The Comeback Kid, Slush Slumps, and the Write Training

27 Jun

Unlike the 1980 made-for-TV movie, apparently you don’t get a soundtrack when you realize you need a comeback.

Since the end of 2013, I’ve been writing, sure, but not working on any real projects (or rather, finishing any projects).  I’ve been in a slush slump – not necessarily a block against words, but a lack of inspiration where every word falls flat on the page.  So much so that I contemplated not even signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo in July. (gasp!)  Without too much discussion of the merits and faults of Camp NaNoWriMo, it is a good place to make a comeback.

The “Oh $h*t” Moment

First, let me be honest about what actually gave a jump start to my dying writing battery. It certainly wasn’t some writer’s epiphany or great show of dedication to the craft.

I received a scholarship to attend a conference in New Orleans and, in my excitement for the upcoming trip, thought to myself: I’ll get some good material for the second book of Shift.  I went over all the New Orleans neighborhoods I researched for the book, the places I would visit, how I would soak up the sights of the French Quarter, and most likely gain twenty pounds in five days for my love of gumbo, Jambalaya, and all food Cajun or Creole.  Finally! I’d be able to get the real feel of New Orleans that was holding me back from progressing!

[insert punctuated pause of realization] Next thought:  Well, shit. I’m kind of off my writing game, aren’t I? How the hell am I going to write well if I haven’t been practicing like I should?  

So, I’m using Camp as my warm-up – my pre-marathon training plan to flex my writing brain muscles and caffeine-driven finger tips on a computer screen – to get my ass in gear before what I hope will be a post-New Orleans writing frenzy.

2 “Easy” Tenants to Escape the Slush Slump

1. Analyze Past & Present Habits

Think of your day/week when you felt successful or productive with your writing. Now think of the last month (or six months in my case…)  What’s different? Your schedule, how you prepare, where you live, the coffee, what you’re writing?

2. Create a Switch It Up List

Great! Now that you’ve figured out what’s different, figure out how to do something else. Ta da! You’re done.*

*Jokes. There is sarcasm here. If only it were this easy, I would have climbed out of this slush pit long ago…

My Nitty-Gritty Comeback Kid Writing Training Plan

So here’s my switch-it-up list:

  • Write in one project and one project only.
    Unlike 2013, at the beginning of this year I allowed myself to jump from project to project.  Now that I’ve had a spell of creating slush, its time to put a target on piece of paper and not allow my mind to wander. (Of course, I can write ideas down in the idea book. It would be pure madness to get rid of that habit.)
  • Not writing in the project I want to write in.
    Obviously, I want to write in my Shift 2 project – right? But I’m not.  I’m also not going to write in the one that came to mind after that (another urban fantasy universe). Why? I want to save Shift 2 for post-New Orleans and I want to save my urban fantasy juices for that too. Plus, I realized that most of my projects have been high fantasy (Yarrow) or urban fantasy (Shift, Shift 2, Gabriel).
  • Plan for July.  
    What! Me? Plan?  No… Okay, so I’ve been an avid “pants-er.”  So, I’m going to try this whole planning thing for July. Not completely sure about it, but I’m up for trying most things once.
  • Ban self-editing from my mind.  
    I am overwhelmed with the editing needs from the writing that I produced last year (and partially this year). The more I try to edit, the more editing the words need, which snowballs into a ball of stress whenever I think about sitting down to edit – to the point where I don’t know where to start because there is simply so much to edit.  Therefore, my editing brain is hereby banned from the rearing her ruthless head until after August. Fall seems appropriate for hacking away like Jill-the-Ripper at some manuscripts. This may be procrastination at its finest, but I’m trying to ban that sort of negative thinking too.
    (Side note: Did you know I will still edit your work?)
  • No rituals!
    From what I can tell, I am not the only one who borders on OCD when it comes to sitting down to actually write.  Last July, you might remember, I managed to finish my 50K in about a week. What was different? No rituals, I just wrote.  I’m a big believer in quality over quantity (I’m a paradox – what can I say?) so I expected that manuscript to be complete and total crap. Reading back through it, the quality was actually better than some of my raw manuscripts that were written in a sane amount of time. Eliminating rituals might seem counter-intuitive with planning, but hey – who said writing made sense?
  • Set a reasonable word count goal
    Its 40K. Some people don’t like the word count goal model, but it works for me. I’m not a time person for writing, I’m not a time person for running.  When I run, I run for my distance rather than for a set amount of time. (Problematic when it comes to using the Zombies Run app, btw.)
  • Not beat myself up for the 6 month slush slump.
    Looking back, the majority of my finished manuscripts last year were molded from past slush projects.  Who knows? Maybe the pile of crap I’ve been writing will be good fertilizer for roses later.
  • #^&% if I know. 
    I’m so incredibly open to suggestions its not even funny. (That’s what the comment section is for.)

