Writers’ Block

At some point, everyone who writes must deal with a case of writers’ block.  I’ve found that in my case, the key to getting past it depends on figuring out what the root cause for the block is, and coming up with a strategy to deal with it.

And yes, I’ve found that different causes require different strategies.  The suggested “just sit down and write” is part of it, but is so simplistic that it tends to make it worse because you’re not sure how to even get started to “sit down and write” to get past the block.

I say “simplistic” because, at root, yes, you do have to sit down and write.  It’s how and what you’re writing that determines whether it works or not.

For example, I’ve found that the most common causes for writers’ block for me is that I get so far into envisioning where I want the story to end up that I lose track of how I’m supposed to getting the characters there.  Other times, I have a character that DOES NOT WANT.  Doesn’t want to go where I want them to go, get there in that way, or do anything.  I’m taking the story in the wrong direction.  And sometimes, I get overwhelmed/intimidated by the scope of a story and freeze.

I got stuck on my current (but nearly finished) project for THREE YEARS.  Partially because I’d envisioned the beginning and the end, but couldn’t get the middle to gel, and partially because, when I tried to write the middle, I tried going in the wrong direction.  So, I figured out where it started feeling forced, backed up (cutting 4K words), and took it in a different direction that was going to end up in a different place in the character’s story–no more “How am I going to get the characters from here to there?  And better yet, he’s finally listening to the older character that does no better  in their given situation.  And yes, I did do a lot of long hand drafting.  Had to, to figure out which direction the characters wanted to go in.

Then, there’s the other issue with rude plots barging in, demanding to be written RIGHT NOW, thank you…then getting bigger, more complex, and broader in the ideas and story line.  That story (2/3  of the way finished) got intimidating real quick.  When I started feeling like “I can’t write this one,” I’d sit down and write a short story.  One in no way related to the piece of fiction kicking my butt.  And then, I’d plot just the next arc of the story, then flesh it out.  Sometimes, it would be done long hand, because looking at the page/word count down in the bottom left corner got to be a bit much until I had the next scene, the next chapter, the next plot arc finished in first draft, and ready to be transcribed.

Yes.  I am saying that if you feel overwhelmed by a big project, get blocked, or find yourself procrastinating, break it into smaller chunks and just do the little chunks (they add up).  This does translate to more than writing.

Yes, “just write your way through the writers’ block” is a good, basic piece of advise, but is way too simplistic to work in the same way for every person.

This is how it works for me.  Your mileage may vary.

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writer’s Month…November.  I’ll have papers coming due twice during the month, grabbing my attention and focus twice.  Interrupting writing productivity and thought processes.

This year, at least.

I think I’ve come up with a strategy that will allow me to get at least something done, if not a whole novel written in a month.  I have, at current count, about four projects unfinished: The Schrodinger Paradox, Detritus, Lost (a vampire story), and Normalcy Bias (collection of short fiction).  Instead of trying to get a whole new novel plotted out and written, I’m going to finish as many as I can over the course of the month, between 5 day long grading binges.

I AM aiming at around 50-60 K words done, minimum.  I don’t have a whole lot to go on the first two projects, or on the last one.  It’s Lost that is going to take a lot of focus and uninterrupted writing time.

So far, I’ve got a lot planned.  I am aiming at a lot done.  I will be aiming at a lot more–say, every other month something new finished and coming out–in 2018, for as long as I can keep that up.

I think it’s going to be fun to see what I can actually accomplish.

And no, I won’t be constantly whinging about writing this month.  And I won’t give updates unless/until I actually finish a draft of something.

I may go into something I’ve learned about the writing process itself, but that will be as far as writing about writing goes.

 

Recommendations

I have two children, ages nine years and not-quite-seven years.  Last spring, we got the two of them each their own Kindle Fire, complete with Free Time Unlimited.

First of all: yes, it’s worth getting the kids’ bundle.  The kids’ bundle comes with the Kindle Fire itself, a 2 year replacement for any breakage plan, a shock-proof case, and a year’s subscription to Free Time Unlimited.  It was $99 when we purchased the bundles–and getting everything separately would add up to around $150.

Second of all: yes, it’s worth getting the Free Time Unlimited plan.  You can set ages, and the plan doesn’t allow them to stream video that is inappropriate to their age.  It doesn’t allow them to play any games that include a chat feature (i.e., pedophile bait).  It doesn’t allow them to make any purchases–they’re limited to free streaming, or books in the Free Time Unlimited library.

Third (and best) of all: you can set daily goals and limits.  Currently, we have the Kindles set to NOT come on before 8:00 a.m. to avoid arguments about turning it off to go to school, and to shut off for the day at their bedtime.  Weekdays, they have to read for half an hour before they can access any games or videos; weekends, they have to read for a full hour.  And Amazon provides a parents’ dashboard, so that you can see how much your kids are reading, what they’re reading (tailoring gifted books to their tastes?), what they’re choosing to watch, and what types of games they like to play (and yes, there’s a time in app reading given on both of these, as well).

Overall, I really do think these are an excellent first tablet/first reader for kids.  And with the parental controls Amazon offers, parents don’t have to absolutely hover to ensure their kids’ safety, granting both parents and kids a bit of independence from each other.

Updates and quality assessment

Amazon finally connected the paperback and electronic copies of Fire and Forge.  Order the paperback copy, and you get a free electronic copy.

I’ll have to see if I can modify my other books to do the same.

I have to say that, at this point, I do not recommend Amazon’s paperback print on demand service.  While yes, tracking sales is greatly simplified, there are issues with other parts of the service; namely, the ability to order author copies at printing cost, and the overall quality of the books themselves.

I was pleasantly surprised when my first CreateSpace paperback copies arrived.  The quality was incredibly high. The paper was crisp, off-white, and smooth.  Good quality.  The covers were glossy, heavy cardstock, and the binding was a solid layer of glue in the spine.  Amazon’s?  The binding’s good, but the paper is rough, pulpy.

That completely leaves out the simplicity of ordering author copies through CreateSpace.  There was a separate section in the page where you built your draft for the author to order author copies at print cost.  There were shipping costs, but I only paid their cost, not cost-plus like Amazon’s paperback service does.  Yeah, you get royalties from buying your own work, but that…you shouldn’t have to offset your ordering costs like that, when you’re not getting that money for 60 days at least.

I used Amazon’s service partially because I wasn’t able to get CreateSpace’s cover creator page to actually work.  I will not be using it again, not until they fix the mess that is their author interface.  And I’d like a bit higher quality for the price they make you charge to get anything actually back.

EDIT: The Godshead, Highway to Tartarus, The Last Pendragon, and Pendragon Resurgent are all Kindle Match: buy the paperback, get the Kindle copy free.

New book out

I spent last night finalizing the last edit (and it didn’t save everything in the last save–I mean, it did in the story, but not the acknowledgements).  Then, I went to CreateSpace.  Their cover creator page befouled itself and flat refused to work at all.  Therefore, I went to Amazon–they’re starting their own print on demand paperback publishing options.

It wasn’t too much different from CreateSpace, honestly.  Makes sense, considering CreateSpace was initially an Amazon subsidiary.  We’ll see how quality stacks up.  If it’s not up to the same may try going back with the next book I’m working on (hopefully finishing in November, along with two other half-finished projects) in the hopes that it may have been a temporary glitch or something.

So, yeah, this happened:

It went live around 11:00 pm last night, and has sold two copies so far.  Yeah, it’s priced a little higher (and the paperback will be a LOT higher, considering that I need to make at least a little off of it, and apparently, Amazon’s paperback print on demand pays out differently from CreateSpace’s).  But it’s also a free read via Kindle Unlimited.

This is the third book in the Modern Gods series.  First is The Godshead, second is Highway to Tartarus.  Then comes the short story explaining who’s who, and a bit of their back stories: “Bar Tabs.”  All of these are Kindle Unlimited reads, so if you subscribe, you’re not out anything extra, costs wise, to check out a new writer.

