Archive for November 2011

Brevity in Prose

If I write too much I'm liable to say something I shouldn't. With brevity I simplify my story and create clarity. Overwriting destroys clarity. I cannot emphasize this enough. When writers leave too many words and ideas on the page, it creates an unmanageable mess for the reader.

I'm from the Hemingway/Strunk school of thought. Clarity is necessary for the reader to understand the writing. Clarity doesn't come from prose riddled with nouns and adjectives—fancy writing. Clarity is a product of brevity. Less writing is often better story.

How can a writer screw up a non-poetic descriptive passage?

First Version: “Frank walked into the room. On the far side was a fireplace constructed of rounded river stones. The stones grew from the base of the floor to the high ceiling. Frank knew the secret plans were hidden within the chimney.”

That may be a boring passage, but it works! Problems start when flowery language is introduced to the description. Not only is this language unnecessary, but it's counterproductive to the writer's sole purpose: to help the reader understand, envision, and be part of the scene.

Second Version: “Frank walked slowly into the room, carrying his blue raincoat over his shoulder, his soggy shoes leaving moisture across the floor. His prints were puddles and he cringed at the thought of his Aunt Margaret finding him here. What would she say? What would she do to him? He looked at the fireplace, its eloquent finish and the many large, rounded stones forming its base and the stem of the chimney. It was a marvelous structure of nineteenth century architecture that only one of his great ancestors could think to build in the refined Victorian home. Somewhere inside the frame of the chimney was what Frank had come for, what he had risked the wrath of his Aunt to find. There were the plans.”

Easier, huh? In the first version I knew the plans were important. But in the second version I was still thinking about Aunt Margaret and Victorian homes by the time I got to the plans. The paragraph wasn't about the plans at all!

Here's an example of nonfiction, where it's even more important to write briefly:

~

What a mess that second version is. It's a winding path of nouns—of ideas, concepts forcing me to THINK about what I'm reading, instead of flowing with the passage. Long passages like this kill the flow and pace of a story, grinding it all to a near-halt as the reader struggles through.

What a mess that this second version is. It's a winding path of nouns—of ideas, concepts forcing me to THINK about what I'm reading, instead of flowing with the passage. Long passages like this kill the flow and pace of a story a story's pace, grinding it all to a near-halt as the reader struggles through.

What a mess this second version is. It's a winding path of nouns—of concepts forcing me to THINK about what I'm reading. Long passages like this kill a story's pace.

~

It's not always necessary or appropriate to give the reader the bare necessities. Sometimes overwriting serves a purpose.

Use poetic prose for contrast and emphasis. Foreshadow an object, idea, or character you'll use later in your story by spending a little more time on them in the beginning. Think of your writing as a film camera focusing in on a shot. The only way to make this effective is to write sparsely everywhere else. If every shot is a close up, who will know what is important and what isn't?

Good writing always places the reader first. Good writing is effectively to the point. Bad stories require overwriting to hide the plot, so the reader focuses on the pretty words and not the story itself. Overwriting serves as a distraction. A well-told story never requires flowery prose.

I say this not to convince you never to write poetically, but to warn you to do it sparingly. Put all that extra work into brainstorming a better story, and your readers will thank you.




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No Rest For Wicked, Weary Writers

I've done a terrible thing! (Other than using alliteration in my blog title.)

I've once again bucked rest and relaxation to push myself a little harder than necessary. As a result, I've spent much of today banging my head against a wall. I haven't been as productive as I had been throughout the week—a frightening concept in and of itself, as my mind twists this against me and screams: “You're getting blocked!”

Why, on one hand, do I demand that I work seven days a week (this is the sixth day in a row that I've written), and yet on the other hand I know that I cannot keep this pace?

Hit the panic button, right? Bad idea!

I have to step back and take a deep breath. Everything is going to be fine.

Consistency counts, but consistency doesn't necessarily mean writing daily. For the last few weeks I've taken weekends off. On the following Monday I'm refreshed and ready to get back to work. On Mondays I'm super productive, if a little rusty. On Tuesdays I'm super productive and the rust is gone. After Wednesday I begin my weekly creative decline.

This week I was a little more enthusiastic so I decided to work through the weekend. Well, here I am, it's 1:30 on Saturday afternoon and I'm very negative about everything. I cannot see the forest for the trees. Kudos to me for realizing it. Acceptance is the first step.

