What do you think? What is your working pattern?
(In case you don't know–what, you've lived under a rock for the last umpteen years? Kidding, just kidding–my title is a take-off of a song from The Sound of Music, the best musical of ALL TIME, and no I'm not talking about the stupid rip-off live version with Carrie Underwood in it.)
This is the last time you will hear from me this year. And I thought it might be fun to look back at what inspired me, perhaps inspiring you to think about what inspired you this past year and what might inspire you in 2015. I've been doing a lot of work with goals (there is nothing I love more than planning and pondering) for the new year, and an important part of that is looking back to see what happened in the last year.
I've had a few disappointments, goals that didn't get accomplished and progress not made in certain areas. But I really prefer to dwell on the positive, and besides I have it on good authority (I read it in two, count them, two different places on the interwebs and we all know how reliable that source is)that 2014 has been a year of discovering what it is you truly want while 2015 will be all about accomplishing it.
Here we go with my inspirations (in no particular order except for the way they came out of my brain):
1. Indie publishing. As the year began, everyone, all over the webs, was talking about making it as an indie writer. All you had to do was throw shit up on Amazon and it sold and made you a millionaire! I was intrigued. Then, in March I went to AWP in Seattle and heard Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing speak. More enthusiasm! Much excitement! He made $150K in one month with his books!
I was intrigued enough to experiment with putting a wee bit of effort out, and posting a story for sale. While I didn't get rich selling it, I do like to think that it has introduced some new readers to me. Maybe. Not sure.
Now, as we head towards 2015, I hear much less noise about how easy it is to make tons o' bucks on Amazon and I think they may be due to their Kindle Unlimited option. I don't know the exact details but it is something to do with customers getting all the Ebook downloads they want for free with a Prime membership. Yeah, that might put a crimp in author's royalties. Ya think?
However, I still applaud the indie publishing movement. It's going to continue to be fascinating to watch the battle between Ebook and print, and indie versus traditional publishers as the future rolls along. And I am planning to publish my MFA novel myself, because it is sitting on my computer, so why not?
2. France. 'nough said. No, wait. Not really. Because, France. And Paris. And writing with a group of like-minded people. It really is the best. Getting away from your regular routine and devoting yourself to writing in an exotic location rocks. That's all there is to it. (You can still join us–3 spots left.)
3. Family. Always and forever. I am blessed, no doubt about it.
4. Splashy Success. Not mine, not yet, but as the year ends I've got people like Cheryl Strayed on my mind. She is, of course, the author of the memoir Wild, which burst splashily upon the world when Oprah reinstituted her book club in order to feature it. And then Reese Witherspoon made a movie of it, which premiered recently. I saw the movie a couple of days ago and I liked it. The film is about courage–the courage to confront the demons of your past and put one foot in front of the other over and over again while you do so.
By all accounts, Strayed, who is a Portland resident, is a woman who went from so-broke-she-couldn't-buy-Christmas presents to millionaire status seemingly overnight and has maintained a lovely even keel throughout.
5. Writing Fast. The class I took about it was a bust, but never mind. More and more I'm seeing that writing fast without thinking too much is the way to go. Because, rewriting. Once you get the words on the page, then they are there for you. As Henry, my 3-year-old grandson would say, of course. But we so easily forget that of course and allow our writing to stall as we stare out the window at the 27-degree morning because we don't know what words to put on the page. These days, when I catch myself stopping to think, I force my fingers to fly across the keys. There's nothing more satisfying to a writer than toting up a massive word count for the day!
I'm in the midst of rewriting my novel at the moment, (on page 209 of 305 and I'm aiming to complete this rewrite by the end of January) so I'm not actively writing a rough draft, though every so often I do write 1K words or so on a new idea I have. (New ideas are one of my tragic flaws. Bright shiny object! Let's abandon this WIP and start a new one! I really have to be careful with this tendency.) But, in September, when I took the above-mentioned class that really was more like a support group, I batted out 24, 280 words in the first two weeks of September. Then I got on a plane to France and that was the end of that. However, the novel is waiting for me on my computer and when I complete the current rewriting project I shall return to it. The story needs a lot of work, and I've had ideas that will take it in a new direction, but again, all those words are sitting there waiting for me. Woot woot!
