You should know, before you start reading the words that come after this, that before I started writing them I sat here staring at the blinking cursor on the pristine screen for far too long. I often approach Mad Genius like this. ‘Who am I,’ I ask myself silently, ‘to offer any advice whatsoever on writing? I still don’t know what I’m doing, much less how well I’m doing it.’ But here I am, and I am determined to honor the privilege of my position because… Because I was given so much help when I first started. And now I’m here, a little way in on the journey, able to reach behind me to give some encouragement to those still staring at their blank screens. Read more
Posts tagged ‘writers block’
I’m pretty solidly blocked on Scrap Star, right now. Not entirely sure why, and haven’t taken the time to work through it. I’m absolutely certain it has nothing at all to do with my poor sleep habits, lousy diet, and nonexistent exercise regimen. I figure it’s because of holidays, and travel, and children. So I’m doing a little monkeying about with game things. Mrs. Dave may have cadged me an invite to a work buddy’s gaming group, and I had an idea about a dungeon.
I hope everybody has survived the Annual Feast of Gratitude followed by the Annual Frenzy of Materialism. I managed to find several virtual opportunities to replace or upgrade items, which was nice. I also ate too much. There was pie. Most of it happened for breakfast the following morning. I also stumbled into one of the classic blunders. Not the Asia thing, or even the Sicilian one, no: I peopled for a week as an introvert and expected to get things done after returning home. Oops. Suffice to say, I’ve gotten nearly sufficient sleep, barely-adequate nutrition, and the Vitamin M hasn’t really touched my headache. So I’m just going to ramble for a while and hope it coalesces from inherent gravity. Foolish? Then I shall become that fool!
It’s happened before, of course. Three-quarters of the way into a book, it suddenly appears to me as a huge, lifeless pile of words. The ending is not credible. The characters won’t talk to me. I should probably give up even trying to write.
The difference is, in earlier times there were constraints that forced me to go on and finish the book anyway. I usually had a contract. A delivery date. An editor who was expecting a book bearing at least a passing resemblance to the synopsis she’d signed off on.
Not to mention a nice chunk of money to be paid on delivery of the completed manuscript, and a mortgage payment that the bank was going to expect to see no matter how I felt about the matter.
Writing indie has meant flying free of all these constraints, and for the most part I’ve loved it. I’ve been writing faster and more happily than I did back when every word had to be filtered through an editor’s belief about what readers would like.
Two weeks ago I wrote about being derailed and muscling the train back onto the tracks. Then I got sick again, and stopped writing again. And now I’m looking at the manuscript that’s been just lying there limply for nearly five weeks, and I’m seeing a huge lifeless pile of words. I look at my synopsis – my map of how to get to the end – and all I can see is a heap of rocks lying across the road. And the old motivators aren’t there any more. I haven’t promised this book to anyone, nobody’s going to be peeved with me if I throw it away, there’s no guaranteed financial reward for finishing, and thank goodness the mortgage is paid off.
Freedom. If I really believe this project is hopeless, there’s absolutely nothing to stop me from dumping this book and starting a new project? Except – as soon as I think that, the voices of despair switch from “This is a terrible book” to “You don’t have any good ideas.” So evidently they will not be satisfied with anything less than my total defeat. Well, good. At least I know where I am now. I’m not looking at a dispassionate critique of this partial book; I’m looking at the personal demons that want me to stop doing anything at all.
Time to start moving rocks.
I’m writing this rather late, and I am afraid it may be short, as well. I’d apologize, but the projects at hand yesterday were lengthy and pressing. Besides, they gave me the idea for this post.
Yesterday I spent from about 9 am to 5:30 pm at school. The last four hours of that was a lab, during which I processed samples in triplicate, and then ran 15 titrations to gather the needed data for a standard and sample data. It was sort of fun. We’re not a large class, at this level of chemistry and at the branch campus I attend. A total of nine of us in the lab, working hard and amazingly not tripping over anyone. Only one piece of broken glass yesterday! Because a lot of what we’re doing is hurry-up-and-wait, we chat. One of my classmates is a gunsmith, and another is a gun nut, so yesterday I got a lead on the First Reader’s Christmas present – I want to get him a Mosin Nagant. I get a charge out of the younger classmates I have, and despite the lengthy day, came home happy and ready to take on the next task.
But that’s irrelevant to writing.. or is it? Because after arriving home later than usual, I still had math to tackle. I’d asked a friend to help, and in the process of working through problems I posted a picture of a problem to my open timeline on facebook (even if you aren’t logged it you should be able to follow the link, it’s public) which led to help, hilarity, and a revelation to me. This isn’t the first time I’ve crowd sourced for school, or writing for that matter. In the acknowledgments and thanks for Dragon Noir, I tell not only Larry Correia, but the whole MHI forum, many thanks for their help. Larry let me ask questions in his sandbox, and the forum members (MHI Group here) gave me all sorts of, ahem, interesting scenarios. Which culminated in my writing a scene where a pixie goes bowling for ogres with a logging truck. Really, all I’d wanted was a lead on a weapon a small being could logically handle. What I got was more. Working with the right kinds of people can actually help prime the pump, if you can imagine your brain as a hand-dug well with a lever-style pump.
Writing is mostly a solo affair. (heh – and now I’m reminded of what Heinlein said about writing “do it in private and wash your hands after”)
On occasion, however, chatting with friends, posing questions, or just rolling in a conversation with a bunch of like-minded geeks can lead to magic happening. You’re still the creator, but like a flint and steel, they struck the sparks you then carefully blew into a flame on the tinder you’d already set up.