I believe I can get more done writing every other day than five or six days a week. But do I listen to myself? No, of course not. I get excited and write until my head feels like it'll blow up. Maybe it wouldn't matter if my plans hadn't been dashed, if the writing was still easy for me.

Last Sunday I thought I'd have my second draft finished by Friday. Friday came and went, and despite spending 20+ hours on the draft this week, I still have another week to go before it'll be complete. 

(The second half of the novel is sloppier than the first half, requiring more rewriting, which subsequently slowed my pace. Problem identified, nothing to worry about, calm down!)

This is why I do not like to plan, for life will laugh and throw me under a bus. It's times like these that I fully understand the logic behind the Zen and Taoist mentality of living intuitively. Just flow with it. Right now the flow of life is carrying me away from writing. Perhaps I'll take tomorrow off. Perhaps I'll wake tomorrow and begin writing.

Who knows what I'll do until I've done it?

All I do know is that, sitting here writing this, I'm a bit scared. I've made writing into a big competition. Write as much as I can, for as long as I can, each day, and for as many days in a row as I can handle it. I've created a situation in which now I'm the loser. I'm competing against the past, against days I wrote 10,000 words or edited 10 single-spaced pages.

I'm creating my own stress, my own pressure, my own downfall.

So why don't I knock it off?


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Food For Thought

Let me throw another non-writing topic at you today.

Did you know that being relaxed is a better indicator of longevity and health than what we eat or how much we exercise? They've done studies!

Social drinkers live longer than binge drinkers and alcoholics, but even more interesting, they live longer than non-drinkers. It's not the alcohol which increases life expectancy, it's the lifestyle social drinkers lead. They're less stressed because they have a way to unload after a busy week.

If you want to die, just tense your body day after day. You'll destroy your organs and your muscles. Stress and tension in the form of anxiety is devastating to many millions of people. It trumps bad diet as a form of suicide.

I enjoy eating healthy foods because I know I'm doing the right thing when I eat well, but also because of the way food affects my brain chemistry. Too many processed carbs and I get depressed. Too much meat and I get nervous. It's the way I am—not everyone is the same as me.

I'm aware of the movement towards healthy diet. I'm aware of the disease statistics in our culture. I'm aware of the foods that cause cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

But I'm not sure the facts matter, not entirely. I think what is even more important than eating healthy, is being happy. And food, good or bad, plays a role in happiness.

One of the coolest things growing up was eating McDonald's when we traveled, and eating pizza at lunch at school on Fridays. Food has major satisfaction value. Food has always been a trigger for happiness for me, and I'm not the only one.

As an adult I enjoy cooked lentils with rice and beans more than I enjoy a Big Mac, but even though the type of food has changed, the fact that I get enjoyment from eating hasn't. After a short fast, I still to this very day get a rush of emotions when I think of food. These emotions made being at school just before lunchtime one of the best times of the day.

The health nut in me wants to encourage everyone to eat healthier. The Taoist in me encourages me to step back and look at the bigger picture. Changing what we eat isn't going to fix society. Having compassion would accomplish more than getting people to eat their vegetables. And we can eat all our vegetables and still be stressed out.

Food, for many, is the one thing they can indulge in that takes the edge off of life. I'd rather them have food than nothing at all.

And it's not like people don't know what is healthy. Americans simply eat what tastes better. And because unhealthy foods taste better, even if it's for a moment, it also makes them feel better.

There's a fine line to walk with health. It's the line between eating to live forever and eating to enjoy yourself right now. We can't live forever. We can't always be happy. But that line, it's pretty fat. There's a lot of middle ground. Consider it the waistline of common sense. Have a hamburger, but balance that with a salad.

Despite studies, despite personal experience, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to eat—unless you try to digest your food through your skin. So dare to have variety. Why eat healthy if you'll still give yourself a heart attack in the process?

Relax about it.

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The Week Ahead, and Beyond

This week I will push myself to finish the second draft of my novel. I must also come up with a title, and experiment with cover art. I have a really awesome artist, and it's just a matter of convincing her to draw something this week.

My novel should be around 60,000 words. The second draft is basically me filling in the scenes I skipped when writing the rough draft. It's also reorganizing what is already there, and fixing inconsistencies.