Sit down and write.

People often say that they want to write a book.  Okay.  My response to that is “What’s stopping you?  Just start writing it.”

I’ve always tried to write a little on SOMETHING every day.  It’s not always fiction.  Sometimes it’s a blog post, sometimes it’s a scrap of an idea I’d had on a handy scrap of paper (often, it’s that, actually), and sometimes it’s just a head- and emotion-clearing journal entry just before bed.

But writing is a habit.  And it’s one that, when I miss a day (or a week) due to chronic illness stepping in (ask if you want to know, but I won’t be mentioning it that much), or due to being behind on grading, I feel it.  I need to write.  When I don’t, my mental well being slips.

Last weekend, Andrew took Friday off, partially so we could get a few things done.  I mentioned that I wanted to go look at Office Depot for a desk.  I wanted a price point to shoot for.  Ours has a DAV thrift store in the other half of the building, and that thrift store had EXACTLY the desk I was looking for, just a little smaller than what I’d planned, and a little different in drawer capacity.  No chair.  But the desk itself cost a hair under $27.  Much less than what I was cringing about having to pay.

It’s going to be my work desk.  I’m going to be spending a lot of my days at it, writing, in little more than a month and a half (classes are finished on the first Friday of December, and I’m not required to be in my classroom during final exams time, just have something graded set for that two hour block of time for each class).  Right now, I’ve got a decently comfortable side-chair pulled up to it, but I do need a chair that will fit in the exactly 18″ knee hole.

I have found that I actually am more productive, working here.  A LOT more productive.

I got the third from last edit done to a 92K word manuscript done in seven hours, sitting here.  While I was doing that, I added another 2K words to a story I’d started that will go in a collection that I plan to publish in a couple months.  When the story’s finished, I’ve got one more planned, and that one’s actually mostly scribbled out in a draft book.  Just got to transcribe it.

And this…this is just since last Sunday, when I sat down at the desk to try it out.

I guess my final word on the whole subject of writing is this: find a place where you feel productive, and sit down and write.  Every day.  Before you realize what you’re doing, you’ll have your book written.

Wow. It’s been a while…

I lost my login info.  Just got this back (happens when a computer that you’d saved your login info and passwords on suddenly fails).

It’s also been a while since I wrote much.  Between juggling teaching, parenting, wife-ing, and a chronic health condition, I just…haven’t had the energy.  But that’s changing.  I’ve only got to hang on for another…seven weeks, or so, and then I’m done teaching.  Probably for good.  I just.  Yeah, I don’t have the energy, anymore.  I can’t give it my best, because that leaves nothing left for anything else.  I’m honestly glad I wasn’t offered a new contract, because I’m too stubborn to quit when I think students might need me.

My cover artist had…life…happen just after I’d finished Fire and Forge.  She got married, then just over a year later, had her hubby arrested, and placed under house arrest for more than a year.  When she finally got the cover art to me, we had our scanner go tits up.  Then, after we’d gotten a new scanner but before we could set it up, we got the neighbors from hell move in next door, and we wound up moving eight months later.  Now, I’ve got the cover art scanned in, I’ve done the third to last edit (next is for adding and/or tightening up scenes/language, then making sure there’s no copy edits in that).  I’ll be publishing that, soon.

In the meantime, I’m finishing up Normalcy Bias, The Shrodinger Paradox, and likely Detritus, and will self-pub the first and last in the list.  November, I’ll be seeing what I can write from first word to last.  Because I actually acquired something I’ve been wanting for a bit over ten years: a desk of my own.  And I was massively productive, yesterday, sitting and working at said desk.

Last but not least, I do have The Godshead set for free until 11:59 p.m. Monday (10/16).  And a short story explaining who’s who in the Modern Gods series published as of a week ago (“Bar Tabs”).

Things are moving again, I promise.