look at them. See how each is worn, torn, bent, broken. Try to recall how each got that way. Don’t just try to recall, get out a pen from the pen and pencil pile and write down the back of an envelope you haven’t written on yet. Write down what each is and how it got there. If you can’t remember how something got into the drawer or you can’t remember anything about it make something up. This is your chance to use that brain and really remember things that you may have forgotten or you may have tried so hard to forget.

Go ahead and finish going through all the items. Yes, I know this might take a while. It usually does. When you’re done, you’ll have a list of items. If you’re anything like me this list will go on and on and on. You’ll also have descriptions and memories about those items. You’ll have formed a personal relationship with each and every one. You’ll be able to just close your eyes and envision every little scrap of paper, birthday card, broken toothpick, and hunk of dog food.

Now we get to have a little fun. You know where I’m going with this, right? Good. I was hoping you’d tell me.

But seriously. Look over that list of items. Let’s start a simple story. You’ve got a character, perhaps two. You’ve got to give an item from one character to another. Look at that list and figure out what your character will put his/her hand into his/her pocket/purse and pull out. Look again at your list and pick a few things at random. Make sure you’ve picked out a couple of items that will actually fit in your pocket/purse. It doesn’t matter if they make sense. How many times have you asked someone for something and they pull something out of their purse and your just look in amazement thinking “What have they got that in there for?” Probably happens more often than you recall.

You’ve taken the time to clean out that drawer. You’ve got a good list of random items, objects, papers, and trash. Your descriptions are probably far different than mine and that’s the joy of this. Even if you’ve got common items in your list, they’re likely not the same as everyone else’s. If you’ve ever held a screwdriver, you know there are a many different kinds just like there are many different kinds or screws, bolts, nuts, gum. You can use this treasure trove of details, descriptions, odds and ends to add a little flavor to a story. You can go all Macgyver and put them together to solve a puzzle, riddle, escape from jail, defuse a bomb.

Don’t be afraid to put in too much description of an everyday item. It’s far easier to take out words after you’re done writing than it is to go back and think, just what was written on that card? What color were those push pins, or were they thumb tacks? What else might have been there that would have been even more interesting to use instead of the broken pocket knife? Go ahead, add a little detail. Add a little spice. Put in something that you wouldn’t normally think about and see what happens.

Until Tomorrow!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 20: Say Hello

The other day I had to go to the bank. As is usual with banks near the end of the working day, there was quite a line. It was going to be a while. Being the type of person that I am, I made a comment about long lines on Fridays. The gentleman behind me laughed. I forget what I actually said.

I turned around and introduced myself. I will leave his name out. I didn’t inquire as to his banking business, but I asked him how his day was going. He smiled, revealing a front tooth outlined in gold with a diamond in the middle. His accent distinctly Jamaican. Under his hat his braided hair ran out and down to his shoulders.

He said he was in a bit of a hurry. His daughter had a lesson to get to. I inquired what she had to get to, confused as to why he’d be wearing his sunglasses inside. It made it difficult to talk to him because I was seeing my own reflection. He didn’t seem to mind and smiled a lot as we talked.

His daughter runs track and is currently training with a gold medalist. I found this quite impressive. It’s not every day you end up talking about the Olympics.

I told him about my favorite daughter. He asked the usual question “You have only one?” I wanted to say “There can be only one!” but said just the one. He still got a laugh out of it. We talked about our kids until it was my turn. I shook his hand. Talking to him and looking at my reflection in his sunglasses I hadn’t realized how big his arms were. I thought he was going to crush my hand, but he apparently knew his own strength and kept from giving me the kung fu grip of death.

Meeting people will fill you life with something. A large number of characters to draw upon. I’ve said this before, you can only write what you know. Now I’m not recommending you go out to the back streets and find some thug to talk to if you’re writing about street crime. What I am saying is don’t be afraid to say hello to someone. You’d be amazed at the number of reactions you’ll get just introducing yourself.

For example at the poker game I thought I recognized someone. I smiled. I shook his hand. I said how great it was to see him. Then realized I had no idea who the person was. He smiled. Offered to buy me a beer. I declined and wished him well. Perhaps he thought I was someone he knew and didn’t want to offend me by admitting he didn’t recognize me.

Perhaps.

