NaNoWriMo: Day 7 (55,802)

NaNoWriMo2016I have run into a wall… and it wasn’t all friendly-like.

Sundays are traditionally a recharge day for me, but it’s NaNo. Recharge means I wrote a little over 4k, finished up the cover and formatting for The Wicked Witch of Whatever, and hit the shiny “publish” button.

Today, I don’t want to write.

And this is honestly the thing that will separate me from the pack when it come to the long-term. Because I’m going to sit my rather fluffy butt in the chair and write anyway. I may grouse. I may kill off Eric in new and exciting ways. I may even deny the Bobian (and myself) ice cream.

But I’m going to write.

Take a chill pill, those of you who just went all full-defensive.  There’s no judgement in this. The only writer I get to judge is myself. But I want to be a full-time Writer. (I also want to be a Real Person, but that’s a different blog post.) Are there writers who manage a good living without writing when they don’t want to? Absolutely. But there are more who make themselves write when they don’t want to, because the road to success isn’t paved by Muses, it’s paved with sweat, tears, and the blood of our Characters.

So I’m off to write some words. Actually, I’m off to write a lot of words. Hopefully that inspires you. If it threatens you, why? We have the same 24 hours in a day (except on the days I cheat and write myself into a world with 37-hour days… you didn’t read that).

Yes… but you get to write full-time.  Actually, I write full-time now and then, but a Figment who wants to be Real has to spend time at a day job, same as most of us. I have orientation for a new job today.

Yes… but you don’t have babies or toddlers or small demon spawn running around. I don’t, but I have done time in the world of parental units. When I did, I wrote during naptimes. I got up early. I settled for smaller word counts. But I wrote a little every day… and the experience added up, even when the words were unusable.

Yes… but you aren’t as sick as I am/ don’t have my mental illness/ seem perfectly healthy. First of all, I work really hard to seem this healthy, both mentally and physically. In fact, tomorrow I’ll post about that. But I have dental issues, eye issues, ulcerative colitis, the niggling start of what may be rheumatoid arthritis, and a few other concerns that I can’t get into a doctor to work on because, well, I don’t have a regular full-time job with insurance. I also struggle with being overly sensitive behind this debonair, devil-may-care exterior and suffer from depression, especially in the fall months when all the glorious sunshine takes a vacation somewhere else. Helen Keller wrote books, blind and deaf. Stephen Hawking wrote books and he has trouble with basic functionality. An excuse is an excuse is an excuse. (Also, if you’re creating yourself as a Real Person, only add in so much angst. Yes, it makes you a better writer, but it wastes so much perfectly good writing time.)

So, get off your “yes… buts” and get on your writerly butt and write some words. Or don’t. But don’t come whining to me about it. I’m busy writing.

Being Real

Chess Board - TwitterI am starting to see the effects of my ongoing experiment to be a Real Writer (and Real Person).

First, I’ve acquired one of those day jobs. I like day jobs, as a general concept. It’s something new to do and it provides endless fodder for my writing. But it cuts into the writing time itself. I’ve tried getting up earlier. I’ve stopped rewatching Galavant on loop at night. I even do a little less housework. I’ve learned that I can’t get in huge word counts in any one day any longer, but who needs to do that anyway? By writing 1k-3k a day, I can finish a book in two months or less. Maybe it’s just because there are so many stories in my head trying to get out that I feel the pressure to write faster. I think being limited in my writing time actually improves my writing in the long run.

Second, I’ve attempted some marketing. I attended an in-person convention (in disguise) and have actually pressed my books here and there. I’ve noticed that it works better when others put my book out there than when I do it myself, so if you want to get me a gift for the Day of Birthing or the Reindeer Games, please do some promoting.

Third, I’ve started to get Writer’s Block due to interacting with the world. I mean, shootings. Wars. Heat. Politics. It’s enough to make a Figment despair. My current solution is to rail about the injustice of it all and then move from there into a furious writing session, but fury doesn’t write humor well. I may become a news hermit.

All of this has taught me that Professional Writers have just three things I don’t have:

One, they have more time to procrastinate, because writing is their day job. It would appear, based on output, that most Professional Writers actually produce about the same number of words each week that I do. This leaves them more hours for Netflix binging, silly cat videos, and Pokémon Go.

