Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breakthrough Moment

I had a watershed occurrence this morning in writing.. I'm sure most of you have already discovered this, but for me it was a 'light bulb' moment.

Brace yourself....

I learned that books are broken down into Chapters.

Seriously... I know, where did this come from, right?

That means that I don't have to write all 65,000 words or so in one setting, I can actually shoot for 2-3 thousands words and feel like I've accomplished a lot.

The implications of this are monumental.  I'll post more as it becomes available....

OK.. obvious weak attempt at humor aside, I found this morning that I was tracking my word count in the chapter I'm currently working on, because I have a goal number of words.. and that if I looked at the small goal and not the big goal, things became much easier.  Less stress, less.. 'I can't do this' feeling.

I guess writing is like dieting when you're fat. If you look at the big picture it can be daunting, but if you just knock out one day, and then another, and.. so on and so on.. before you know it you don't recognize yourself... and likewise your idea suddenly becomes located on paper.

The before and after is gradual, but profound.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Definition of Insanity

Albert Einstein is pretty much considered one of the smartest men who has ever lived.  His was a once in a generation intellect that introduced some of the greatest scientific hypothesis of his day, and ours.

But.. equal to his intelligence was his wit. Some of the best quotes are credited to Einstein... from "Imagination is more important than knowledge", to "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

But I think my favorite quote attributed to Albert Einstein (albeit unconfirmed) is his take on repetition. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  

So.. why the focus on Einstein you ask?  (Or maybe you didn't ask, but I'm gonna tell you anyway)

Well... I've been in a little bit of a rut lately with my writing. You can see that from my posts of just over a week ago that I've been struggling with my writing. I'm in the process of still completing my first actual novel.. and it's daunting.

I think most of the problem is just the mental aspect.. keeping my focus, believing that I can actually complete it.. I've got it outlined pretty well, even have a cork-board (scrivener) of outlined Chapters.. so all that's left to do is actually write the thing, but every time I start I just lose it after a few days.  I start second guessing what I write.. I go back and think, "I'll just fix this one part".. and end up deleting pretty much all of my progress in one swipe.

I know the first draft isn't supposed to be edited.. hell I've got the catch phrases up all over my office.. yet I still struggle to not edit what I write the next day.  I don't even think it's a matter of real editing.. it's just a lack of confidence over what I write and in my ability to one day achieve this dream of publication.

My usual practice is to get up around 7:30 am, get through the day, and then try to write around 8pm until around 11pm or so.  But lately it's get on my computer around 8-9, surf for a couple of hours, finish some work, and then go to bed around midnight -1am.

... SO.. with that huge info dump as a background, (pretty weak job of 'show don't tell' if you ask me), I decided to actually undertake to change what I do over and over, in hopes of achieving a different result.

So, after seeing that super-writer Morgan Shamy wrote her first book by getting up at 3am almost every morning to have quiet time away from young kids, and that she recommended it because of the magic of the early hours... I've been getting up at 4:30am to write. I work out for 20-30 minutes first, then I sit at my computer and actually write for the next 2 - 2 ½ hours.. and so far, it seems to be working.

Now.. for anyone who knows me.. getting up at 4:30 is just about unheard of.  I'm a night owl all the way down to my DNA.  It's not difficult for me to stay up until 3-4am. In fact I do it all the time. So, for me to suddenly switch things up.. it's been difficult.  I literally fell asleep at my computer this afternoon around 2:30 or so for around 15 minutes.  Just sitting here, hands on keyboard even.  

But.. I'm tired of pretending to be a writer.  That old quote of 'more than 80% of people say they want to write a book, but less than 1% actually do' wounds me every time I hear it.  I don't want to be in the 79% who say but never do.. and I'm willing to lose some sleep to prove it to myself.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Still Processing Information From Past Weekend..

This past Friday and Saturday was the LDStorymakers Writing Conference.. and to say it was informational would be a huge understatement.  I'm still reading over my notes and trying to process everything I heard/learned.. and how I can implement it into my writing style.

I love writing conferences for a myriad of reasons.  Sure there's the obvious great information, but there's so much more than just great information taught by some very successful and knowledgeable people..

I loved the atmosphere. Being around 400-500 people who are all like me or who were like me in their past is exhilarating. You don't stand out like a geek or get suspicious glances if you say words like querying.. or 'Kill your babies'. Both of which have resulted in some rather interesting glances being cast my way in the past.

Beyond that.. hearing someone who just signed a contract with a national publisher like HarperCollins, or Scholastic, talk about when they were first sending out their own query letters or struggling to complete that first novel.. it's incredibly motivating.

Then there's the people who attend with you. I met people from California, North Carolina, West Virginia, and from less then 2 miles from where I live, and they were all great people. Friendly, encouraging, helpful, and above all inspiring.

