Category Archives: On Writing

Finding Your Mojo

In the many Facebook wall posts, individual blog entries and Meet-up discussions I’ve seen in the short time since the New Year began, I’ve noticed a theme among all of them; “I need to start writing again” or  “I can’t find my motivation,” or “I just have to force myself to write.”

I too have felt the burning desire to get back to writing and, have also experienced the disappointment of not being able to get rolling the way I want to. Rather than disappoint myself into defeat by cracking the whip on my own back, or by setting unattainable goals, I decided to take a step back and just allow myself to grow naturally.

It all started with the first step – deciding which of the three stories that I am currently developing to start with. This in itself may not be an easy choice for some. I decided to work on the rewrite of my completed Erotic Romance novella. I had finished the first draft back in July and have recently received some feedback on the first two chapters from members of Stonehenge, the Meet-upTM writer’s group I work with, so I felt it was the story that I had the best chance of doing anything with successfully.

The second step was what many folk are having a difficult time with right now. Finding time. I found some time, one hour every morning where I had no distractions, no interruptions and a quiet atmosphere to work in. So I began the rewrite. It wasn’t a very large block of time, but it was something.

The first day I produced a paltry 374 words in that hour. Oh – whoopee! Atta-boy David! You’ve got a good first paragraph (exaggeration – it was really about 5 paragraphs). Needless to say, I was less than exuberant with my results. But then I just had to tell myself that it was a step forward. It was progress after all. Why berate myself on not being able to pen half a book in one hour? It was a success!

Day two was much better. In that one hour window, I had added to my initial 374 words to reach 1100.  Still not a big leap forward but forward progress nonetheless.

Day three I broke 1000 new words in one hour. That was a lot! I was quite proud of myself for the first time since I did 8000 words in one day when finishing the first draft. I looked forward to the next day’s hour with great expectations.

Day four – another 1000 word hour and the story was actually flowing nicely as well. Realizing that my efforts weren’t just creating dribble, that one thousand words in an hour made me feel very good about myself. Again, I looked forward to the next day.

Day five, six and seven have all seen 1000+ word days in that one hour window of opportunity. Something is happening. I’m writing! How can this be? I didn’t even feel stressed or hurried over the past week. I’ve actually got something on paper (well, pixels at least) and it wasn’t the drudgery that I thought it would be. I sort of forgot that I had to write and just wrote.

That’s the trick. Stop telling yourself that you have to write, like it’s a job. Most of us are still doing this as a “hobby” in conjunction with our real jobs, so why make it a task when it should be fun?

Taking that one step further – why feel the need to sit and write for hours on end? Write when it feels good and for as long as it feels good and the work flows. When you hit a hurdle, pause for a moment and try to think it through. If the answer doesn’t come immediately to you, put it down and go do something else. I have found that in working this way, I get through stumbling blocks much easier than I used to. When you are in the heat of the moment, and you come upon a problem, one part of your mind is saying “screw it! I have to get this other information down” while another part fights the first and says, “No! We must solve this problem first BEFORE we go on. The fate of the free world depends on it!”

Both are right to some degree, and if you can skip ahead and continue writing then come back to whatever is hanging you up, then go for it. I have the tendency to get marred down in trying to solve a problem, the result of which is I get frustrated, angry, disenchanted and begin second guessing everything about my story. I get stuck in other words. No one likes that feeling and it is probably why many of us find it difficult to get started after a break. We don’t want to feel that way.

The baby step approach I’ve been describing above has helped me find my groove. I work, not expecting much, but end up achieving a lot. When I feel good, I write. When I am stuck, I walk away and think about it. Usually, I can work through my problems and at the next one-hour writing window, I can implement changes and move on, many time still achieving a 1000 word hour. But the most important thing that helps me maintain this one-hour-a-day schedule is that I feel good and am looking forward to writing. If you can’t feel good about what you’re writing, or even look forward to your writing time with enthusiasm – what’s the point? There’s enough stress dumped on you by life, why dump more needlessly?

