Procrastination

1/24/19

Some call it writer’s block, but I just call it procrastination. It seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. The Writer’s Path recently had an interesting post about writers block, and The Green Room had a post about procrastination yesterday. Is it a winter thing? I’d think being stuck indoors would lead to more writing when compared to the distractions caused by nicer weather. Maybe my own experience is indicative of this phenomenon.

After getting 17,000 words down in my WIP novel for NaNoWriMo in November, I did very little in December. I sent the usual batch of submissions as rejections came in for the various short stories I have out, but I did next to no writing, especially in the WIP novel. I maybe added 1000 words there the entire month.

So what gives? Honestly, I felt a little burned out after writing every day for a month in November. I’d never done that before. I’ve read, and I believe it, that writing is like any other endurance activity. The more you do it, the more you build up your ability to do it. However, too much can still burn you out. I’m an avid runner, but I don’t run every day. I never have. I’ve never wanted to run so much I get sick of it or risk injury.

I opened the file for my novel in mid-January and saw I hadn’t worked on it since December 19, over three weeks at that point. I needed motivation. I’d continued to plot the storylines during my runs, but that hadn’t driven me to put anything on the screen yet.

On one of those runs, I came up with the idea for a flash fiction piece. I immediate hammered that story out in the hopes the process would reignite the fire. It was to no avail, though that piece turned out fine and will start making the submission rounds soon after a quick edit.

Then a snow day hit on a Sunday, the day I reserve for my long run. With a snow storm forecasted, I decided to move my run up to Saturday afternoon, thus freeing up my Sunday morning. I took advantage. While the family slept, I got up and wrote.

It still took me awhile to get back into the story. I had to reread the last chapter to remember where I was and to fix some things in that chapter. I only ended up with about 300 new words before the family got up, but it felt good to get those down. Now I’m feeling better about continuing. I’ve since added some more totally about another 1000 in the novel. At that rate I’ll finish in four years. I’ll reserve figuring out how to increase that productivity for a later post.

The longer I was away from the WIP, the more likely I was to stay away. I’d find any excuse to do something else rather than work on the novel, even if the distraction was writing related. While I think a short break was needed after NaNoWriMo, the break I took was too long. It just made things harder.

What has been your experience with burnout, procrastination, or writer’s block? Are they all the same for you, or do they manifest themselves differently? How did you combat them?

Self Promotion

1/17/19

It’s been a year of blogging once a week, and I finally ran out of topics. So what should I do? Shamelessly self promote, of course.

Hot off the electronic press is Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters where my story “Temporally Out of Order” appears!

I’m pretty stoked. This was my first paid sale (though my second paid sale was published last November). In addition, this was the first story I started when beginning this writing adventure about a year and half ago. I got stuck about halfway through, so it ended up being the second story I finished. Regardless, it holds an honored place in my heart for starting me on this writing journey.

I’m glad it found a home, and I’m glad it was with Broadswords and Blasters. The magazine hearkens back to the pulp fiction days of speculative fiction. I thought my story would be a perfect fit, so I’m delighted the editors thought so too.

This story also means a little something more to me because I borrowed the characters names from a couple friends of mine (with their consent). Oddly, when I did so, those names were meant to be placeholders. As soon as I included them though, the words flowed to the page rather easily. The characters themselves don’t resemble my friends, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Because of the success I had once I named the characters after friends, I’ve continued to use that technique in other stories. Each time I’ve found naming characters after friends made the story easier to write. I don’t do this for every story, but I used the technique for both of the two fiction stories I’ve sold to date. That may tell me something right there.

Let me know in the comments how you name your characters. Do you borrow from friends and family? Do you make them up on the fly, or do you put a lot of thought into each name?

And if you’re interested, go buy Issue 8 and leave a review!

Do I Really Want to Hurt You?

1/10/19

The title of this post is not in reference to you, dear reader, but the characters in my stories. Since interesting stories require characters to be in conflict, that means they eventually get hurt. Of course, the hurt could be psychological, but the point of this post is physical hurt.

The Writers Path recently had an interesting post on How to Write an Effective Fight Scene. I found this timely. There is an escape scene coming up in my WIP where I expect an altercation will happen.

For the fight to be effective (or possibly even final for a character?), someone must get hurt. Thinking back to all my short stories, the worst a character has had it is experiencing a cramp. Having had plenty of those, it wasn’t too difficult a task to describe it.

What about more advanced and painful injuries? In 2017, I purchased the ebook version of Hurting Your Characters by Michael J. Carson as part of the 2017 NaNoWriMo Story Bundle. I have not yet made time to read it since hurting people hadn’t come up in my writing. I guess the time is ripe now.

Let me know in the comments how you describe an injury? Do you draw on personal experience? Research testimonials from others who have experienced the same injury? Make it up? (Always a solid option. We are fiction writers after all.)