Speaking of questions, I recently got an email asking: ” I suffer from weak search foo (wow, that sounds like a condition that deserves a comic storyline…). I hesitate to bring this up in public for fear of starting a flame war, but do real authors generally use a particular text editor? Word? Adobe? Scrivener? I feel almost certain that this is available *somewhere* on MGC but darn me if I could find it. I also imagine this topic, among authors, is like discussing which religion is best.”
Firstly, the questioner is correct – this can go badly. So please, in the comments, be kind to one another. Remember that we’re all going to have points where we agree to disagree.
And finally – since it is late as I write this, and my head hurts and my hands are tired – I wanted to talk about alternate pursuits. When you just cannot write, for whatever reason (emotionally drained, overworked, burned out) then I highly recommend you find another outlet. I’ve been creating art recently, in spare moments. I want to write, but I know that if I sit down to write, I will no sooner get the well primed and the pump working, then I will have to get up and go. Or fall over into bed. But creating the art is keeping me from losing touch with my creative spark, and it relaxes me. I can fit it more readily into the nooks and crannies of life than I can writing, at the moment.
What is your alternate pursuit? And how can you tie it into your writing well, to help prime the word-pump in preparation for the times you do have to write?
I’m back. I didn’t mean to take two weeks off from blogging, but that’s what it ended up being. It’s not that I haven’t written anything in two weeks, just that what I have written was for a class. I feel like I am coming up from deep water at the moment. I came home yesterday afternoon once I’d finished up with the last of the final exams, and I did some math. Really easy math. How much would I have to write every day in order to produce 200,000 words this summer? Once I had that number, I talked to my First Reader and took the rest of the day off. Last night? I binge-read. When I have the time and no guilt holding me back, I read very quickly, and I’d finish one book and roll right into the next one. I’ve been working my way through two series, and I wound up alternating back and forth between them. Dana Stabenow’s Liam Cambell mystery books, which are set in Alaska and while they aren’t the most brilliant of books, are still fun reads (and the first book in the series, Fire and Ice, is free!). And Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, which was highly recommended to me and it’s as good as they said it was.
But that was yesterday. I think I went through four books in eight hours, give or take, as I was doing other things in there, too. I wasn’t just reading to forget my sorrows and drown my troubles. Finals week was pretty rough, but it was over. No, my idea was that I needed to reset my brain so that today, I would be able to write fiction. Granted, I still need to do some reading. But I need to switch over to different books, and make notes while I’m reading. This book I’m working on will need me to read Kjelgaard, L’Amour, Andre Norton (specific books, I had Galactic Derelict to read the other day and it didn’t help), and probably Heinlein’s Juvies. Like I did with the Pixie for Hire series, I want specific flavor notes, and they will help get my brain all oiled up and ready to purr like a kitten.
Last night was mind candy reading. Today it’s time to figure out how to actually turn the production back on. I have a few methods for this, because by now this is a familiar place, coming back to fiction after a semester-long hiatus. I finished Dragon Noir in February and haven’t written anything but blog posts and papers since then. I have no idea whether any of this will work for you, but it might, and frankly I haven’t had my coffee yet, nor time to think much since I left a warm bed. So here you are, and here I am, trying to get my brain started. It’s not, title of the post notwithstanding, as easy as a push-button start. It’s more like a cranky little outboard motor with one of those pull-cords you expect to break off in your hands any second, so you have to pull hard but not TOO hard and…
I’ll go do dishes. Sarah says that works for her, too, or ironing. Pretty sure that Sarah and Amanda and I all find that standing in the shower works. It’s not the running water, I don’t think, but the mindless task that our body can take care of while the bulk of our mind is set free to wander. Given that I’ve taken two weeks off of pretty much everything, I know I have dishes to do. Or, if the First Reader did all of them, I’ll find something else to clean. I know I need to organize and catalog the library again, we were unable to find a book last night that he needed, something that we both find frustrating… except that library organization will probably wind up like it usually does, with me sitting on the floor next to a heap of books, reading.
I’ll go for a long country drive or walk. This works both with and without the First Reader, and we have about six hours of drive time scheduled for tomorrow, heading down into Kentucky to visit family. I am sure that if my brain still isn’t running smoothly by then, that will do it. We bounce ideas off on another, and he tends to spark my mind very well when I’m stuck on a plot point. Today I am working at a party, and we will talk during that drive, too. The walk will hopefully happen, although our skies are rather gray at the moment. Any of these work because again, they get you doing something that you don’t have to think too much about, leaving your creative mind free to frolic off into… wherever.
I’ll write. This sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes just the act of making words happen starts to get the process moving. Once I have finished up with this blog post (after this paragraph, I think) I will pour myself some coffee, take the time to clean off my desk (it’s a foot deep in books right now, and I’m not joking about that. I have textbooks to sell/trade, fiction, and… dunno what that stack is…) and then I will write. Something. Might have to pitch it, tomorrow, once I have the distance to read it objectively. But today, it will prime the pump, like I vaguely remember on one engine you had this little bulb thingy and…. oh, who am I kidding. I know nothing about engines. Heh. There is a reason I write more horses than cars into my books. I’m about to write about a spaceship, and that will be a matter of ‘push the button and it goes’ because as an author, that’s my perogative. Now, if only my brain were so easy to deal with.