I don’t even pretend to assume this method will work for everyone, but it’s working for me right now. So much, in fact, that I’m inspired to share my workflow with the hope that I might be able to help or inspire someone who’s experiencing the same difficulties in finding their happy place.

If you find this has helped you, let me know. If you have a method you find helps you get through the muddy trail, share it here. You might just help me or someone else in the process.

 

Happy writing.

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Which Comes First? Story or Title

It’s the age old question with no clear answer. Much like its more famous counterpart,“Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?”, there really is no way to answer this definitively. You might think that the egg must come first as chickens come from eggs. But then, where would that first egg have come from? No one knows! It’s similar with writing: Does the title inspire the story or does the story inspire the title?

The good news  us writers is that it’s really a question of what works for you? There is no write or wrong answer (did you see my little play with words right there? Thank you). We have the freedom to choose which will be our first move. And if it works – all the better! If it doesn’t, then we can switch easily to the other and try again.

For me, I have traditionally come up with a title first; letting it inspire and shape my story’s concept. Then I move on to writing the story itself. This may work for short stories as the title suggests the main subject. Such stories usually are single subject based in the first place. Easy! However, when I write longer manuscripts or am writing in the Fantasy genre, I’m starting to feel that the title first method might be hindering my progress. Perhaps it would be better to allow the story to present an appropriate title as it develops. But then, there is another problem that arises.

In this world of electronic files, if you have several stories in the works at one time, you can’t really go around with a series of files named Untitled.docx. It’s bad enough when I have several versions of the same story and I have multiple files with names like: Hobbit.docx, Hobbit_1.docx, Hobbit_Alt.docx, Hobbit_2nd_alt.docx….and so on. Which is the current file? Which one had the line that I wanted to use in my Hobbit_1st_rewrite.docx file? It get’s ugly fast. Now, imagine dozens of files with Untitled as the title. I already have a head ache and I’m just writing about it.

So where do we go from here? I don’t want to get into the options computers give us with folders and file hierarchies that would work to keep many things sorted out. What I’d like to ask is which method do you subscribe to? Do you prefer one of the other or do you employ both methods depending on what you are writing?

So what comes first?

Story Title?

or

The Story?

I welcome your thoughts.


Time to Write

How do you find time to write? As it is with many of us who are trying to “become” writers, it nearly always seems to be an uphill struggle to find time in our busy schedule to actually sit down and write. But what’s so “busy” about our schedule that makes finding writing time so difficult? There is a simple answer – practice.

I have learned, through my own experience, that there is plenty of time out there for writing. You’d be surprised how much is truly available once you start to look for it. If your life is anything like mine, it’s established, has a routine, and is fairly well scheduled out in a nice, easy timeline: comfortable.  Allow me to demonstrate my point.

I’m 44 years old presently, have a career, a family and, as many of us do, have other interests and hobbies that demand our time. Writing is a fairly new distraction for me. I have been an avid photographer for over twenty-five years. I am also a model railroader and have been a member of my local model railroad club for nearly thirty years. For seven of the last nine years, I also sat on the board of directors as treasurer for a charitable organization. My marriage is approaching nineteen years long with my son having just turned nine. Then there is the bread winning, but ever time consuming creature called my J.O.B. This demands no less than ten hours of my waking day. That encompasses all the time from when my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM, to when I arrive at work before 6:00 AM, until I leave work at 2:30 PM at the earliest. For rounded numbers, let’s just say my job consumes no less than ten hours of my day. I consider myself fortunate that it only takes up that much time. Many of my friends say it is closer to twelve hours each day for them. But that includes folks who spend anywhere from 1-2 hours commuting to their jobs or whom have two jobs.

So there is nearly half a day where none of us should even be considering writing. I know I break the rules some times and work while I’m in a lull or during lunch. But for argument sake, we will covet the time spent at work as purely for work. Now, what happens after work? THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

Let’s be practical, very few of us have the luxury of being able to go home straight from work these days. There are groceries to buy, errands to run, kids to shuttle between school and soccer (or some other form of extracurricular activity). There’s dinner, homework to help with, showers to take, bills to pay and lawns to mow. By the time all this is done, granted, many of these can be spread out over the week as they don’t all occur every day, where do  you find the time to write? Then, we do have to leave some time for sleep. I don’t know too many people who function well on less than 6-8 hours of sleep. They do it, but again, not well.