In the third draft I'll make everything shine. But right now, in order to finish this second draft, I must limit distractions and simplify my lifestyle for the next five days. I'm going to spend a lot less time networking, and much more time meditating.

~~~

I'm the type of person who gets so deep into so many different things at once that I never really finish anything. “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind to describe myself. Well, I'm getting this story finished. No excuses. I've got about five novel-length works on various USB drives, and who knows what else laying around in my electronic cache—none of which has been completed, some of which definitely should have been.

Time for me to grow up and learn to work hard.

There have been a few authors in the last couple centuries who have been very successful with a single book (or an idea contained within several books). But this is not typical of what you'll find when looking into the methods of the most famous/talented authors. The best writers are prolific. Authors such as Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, and Anne Rice would not have been famous if they had spent ten years perfecting a single story. They played the odds.

The more books an author publishers, the more readers an author reaches. Some books won't be as good as others, but an author who writes that much is probably going to have a hard time writing bad prose consistently. An author may have a bad book here and there, but after writing millions of words, most authors will have improved enough, and hit on enough good story ideas, to be accepted by readers.

Less, in this case, is not more. More is more. That's the type of author I envision myself as. In forty years I want to have written sixty novels. If I do I know two things will likely happen (though they are not certain). 1) I'll have spent my life doing what I love and 2) I'll likely have made a living at it.

Authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice aren't going to write forever. Ray Bradbury is probably going to be dead within the next five years. Harlan Ellison will continue to sue people for stealing his ideas. The next generation of story tellers must be there to fill the void. In my generation there are going to be some great writers—there already are

I'm not saying I'll be one of them, but I'm not afraid to aim high and risk banging my knees if I fall short.

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The Guitar and The Dude Who Plays It

Today I'm going to talk about my guitar.

I started playing guitar eight years ago. In one of those expressions of the moment teenagers are prone to, I bought a Peavey Raptor, and an amp. I've always been attracted to music, and love listening to Hard Rock, but I had no idea what I was doing with my guitar. I was so ignorant that when I changed the strings for the first time (remember, this was before Youtube), I ended up removing the screws from the bridge. Embarrassing, but it taught me a great deal about patience and doing things right the first time.

I got the guitar fixed, and excitedly took a lackadaisical path to success. I didn't put much time into playing, and certainly didn't learn very fast. I couldn't figure out how to work my amp and it was always too loud or too quiet to get the sound I wanted. I started with Sweet Child o' Mine instead of Smoke on the Water

When I bought an acoustic Ibanez, it wasn't much different. A change in guitar was not a change in the musician. I hit the same walls, struggled to understand the same music, was wholly unsatisfied with myself and both guitars spent more time in my closet than in my hands.

Last year I sold my guitars to a friend, and went several months without playing until, last spring, I got that itch again. I needed a new guitar. I wanted to play.

My friend (same friend) and I returned to the exact guitar store where eight years earlier I had bought my Raptor. It was like returning to the scene of a crime. Yet this time I was in store for much more than I expected. I found the best acoustic guitar in the world. The perfect musical instrument.

Now, when I say “the perfect guitar”, what I mean is that this guitar sounds the best to my ears. Guitars are completely, 100%, subjective. They all sound different to me, and they all sound different to everyone else. You will not likely find two guitars made from the same company, from the same tree, that sound exactly alike, nor will two people listen to the same guitar and hear the exact same sound. And then you can change strings, the action, nuts, bridges, and pins and get a totally new sound out of one guitar.

This guitar happens to be a “Great Divide”. It only cost me 240 dollars.

I played 1,000 dollar guitars that day, and I listened to my friend play a 3,500 dollar Martin (was a little scared to touch that one...). None of them sounded as good as my guitar. None of them looked as good. It has a very dark, tobacco-tar color. And its cedar top makes it a very dark, melodic instrument. I imagine it's meant to play Pink Floyd tunes, in a room whose only light is a small fire. Edgar Allen Poe would have dug this guitar.

It wasn't until I returned home and began playing that I noticed something different. The guitar was different, to be sure, but for the first time the musician was different too.

Perhaps it was the time away from playing, or that I was practicing for an hour or two a day, every day, or just that I was older and wiser, but I was having a real epiphany about music. I was playing with a completely new perspective. Tablature made sense to me like never before. I could feel the music as well as see it, and it all just made perfect sense. It clicked together, finally, like two well-fitting gears. Or two perfectly well struck notes.

It was actually quite similar to how writing finally came together for me. It was all of a sudden. I could see a story in its entirety and understood how each character should fit into it

Life changing. Now it's fun. Now I no longer struggle with the basics, stumbling from the gate like some stupid horse with its legs caught together.

I can just play and enjoy myself. It was well worth all the mistakes.

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Writing and Not Writing

I want to make it very clear to anyone who may question it that I do not consider myself a writer. I mean, though writing is what I do and I hope to some day make a living doing what I love (and I do not think I really have a choice in the matter as it is a passion and a very deep one at that), and that I may accept the label of author for professional orientation, I do not identify with writing. I do not want to identify with it. I've even gone so far as to create a fictitious name to further separate me from who I am.

For better or worse.

Writing is something I do. It's something I'm driven to do. I love language and I love reading and I love writing. I really love meeting people who love these things. And yet there's a whole world out there at my finger tips. Many things interest me. I play guitar, I study philosophy, and I run, but I do not consider myself a guitarist, a philosopher, or an athlete. I am just me.

I don't use art to hold up life. Life breeds art, not the other way around. I will put my pen down and live just as quickly as I would turn the TV off and live. Life is out there, it's not in our hobbies. Our hobbies are really good at protecting us from some of the awful things life can dish out, but I never, ever, in a million years, want to hide in something I do as a way to escape something I don't want to do.

So I distance myself. I don't identify, and I don't allow myself to identify. Maybe I trust too deeply in my own psycho-babble, and none of this matters, but I think it does and I think it's important to say it. I think to identify with writing as “who I am” is to risk putting off the rest of the world. “Why should I do this or that? I'm a writer!”

I am the uncut block the Taoist sages spoke of. I have not yet taken shape, so I contain all the potential in the world. If I began to identify myself with specific things, I would stop growing. I would cut myself down to whatever size the idea I identified myself with required me to be.

I have yet to set the controls for the heart of the sun, so I may remain to see the stars.

~~~

Writing can be, and often is, one of the most enjoyable things I've ever experienced in my life. The “ah-ha” moments when a scene comes together, when I close a plot-hole, when I connect one part of my story to another, when a character suddenly says, through my fingers typing on my keyboard, something that makes the entire story make sense and come alive. It's like being born—I imagine.

A writer must have some level of egotism to want to share his/her words with others. This is hardly a bad thing. There are millions of readers who want writers to share their work with them. I'm one such reader. What if Stephen King had said to himself “No, I don't think I'll share this. I don't want to come across so egotistical as to think someone else would want to read it.”

If there was one law of story telling (or writing in general), it would be this: If you write it, you must share it. There's only one exception. Your personal journal. And if you do not want that to be shared, you should burn it, because we all know when you die your grandchildren will dig it out of the cardboard box in the attic and publish it.

This, of course, has nothing to do with me not wanting to identify with being a writer. Which makes this a very poorly written blog post.



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Why I Dig E-Publishing

I'm just bumming around today and decided to fix this post up and share it with you. I can't possibly get all my feelings on publishing down here, and I don't think I need to. And though the topic is almost a cliché, it'll still be interesting to see if, in a few years, I feel the same.

I'm not bitter toward the big publishers. I was never rejected by them, I've never even tried to get through their doors. I just don't think we'd have a good relationship, if you know what I mean.

My personality doesn't take well to pressure. Deadlines, editors, sales; they don't fit me. I'd burn out. E-publishing allows me to write at my own pace, and because I am not accountable to anyone but myself and the reader, I can take a more casual approach and just relax. I'll get the work done. I certainly don't feel like I have to help support a billion dollar industry.

If I tried to publish the traditional route, it would take me years, and still offer no guarantee of success. It doesn't matter how good I think I am. I'm fairly confident in my writing ability, but I don't think I'm lucky enough to get my foot in the door. Luck plays a huge role in traditional publishing, even if it's just having the luck to know the right people, or to come up with a just-clever-enough query letter.

There is luck in e-publishing as well, but it's a different kind of luck. It's a luck I feel I have more control over. I think it's easier to get word of mouth going on the internet than it is to convince a random editor or agent to buy my story. And then, even having gone through the process of traditional publishing, I still have to do all the work I'd have to do in e-publishing. I'll have to edit my manuscript before I send it to an agent or publisher, and I'll have to market the book mostly by myself after it's published.

I'll be under a deadline, not to edit, but to sell. In six months or a year, if my book hasn't sold enough copies to justify its shelf space, my publisher will yank it from the market. My timescale isn't six months. It's twenty+ years. I can wait for readers, but I'm not going to wait for a publisher.

A publisher can get me into bookstores, but at a cost. Books today aren't cheap. I usually don't buy new books because of their high cost. It's more convenient for me to purchase used books, or simply go to the library, so I quickly warmed up to the idea of selling an e-book for 2.99. It's a huge benefit to readers, especially as e-reading grows in popularity. It's something I want to be a part of.

With traditional publishing, much can happen in my life, in the world, and in publishing in the two or three, or more, years it would take my book to hit the market. I could miss reading trends, and much more. I want to be there when change happens, and not sit sidelined as I wait for my book to come out. I like the idea of adjusting midstream when a new technology becomes available. I can't do that if my book is in limbo with a publisher.

E-publishing allows me the freedom I desire. It offers flexibility to do something different, when and how I want. I can listen to readers, and write for them, and for myself—instead of writing for an editor. I want to give readers the best stories I can write, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to gain experience, meet new people, and push myself beyond my comfort zones.

I kind of like the “outsider” label that e-publishing has right now. I enjoy defending it against people who think it's a fad or that self published writers are amateurs. I'm not too impressed by traditional publishing. I'll take 80% royalties over 8% royalties. I like the idea of not having to sign a contract, not having to have an agent and a lawyer, not having to sell my creative soul just so people can see what I write. If a big publisher came to me right now with a million dollar book deal, I don't think I'd take it. I'd be tempted, who wouldn't be? But the contract would just be too much for someone who likes to go his own way in almost everything he does. I like to work outside of systems, and e-publishing is just that.

I'm not afraid to make mistakes, and get my hands dirty in the process. In fact, I'm looking forward to doing just that. I realize that to get my hands dirty means I'll make mistakes, but if I'm not making mistakes then I'm not growing—and I'm certainly not publishing. Mistakes I can fix. I can't fix a missed opportunity.


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A Cup of Steam

The deeper I go into the day, and the harder I bang my head against blank pages, the more frustrated I become. I know the problem. I know the solution. But knowing doesn't always motivate me to fix it. Then this morning I was thrown a life preserver. I read a blog recommended by Debra El-Ramey, and I knew I couldn't mess around anymore.


Throughout October I meditated for over an hour each day, and on some days two and three hours. All that meditation cleared away obstacles to creative flow. And so for the last week I've been writing and having many good ideas. But in the last week I've also done very little meditating. Not even ten minutes a day. And it has finally caught up to me. 

This is where writers' block begins. This is the line where, on the other side, writing starts to feel like work. The words aren't there today like they have been. It's more difficult to focus and concentrate on writing, editing, and brainstorming.

When I began writing again two Sundays ago (October 29), after nearly five months off from the craft I love, I told myself that I could succeed if, and only if, I continued daily meditation. I knew going into this that I had to give myself that time. One hour, two hours, three hours. I couldn't lose sight of that. And of course, a little over a week later, I have not followed through on my swing.

The longer I challenge my creativity, the more tension builds in my brain. The symptoms are loss of focus, grouchiness, disinterest in writing and increased negativity. It happens every time, but this time is where it ends. No longer will I abuse my imagination by working it endlessly for days and weeks and months. I know even now I could push myself and last another few weeks, but then I'd hit that eventual writers' block. I can't afford that. Writing is way too much fun!