Two, they have someone who does some of their marketing for them, or they can pay someone to do marketing. If I ever become a Professional Writer, this will be my favorite perk.

Three, they figure out how to deal with all the world news better than I do. You cannot produce a consistent output of work if you are curled up in a ball waiting for Politigeddon to happen. At least, not until they develop psychic paper. (Really, Doctor Who, I think you’re onto something.) So Professional Writers must figure out how to deal with all the other “stuff” in the world better than I do.

Beyond that, it looks like I’m already doing what a Professional Writer does, so I’m one step closer to being a Real Writer.

How about you? How is your quest to be Real going? How do you cope with all the bad in the world? Most importantly, how do you find more time to procrastinate?

Monday Motivation: #BeTheLight

Chess Board - TwitterI’m a humor writer. This means I’m funny, all the time, upbeat, and smiling.

Wrong.

I’m a humor writer. This means I use humor to deal with the tougher things in life, whether it’s the pain of watching someone decline from Alzheimer’s or tough topics like divorce, abuse, and bullying. It means humor is my triage for life.

Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of real life stuff lately and I seem to have lost my ride back to the Figments world (who closed that plot hole?). That makes writing humor harder– and more necessary– than ever.

You would think a humor writer would always have jokes on the tip of his tongue, but I’m a terrible joke teller. Two Figments walk into a bar. One ends up with an en-dash; the other an em-dash.

Not very funny.

My humor tends to be from life. But we need more humor out there, so I’m going to ask for your help.

On 7/14 (that’s Thursday, for those who do dates flipped around as 14July), spread humor on social media. Funny cat videos (because who doesn’t like laughing at cats when they use up one of their nine lives?), personal anecdotes, or just silly jokes. Share them everywhere. FLOOD media and social media with the funniest things you can find.  Tag them with #BeTheLight

Will this solve anything? No. It won’t. But when we can laugh, we can break out of the cycle of anger, hurt, and hate that we get dialed into. We can find a smile, which raises endorphins, which makes us feel good… so we want to be nice to others.

That’s actual science there. Don’t get used to it on this blog.

Spread this. Spread it thick, like peanut butter on a PB and porcupine sandwich (de-quill first). I don’t care if you track it to me. Just get it out there and get someone laughing.

As the second part to this, don’t share anything sad, mad, bad (or ads?) on 14July either. No matter how tempting it may be to share the latest news (and, of course, your opinion about said news), let it go for one day.

#BeTheLight and change the world, just for one day.

Here. I’ll start things out:

“Knock, knock.”

Who’s there?

“Banana.”

Banana who?

“Knock, knock.”

Who’s there?

“Banana.”

Banana who?

“Knock, knock.”

Who’s there?

“Orange.”

Orange who?

“Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘banana’?”

I told you I wasn’t good at jokes. Hey, I tried. It was better than that limerick…

Go out. Be a light. Make someone smile on 14 July. Better yet, make ’em laugh.

#BeTheLight

Monday Motivation: Alice in Wonderland and Independence

Chess Board - TwitterAlright. For all of you who celebrate such things, Happy Independence Day if you’re an American. Happy “It’s Just Another Day at the Office” Day to everyone else. I’ll find a way to tie this in shortly. Really.

On this date in 1862,  according to the great oracle Bing.com, Alice Liddell, 10, asks Charles Dodgson to tell her a story while they’re boating near Oxford, England. He weaves a tale of a bored little girl who suddenly finds herself down a rabbit hole. Dodgson will later publish ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland‘ under his pen name, Lewis Carroll.

So what does that have to do with me (or you)?

Alice in Wonderland was one of my inspirations to become a writer in the first place. The crazy cast of characters, the improbable (yet somehow believable) circumstances, and the wry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor all appealed to me. Couple that with its ability to reach children and adults alike and I was hooked.

Of course, the trick with any motivating work is to give tribute without plagiarism. It’s much like America getting its freedom from Great Britain: you keep some things from the Mother Country, but you work very hard at making it its own entity. (I told you I’d tie it in somehow.)

Any time that you want to borrow from another work, keep that in mind. You want your finished work to be as different from the original as the United States is from Great Britain. This isn’t going to happen overnight; if you think using another book for inspiration will result in an instant hit, think again. Just like the newly countrified colonies had to go through growing pains that included a Civil War, you’ll go through many an internal (and sometimes external) war before you get it right.

