Tag Archives: books

When You Stop Writing…What Then?

@sadboy

Can I tell you a story before we answer that first question? Thank you.

There once was a boy who liked to write. He spent each day finding joy in creating stories and discovering interesting characters. Sometimes, he had too many stories ideas; he didn’t know what to do. Oh, my. One day, he decided to get to work on one of his story ideas and began to write with a new friend named Rough Draft (“RD”). They wrote and wrote. And wrote.

The two had fun together; Rough Draft never judged the boy but always found encouraging words when the boy was discouraged. The boy had even told himself sternly from the beginning, “Do not self-edit; just write what comes,” and RD was right there with him, helping him like his own personal trainer. The boy set goals for himself. For example, he set a goal to write 250 words per day which felt very realistic to him, and Rough Draft gleefully held him accountable. He joyfully and obediently listened to his new friend and after seven months he had written over 60,000 words for this story idea! A self-published book was taking shape. The boy crunched the numbers on his calculator as fast as his little fingers could fly and figured out he did better than his daily writing goal: he had written 266.67 words per day, to be exact. Good for him. He was so proud of himself. The boy and RD grew together in the process—mostly from what they learned from each other.

But soon after, the celebrations ceased and the exaltation ended, the boy was left alone with a very ill Rough Draft. The boy saw his friend now as weak and sickly. He wondered if he had made a poor choice in his friendship. Had he really known Rough Draft all that well, he asked himself. I don’t even know him! he cried. The boy was desperate and reluctantly hired on another writing helper named Rewrite to help Rough Draft recover. The boy and Rewrite immediately got off on the wrong foot, as they say. Rewrite was a stern disciplinarian, nothing like Rough Draft.  Oh, how the boy hated Rewrite! There was nothing fun about Rewrite and he did cruel things to the boy’s friend Rough Draft. Rewrite said things like, “Your friend, Rough Draft, expresses himself in a passive voice. We will make him ACTIVE!” Some days, he could hardly watch as Rewrite cut Rough Draft down and ripped out parts of his very soul, trimming the fat and killing off darlings. And the thing that shocked the boy the most: Rewrite made the two friends fight with each other. The boy began to blame RD, and RD blamed the boy for their lack of progress.

The boy did the only thing he knew to cope: he walked away. He left Rough Draft to languish alone because even Rewrite didn’t show up if the boy didn’t. (Apparently, Rewrite was a jealous soul.) Sadly, the boy and Rough Draft lost touch and soon didn’t recognize or understand each other. They had forgotten the very reason why they began their journey together. A tragic end to a promising beginning.

I saw the boy recently. He looked sad, depressed. He mumbled something about how other writers seem to develop strong relationships with other rough drafts and even rewrites. They were much more talented than he. Blaming himself for the failure, the boy wouldn’t call himself a writer anymore. (I think he said he worked in a call center now.) And his only show of passion was when he mentioned that other writers got published and he didn’t! “Last I checked, Amazon had over 2,100,000 books in their store! If that doesn’t make you depressed, what will?” 

The boy lost his way, but I’ve reintroduced him to another writing companion. Second Draft is very much like Rough Draft used be. Second Draft doesn’t judge but rather quietly encourages small, incremental changes. He tells the boy other encouraging words like, “Don’t worry about your original goals to self-publish. We’ll get there. Let’s just take it one day at a time. Enjoy what you’re doing…and it will all fall into place.”

A wonderful new friendship is developing…and the book has begun to take shape again. 

A moral to this story? I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with what this blog has been talking about all along. What are our motivations for writing? Why do we write in the first place? Are your goals unrealistic? (And I don’t mean, are your dreams unrealistic? No, because they never are unrealistic. They’re dreams!)

Have you lost your way in your writing? If so, come home. We’ll all be there waiting for you. To say kind words to you. And introduce you to some new friends.

(P.S. I wrote this blog post with the help of my two friends Rough Draft and Second Draft. I still haven’t forgiven Rewrite.)

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing: #7 – Lust

7 Deadly Sins of Writing-Sin7

Dang, the last sin…we were having so much fun with these!

Lust? Really, you’re relating lust to writing, David?

I don’t think it’s a stretch. Originally, I wrote the definition as, “When writing becomes an idol and you want success above everything else…”  The word lust alone can be controversial enough, not to mention the word idol. How do we define idol? The Free Dictionary defines it a number of ways: 1) an image used as an object of worship. 2) a false god 3) one that is adored, often blindly or excessively, and 4) something visible but without substance. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Read some of those key words again: false, blindly, excessively and without substance. If your writing relates to any of these words, stop and reassess.

And to me, lust is the unfortunate state in which we replace a true love with something more superficial and self gratifying (hmmm…sounds like idol worship, huh?). It truly is the opposite of a healthy love for someone or something.