Then of course, there is the information that's shared. I'm always amazed at what I learn when I got to a writing conference. I've been to a few now so I'm, of course, an expert on writing (big roll of the eyes here).. yet I learned some great stuff this weekend that I had no idea about previously.  The difference between Hard and Soft Magic, the secrets of plotting used by 3 Best-selling authors, great advice on how to find my own, unique, voice and also how to give each character a unique voice in my story...  and that's just 1/10th of what was there.

A few of my favorite quotes or snippets...

  • A good way to get to know your characters, to make their voices more believable, is to use some of the online personality tests as though you were your character. Get to know their personality better, so that you can understand their motivations and hopes/desires and write truer to who they are.
  • Kids read up, but not down.. so if your target audience is 16, it will be read mostly by 14 year olds, but not 17 year olds.  Good to keep in mind when shooting for a target audience.
  • "Stories are written in first drafts, books are written in editing."
  • Hold something back from the reader.. mystery gives them a reason to continue reading.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In Like Flynn..

Got a late email that a spot had opened up for both days of the LDStorymakers Writers Conference this weekend.. got in late, but I got in!

So happy this fell into my lap.. I need the recharge, and am really looking forward to hearing from some truly talented writers about how to make my stories better.

.. and my funk is magically lifted just like that.

Doing the Happy Dance!!

Just In The Nick Of Time..

So.. I've been mired in a bit of a slump recently. My muse packed up and left town, and took my motivation and desire with her.. stupid Muse, didn't like her much anyway.

So now I'm left to pick up the pieces of my shattered dreams and move on.. blah blah blah..

OK, so it's not that bad. I've just felt run down for a couple weeks now, probably due to our 16-month old deciding he can't sleep past 1am without shrieking at his bedroom door with his lips down at the bottom of the door, as if to suck the good air out of the hallway instead of the evil air in his room.. or something like that.

So sleep was averaging around 4 hours a night or so.. but that's tapered off a little recently (almost 7 hours last night) so things are starting to revert back to their somewhat normal selves a little better.

However.. we've got the specter of our impending move to Harrisonburg VA on the horizon, (bout 2 months out now).. and that's causing stress as we try to find a place to live that in our budget and still close enough that my wife isn't on the road for most of her day.  And there's the whole financial side of the move.. we're trying to get totally debt free (apart from Student Loans) before we go because of the hit to our income.. but that's proving.. slightly difficult, but still attainable.

So needless to say, the competing interests and the stress that they bring aren't entirely conducive to keeping my head in a writing mode.. especially since at this point in my writing career this is still a hobby and not an investment.

So, anyway.. all that leads up to this.. This weekend is the LDS Storymakers writing conference. I had wanted to go but didn't think I was eligible since I wasn't a published author, as is required to join their little club, (yes.. that's just a hint of venom in my tone.. *sniff*.. they don't want me).. but alas, I was misinformed. The conference is open to all, but capped at something like 450 attendees.  So, I missed the deadline and they hit their cap so my chances of going were nil.. but I got on the waiting list anyway.

Then lo and behold I got an email that a slot had opened up on Saturday and that I could get in on that day, (the better of the 2 days to go).. so I hurriedly signed up and got my schedule figured out so I could attend.

So now, I'll spend all day Saturday amongst a cavalcade of other amateur writing nerds and professional writing nerds.  Couldn't have come at a better time for me.. I need the recharge and refocus, and I'll get to sneak in one last writing conference in this valley that's so populated with writers, before heading off into the unknown, dark, cold world populated by towns named 'Massanutten' and 'McGaheysville'.  Sounds like places right out of Middle Earth.


Maybe I can push the sun back up into the sky and give us one more day of summer. (LOVE that line by Vin Scully in "For Love of the Game", pure poetry delivered perfectly)

Click the link above to hear the Vin Scully clip from "For Love Of The Game"

Struggling At The Moment...

Ever had one of those weeks where you're just really... ugh...?  I'm in the middle of that week at the moment.  No motivation to do anything, place is a wreck.. haven't even opened my writing program in about 4 days.. I work from home, online, and I'm procrastinating until the very last second to do anything related to work in the least..

I haven't posted anything on my blog in what feels like forever.. (Not counting the April A-Z stuff.. which was way more grueling than I ever imagined it would be).. I feel like a grade-A slug.

I've spent more time staring at photos of incredible libraries than I have even thinking about my WIP.

But.. in my defense, they're utterly marvelous, dream inducing libraries.  
Imagine yourself in one of these locations.. I am literally transported.

Anyway.. I figure I"ll get past this eventually.  Just sucks feeling stuck like I am right now.

I'll write more later.. once I crawl out of this funk.

Guess what time of year it is.... FIRST DRAFT TIME!!!