But again, this reaction sparks little ideas in my head. I can use these reactions with a character to make him seem more real. Rather than just give some blank or sterile description of a person, I can insert an actual reaction a person had. This will bring a character to life in the situation. I can include how he cocked his head to the side and scrunched up his forehead trying to figure out who I was. The way he shook my hand a little too long as if physical contact might help him with recognition. The way his friends stood next to him and also looked at me like “Who is this guy?” I’m sure they all asked and wondered.

What I’m trying to say here is if you’re a writer you need to meet and talk to people. All sorts of people in all sorts of situations. You cannot be afraid of how someone will react. Not everyone will react favorable.

One time I was at McDonald’s or a taco shop or something. I was still trying to make up my mind. I turned around and there was a lady behind me with her daughter (or son, my memory is foggy). She didn’t look like she had a lot of money. I offered for her to go ahead of me and I asked her what she thought might be good. She didn’t answer. She looked at the floor and pulled her child in closer to her. I turned back to the menu figuring the conversation was a dead end and when I turned again to allow the lady to go ahead of me, her and the child were gone.

Color me confused.

As a writer you need to be able to store these events away and put them in your head and collect them. People are all very different and if you can pick out a little quirk during a conversation and drop that into your WIP you’ll have someone say “Hey, I know someone like that” or even “That’s happened to me too”

Don’t be afraid. Get out there and say “Hello”. Be safe, be careful, but don’t worry if someone reacts badly. It’s bound to happen. Maybe someday we’ll run into each other.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 19: Yes You Can!

Okay, if you’re reading this, and you’re not writing daily, I have one question for you: Why not?

No, really. Get a pencil and paper and write up all your excuses reasons for not writing daily. Be it a blog post, a hundred words here or a hundred words there. What is it that’s keeping you from getting words out. Even if you have no intention of showing the world your list of excuses reasons go ahead and write them down.

I did. And I looked at each excuses reasons. I then looked at that list and started crossing off things that I knew weren’t valid.

I don’t have enough time

I’m working a lot of extra hours

I’m tired

I don’t feel good

I just don’t feel in the writing mood right now

My idea needs time to stew in my brain before I can write it

 

My writing just isn’t that good

No, seriously. Write them down for me. Let me know what you come up with. Then you cross off anything that’s weak. Like I’m tired. Really? I was last night as well and I still sat my butt in the chair and typed up the words to meet my daily goal. I had been up very late the night before playing poker. That was my choice. And I need to write my words for the day. That’s also my choice. I set a goal and if I let it slip, I’ll fall behind.

Do any of your reasons fall under the list I posted above? Can you start crossing them off and come up with a reason why you CAN write? Stop looking at what you can’t do. Get your brain out of the negative mindset. Get into the positive mindset. You want to write, correct? You just need to give yourself permission and direction. Permission is easy. DO IT!

Direction is a little more difficult. I can’t stress this enough. Write it down. What is your goal? Long term, short term, medium term, write down a goal. Write down what you need to do to reach that goal.

In mid-December I wrote down “I will write 450,000 words in 2012”. Easy enough. How did I plan on hitting this goal? Well, let’s break it down. 450,000/366 (leap year you know) is 1230. 1230 words a day. That’s it.

Well, for me that’s it. It’s become easier and easier to actually hit that goal. One of the things I also wrote to hit that goal was to write a blog post daily. That’s helped more than you can imagine. It is so easy to just sit and type out whatever comes to mind. Words flow out like they’re falling out of my brain. Sure it was painful to start. Take a look back at the early January posts. They’re pretty short, but they’re there. I haven’t missed a day. I won’t miss a day. No excuses.

Writing fiction, now that’s a little bit more difficult, right? NO! IT! ISN’T! Seriously. It’s all about getting into the habit of sitting down every day and writing. I’ve heard this so many times. If you write daily, it’ll get easier. This is true!

How do I know? I upped my goal for Lent. Yes, I know Lent it about giving something up. And in a way, I did. I gave up a little more time to write more words. I’m going for 2000 a day instead of the usual 1230 a day. How have I done? I won’t lie. I’ve missed several times, but I’m going for an average. I’ve got time to get caught up. And I know I will. How do I know? Because I wrote down my goal.

Know what else I did? I’m tracking my goal.That’s right, I created a simple excel spread sheet and I put in the number of words I write each day. Blog posts, short stories, novels, I track it all. The reason I started tracking is to initially stay on track with my annual goal, but it’s become more than that. As I’ve been writing more, I’ve been playing with my excel file more. I had to teach myself a few things and I’ve had fun with it. I nearly lost a day of writing because I was having so much with the conditional formatting. It’s evolved into something that it wasn’t when I started. It’s been the slow accumulation of days that’s made it into what it presently is. Writing words every day does the same thing to your WIP.