6. Breathing. I'm going to brag here for a minute, so avert your eyes if that bothers you. But, many, many years ago now I bore two children. And I brought each of them into the world without one bit of anesthetic. Completely natural births (though I did have to have Pitocin the second time through, because he got stuck and it turned into an emergency, but that's another story). And how did I accomplish this? Through breathing, of course.
So I find it ironic that all these years later I have realized how often I constrict my breathing. I just did it as I wrote that sentence! I hold my breath at the throat as I write and I'm not sure why I've developed this habit. Anyway, I've been working on becoming aware of it and changing and also just taking deep breaths throughout the day whenever I think about it. The results are quite wonderful, though I confess to backsliding a bit during the holidays. It is something I will continue to work on in 2015. (I wrote about it earlier in the fall, too.)
That's it. I know there's a lot more that inspired me, but those are the things on my mind as the clock ticks toward a glorious new year. I wish you all the very best for next year and I thank you for reading my blog. Why not take a minute and share–what inspired you in 2014?
A couple of quick notes:
–Don't forget to download my book of free writing prompts! There's one for every day in January. Fun, fun, fun. (And it will help you with writing fast.) Go here. It is free, free, free.
–And for anybody who lives in Portland, I'm having a signing next week! My Twitter friend (and guest poster here) Tam Holland and I will be signing books, drinking coffee, and chatting with "fans" as the wonderful coffeeshop owner calls them on Wednesday, January 7, at 4 PM. The location is the Rain or Shine coffee shop on SE 60th and Division. Come meet us!
When last I communicated with you, I told how I was taking a hiatus to finish my novel. As my grandbabies would say, done! (This must be accompanied with both arms raised in the air.) I finished the first draft on August 31st, and seeing as how my goal was to complete it by the end of August, I was happy.
It took me nearly a year to write it. I wasn't writing steadily the entire time–I took whole months off here and there while I floundered. By the standards of the class I'm currently taking, that is an eternity.
I am enrolled in a class called Book in a Month. The first two weeks you write a draft and the next two weeks you revise. Candace Havens, who teaches the class, urges her pupils to commit to writing 20 pages a day, gasp. But, to my great relief, most of us in the class are not doing quite that many pages. The main rule seems to be that you must write something (and post it on the Yahoo group page) or she may kick you out. So, since I'm in the midst of getting ready to teach in France, I've committed to 10 pages a day.
This comes at an inconvenient time, I will admit. I have 50,000 things to do before I leave and all. But I hope plan to be getting in my word count on the plane and the train from Paris to Beziers. And I really wanted to take the class because I've long suspected I can write faster, and I was curious as to Candace's techniques. To nobody's surprise, the techniques are simple: write.
Make a commitment and write.
Ha! Would that it were that simple. Oh wait. It is.
So, I'm a few days in and I'm already learning a lot, mostly that I need to unlearn a lot of stupid rules about writing that I carry around in my head. Though my rules are likely different than yours, I thought I would share them with you as instructive examples.
Stupid Writing Rules
1. I can't write fast. Instead, I must sit and stare out the window at my giant Kiwi bush that is slowly taking over my whole backyard and wish that the kiwis would tell me what to write next. Also, accessing the internet for research periodically is vital. And, of course, going on Twitter to report my progress (or lack thereof) is also essential.
2. I need lots of uninterrupted time to write. To nail 10 or 20 pages a day, one must have hours of time in which to get words on the page, right? Wrong. You can do it in small increments and many people do. Earlier this week I wrote some in the morning, broke to talk to a friend and eat lunch, went back to writing for a bit, went to a Labor Day barbecue, wrote some more, had dinner and watched a little TV and came back to finish my final two pages. Worked fine.
3. I can't write at night. I am a dedicated morning person, up most days between 5:30 and 6, and it is in these early hours that I like to get my writing in. I'm at my best in the morning, as long as I have some coffee to write with. Because of this, I'd started to believe that I couldn't write at night. Wrong! See #2.
4. I can't write after I've had a glass of wine. Not true. The other night I enjoyed Happy Hour with my husband, ate a bite, watched my current favorite TV show, (which is, embarrassingly, Running Wild with Bear Grylls)and then went to my office to get two more pages in.
5. I can't finish one novel and go right to the next. Um, no. Finished the one I've been laboring over for a year and opened a new file and started the next.