Actual results may vary – the above was compiled for and by an odd individual.  See below for some pro ideas.

Here’s What Smart People Have to Say

Point is, however you do it, make sure you get out of the writing slush slump, become that Comeback Kid, and finish the damn relay.

 Are you NaNo’ing?  Got some ideas for de-slumping? Tell me about it. (Please?) 


Oh, and if now you want to watch John Ritter in his awkwardly short athletic shorts:


 

Please Note:  Said slush slump is contagious.  The slush slump definitely wormed its way onto this blog, probably because I was feeling so flat and uninspired.  Excuses, excuses.  Lets make up for it in July, shall we?

Link

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – Megan McArdle – The Atlantic

5 Apr

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – Megan McArdle – The Atlantic

This is the best article that I have read about procrastination, particularly in writers, in recent memory. 

It reminds me of an advisor from my sorority in college who told me “Fail spectacularly, if you’re going to fail.” …Never wiser words. 

Link

Confessions of an ADD Writer—How I Turned my Struggle into Success

30 Mar

Confessions of an ADD Writer—How I Turned my Struggle into Success

Not sure if Edie is ADD, clinically speaking, but these are some great tips!  I would only add to not neglect physical activity, which is hard when I’m hyper-focused on a project. 

Stop the YA Bashing.

21 Mar

Pop culture minute.

The movie of Veronica Roth’s Divergent arrives in theaters today.  Having read and loved the entire Divergent trilogy, I am so excited to go see the movie!

Give Divergent a chance.

Critics and reviewers seem to dismiss both the movie and the book as “just more YA trash,” which really irks me as a lover of the books and YA fiction*.

*(YA is not a genre. The Chuck Wendig explanation.)

Stop the YA Fiction Bashing

Yes, there are many books from the YA fiction realm that Hollywood adapts into movies. Teenagers like movies. The general public likes movies with lots of angst mixed with romance. Why not use books targeted at teenagers that are full of angst and, usually, romance?

Pop YA fiction is heavily targeted at young women and, yes, many books follow the same themes.  But so do other “pop” genres of adult fiction.  For some reason, novels targeted at women seem to be discounted where as novels targeted at men, like crime or adventure or popular fantasy novels (James Patterson, Clive Cussler, George R.R. Martin…) tend to be extolled as “better writing.”  YA isn’t supposed to be overly complex writing – its targeted at teenagers!

My point: the “YA trash” label is a way of dismissing writing that focuses on what’s considered feminine in our society: love, relationships, family, selflessness, etc.  Since the writing is associated with these themes that mainstream society considers feminine, that writing automatically gets classified as weaker and “less than.”

It’s also worth a note that the great majority of YA writers are women.  Some people say coincidence, to which I say: you wish it was.

This isn’t to say that all YA novels are good. Twilight, while addictive when I first read it, made me want to put my head through a wall for various reasons.

To me, the most important thing about YA fiction is that its engaging young readers. Those YA teens learning to love books are going to grow up and branch out to read other books. 

If you don’t like YA, don’t read it – simple as that.  I’m not particularly fond of biographies, so I don’t read them. That doesn’t mean I’m going to say that all biographies are a load of trash. 

Why I Really Love Divergent

I think the Divergent trilogy is one of the best YAs that I have read in a while. Therefore, I must fangirl here for a second, so briefly:

1.  Tris is both strong and emotionally available. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Katniss from The Hunger Games, but she got thrown into this “tough girl” stereotype that didn’t leave a whole lot of room for being emotional.)

2. Tris and Four are constantly working toward respecting each other. They don’t respect each other all the time (Shocker! Like REAL people!), but they talk to each other (not gossip with their friends) and acknowledge when they have been disrespectful to the other person.

3.  Veronica Roth managed to surprise me – twice. TWICE. (The second time I sort of saw it coming, but I didn’t really think she’d do it… She did.)

4. POSSIBLE SPOILER (highlight following line to read) –Veronica Roth really knows what “kill your darlings” means.

Bottom Line

If you don’t like a book, you don’t like a book. If you don’t like YA, you don’t like YA. But, for the love of Pete (or is it Peeta?), don’t say a YA book is bad purely because its YA.

Have you noticed the trash talking about YA?
Read Divergent? Seen the movie? 

Read more about my Divergent thoughts here.