So what do you need to do?

1) Write up your excuse list and start coming up with reasons why you should and cross off the why you can’t excuses

2) Write daily. A blog, in a journal, 100 words a day on a story, something, but write daily. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it, start over.

3) Track your progress.

Tracking will show you where you’re succeeding and where you need to do a little work. You can do this. I didn’t think I could, and I am.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 18: Ritualistic Writing

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve read more than one blog post (I think four) about writing rituals. I found this odd that all of these websites were separate. I would link to them all, but things go by and I’d have to go look them up. That’s a distraction and will stop me from achieving my writing goals. Sorry, I just feel you and I are both better served if I get words out rather than spend time looking things up on the internet.

There was a fairly common theme to all the writing ritual posts. It went in great detail describing either one person’s writing ritual or the rituals of multiple people. Some were interesting. Others were very to the point (I sit, I write, I get back up until I’m ready to write some more). I read them all and thought one thing was missing.

How do you form a writing ritual?

None of the posts really explained how or why someone would need a ritual to get them into the writing mood. Reading this was almost like the worst writing advice I’d ever read. How do you write 50,000 words in a week? Rent a hotel room and write 10,000 words a day.

Huh?

Sure, reading about other rituals is interesting, but I didn’t look at it as writing advice. It was mostly just telling us what others do to prepare to write.

I’ve had several rituals over the years. How did I form them? I think that’s the most important question. If you want to be able to sit and write, the shorter the ritual the better, right? You don’t want to spend half of your valuable writing time getting ready to write or even distract you from writing all together.

I used to sit down and before I would write, I would cut up a couple of oranges. After eating them I’d need to wash my hands with lavender soap (it’s what we had available). Then I’d sit and write.

At the time I wasn’t thinking of a writing ritual. It was just what I did. I did this for several weeks and it just became more of a habit. And I like oranges. Even orange juice worked for getting my creative juices flowing. Sometimes I’d light a candle or burn some incense. Just the act of lighting them would kick my brain into gear. When I stopped doing that, I fell into a slump. Well, I was in a slump and I never performed those tasks.

What I did when I got back into writing, I found my incense tray and incense. I found my candles. Right now I lit the candle, and I felt the need to sit at the computer and write. This old habit has stuck with me.

It’s basic psychology. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. They would hear a bell before they ate. Soon they associated the bell with food and would salivate without the presence of food. You can use this same psychology on yourself. Ring a bell, light a candle, eat a chocolate, have a beverage. Then sit and write. Work on creating an association with something that you can easily relate to not only writing, but creativity. Something quick, simple, but effective.

Sitting in a chair isn’t always enough. This little candle sitting next to me draws my attention and inspires me. I cannot explain why it works, but it’s what I used as a writing tool. Something to tell me brain it was time to sit and write. You can do the same. Find that little something and start putting it together with writing. Use it each time you sit and write for it to be effective. Soon you’ll have a need to write. Perhaps it’s singing along with a favorite song, a special shirt, walking outside and feeling the sun on your face, laying on the floor and looking at the ceiling. It can be anything, but for the most effective results, make it something short and simple.

For me, smells are highly effective in kicking ye olde brain into gear. For you it might be a visual queue, a painting, the background on your desktop, a picture your six year old drew for you. Don’t let your imagination be limited to what you use as s writing queue, ritual, habit, whatever you want to call it. Do the same thing for several writing sessions and soon you’re find it easier and easier to sit and write.

Do you have a ritual that works for you? How did you form it? Was it intentional or accidental? How effective is it? Do you have different more than one ritual? Does one work more effectively than another? I’d love to hear what you do.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 17: Turn the TV on!

I won’t lie. There are times when I just love so sit and watch television. I did so tonight while I ate dinner. I watched the Big Bang Theory (still the funniest show on television), Two and a Half Men (I don’t know why I still watch this show), and The Soup (gotta watch this show). Then I sat and watched VH1 Behind the Music remastered: Ted Nugent.

Now I know I need to be writing. I get that. But there are times when watching a little quality television will help you. Personally I can feel my brains being sucked out the side of my head during certain shows that I won’t name here, but there are some good shows on. What do I look for in a shows? I’m glad you asked.