6. I have to have an outline! I am a confirmed plotter. Anybody who has worked with me knows that I advocate the benefits of a loose outline, just because it really helps to know where you're going. But with this novel, I'm running blind. I had a vague idea as I started and I'm must following where it leads me. I'm not entirely convinced it will all hand together in the end, but I'm willing to try! So, for the moment, I've joined the ranks of pantsers. (Which means, for those who don't know, writers who fly by the seat of their pants with little planning.)
7. Writing fast produces crap. This is maybe the biggest surprise. I'm quite pleased with what's on the page so far. In many ways, I'm coming to believe that writing fast is better for getting your true voice and style on the page.
So that's it, that's what I've learned thus far. And I really urge you to consider some fast drafting for yourself. I believe it bypasses the internal critic that slows us down and allows us to get a truer voice on the page.
What do you think about writing fast? Yes or no? Have you tried it?
PS.–Guess what? I can get Typepad on the new Surface tablet I bought to take to France so I'll be blogging from there (she said, hopefully). Last year I didn't know that I couldn't blog from my Ipad until I got there, sigh. And by the way, I'm in love with the Surface 2. It is a tool for work, as opposed to an expensive toy. Just saying. For someone who travels as much as I do, it will be a godsend.
I finally did it.
I've wanted to do this forever but other commitments kept getting in the way. Until yesterday.
And so, I rose at my usual time of 5:30 (I know, it's crazy to get up that early–but it's what time I naturally wake up) and started writing.
By 8:30, I had amassed 3,000 words. I took a break to shower and read the paper and drink some more coffee.
Back at it by 9:30–and by noon I was up to 6,000. I'd finished a novella I've been working on and was ready for lunch. Not just ready–famished beyond words. Writing that much takes a lot of mental energy.
I have to admit, this is where my energy started flagging. 6,000 words and completing a project seemed like a good day's work to me. And later when I thought back over the day, I realized that in a perfect world, if I were devoting every day all day to fiction writing, 3,000-5,000 words a day would be a great goal for me.
But I really wanted to see how far I could get, so back to the computer I went. I took a break for a client appointment mid-afternoon and then continued writing, finishing up by about 5, when I needed to feed the cats, cook dinner, and get ready for an evening meeting.
My final word count? 9, 247 words.
Yeah, I know, I was floored too.
And my head was about ready to explode as well. I have a bit of a headache today and I suspect it's from staring at the screen so much yesterday.
Now, bear in mind–these are rough draft words, people. Those 9K + words were pure glumping onto the page and will need rewriting and editing and polishing and all that stuff we do before we send our work out into the world.
But–I have over 9,000 more words on the page than I did on Tuesday. And that makes me happy.
By the way–Milli is hosting another 10K day this Saturday. I found the support of the blog and the others participating invaluable–and a lot of fun. (I also learned about Bounty bars, which I am now desperate to try.) I can't participate this Saturday, but I sure plan to set aside time to do another 10K day next month.
What's the most words you've ever written in a day? Does the idea of writing 10K words in a day sound like fun or make you want to run for your life? Please share.
I was asked to review this book by the publisher. I received no money, though I did get a copy of the book. The opinions offered are mine alone.
by Denise Jaden
When I was offered the chance to review this book, I leapt at it. I have a lot of story ideas that I'm working on (a novel, several short stories, another novel all lined up and ready to go when I finish the first one) and then there are other things (like making a living) that take up my time.
So, fast fiction? I'm there.
The full title of this book is Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days. The author, Denise Jaden, was inspired by her experiences writing a novel during Nanowrimo, helped along by the fact that the novel she wrote the first time she participated eventually got published. She's such an enthusiast of the process that she offers her own Thirty Day Writing Challenge on her blog.
I'm good with Nanowrimo–I've participated in it and I know a lot of other writers who have, too. But what mostly appealed to me about this book was learning Jaden's techniques for writing fiction fast.
Before I tell you more about the book, let's dispel one notion right off the bat–just because something is done quickly, that doesn't mean it is bad, okay? I'm not sure how this idea got started, but it is prevalent. For my money, writing a first draft as fast as you can often means you get your deep true voice on the page better than when you labor over a draft. Of course, after completing said first draft you then go on to rewrite, revise and polish it in future drafts–that is a given.
Back to the book. So many writing books get me enthused at the beginning and then I get bored. But I've actually been working with the ideas in this one. As those of you have taken my novel-writing class or read many of my posts know, I'm a big believer in doing prep work before you start the writing. (In other words, I am not a pantser, but a proud plotter.) And this method is essentially Jaden's technique for writing fast. In Part One: Before the Draft, she takes you through all the prep work pieces that will enable you to write a fast draft. She includes tons of questions and prompts about character, setting, and plot that will help you lay out ideas for the novel.
In Jaden's world, after you've done all of the afore-mentioned exercises, you are then ready to create a story plan which you will follow in order to fast draft. I'm a sucker for anything with the word "plan" in it, so I decided to apply this to a novella I'm writing (it used to be a story but recently grew to a novella). I had some sketchy notes and a first scene written for this novella. I applied the 11 steps in Jaden's story plan(they include things like identifying what your main character wants and lining out each scene) to it, et voila, fast drafting is indeed much easier. (I've said it before and I'll say it again, not only to you, but to myself–writing works ever so much better when you know where you're going.)
Part Two of the book is a day-by-day guide for the actual thirty day drafting process. It's full of more ideas and prompts, the gist of it being that you refer to each page as you go along. I'm not doing the thirty day drafting thing, so I'm mining this section of the book for inspiration in a more random way. And Part Three of the book has some good thoughts on revision.
So, I give this book an enthusiastic thumbs up. Even if you aren't a believer in fast drafting, or if you are, gasp, a pantser, I think you'll find a lot of value in it.
What's your favorite book on writing? Do you have one that you go back to over and over or do you find yourself seeking out a new one?
I'm sure just about all of us have witnessed the Tortured Writer Syndrome. Perhaps we've even experienced it personally.
The syndrome begins with a bit of writer's block, some rubbish first draft material, a savage critique or just some good ol' white page fright.
It then grows into the expectation that writing is a difficult, thankless task that requires many hours of hard work with inevitable disappointment at the end.
Eventually this syndrome can even turn the best of writers into a martyr to their craft as they face weeks, months or even years of frustration, without ever feeling the wonder, excitement and exhilaration of what it truly means to be a writer.
Where Does It All Go Wrong?
The process starts getting all twisted when we do too much thinking and not enough actual writing.
Instead of starting our day with a freewrite to get the words flowing (and get the rusty first 300 or so out of our system before we get down to business), we worry about what we're going to produce today.
We start wondering: What am I going to write about? Will it be any good? Do I have anything worth writing about? Will anyone want to read what I'm writing anyway? Within three or four sentences we've completely lost our motivation, stopping up our natural flow with so much negativity that it takes a phenomenal effort every day to overcome it.
Then comes the inevitable writer's block and other woes of the writing life which become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe writing is hard, then it most certainly will become so. Words have power, especially the ones we use on ourselves.
So many writers are in this rut, that they are in the majority – posting, tweeting and talking about their difficulties – when the writers who are prolifically enjoying their writing life are too busy writing to respond.
How do I know?
I'm one of those prolific writers. When my words are in full flow, it's easy to write over 1,500 high-quality words in an hour. I sit down to my computer each morning with a relaxed but expectant attitude.
I feel like Sharon O'Brien who said, "Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."
So what's the secret?
How Can You Loosen Yourself Up and Making Writing Fun Again?
Here are a few points to get you back on the road to an enjoyable writing life.
• Get the bilge out early. Start your day with a journal entry or a freewrite. If you're in any way nervous about what you're going to write, then set 15 minutes on a timer and pour your thoughts onto the page. Once you've got them out of your head, you'll be amazed at how much lighter and more confident you feel.
• Lower your expectations. You don't have to sit down at your computer and write a best-selling novel. Start writing something true – about yourself, or about life in general – and keep writing that truth until it turns into a narrative and that narrative finds a protagonist and then that protagonist goes on a journey. Allow the words to flow wherever they want to go. When you're finished, then go back and decide what to do with the end result.
• Enjoy the process. Putting words onto the page should be a cathartic experience. It's best done regularly, daily if possible, so that the words literally flow out of you. At the end of your writing day, look for one thing you especially liked about what you wrote, even if it was just a sentence or a word. Carry that positive feeling with you through to your next writing session.
• Ask for help. So many writers struggle with certain aspects of their writing. Don't let this hold you up. Get yourself a writing coach, a creativity coach, an editor or even just a good book on the subject. Invest in yourself. Show yourself that your writing is worth the extra time and effort. An outside perspective will usually pick up on where your problem lies – and you'll often be surprised at how easy the fix is.
