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!

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!

Post #52 – Writing Prompts

12/20/18

Do you use them? Do you shun them?

According to Amazon and a perusal of my local Barnes & Nobel, there are numerous books full of writing prompts. How many would you like? There are books with 300, 400, 642 (oddly specific), and 1000. Or, if you want to go big (because there is no reason to go home), how about a box set of 5000! There are books devoted to just science fiction prompts.  Too limiting? There are books for science fiction and fantasy prompts. Not your thing? There are books with prompts for westerns. Too broad? There is a book with prompts for western romances. Clearly, there is something for everyone.

Don’t want to buy? Searching “writing prompts” in Google returned 183 million hits.  Have at it!

Earlier this year, I came across an interesting take on the writing prompt phenomenon.  A literary publication, The First Line, provides authors with a writing prompt in the form of the first line for every story. As the website puts it, “[e]ach issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line.”

I have mixed feelings about prompts. Part of me feels I shouldn’t need them. I can come up with story ideas on my own, can’t I? That’s ego speaking though. I take story ideas from lots of sources, so why is it cheating to use a supplied prompt?

The other part of me is scared to even look at them for fear I’ll come up with a story idea and feel the pressure to write it. For example, I received an email from The First Line with its list of lines for 2019. Instead of one line per quarter, for the journal’s 20th anniversary, they offer several first lines from past issues for each quarter next year. I made the mistake of clicking through to look at the available prompts. I couldn’t even get through those for the first quarter. After reading almost every first line, a story began to form in my head. I couldn’t take it. I had to look away. I didn’t want all these new stories bouncing around in my head while I’m at work, for starters, and also while I’m still plugging away at the WIP novel.

If I had more time, I might consider going for it and attempt to come up with a story for each first line. Even if several went nowhere, there likely still would be numerous ideas worth fleshing out. Right now, I have plenty to keep me busy. I hope I recall correctly Mike Resnick saying he wrote down story ideas on little pieces of paper, which littered his office. Over the years he accumulated so many, he had no hope of ever writing them all. That’s how I would feel if I attempted this.

I actually wrote a nonfiction piece for The First Line. The market accepts essays discussing the first lines of novels. As soon as I read that, I knew I had to write about the first line in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. So I did. The essay wasn’t accepted by The First Line, but I was pleased when Page & Spine accepted it. You can read it here. Maybe prompts aren’t so bad after all.

Let me know in the comments how you feel about writing prompts. Love ’em or hate ’em?

Photo credit: OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

Post #46 – NaNoWriMo 2018

11/8/18

It’s here. Like a baby that takes 12 months rather than 9, it’s here. It’s National Novel Writing Month.

What have I done so far, and what do I plan to do the rest of the month? I’m so glad you asked. I initially debated whether to keep writing several work-in-progress short stories with the 50k word goal in mind or actually work on my yet-to-be-started novel. Then it dawned on me the name of this activity has “novel” in it. There’s my answer.

So I began. No more procrastinating. No more character development, though the characters need it. No more developing the various settings, though they need it too. I’m finally putting words on the screen for the novel.

Luckily, I already had mapped out the four settings and three of the four main characters in the novel, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. So far, I’ve written an introductory chapter for each of those three characters. I’m also pleased to report that while doing so, the fourth main character coalesced in my mind, and I’ve written her introductory chapter as well.  Now I’ll see how much further I get. The holes in the backstory for these character is coming to me as I write each chapter or as I do my plotting during a run. I’m making a real effort to avoid the info dump and sprinkle that history in as I go, not only in the introductory chapter but in later chapters as well.

I’m enjoying the process, but it’s still daunting. As of today, I’ve written 4395 words, essentially a short story. The small number is a reflection of my limited time to write rather than my commitment. I’ve managed to add to that total every day this month, and I hope to continue that streak to November 30. Even so, my biggest fear is I’ll end up with a novella length work rather than a novel. If that happens, I’ll have to decide whether to continue adding more conflict to get to novel length or polish the novella and submit that to willing markets. I should be so lucky to have to make such a decision.  I plan to have a follow-up blog post the first week of December to confirm how I did.

Let me know in the comments if you’re attempting NaNoWriMo this year and how’s it going.

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay