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Daily Update: Some days it’s never easy.

I almost let yesterday’s writing slip by. I sat, wrote two words, would get distracted, didn’t get back to it for a couple hours. Sat again, wrote a couple words, got distracted again. You get the picture.

We went and got the wife the new iPhone. She needed a new phone as hers had gone through the wash. Twice. It still worked, but the cracked screen cut her fingers more than once and who knows when it’ll finally give up the ghost. So rather than wait for the inevitable, we did the needful.

Siri is nice and I had to teach the wife to speak slowly to Siri. It wasn’t her accent that Siri didn’t understand, it was too many words in rapid succession. It’ll take getting used to, but she’ll get the hang of it I know. The wife is smart and adaptive.

I did not get a new phone. I still love my Atrix. It does all I need and more and I push it to its limits some times. I did a couple daily updates with it and I’m sorry for the number of typos that likely slipped past me. It autocorrects and odds are I missed something. I have a ‘voice command’ feature on it that I’ve never used. Seems like it’d be similar to Siri without the talking back part. I think. I’ll have to check it out as I’ve never used it.

Then there was gas, dinner, a visit, all distractions. It wasn’t until after 9PM that I actually got to writing and I burned through 45 minutes and got out just over 1000 words. I hit around 1700 on the day. Not too shabby, but I always feel like I could write so much more than I do.

In case you missed it, Unorthodox Writing Tips volume 1 is available all over the place. Here’s the smashwords link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/150171. It’s also over on Kindle and Nook. It covers the first 25 blog posts from this site as well as 6 unpublished episodes that were recorded as audio versions at Get Published. It’s around 25,000 words of advice goodness without telling you how to write words, but more how to inspire yourself to write words.

There are times I sit down to write these posts and I have a lot of negative thoughts. I think about money problems, bad drivers, people that make me angry, political rants, or just random negative thoughts. One thing I’ve tried to do is keep all that away from here. I want to project a positive light on what I’m doing with these daily posts. Hopefully you don’t think I poop sunshine every day. There are times when I just get worn down like everyone else. Some days I need a pick-me-up. Today feels like one of ‘those’ day. I think I need a shopping trip to Fry’s J

There’s a lot to do and I’d better get to doing it.

Until Tomorrow!

WOO WOO!

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Unorthodox Writing Tips 23: Confidence

There is something that no one can give you, but anyone can take away. It’s difficult to build or define, easy to destroy and demean. Any writer I’ve ever talked to suffers from one main thing that you, if you’re a writer, likely share. An issue with confidence.

It doesn’t matter if it’s just a matter of “I wonder if anyone will like this?” or “Is this any good?” even the “I got a bad review, everyone hates me.”

You’re never as good as your best review, you’re never as bad as your worst review. I know some authors that are really good. I mean, I LOVE their work. It’s amazing that so many suffer from confidence issues. It’s no wonder the writing community is filled with support groups and beta readers and communities of morale boosters. Writers are creative types and doing something creative makes you always question if you got something right, or if you think you got it right, could it be better? Maybe if there was just this one more change it would have had a better impact with the reader. If the ending wasn’t so weak and just sort of trailed off…

It’s very easy to second guess what you’re working on. Heck, it’s even easier to find anything better to do with your time that’s easier like sitting down and watching re-runs of Star Trek or FarScape or Dr. Who, go to the movies, take a nap. Writing is very hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s a lonely, painful endeavor that has you pouring your heart and soul on the page and when you finally put something out there people will rip it to shreds right before your eyes.

Alright, enough sulking. Pick yourself up and think about what you started writing for in the first place. Yes, writing is hard. There are a lot of rules of grammar, sentence structure, plot, dialog, the list is nearly endless. And if you’re going to self-publish (go Indie) there’s the matter of where to go, formatting, distribution, etc. Writing requires you to be well educated. That’s not a negative. This is a plus. Why?

Those who take the time to educate themselves will persevere. If you can take the time to write something, you can figure out how to get it into readers hands.

But let’s start with writing first. You’ll hear a lot of advice like your first 1,000,000 words will be crap so write them, get them out of the way, and then get down to the business of writing. I don’t agree with this. Everyone has their own learning curve. You may be able to get it right the first time, though that is unlikely. I wrote four books and a LOT of short stories before I really found a writing style that works for me. I wrote for years before I found any success. I had many stops and starts, but I’ve finally found something that works for me.

I tell my favorite daughter all the time, in order to get better at anything you need to practice on a regular schedule. She loves her volleyball and she’s committed to practicing three sometimes four times a week. I write every day now. Every day. Not just sit down one time per day and write something, but I might get up and come back three, four, even fives times in a day to get the words out. Sometimes there isn’t much time and I squeeze in all the writing I can into one session. Again, your results may vary, but you need a schedule. You need to pick a day/time/place and sit and write. Free yourself of distractions because the longer you write during a session, the longer you may want to write. It’s funny how once you get going it’s hard to stop.

Don’t let anyone read your first draft. Please. I’ve done it. I still get a hard time from my friends when they read something and they’ll know quickly if it’s a first draft. Yes, I’ve written a lot of books and short stories (I’m working on getting up to 15 novels and I don’t even want to go back and try to count the short stories) and not to mention the daily blog posts I started, this weekly writing blog. Just this year I’ve put in 120,000 words and will likely surpass my 450,000 word goal on the year. I STILL have first draft issues. Plot holes. Dialog issues. Misspellings. Wrong word usage. It happens. This is how you know you’re passionate about writing is when your fingers are flying and just typing as fast as your brain can output the ideas.

Once you’ve gone through your work at least once, pass it on to some trusted friends that’ll treat you with kid gloves. Nothing hurts more than someone giving you harsh criticism. It’ll stop you in your tracks, make you question what you’re doing, blah blah blah. Friends will usually tell it to you in a way that won’t hurt your feelings or they’ll listen to you rationalize. If you need to explain what you wrote, it needs to be re-written.