• View your writing life as a journey. You're never going to know it all. Even the most experienced writers are still learning and honing their craft. Rather than looking at writing as something you will be graded on, view it as the narrative of your life. As you grow and change so will your writing. Get your story written now so the next story can appear and surprise you.
What about you? How do you keep your writing relaxed and fun? I'd love to read your comments!
Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity's Workshop where her Creativity writes in purple text. She offers creative coaching for writers. You can read her latest book De-Stress Your Writing Life for free as she blogs it over the coming months.
To everything, there is a season. (Can't write that without hearing Turn! Turn! Turn! in my head. See below.)
It's important not to rush. And yet, sometimes, things (like writing) happen really fast.
I'm just full of fun paradoxes today.
This post's impetus grew from an email conversation I was having with a friend. We were talking about the timing of a forthcoming introduction, whether we should do it now or wait. And I found myself typing, "If there's one thing I've learned, it's not good to rush."
The art of timing–which sometimes means being patient–is something I've had to learn over my years as a writer. Too often, I've rushed submitting a project because I was excited about it–but because I rushed I got rejected. The work wasn't ready.
How many times have I dashed off an email, and in my haste to get it done, left off things I wanted to say? Too many to count. Way too often I end up sending a "PS." When, if I'd just waited and given myself time without rushing I would have remembered in the first place.
I see this with other writers, too. Sometimes I see it in the work that is submitted to me–when a manuscript is full of typos and misspellings I know the author has rushed. Or when a new writer, who has barely completed one project yet, starts asking me about agents, I know he or she is rushing things.
It's easy to understand why–we want success and we want it now! We want people to read our novels because having readers is the end point of the communication loop that comprises writing. We want to finish the dumb email so we can get to the important things, like writing. And yet, rushing things through has never resulted in a successful result, as far as I can tell.
Let Things Happen Fast
On the other hand, things can and do happen fast upon occasion, and even fairly often. All of a sudden, inspiration strikes, and before you know it, you've written a chapter and it's not half bad. You dash off the perfect email, write the meaningful blog post in the 20 minutes you have before an appointment.
The trick here, clearly, is to be able to tell when something that happened fast is good and when you were just rushing.
One Word: Discernment.
I think discernment is something that writers develop over their writing lives. When you pay attention, you start to get an innate sense of whether something is working or not (I try to stay away from labeling work "good" or "bad.") The key concept of discernment is paying attention. And when you're paying attention, you're not rushing, even if the work came out fast.
So, all things in good time. To everything there is a season. That can be comforting to remember when you are in the middle of a long slog of a project.
Have you had an experience of rushing, or writing something good really fast? Please share.
Yes, I said 10 days. As in, writing a full, complete novel in 10 days.
Dean Wesley Smith is ghosting a novel contracted by a major publisher for an author who is a bestseller and whose name would be recognizable to all of us. (Yes, the world of ghostwriting is sometimes a shady place.)
He's set himself the goal of finishing the novel in 10 days, and along the way, he is documenting his progress with regular updates to his blog. It's really worth reading. Here are the posts so far:
And you might want to read this one as well:
When Smith says he writes fast, he means it–he gets up, gets to the computer (he uses two–one with no internet access and thus no temptations) and gets to work. It appears that he writes in bursts, knocking off a 1000 words or so before taking a break to eat or answer email (at the second computer) or what have you. And then he rinses and repeats, on and on throughout the day.
But here's the deal: he's writing. Not endlessly revising, not thinking about writing, not wondering if his work is any good (confidence is not this man's problem), but writing.
I think we can all learn a lesson from this. I know reading his posts inspired me and afterwards, I polished off the first draft of a short story I'd been agonizing over. I'm sure I spend way too much time pondering deep thoughts and not actually writing. Even if we don't want to emulate every aspect of his practice, we can learn from parts of it.
Oh yeah, and guess what? He starts out with no idea where he's going. And he doesn't rewrite. This draft will be it.
Here are things I noted/wondered about as I read:
–When does he take a shower?
–When does he exercise?
–He has a wife to cook for him. Or someone. Dinner magically appears.
–He probaby has a house cleaner as well. There's no attention paid to such mundane matters.
–He's able to set his own schedule (stay up until wee hours of the morning, sleep until 1 PM).
But even with all that being said, his accomplishment is amazing.
What do you think? Does this appeal to you or do you think he's a hack (he's got a gazillion novels to his credit)? Do you write slow or fast? I'd love it if you left a comment.