I love to watch the Big Bang Theory for several reasons. One being a major geek I love to see all the references they drop in there. Sure, that’s fun, but the interaction between the characters on the show is so natural that I’ve often said “Oh! That reminds of <insert person’s name here>.” To me that’s what makes a great show when you can relate to the characters and see bits of yourself or your friends in there and to see interaction that flows naturally instead of looking rehearsed and forced.

Two and a Half Men used to be really funny. Why? Because the main character was Charlie who basically played a caricature (ok, not really) of himself. This made the show really funny because you could see Charlie Sheen doing something like that. I’m sorry, but without Charlie Sheen the show just isn’t as funny because Ashton’s character isn’t real enough to be funny.

There are some reality shows I like to watch. One on tonight is Gold Rush. This show I like because I like most of the people on the show. I’ve been able to tell when they’ve had to reshoot a scene and there have been times when you can tell people are hamming it up for the camera, but there are a lot of times when people are just themselves. This is true for some reality shows, not all.

Even beyond that, I love to watch a good documentary. There is so much information and it’s interesting to see differing viewpoints on how something happens.It doesn’t matter if it’s about the pyramids of Egypt, China, Ancient Aliens, How it’s Made, I love a good documentary now and again. Just to fill my head with information on a wide variety of topics.

I’ve watched all the Metallica documentary videos (a couple times each) and there were many issues reported in the news and speculation as to what went down or how it went down, but to see it actually happen on camera is great. To see people who are held up as stars act like regular people at one moment and like a super start the next really broke down what the members of the band were about.

So where am I going with watching television? It’s a way to be voyeuristic and see how people interact with each other. To see what are they wearing, what’s in the background, how do they hold themselves, all the things I’ve been talking about here for weeks you can do watching television. You can combine all that people watching into a good viewing.

Don’t just watch the story playing out before you. Think ahead. Where are they going with that joke? Did you see that prop they were about to use before the used it? On the reality show, does it look like they waited for the camera to show up before they took care of something or did it look natural? How do the characters on the show hold up to your expectations?

Apply something you see in a television show into your writing. Perhaps write a reality short story where you show a scene, then have the characters talk about it after the fact as to how they really felt versus how they acted in the moment. Write a short story based on an episode of a show you watched and write an alternate ending. Create a new world and drop in someone you saw that you thought was interesting and see how they react to the world you created. Take a speech pattern of a charter and see how your character sounds in your head talking like that.

There are many exercises you can apply to your television viewing. Don’t just veg out and watch things happen. Think ahead while you watch. Store all that in your brain and see when you need to write a scene and you’re stuck, draw from that wealth of knowledge in your head and bring that scene to life.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 16: Doing what’s hard

Let’s be honest with each other for a minute, shall we?

It’s far easier to eat a pint of ice cream than it is to write 1000 words.

Here’s the difficulty though. I can eat a pint of ice cream. I enjoy it from the first spoon to the last. My favorite is Cherry Garcia. I love to sit and eat ice cream and watch TV. It’s easy to do. Requires little effort. When I’m done, though, I feel full and lethargic and also feel bad that I didn’t accomplish anything. Sure I enjoyed my ice cream, but where did that get me?

I also have an issue with my weight so now I feel even worse because I’ve just eaten far more calories than I should have. It’s a snowball that builds and builds quickly and to fend off those bad feelings, I’ll eat more to make me feel better. Why do I do that?

It’s quite simple. Feeling full gives me a feeling of bliss. It triggers my brain to say that it was a pleasurable experience. Sure I’ll feel worse later, but for the moment I feel good. That’s what matters, right?

Let’s look at this from another direction. I love to write. Writing 1000 words is difficult. It takes a long time. I don’t always feel better when I’m done writing because I haven’t finished what I’m working on. I’m only somewhere in the middle after that 1000 words. I know I’ll have to write ANOTHER 1000 words later. I can find any number of things that’ll make me feel good NOW! Why should I wait?

Simple, the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done with a manuscript feels incredible. It’s far better than eating a pint of ice cream. It’s something that lasts also and doesn’t make me feel worse later. I can honestly say that having written many books and finished a large number of short stories, I still feel good about what I’ve accomplished. Sure I don’t have a book deal, but I know that’s my fault, not the fault of anyone else. I felt so good about getting done that I didn’t follow through to the next step because that’s also hard.

It’s hard to submit a completed work to a publisher or agent. Before I can do that I need to do edits and re-writes. Again, I need to look at the long term results. How will I feel when someone does finally pick up one of my books or short stories for publication? I have a feeling this will be an even bigger elation than completing that work. It will be the final validation of what I started. Yes it’s a very long, very hard road, but it’s a road that must be traversed.