I wanna get, get, GET…not give!

So, let me ask you a question: Why did you start writing in the first place? Was it to make money? Was it for fame? I doubt it. I bet  your motivations were a bit more pure than that. Now, I’m not saying that money or fame are wrong; they just may not be the best motivations for producing your best work.

Or is it safe to say your initial motivations were for the simple joy of telling stories, creating interesting worlds from your imagination, playing with the words and enjoying their sound when read from the paper? At least one of those reasons, I bet.

Go find your first love of writing again, have fun, and you’ll probably begin to see some of your best work!

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing: #6 – Wrath

7 Deadly Sins of Writing-Sin6

Wrath is a bit archaic, I know. It means anger. The type of anger that gets out of control and has the potential to hurt others. As writers we want to give to others not take, right? I see this not always being outright, scream-in-your-face anger but a more subtle form of resentment even. It doesn’t take much to start blaming others for your lack of success, however you define it. Maybe your closest friends and family aren’t supportive of your desire to write and–God forbid!–want to have your book published. Don’t worry you’re not alone; we’ve all experienced it. But, ultimately, you can’t be a victim, right dear? It’s up to you to get the writing done. Shut up and write!

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Have Fun and Be Creative…or Else!

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Writing can end up being a drag for me; a major drag when I keep my eyes off the prize. And it’s been happening a lot lately. That’s one reason I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks, to be honest. What’s the prize, you may ask? It’s the fun of being creative. The pleasure of shaping a story. That’s where I get my joy, Joseph.

How did that happen? How did you lose the fun of creativity, you also may ask? Hard to say, but, as I’ve pondered the question of motivations lately (e.g., The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing), I’ve come to a realization that there are a multitude of distractions to keep us from the creative process…and from having just some plain ol’ doll garn fun (or is it goll darn?).

How about a numbered list to keep things fun? Nobody has more fun than when reading off numbered lists! Right? I believe these are the best steps to keep from being distracted from the main goal of creativity.

1. Keep it simple. And to make my point, I’ll complicate things a bit with this Fast Company article I really enjoyed about 3 Paths Toward a More Creative Life. It comes down to three simple things (a numbered list within a numbered list–yes!): 1) Disconnecting from all the technology and getting your mind back, 2) diving into the past of other great artists/creators, and 3) mastering both knowledge and skill of your particular creative path. (Read the article–it’s so much better than what I described!)

2. Get creative to get creative. What? I mean create some dumb fun to get the creative juices flowing. (What are creative juices, anyway? Ewww.) Here’s a good example: Dad Builds Incredible Spaceship Simulator For His Son. This reminds me of the joy my brother and I had building “spaceships” from my father’s scrap wood leftover while building our cottage. I was eight years old at the time, so, of course, to me they weren’t spaceships with “quotes” around them, they were very real and…fun. Now, this dad got into some serious stuff that my brother and I couldn’t have hoped to compete against, but we improvised dials and buttons with old nails and the like. Good, clean, unadulterated, American-made fun, citizens. These are fun too: Fascinating Business Cards Of The World’s Most Famous People. Amazing how creative you can be when the first order of business is fun.

3. Just do it. For as annoying Nike marketing can be, they’re right. The article 9 Illuminating Lessons on Creativity happens to mention that point first. Creativity IS hard work. But you know what? It’s so worth it in the end. When you’ve put in the hard work, it feels good, doesn’t it? Like exercise, like yard work, like eating cake. Maybe not the last one.

Anyway, just some thoughts to ponder and some articles for your reading pleasure. Remember what probably got you started in the first place: Fun and a passion to create.

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Writer’s Block Does Not Exist

@wall

Some of you may disagree with this, but I don’t believe in the feared curse called “writer’s block.”

Don’t get me wrong: There are obstacles to our writing progress, but let’s be more specific in order to properly diagnose what ails us…and our writing.

The traditional idea of Writer’s Block being some mystical curse to blame for a writer’s lack of progress is silly. Anytime we sit down at a computer (a typewriter, a pen and paper) and nothing comes out of our fingertips then it’s likely we’ve come unprepared in one way or another. Either it’s our lack of planning and organization within the subject itself or it’s a lack of emotional preparation.  I’ve seen this with my own writing so many times. Sitting down to write unprepared can lead to disaster and delays, especially when it comes to the emotional influences of writing.

In my own writing experience, it’s typically the following that hinder writing:

  • Writer’s Lack of Self-Discipline
  • Writer’s Low Self-Esteem
  • Writer’s Doubts 
  • Writer’s Laziness
  • Writer’s Selfish Ambition 
  • Writer’s Wrong Motivations
  • Writer’s Lack of Courage
  • Writer’s Low Risk Tolerance
  • Writer’s Lack of Focus
  • Writer’s Failure to Plan

Have you experienced any or all of the following scenarios?