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

4Q18 and 2018 Review

1/3/19

The fourth quarter of 2018 is done, and below are my stats.

  • Words written = 19,369
  • Submissions = 34
  • Rejections = 27
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 1

You can read this quarter’s published piece for free at Page & Spine Fiction Showcase. As my wife pointed out, the magazine’s name is slightly ironic given that it’s an e-zine and given further that my piece is a nonfiction essay.

Going back to my numbers for 4Q18, they aren’t bad, at least for me. That’s the most words I’ve ever written in a quarter, but I’ve had more submissions and rejections before (in the 40s for both). I’ve never won an award though. That award was third place in the nonfiction category of the Virginia Writers Club’s 2018 Golden Nib contest. I’ve only written two nonfiction pieces, and both have either been published or won an award. I’m going to have to think about what that means a little more.

Here are my stats for all of 2018.

  • Words written = 60,269
  • Submissions = 127
  • Rejections = 107
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 1

Those 60,269 words break down as follows:

  • 16 completed short stories
  • 2 completed children’s picture book manuscripts
  • 2 completed nonfiction essays
  • 1 incomplete novella
  • 1 incomplete short story (drafted but not edited)
  • 1 incomplete novel

The 18,369 words I wrote in the novel during NaNoWriMo really helped the quarter and the year. I didn’t finish much else during the quarter, only one flash fiction story and one Drabble, an exactly one hundred word story. Both of those are already out making the submission rounds, so that’s something.

What should be my goals for the coming year? Last year I set a goal of 50,000 words. Based on the numbers above, I know I can achieve that plus 10,000 more. I’ll go with 60,000 words this year. Though I reached that in 2018, I’m a little concerned I won’t be as productive this year. My writing time decreased as 2018 progressed, except during November for NaNoWriMo, so I need to figure out how I can squeeze more writing time into the day.

I’d like to set a goal for the number of submissions and rejections, like Aeryn Rudel does over at Rejectomancy. I didn’t in 2018, mainly because I didn’t know it was a thing, but I reached his goals of 100 submissions and 100 rejections nonetheless. Now if only I could reach his number of acceptances (19)!

What the heck? Let’s go with 100 submissions and 100 rejections and see what I get at the end of 2019.

I know continuing to write the WIP novel will slow down both those numbers. No new stories reduces the pool that contributes to the submissions and rejections. I’m okay with that. I’d really like to finish the WIP in 2019, whether it turns out to be a novel or novella. I’d also like to finish the incomplete novella and short story and work on more children picture book manuscripts. None of those should be a problem.

Let me know in the comments what your writing goals are for 2019. A novel or two? A certain number of stories, submissions, or rejections? A few moments to yourself to figure out where that WIP needs to go?

Christmas Eve Tradition

12/27/18

I want to share a tradition that my wife and I started a few years back. It’s not writing related, but it is reading related.

We can’t take credit for inventing this tradition. We took it from the Icelanders.

If you haven’t been to Iceland, you should go. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Icelandair serves numerous U.S. cities. If you like water in any form, this is the place for you. There are glaciers, waterfalls, and thermal springs galore. They have great historical sites (Vikings!), outdoor activities (hike to a volcano or on a glacier!), culinary traditions (puffin!), and the usual offbeat cultural experiences (penis museum!). Everyone speaks English, along with at least three other languages, and best of all, it’s not crowded. The island’s population is just over 300,000. Two thirds of that live in the capital, Reykjavik. While the city is fun (Icelanders are staunch night owls), we enjoyed renting a car and driving the ring road.

An Icelandic tradition we discovered was the giving of books on Christmas Eve, known as jólabókaflóð (translated as Yule Book Flood). Everyone unwraps theirs that night, and the family sits around reading until bedtime. Since we are both bibliophiles, my wife and I readily adopted this tradition and have since introduced it to our kids and my in-laws, who routinely spend Christmas with us. Do you want harmony over the holidays? Give someone a book you know they’ll enjoy. Then they have an excuse to ignore you and you them. It’s perfect!

Even if you don’t need or want an excuse to duck the family, spending time together reading during the holidays is sure to put everyone in a festive mood. Of course, this only goes well if whoever selected your book knows what you like. Things might not be copacetic if I got Tom Brady’s The TB12 Method. On the bright side, at least then I could use the classic line: It’s like you don’t even know me!

Let me know in the comments if your family has a holiday tradition built around reading.

Photo credit: I used one of my own this time.

Note: this is post #53, but I decided to give up the numbering system. I used that system initially to prove I could blog once a week for an entire year. Well I did so, mostly. I started blogging last January, but I had so many topics I wanted to write about initially I didn’t stick to my one-a-week formula early on. Still, I made it to 52 and now 53. Happy blogaversary!