Aside

PSA: Warning on Media Discovery for the New(ish) Blogger

27 Jan

I received an e-mail about two weeks ago from Media Discovery asking for advertising space.  In my experience, money does not “find” you, so I wrote it off as a scam.  Two days ago, I received a follow up e-mail from Media Discovery and decided to do some digging.

Is Media Discovery a scam?

Well, technically, no.

But your blog will become unsearchable and you will lose followers. (Boiling many complex concepts down to a basic one.)

More information here at Texan in Tokyo.

Bottom line: Money ain’t free kids, just say no. 

Life and Other Distractions

20 Jan

When all was said and one, the outcome for The (2013) Writing Resolution was the following:

371, 781 words written in 2013. 

Trust me, I didn’t think I’d get there. Really, I didn’t. Considering I was 100K+ behind by October, that may be why you stopped seeing posts.

So, that being said, I learned a few things:

1.  I don’t feel any more like a writer in January 2014 than I did in January 2013.

2.  I need to get some serious editing done this year.

3.  I should have factored blogging into my word counts. (No folks that 371K is all fiction writing. Boom!)

4. Life constantly throws curve balls, all of which are potential distractions.

*

However, I made the mistake of taking a break to deal with life’s curve balls rather than writing through them.  In the end, this was a a mistake. Sometimes, its okay to take a break from writing, but not when life is throwing monkey wrenches in what seems to already be screwdriver and hammer stew.

Writing through the curves of life, even if that writing is not worthy of the worst slush pile, is a way to deal with the problems of life and, therefore, life itself.

Writing is a coping mechanism.  When everything else is out of order, I can still string words together on a piece of paper or computer screen.  Now, those words not might make the most sense, be the best words chosen, nor be anything remotely publishable. But since I am writing to cope with the ever-changing landscape of life, well, I’ll climb over that slump quicker and I might stumble over brilliance on the way.

I moved twice in 2013; one move was 1000 miles, the other about 100. I used relocation as an excuse to stop writing. I just lost the writing gusto, I thought.

I hadn’t. I was lying to myself and I knew it. It was too painful to write – too honest to put pain and longing on paper, only to have the words churn out as complete crap.

But once I started writing again, the world opened back up the way that the stars of the night sky explode over Montana.

Keep writing, logophiles – that painfully blank page is an ellipsis waiting for a grand finale.

The Write Habits, Part 1: Creating a Routine for Routine-Haters

3 Sep

This post is Part One of my Write Habits series.
Part Two covers tips for remembering and reinforcing new habits.*
Part Three applies routines, to do lists, and reminders directly to your writing practice.*

routine

By definition, I abhorred routines. Following a routine indicated the a premature death of the soul and all creativity.

Me, follow a routine? Never!

Then came the month of August: I relocated about 900 miles and completely changed my living situation.

The change of location and living arrangements helped me realize that yes, in fact, I practiced a daily routine – just not a strict one.

Head Slap Moment: Rituals and Habits Are Routines

Obviously, I like flexibility. I designed The Writing Resolution to write 1,000 words per day OR 365,000 words this year. In addition to some NaNoWriMo influence, I also read a few articles on Brain Pickings and Daily Routines about writers’ daily rituals to come up with TWR.

Upon review of these articles and sites, I gathered this “new” insight: some writers follow strict routines and some follow flexible routines, but they all follow a routine.

I follow more rituals and habits (read: ROUTINE) than I previously thought. I wake up and drink my coffee in a certain, glazed-eye way, I ritualistically prepare for my run, I start writing sometimes in a very particular way. These habits and rituals helped me become more productive. My habits and rituals formed a routine, even if I didn’t want to admit it. (Have I mentioned I’m stubborn?)

Relocation shattered those routines and, ergo, my productivity. Prime example? In August, I only managed to clock 9,445 words toward my TWR goal. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but I know I could have done better. And that, my fellow logophiles, is an awful feeling.

Strictly Speaking vs. Following Flexibility

The real task: how do I create a new routine as a routine-hater?

Analyzing my old habits, I realized my routine 900 miles ago was flexible. For me, flexibility is key. Instead of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd items to do, I create morning “to do” bullet points and evening “to do” bullet points that can change, within their time frame, daily. (While brainstorming, flexible routine-ists probably prefer webs or idea clusters.)

For others, a strict schedule works better and that is A-OK too. These folks number each of their bullet points and follow that almost every day. (While brainstorming, strict routine-ists probably prefer numbered outlines.)

Of course, as with just about everything in life, flexible routines and strict routines fall on a continuum. An effective routine for one person is not an effective routine for another.