Where am I going with this? It’s about short term feelings, and long term feelings. I can feel good for a moment. I can feel good today. Or I can work toward a long term goal, fight, struggle, claw, and fight my way to ‘The End’ and feel good for a very long time. When I tell people I’ve written 10+ novels, the look they give me is one of incredulity. They don’t believe it. Sure it’s taken me nearly 20 years to write those books and I’ve had many stops and starts, but I’ve got many more in the hopper and with each I’ve written, the next comes that much easier. The same goes with short stories. It’s something that I will always have. Ice Cream is here today, gone tomorrow and I don’t feel better about myself.

Take a look at where you want to be. Write down what you hope to accomplish with your writing. Make a commitment to yourself and write. It doesn’t have to be a lot every day. It will be a difficult road to follow. Trust in the fact that many people have gone before you and it is possible. Forgo the easy path to feeling better which we all know only leads to feeling worse in the long run and take that path that will lead to long term happiness. You can do it. Let me know how your progress goes. I’d love to hear from you.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 15: Know When to Say When

When I was in the Navy I hung out with a bunch of guys and we all liked to drink. Not just your casual drinking, mind you. Heavy drinking. Drinking to excess. Drinking until a fight broke out, someone passed out (usually me) or the police showed up to stop the party before the sun came up. There were many times I’d wake up back in my barracks with someone else laughing about my antics the night before.

There was this time with flaming shots where I light my face on fire, but that’s a story for another day.

Suffice to say I didn’t know when to stop. I’ve matured over the years, as a person is wont to do, and I’ve learned my limit. I normally stop at two or I don’t drink at all if I’m driving.

When I first discovered podcasting I dove in with both feet. I subscribed to all 100 podcasts and listened to every back episode I could get my hands on (in most cases this was 10 or 11). Yes, I was lucky enough to discover podcasts early on and I’ve seen it evolve and I drank deeply from that cup as well.

I got burned out and eventually I stopped listening all together several times but would still go back and get caught up from time to time. Now I have a set few that I listen to each and every week and I’ve pretty much cut out everything else. I’m still subscribed and have over 50 Gigs of podcasts I haven’t listened to, but some day I’ll clear those out and just keep what I feel I need.

Which podcasts do I listen to? I’m not going to name names here, but someday I’ll put up my play list. Most of what I listen to are writing podcasts and I don’t even listen to them for the writing advice, but for the conversation.

What does any of this have to do with your writing?

Easy. Learn to know when you’ve had enough.

I could talk to you all day about writing and even longer if you’d let me. I’d burn your ear off with standard advice, editing tips, dialogue dos and don’t, talking about other authors I’ve talked with about writing and story ideas until I turn blue in the face. But what does that get you?

In the end, nothing. It also doesn’t get me anything either. Talking about doing something is fun. It’s easy. It’s great to be social. It’s great to get out there and talk with people who have done what you really want to do. You know what’s hard? WRITING!

Writing is not easy. It requires a lot of hours of sitting by yourself and typing. If all you ever do is listen to other people talk about what they’ve done and this gives you a sense of accomplishment, great. There’s no better feeling than feeling like you’ve accomplished something and living vicariously through someone else can help you achieve that.

Want to know a secret? Getting to ‘The End’ yourself is a high you’ll never forget. Do you want to know something else? Knowing that someone is listening to you talk about writing is having the same sense of accomplishment is an even higher high. But the best high of all when it comes to writing; having someone you don’t know, have never had any contact with, and could have just as easily ignored you and your work send you an email, a tweet, a facebook post to say they read what you wrote, loved it, and wants more. I’m here to tell you there is nothing like that.

So I’m going to end here. What I want you to do is to decided when you’ve had enough input and start generating output. Put down those books on writing. Put down that newsletter. Stop that podcast and sit down at your keyboard wherever it makes you comfortable and start typing. When you reach ‘The End’ come and tell me how you feel. Don’t do things that are easy to get your sense of satisfaction, do the things that are hard and that sense of satisfaction will be tenfold.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 14: Look Up

I’ve always been fascinated with things over my head. The sky is a wondrous place. When I look into the night sky and see stars, I can easily understand how you could see images in the patterns and come up with stories to help them relay what you saw. I’m not sure what drives my desire to always look and see what’s in the sky, but it’s always filled with wonder for me.