So how do you avoid stealing from your inspiration while still giving tribute?

  1. Never write directly from the original. I will usually read through the book that is inspiring me and make a few notes. I then do my best to ignore my muse for the remainder of the first draft.
  2. Whether you outline or free write (pantsing), keep your mind on the bigger story, not the original inspiration.
  3. If you have a friend who also likes your inspiration, see if you can get them to beta read for you and have them mark any places where the resemblance is a little too much like clone, rather than bastard child.
  4. When you’re doing your rewrite, check for things that are overly similar yourself. Be brutal; it’s better to catch the weeds before they take over your whole garden.

Remember, while it’s great to want to honor your inspirations, do it in a way that respects their creative efforts and creates something new.

Then go out and eat a hot dog and chips and think: I could’ve been stuck with bangers and mash.

 

Motivation Monday: Novel Structure

Chess Board - TwitterI’m currently plowing my way through KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel. There is a very good point early on that I want to address today: writers are afraid that structure will take the art out of their writing.

There are writers who get away without consciously outlining their novels, including Stephen King. It seems to work okay for him. However, he’s also a prolific read and I’m sure he at least understands story structure.

Story structure takes nothing away from art. Here are a few examples from other artforms:

Architecture relies on buildings being structurally sound. Yet for every plain row house out there, there is a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright creation or an IM Pei glass pyramid. They both use structure; in fact, they have to understand it innately to create the buildings they do. But their structure only adds to their artistry.

Michelangelo and da Vinci are both known to have studied human anatomy excessively to give their artwork more lifelike reality. They knew that the underlying structure of the human body is what influences the outward beauty.

So why are writers so afraid that structure will destroy their art?

“The three-act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not.” – Edoardo Nolfo

The three-act structure is really very simple:

  • Setup (beginning)
  • Confrontation (middle)
  • Resolution (end)

Remember that outline we did (some of you kicking and screaming– or just lying about doing it)? Let’s go back to that. We’re going to hash your story (and mine) into three-act structure.

First, we have our amazing opening line and chapter. This is the setup to the setup. Usually, it’s set in the normal, boring world before everything starts. Then the setup continues for roughly 25% of the book. At 25%, you have the end of Act 1.

There is an important plot point at the end of acts 1 and 2:

“The Plot Point at the end of Act I is always the true beginning of your screenplay. Acts I sets up the story components. Then, the screenwriter has to establish the dramatic need and create obstacles to that need; the story becomes the main character overcoming the obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.”

“There could be as many as nine or 10 plot points during a screenplay. But the two most important come at the end of act one and at the end of act two. They are the anchors of your storyline, the stitches that hold everything together.” – Syd Field, Four Screenplays

After Act 1,  you go into the guts of the story, the meat of it. There’s a lot of flexibility in this section, but you need to continue building upon whatever plot point happened at the end of Act 1. You can introduce (and sometimes close) new plot points, but that main plot point will continue throughout Act 2.

“Act II is a unit of action that is held together with the dramatic context of Confrontation. Your character will confront obstacle after obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.” – Syd Field, Four Screenplays

Finally, you’re in Act 3 at about 75% of your story. This means you still have 25% left, so don’t go resolving the story early and then dragging out the ending. End the story at the end, period.

“Be certain that the hurdles get bigger and come closer together, accelerating the pace of your story, as your story moves forward.” – Michael Hauge, author and script consultant

Your Monday assignment is to embrace the beauty of structure. Take that outline you did (*coughcough*) and pick out your three act structure: opening line, opening, plot point at the end of act 1, midpoint (not always obvious), plot point at the end of act 2, and ending.

Don’t worry. I’ll be right here, cheering you on.

Unless you throw things. Then I’m moving.

 

Motivation Monday: Getting Past The First Chapter

Chess Board - TwitterI’m going to assume if you’re reading this you’ve taken me up on my challenge to write and publish an indie book. If you haven’t, go back and read the earlier posts first. I’m pretty sequential for a Figment. Doing things in order is always a good idea.

You have an outline (or you’re humoring me and pretending). You know why you’re writing. You have a first chapter. And now… you’re bored. Or you think you’re blocked.