Meditation releases tension. Meditation is like opening a release valve. If I can sit in meditation for two hours, when I'm done I know I'll feel fresh and new. Most importantly, the tension will be gone.

~~~

I always liked the analogy that writing is like drawing water from a well. But I've got a better one now.

Writing is really like boiling water. Water symbolizes creative ideas, the fire on the stove symbolizes the writing process, the kettle symbolizes my brain, and the steam the fire turns the water into symbolizes creative tension. The tension must be released, or the whole thing will blow up.

The pressure inside the kettle can be relieved in two ways. I can turn the flame off—stop writing—or I can release the steam, the tension, through relaxing activities. I'd rather release the steam and let the fire keep boiling the water, than to turn the stove off.

To relax, some writers run, go to work, play with their children, listen to music, watch TV, read books, etc.

I meditate.

Meditation keeps the world in focus so I don't take things, big or small, too seriously. It drives out the perfectionism I'm prone to, and allows me to enjoy the process of life (and writing) as if I'm not an outsider trying to get in, but already deeply seeded in the action. When I'm undivided from the world around me, it's so much easier to be part of it without fear of failing, being rejected, or getting hurt. And when I'm calm, I'm more in-tune with my intuition and can more easily access my creativity. I can turn the stove up to high heat without worrying about getting burned—or running out of fuel for my fire.

I certainly don't have to worry about the kettle blowing up.



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Smashwords' Style Guide

I stayed up until 3 this morning reading Smashwords' 72-page style guide, written by Smashwords' founder, Mark Coker. I didn't know what to expect, and was surprised after reading it. The first shock was that, despite this PDF being 72 pages long, I read it in only an hour or so. The second was that the material contained therein was very easy to comprehend and, I think, apply.

Smashwords is, of course, the leading ebook publisher in the World. When you sell an ebook there, you upload a word document with certain styling particularities (Coker recommends Microsoft Word, but I'm going to attempt this with Open Office). One example is not using the shift key to indent a paragraph. It's all fairly easy to do, and I think it's made easier that I have some experience with HTML, which isn't used here, but which I have used with documents, giving me experience with documents. It's neat.

Once a properly formatted word file is uploaded, Smashwords creates several files from your document using its "meat grinder" technology, which is the reason the formatting process is so particular. Smashwords is trying to streamline a rather complicated, time intensive process, all for free. Some of the new files Smashwords creates are PDFs, RTFs, and Epub. This allows them to sell an ebook through Smashwords itself, or Amazon, Sony, Apple, etc.

At first it was a little daunting. But I took my time and absorbed most of what was said, and even practiced a little on a short story I've written. I like that Smashwords rewards good formatting by allowing only perfectly formatted (or nearly perfect) into their premium catalog. This must (my first impression) separate those authors with an attention to detail—which should certainly show up in their writing—from the rest.

So Smashwords isn't like Scribd, which is practically drag and drop and you're done, but as it was explained to me by my friend, Rodney C. Johnson, Scribd is only selling in word files and PDFs, while Smashwords is doing all of the major distribution formats. In short, Smashwords will hook you up!

I still have questions, but only experience in the process will answer most of them.

I hope to publish my short story, “The Witch Blackstone” on Smashwords this week. It is currently free to read on Scribd and Facebook. I'm not yet sure if it'll be free on Smashwords. I'd like to see how the buying/selling process goes. More experience. But at 1,600 words, it'd be as inexpensive as Smashwords would allow me to have it—or simply free.

Rodney has been a big help to me. He has offered both knowledge and encouragement. Feel free to check out his blog; The Falcon's Crag. If you see a bunch of babes, just scroll down a ways—even if slowly.

Click to read "The Witch Blackstone" for free on Scribd, or find it on Facebook to send me a comment.

If you have any advice on Smashwords, I'd love to hear it. “I r noob” =)

Have a great week!


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Getting the Words Out

Yesterday my goal was to write 10,000 words. I wrote 10,500 words. I wrote 9,600 of fiction, and another 900 on a draft of this blog.

I feel a bit self conscious about saying it. On one hand I'm proud of myself for writing so much and know that by doing so I'm cutting days, maybe weeks, off the time it'll take me to finish my first story. And yet I don't want to sound like “that guy”, bragging about what he can do, that others can't. I know how hard writing can be for so many writers, and for me most of the time as well. But to hell with it, I (and every other writer) must get the words out.

Some writers have it easy. They can write X amount of words each and every day. Others struggle through every single word they put down—they edit while they write, an unfortunate curse upon many a creative soul.

When I'm on, I can write 10,000 words in a “shift”. Wake up at 8, start writing at 9, and be done by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. To do this once is, to me, not a big deal. But I can't write this much every day. I do want to get to where I can write this much twice a week. That way I can go into a story for hours, sit on it, write the words, get ideas, then for two or three days I can chill my brain before I do it again.