Even if you do get harsh criticism, press on. You’ll get a lot worse when you put something out there for the general public to consume so if you can’t handle what your friends have to say, you really need to toughen up, grow a thick skin, let if flow like water off a ducks back, learn from it and move on. There are some harsh critics out there just waiting to beat you down and they’ve beaten down the best (and the worst). You’re not special. You will get bad reviews. You will see a scathing critic. Prepare for them so they glance off and you keep going.

I’ll say it again, “WRITING IS HARD!” Writing a story is the easiest part. Standing behind your work, showing it off in all its glory, being proud of what you’ve done, getting it into the hands of readers and fending off all the negative feedback. That’s not always so easy. Oh, there will be times when you realize that you did a good job on a story and people will love it and that will boost you up, but just make sure that you don’t get it in your head that everything you write will be gold. There will be ups and downs. The trick isn’t to ‘ride the wave’. The trick is to prepare for the roller coaster. Once you’ve prepared yourself, the ups and downs won’t seem so scary and your confidence won’t take such a beating.

Sit down. Write. Prepare. Get yourself out there. You can do it. You should do it. It gets easier each time.

Until next time!

WOO WOO!

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!

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 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,

Unorthodox Writing Tips 12: It’s About Time

One of the many things I’ve gotten wrong in my books over the years is the amount of time it takes to perform a task, travel from place to place, hold a conversation, pause for dramatic effect

No, really. I’ve written a page of dialogue before and in my mind hours had gone by. When I’ve gone back and read what I’d written the conversation would have taken all of four or five minutes. Heck, Even when I did the podcast version of V&A Shipping I had to correct some timing issues. I had to figure out how long something took because it just didn’t feel correct after going back and reading it.

I have a stop watch. No, really. I have a stop watch. If my character is going to do something, cook dinner, get dressed, build a bomb, tie a knot, I need to know how long that task will take. Now I’ve never built a bomb, but understand the dilemma here. The time it takes your character or characters to accomplish a task needs to feel right. As I mentioned, that one page of dialogue was a short conversation, but in my mind I needed them to be in a different place after the conversation.What did I do?

The conversation took place while the characters were walking from one place to another. I needed a certain amount of time to pass while they walked and talked. This scene needed some fixing not only with the distance traveled, but with the flow of the conversation. What did I do? I took a walk and timed how long it would take at a casual pace to travel a certain distance. Even the walk, not enough time had passed in my story. I needed to figure out what would slow them down.

Okay, color me dumb here. The walk they took was in a heavily-congested, downtown area. Brilliant me I walked in a straight line. Taking a trip to downtown San Diego provided what I needed. I’ve walked with groups downtown before. There are a large number of things that will stop you as you walk. Window shopping, street vendors, street lights, cars, bikes, other pedestrians. Not only did all of these items add a little flavor to the scene I was trying to fix, it provided the length of time I was looking to introduce in the scene. It also helped to break up the dialogue so it wasn’t a long stream of talking.

This scene would have worked as-is, but but stopping myself and timing the event to make sure it had the right feel helped me flesh out a scene that, once I’d re-written it, worked so much better than the original.

Am I suggesting you get a stop watch and time every little thing you do? Well, not everything, but I do recommend you watch the clock when you’re doing something you would expect a character in your book to do. A minute can be much longer than you suspect and an hour much shorter than you know. Give it try. Maybe you’ll discover something more than just the amount of time something takes.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 10: A Different Point of View 2

Have you ever been sitting and staring at the same four walls for hours on end? Something about the doldrums and monotony can drive a person insane Not only that, but it can suck all the creativity out of your brain. Sure I know all about getting into the habit of sitting in the same place to do your writing, but sometimes getting a fresh view point is critical to keeping the creative juices flowing.

I normally do my writing in the same place every time that I write. Today, I’m sitting out in front of the gym where my daughter has volleyball practice. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, it’s 65F outside. It’s a beautiful day. Why would I want to sit inside on a day like this?

Moreover, why would I not want to write on a day like this? I got up early, did my walk, and I’m all ready to do some writing. I don’t have internet access. I don’t have any distractions. I have a fully charged netbook with a keyboard that helps me type faster (I searched far and wide for this little sucker). It’s the perfect time to sit and write.

Not only that, but sitting in a different place engages a different part of my brain. It breaks me out of the normal routine of writing. I feel energize sitting outside today. There are different sounds, a different background to look at, even different people to watch (I’ll do a people watching post one day soon).

One thing I’ve always found to help break me out of a writing rut is to put myself in a different location. It’s so easy to fall into a routine of bad habits. How often have you wanted to sit down and write and wound up doing anything but write? If you have the means with a laptop, netbook, tablet, or some other device, pick it up and move somewhere else. This will be the first step in breaking the bad habit of not writing when you want to write and help create the good habit of writing.

It may even help you with finding where you are your most productive. I’ve learned that I can’t write my best when sitting at my desktop so I’m rarely there any more. It’s too easy to get distracted by facebook, twitter, email, a game, sorting my ebooks, or any number of things.

I actually do my best writing in different locations. As I said, today I’m sitting in front of the gym at my daughter’s volleyball practice. Later today I might sit on a chair outside if it’s still warm enough. I’ve sat at the kitchen table or on the couch.

Don’t let location stop you. There are an abundance of places you can go to write. A library, Starbucks or any other local coffee shop, the local park, you could even take your portable device with you and write while you’re having dinner at some restaurant. Anywhere that you can set up and start typing. This is your chance to use your imagination and find different locations to write. Don’t let your current view distract you from getting your writing done.

Until Next Week

WOO WOO!