Here’s my take on it: there is no such thing as Writer’s Block.

Before I get a bunch of angry replies, let me clarify. People to get blocked, but it’s not truly writer’s block. Writer’s block is this mystical thing where your muse has deserted you. Sorry, cupcake. While there are real muses, they don’t cause writer’s block. Here are some reasons you can feel blocked, though:

  • Your story is going in a dead-end direction. If your story isn’t making sense, your subconscious may be trying to tell you to turn it around. Break the rule about not editing and go back and find what isn’t working. If you can’t find it, get a trusted but brutally honest friend to tell you.
  • You have a stressor in your life. Real life is stressful. I avoid it whenever I can. Apparently real people can’t do that. If your life is highly stressful, feeling pressure to finish a book can add to that. Give yourself a day off if you have that luxury. If you don’t, write something silly in the middle of your story. You can edit it out later, but it may get your creative juices flowing.
  • You didn’t outline. One thing about outlines: you always know where you’re going. I know there are writers who say this destroys creativity for them. As long as those writers never get stuck, bully on them. Keep up the good fight! However, for those of us who do get stuck, an outline can tell you where to go next when you just aren’t feeling it.
  • You’re relying on feeling. This is one of those “suck it up, buttercup” moments. I didn’t feel like writing this blog post. There’s a major Spelling Bee Hive event today and I’m missing part of the live bookcast. But I am committed to blogging and it needed to be done. So… I wrote. I hate you all for it, but it will be done shortly. Also, now that I’ve started, I’m remembering that I like writing more than I like watching a bunch of letters chase each other around a grassy field, so I may keep writing.
  • You don’t have a deadline. It doesn’t matter where your deadline comes from, but many of us (not all of us) work better with a deadline. I get my best work done twenty minutes before it’s due. Set yourself a deadline. In fact, I’ll be sure to post about making a schedule later. I’ll lose all three of my regular readers when I do it, but it’ll still be there.
  • You need a break. I know the maxim: write daily. If you’ve been doing that, consider a day of rest. Recharge. Take a quick break. But get back on it tomorrow.

So, what’s keeping you from writing today? How did you resolve it?

Motivation Monday: WHY Write a Book?

Chess Board - TwitterIf you’ve been following along, we’ve worked on how to write, what to write about, and done an outline. (You did do your homework, right?) Before we go any further, though, you really  have to understand why you’re writing a book.

There is no wrong reason for writing a book. None. But if you don’t know why you’re writing, you may go about it the wrong way. (Yes, there is a wrong way for you, just like there is a wrong way for me.)

I’m writing a book to get down the stories my dad/mom/next-door-neighbor told me.
If you’re not planning to publish (or you’re only planning to publish to adoring family and friends, then the format won’t matter as much. Good grammar may be optional. You can create your own cover and learn design or get one online for $5 (Fiverr.com). This is a labor of love, not a polished product. Enjoy the ride, but don’t stress over it.

I’m writing a book because I love to write. I might publish, someday.
Go as slowly as you want. You’re doing this for the story. This is where pantsers excel, just letting the story move them. If you eventually decide to publish, you can go back and edit the words into shape. For you, it’s about enjoying the commune with your muse.

I’m writing a book for traditional publication.
Read up. Find out what the markets are and what the formula is for your genre. Don’t stress over the cover, but pay for a good editor. You might get lucky and find an editor/agent who appreciates someone thinks outside of the box, but most of them won’t. Take the time to find out who wants what, too.

I’m writing a book for self-publication.
Learn how to write, first. Either study cover design or pay for a good one. Read up on the business side of being a writer, because being an indie means you are a small business. You can write how you want and what you want, but you’ll sell better if you at least find your niche audience (know who you are writing for) before you get too attached to your story about alien llamas from Venus who love curling. Get an editor– a good one. If you’re planning on publishing more than one book, save up for a block of ISBN numbers; you’ll save money in the long run. Either learn how to format well or get someone else to do it.

I’m not trying to scare you off from self-publishing, by the way. I just want more people to realize that self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s for the person who knows what he wants to write, is willing to work hard to get it off the ground, and isn’t afraid to market herself.

So, let’s start with the basics before you write a word on the page: why are you writing your book? Remember, there’s no wrong answer unless you lie to yourself. Looking forward to some great responses.