I'm not consistent every day. Stephen King talked about writing 2,000 words a day, every day without end. I can't do that. I go through periods of writers' block. I'll write really well for two months, then can't write a grocery list for another two months. I can't keep up with it every day and eventually burn myself out.

Bodybuilders can't grow if they work the same muscle every day. Rest, for them, is the magical potion that transforms wimpy looking kids into 230-pound giants. I am going against the grain of all the experts who write stories for a living, but I believe that this same principle will work for my writing as well. If I can merely touch base with the story between my writing days, it should stay fresh in my mind. That shouldn't be hard to do. I won't be writing fresh copy, but I'll be brainstorming.

Catching lightning in a bottle can be dangerous, but if fire could be stolen from the gods, I'm sure I can steal words from my muse at least twice a week (on Monday and Thursday, for instance). Can I write 10,000 words in a day, two days a week? If I can, can I do it every week, or at least three weeks out of every month?

This would leave me with 5 days each week to do whatever I want. I can edit, I can market, I can blog, I can play guitar, watch TV and movies, listen to music, and whatever else I can do to regenerate. I have five days where I'm not writing and still have 20,000 words every week. A rough draft for a novel every month, or two novellas. 

The time off is precisely why I think this will work for me. I'm not writing for a quota every day, and so I can relax whatever brain wave operates my creativity. 10,000 words is a LOT of words, but ask most writers and they'll say 2,000 is a lot. Writing even 2,000 words every day can be a burden on the mind. For me, after a few months of that I'm ready for a few months off. I must find a way around this. My brain agrees.

I can, thankfully, explain the process for getting the words out—even if it's only once in a while.

I use all of my Taoist powers to be completely in the moment.

No doubt creeps in. Doubt is the muse killer. Muses like to have fun, and can't stand the company of buzz killers. So to lure the muse I must be positive. The muse doesn't always come, but the muse never comes when I'm down on my abilities.

I trust that anything I write today can be edited tomorrow. I don't think about it. I do it! Obviously if I'm thinking, there's a good chance that some or most of my thoughts will be negative, so I never second-guess anything, even the notes I take.

I cut out distractions. I turn music on. I turn my internet off. I hide the clicker to the television. I close blinds and shut off phones. I hide from the world. I can take a walk when I'm done. I can eat when I'm done. I can emerge from my cocoon when I am done.

When I'm focused totally on the page (sometimes I reduce the screen size to a minimum so I can't read up), I write. I let go and let everything out. This is the part I can't explain. It's the part that, for most writers, is a complete mystery. It's the fun part. The creative process. I know how to get the words out, but I don't know where the ideas come from, and without ideas there are no words. I'm hoping that a little R&R between sessions will help them flow more easily, especially when they would otherwise not flow at all.

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My First Post, an Introduction

Hello!

I am J. R. Nova. I'm not new to writing. I've been writing steadily for eight years. I am new to publishing. After watching the exciting changes taking place in the book industry over the last few years, I've decided now is the time to get my feet wet. 

I'm not interested in fame and fortune. I'm even writing under a pseudonym. By taking on a secret disguise—like I'm Batman—I hope to dispel some of my perfectionism and self-conscious fears, that have, in the past, kept me from publication.

My goal is simple, to give you something to sink your teeth into.

I have a story idea. I will develop it. I will get it down on paper, revise and edit it. Then I will publish it. I'm not going to wait around for the big publishers. I'm going the Indie route. This doesn't bother me, because, after all, I am not interested in fame and fortune. I want to be a part of something incredible—self publishing. I want to prove to myself that I can put my words out there. 

(Part of me is screaming “No!”)

I have one rule. I cannot doubt. I cannot say “this is a bad idea, let's quit it.” I'm tapping every last drop of intuitive potential I have, digging deep to find that part of me who, like the Nike slogan encourages, just does it. ("Use the Force, Luke!") So many writers suffer from doubt. Not me, not anymore. Even if I have to hide to get it done.

So what can you expect from me?

Simply: Stories. The best stories I can spin for you.

I'm a fantasy author. I like using young adult characters (late teens, early twenties). I love vampires (Think Anne Rice, not Stephenie Meyer) and other supernatural creatures, along with wizards and witches and Gothic-modern settings. I can be very psychological, and love to write depth into my characters. I write what I love to read, so I gravitate toward heavier themes. 

It almost seems redundant now that I think of what I enjoy, because it seems everyone is writing and reading the same thing these days, but A) nothing is new under the sun and B) there's a reason why we gravitate toward the dark side of human nature. 

The dark side is where I want to take you. If you'll let me. Of course, in my own way. I'm not a copycat artist, and you may not be ready for my version of the old tales.

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