In my brief existence as a semi-serious writer, I have discovered two really big time consumers that at one time I considered my “relaxation time”, my “unwind time”, or for the seriously self-centered, my “ME time”.

Hey – we all need a little ME time. I don’t deny that. But my ME time consists of watching television or sitting in front of my computer surfing the internet. This sort of mindless entertainment seemed to be the way many people spend their “free time”. It’s easy to get lost in the dribble. But when you add up how much time is spent on these two devises alone (and you can now include your smart phones, Tablets, Nooks, Kindles and other gadgets that allow you to spend limitless hours of doing nothing  – curse you Angry Birds!), you have then discovered a well of poorly utilized time.

Instead of sitting watching American Idol, Big Brother, Survivor, The Family Guy and (I shudder to say it) Monday Night Football, sit in front of your computer and use those half-hour, one-hour or multi-hour segments of time to write. That is, after all, what you want to do correct? You want to pen the next great American Novel, well – you can’t do that while watching Bob’s Burgers and the rest of Fox’s Animation Domination line up. All that will do is dominate the time better spent writing your dreams on paper and turn your brain into tapioca.

Let’s look at computer surfing. This is, in my humble opinion, the greatest waste of human life that has ever existed. We’d be more productive watching the grass grow – at least we’d be outside breathing fresh air and getting Vitamin D from the sun (yes – there are arguments about spending too much time exposed outside, but this is my blog and I don’t care). All the time spent surfing porn, searching for coupons, watching more mindless (though sometimes more entertaining than TV) programs on YouTube, is time in front of your computer that would be better spent with a word processor open and you crafting your story into little black pixels on the screen.

Our lives have become so regimented with blocks of time spent doing things for seemingly everyone else but ourselves, that when we do get a chance to breathe many of us choose to become blobs and stare at the TV or computer monitor. I’m guilty of that. It’s nice to turn the brain off from time to time and lose myself is something totally irrelevant. But then that becomes an excuse for not writing.

Recently – I took thirteen days to write AND COMPLETE my first manuscript. It was almost better than sex when I typed THE END for the first time. Thirteen days! That’s all it took for me, a fledgling writer, to put 26,000+ words on paper and tell a story from beginning to end. THIRTEEN DAYS! How did I do it? I avoided television and the internet (except for actual research) during that time and found literally hours per day that would otherwise have been spend vegetating rather than writing. The greatest thing was I still felt as relaxed and rested as I would have been if I sat on my ass to watch TV. I’d dare even say I felt better in general if for no other reason than I was creating something of my own.

It all comes down to discipline. If you want to write – TRULY wish to become a writer, you just have to find the time. It’s easier to do than you’d expect, though I will admit, it’s also hard to let old habits die. Slight rearrangements in your daily life may help, buy a laptop so that while little Johnny is playing soccer, you’re typing away in the bleachers. You don’t even have to go to that expense either as there is still the old fashioned way of writing on paper with a pen or pencil that would allow you to get your thoughts down, at least long enough until you can get to your computer to add them to your manuscript file.

Motivation will ebb and flow and you’ll find yourself slipping back into the TV blob/computer surfing routine if you are not careful. But when you remember how good it felt when you spent thirteen days and wrote your entire story out from “Once Upon a Time” to “They Lived Happily Ever After”, you’ll find yourself looking for that time once again and soon – you’ll be writing your next All American Novel, while the rest of the world tunes in to watch the Kardashians do – nothing.

The more you do it, the easier it will become. I’m still learning that lesson myself, but the point is I am learning that lesson. Finding time to write is becoming less of an effort and less of an excuse to lean on. May you find your time in similar ways. It just takes dedication and practice.

Happy Writing!


Just the Way it is.

“A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. So he goes to work. To write a novel? No–that is a thought which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale, a very little tale, a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book. I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.”

Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Other Tales

“Man…you said it all!”

~ D. W. Good, Trying to spread his six-page tale into a book.