As a kid, my brother and I (sometimes my mom) would lie on the grass in the front yard and just stare up at clouds. We would try and describe what we saw to help each other identify what we were looking at. The clouds would change shape and move by and we’d come up with something else. Sure we have TV, but where I grew up we had four or five stations and when you changed the station on the television you had to turn the antenna to get better reception. My imagination flourished looking at clouds and coming up with stories about them.

Even before these days when I was maybe three my mom didn’t have much money. Times were tight and we’d go to the airport. We’d sit for hours and watch planes take off and my mom would tell us stories of who was on each plane and where they were going and who they were with. We’d watch the planes take off and wave to each one. Sitting outside on the opposite side of the fence it was a great feeling to know where they were going and my mom always assured us they would get there safely.

Even though we used to watch planes and clouds, my mom was terrified with flying and with any animal or insect that flew.

*note: My mother wasn’t scared of much. One time a couple kids at a picnic found a grass snake and were scaring the ladies. They took it  to my mom and showed it to her. She grabbed it from them, chopped it up into pieces and put the pieces into a coffee can and handed it back to the kids and said “Now you’ve got bait to go fishing.” Needless to say the kids freaked out and I got the bait to go fishing with.

I never knew my mom was scared of flying things until the day a bat got in the house. Not only did she freak out and run screaming from the house, she refused to come back inside until it was gone. This fear didn’t just go for bats and birds, but also with butterflies, dragon flies, you name it. It if had wings, she was afraid of it.

This includes flying. Yes, she has flown, but it does scare her to no end.

Now that I’ve written this, I think I had my mother to thank for always looking up into the sky to see what’s there. I love to see clouds and shapes in the clouds. I can never see enough sunsets. Planes flying through the sky hold a special passion for me. And don’t even get me started with birds. Even my grandma nicknamed my Jay Bird as a kid. I may not be able to identify many birds, but I love to watch them as they fly through the sky. I’ve also tried to get my daughter to look up from her phone when I see a neat cloud formation or a hawk sitting on the light pole.

It so easy to get your head down and focus on what’s at hand and ignore the fact that we live in a world that isn’t flat. There are many things over your head that should come into play when you’re writing. Yes you should focus on your characters and your plot, but when you find yourself struggling for motivation, look up, and tell me what you see.

Until Next Time

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 13: A different point of view

My current residence isn’t that big. Compared to the house I used to live in it’s quite small. Regardless, we still have a good number of places to sit down. From the dining room table to the couch to the corner chair.

Something I like to do to get a different perspective on a given room is to sit somewhere I don’t normally sit. Sure I usually sit on the couch or in the corner chair, but what if I sit on the patio chair and look in through the window? Things look quite different sitting on the outside looking in.

Or perhaps I’ll sit in each of the six dining room chairs in the morning. Which chairs give me the best view of the room. Which have the sun shining in my eyes. Which gives me the best view to look outside. How would a conversation flow with people sitting in the different chairs? Would one person be distracted by a picture or mirror behind the person they are talking to while that person is squinting from the sunlight shining just over the wall in the back yard?

Move yourself around and imagine your characters having their conversation. Perhaps you need some props on the table to visualize what your characters are seeing as they converse. Most people don’t just sit and stare at one another during a conversation. What are they doing in between sentences or while the other person is talking? These actions will allow you to cut down on the number of he said, she said and allow you to interject action to help move the conversation along.

What about other rooms in your house? Perhaps you have a low dresser that you lean against while you talk. Or would your character be more comfortable with his arms crossed leaning in the doorway or cross legged sitting on the edge of the bed. Sitting on the floor. Again, what do you see that might distract your character during a conversation? What might they pick up and look at as they conversation is flowing. Where are the windows? What do you smell in the room? Where would someone else sit?

Move yourself to the back yard if you have one. What plants are there? Are they still living? In desperate need of water or trimming? I’m not here to judge. Trust me I’ve got the brown Thumb of doom. But again take some time to look around to see where you have to sit or stand or what might be a conversation piece.

Next look and see how things are laid out on a given room or the backyard. How might your character arrange the room differently? How s the flow of the room and what looks out of place and what looks too organized? Where are the piles of stuff and what is in those piles. Would your character be embarrassed to have company or are they such a neat freak they’re following guests around picking up after them while smiling and holding a conversation?

Take some time to sit somewhere new. Perhaps you need to move a chair to get a look at a room from a different angle but take to get a fresh view on an old room. You may just surprise yourself.

Until next time

Woo woo,