Effective Routines

Regardless of the structure of the routine, all routines should:

  • Minimize stress. As soon as your routine causes stress and/or obsessive behavior, your routine is no longer effective.
    • Hate routines? Good news! Well, you’re free to mix and match until you find one that you like and doesn’t feel like getting your teeth pulled (gasp!).
  • Accomplish goals. If you aren’t making progress toward your goals with your routine, its time to switch it up.
    • Hate routines? Worth considering: routine comes from the word “route.” In other words, it’s a road to follow to your destination/goal.
  • Leave time for decompression. If your routine leaves you with no free time (meaning you have a “pass” on your to do list), its time to take a look at re-prioritizing.
    • Hate routines? Schedule yourself more free time, especially at first. Think of the free time as a reward for doing something you hate.

Tips for Creating Your Ideal Routine

Some tips to get you started, if you – like me – are creating a routine from scratch:

  • Build around an activity. What’s the activity that helps you reach your goals?
    • Example. My activities are writing and running/working out. So I build everything I build around my writing and running.
  • Don’t start all at once. Build up your habits slowly. Choose 2-3 new habits you want to master and a time frame, with a deadline if necessary.
    • Example. In the AM I want to: wake up at 6:30am (or earlier) [new], run/workout [established], and write 1,000 words [new/re-establish]. Deadline: 9:00am, M-F.
  • Constantly re-evaluate. If you keep “failing,” then re-organize your information. Try a different system of organization, such as switching to bullet points from numbered tasks or vice versa. Take one “to do” off your routine.
    • Example. I can complete these 3 items, but only if I do them in a certain order. Even though I bullet point everything else, I need to numerically order these three things.
  • Reminders and triggers. Without a doubt, this is the most important part. You have to remember to do whatever your new task is until it becomes a habit! Use something to trigger your new desired habit, i.e. remind you.
    • Example. By necessity, I am a self-reminding ace. Part 2 on Friday will feature some awesome reminding tips!

Thought Food to Chew On:

1. A spark of creativity can come from breaking your typical routine. That spark of creativity can’t come without a typical routine to break.

2. So… you want to do XYZ (write for 15 minutes, meditate, go for a walk) every morning? How will make that a habit, especially if you don’t remember to do it every morning?

What’s your routine and how did you create it?

[*Edit 01/20/2014: Please note that Part 2 and Part 3 are still to come. They will be linked once they are available.]

Aside

“Read Later” Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

27 Aug

Chances are, you stumble upon a lot of articles during the day that look interesting, but that you don’t have time to read right now. Lots of services have cropped up to solve this problem, and today we’re looking at the most popular three and pitting them against one another: Pocket, Instapaper, and Readability. Here’s how they stack up.

More at:  “Read Later” Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability.

——

My choice is Pocket. Its free, has the most features, and… well, I honestly really don’t use it that much anyway. How about you?

Link

How To Maximize Your Word Count And Write More Every Day « terribleminds: chuck wendig

21 Jul

How To Maximize Your Word Count And Write More Every Day « terribleminds: chuck wendig.

Oh how I love Chuck Wendig…

My favorite from the above post?

When life gives you no time, MAKE TIME TRAVELING LEMONADE.

That can’t be right. But it’ll have to do.

What I mean is, life is a low place that fills up quickly with whatever comes its way — water, sand, mud, elk scat, the tears of all the world’s children, whatever. Your time will swiftly fall prey to the nibbles and pecks of the Things-To-Do-Bird: you gotta go to work, go to the store, take out the trash, artificially inseminate that baboon HEY I SAID ARTIFICIALLY PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON. Time fills up fast. Life is greedy and eager to exploit.

If you’re going to write a lot, you’re going to need to feint and duck, stick and move, and reach in to grab fistfuls of time-flesh and use it for your own sinister purposes: in this case, writing. Got a lunch break? Write. Sitting at a long stop light? Take a few quick voice notes on your phone. Lounging around in post-coital baboon afterglow? Put some words to paper, goddamnit.

Okay, but seriously. Go read it right now. It might be why I managed to pump out my 50K for July already.

 

Life Is Too Short to Read Bad Books (Reblog)

19 Jul

Reblogged from I am a writer… dangit.

Recently, Goodreads polled its members, asking what books they walked away from and why.

Here is the fruit of that survey (comments below the infographic):

 As a reader, I could start a discussion here about what books I’m surprised are in the top five (Wicked) and which ones I whole-heartedly expected (Fifty Shades of Grey).  But, as a writer, I’m more interested in WHY people didn’t finish the books they started. Continued Here…

I am surprised and a little sad that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was up there!  I agree it did start slow – but definitely worth it after the first hurdle.

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