“What kind of crap am I writing? No one will read this!”

“Ugh. I’m so unorganized; I don’t know how to write a paragraph, let alone a novel. What do I do next?”

“I need to perfect every word, every sentence…now!”

“If I write this, will anyone read it?”

“Okay, I’m sitting down to write. Where do I start?”

“I’ll write tomorrow.”

“I want this to be a bestseller, but I’m not good enough for that kind of success.”

“I don’t want to write an outline. That’s boring.”

“I think I’ll do some research tonight [instead of writing].”

Sound familiar?

How do you overcome this giant we call Writers’ Block?

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Writing Advice from a Loser (#2) – Rewriting, Editing and Staying Organized

@pencil-bw

Plotters: “You should outline your entire story before writing!”

Pantsers (as in, By-the-Seat-of-Their Pants): “You shouldn’t waste time outlining—wing it!”

You’ve heard the terms plotters and pantsers, right? We’re all different. Like I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts, you must do what works for you. (Finding what works for you takes time–and lots of writing!) Outlining works for some; writing as you go works for others.

But here’s my question…questions: What do you do when neither method seems to work for you? Use a combination of both?

I’ve resorted to both. I think that’s okay. But is that truly the challenge? For me there’s something more menacing, more antagonistic, more…okay, it’s…staying organized. My stories get crazy, grow up, live their own lives, get jobs, have kids and buy homes. And then they don’t call home. When I do talk to them, it’s like I don’t know them anymore. Who is this story child I’ve spawned?

So the questions are: How do you stay organized? How do you keep your story reigned in? How do you remember what you wrote months ago (if you’re not self-editing along the way)?

If you’re editing early on in your draft process, that’s fine, if it doesn’t slow you down too much. Gone are my days of self-editing as I write. My current novel I spit out on page within six months because I didn’t stop to slow down and see what I wrote (and edit it). I wrote 60k words in six months. There’s something remarkable about “finishing” a rough draft. Quite the confidence booster. The boost can be short lived, however, when the quick progress you made initially comes close to a halt in the rewrite process.

Now is the hard part.

Like I’ve told folks, I’m slashing and burning my story like it’s virgin rainforest. Painful at times, but rewarding too because I get to see all that I’ve accomplished with a first draft. I’ve eliminated a LOT of my original writing flourish, and much of what I put on paper will not make it to the final draft. And that’s okay.

But with that approach do you lose connection with your story if you don’t analyze it every day? If you don’t re-read it and make adjustments as you go?

These are important questions to think about. If you haven’t been there yet, be prepared. For as much as I’m a pantser most of the time, I have to admit, the plotters are on to something when it comes to planning and organization.

Either way you chose to create your stories, keep on writing! As some say, writing is easy; it’s the re-writing that’s hard.

(But it’s still fun.)

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Teaser: When It All Comes Crashing Down

@pine

Here’s a very short excerpt of the story I’m currently writing, When It All Comes Crashing Down. A teaser, I suppose. It doesn’t give you much about the story, but, hey, I had fun writing it. (This is an example of “writing” while driving–you can write, gather ideas anywhere. I recorded this into my voice recorder while taking a long drive through Wisconsin.)

The stand of pines stood tall and straight to the edge of the field. Their branches hung over the field, welcoming Thoreau into the stand of trees. Not like the opposite stand of oaks, with their twisted and gnarled branches, sinister and unwelcoming, the pines seemed to him open, their whispers in the wind comforted him. The oaks leafless and silent, held their secrets in thick bark. Ancient secrets, Thoreau thought. Unspoken things from unspoken worlds. Hard hearts as hard as his. The pines, he could feel in his hands, had thinner bark, their lower limbs coming off easily, their dead wood cast off early to prevent diseases, before they brought about death. The pines seemed happy, lighter. They caught the wind, hoping to share their secrets with the wind. And just like Echo, this new person in his life, they were ever green. Always alive, always moving and thriving. Colorful. Thoreau imagined that he was not unlike an oak, a hardwood tree. Like an oak, Thoreau now felt dead and hard inside. Barely alive, barely surviving the winter. How did she do it? She didn’t survive, she thrived. He had become stiff and unbending. Yet still, he thought somewhere deep inside, he was strong. Something inside, a quality about him that made him sturdy, something strong, something lasting. He was a hardwood, not a softwood. Could it be that the pine, while seemingly alive, seemingly gracious and on the surface soft and smooth, be too soft inside, lacking integrity? He thought Echo could be this way. Maybe it was an act. Maybe inside she was soft, that she lacked integrity, couldn’t withstand time and difficulty. He wasn’t so sure what to think of her. He didn’t trust her. He didn’t trust the pines, but he still slept under their branches that night.

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