With all the thinking I've been doing on how to write, I haven't covered much about why I write. And while I am still hammering through plots and characters, every now and then I have to remind myself why I'm sitting with my laptop, pouring time and energy into something intangible.
I came to a realization last night, after reading and watching some excellent seminars on plot and originality. I realized that it's okay for me to pour myself into the book's main character. There's nothing wrong with using my own experiences if it makes for a more convincing story.
This not only gives me some freedom in not having to worry about making the "perfect" character, it allows me to write what I know. If I write a character that has had hip surgery, I know how to write that. I know what it feels like, I know how to describe it. If my character plays the guitar, I know how to describe that, I know what that feels like. And that's not a bad thing.
For me, marketing is a something of a sticking point. As a general rule, I don't like marketing, for several reasons. Usually it's because they're trying to sell something that nobody needs.
So when I think "how can I reach more people" my first response is "Oh God, I'm becoming a marketer!"
But it's a question I have to start thinking about now if I'm ever going to consider writing for a living. I don't like screaming for attention, but in person, I tend to... how shall I say this... stick out in a crowd. I like interacting with people, but I don't see that as marketing. Why?
Because it's a two-way street. It's communication, not an advertisement. And advertisements annoy me because they assume they know what you want, when in fact 99% of the time they have no idea. But with communication, I can ask questions and adjust the conversation to suit that particular interest, or maybe segue into a related topic.
I've been a fan of multi-book series since I started reading novels. There's something magical about reading story after story with the same characters developing, following along with them, seeing them overcome struggles and hardship. After reading a whole series with the same protagonists, you get attached to them.
But for the writer, stretching out a story across multiple books get increasingly harder the further you go. At least, if you want to keep it interesting.
When I decided I wanted to write a book series, part of me said "Yeah! Let's do this!" and the other part of me said "Oh geez, now I have to write plots for all those books!"
And plotting is something I am loath to do. Yes, I know it's critical, but my brain often spews forth ideas faster than I can capture them. And when I do come up with a great story idea, I tend to not know when to quit, and I hammer it to death, or let it fall apart because I want to cram more stuff in there.
There's a fine balance between "really good story" and "mind-bending psychological train wreck." I want to get as close to that line as I can get without going overboard. And of course, there's the fact that each book needs to be a story in and of itself, and yet still be coherent and open-ended enough to make a broad-reaching story arc.
Part of working creatively is learning what to do when things don't go as planned. In my case, I tend to put deadlines or challenges on myself, and I get rather irate when I can't reach them.
But it's mostly my own ego making me feel that way. I tend to put extremely difficult standards on myself, so high that even *I* can't reach them all the time.
This is both good and bad.
When I make a statement like "I pledge to write on my blog every weekday" and I actually do it, I feel awesome. But if I don't, I feel like a failure... even if I only missed one day in 6 weeks.
The good side is that sometimes, my ridiculous goals can push me to actually do something I honestly didn't think I could do. The bad side is, nobody bats 1000. So when I say things like "I'm going to write on my novels every single day!" that's a *huge* goal, and I need to accept the fact that I'm not going to actually be able to write every single day.
This will allow me to see how much I've written over a broad span of time, as opposed to panicking over missing one day. It's much easier to see the big picture... when you can see the big picture.
(Write Or Die also has a word progress tracker, but I'm not going to be able to write with it all the time.)
First, I'd like to apologize (to all 5 of my readers) for not posting anything yesterday. I know it didn't affect you in any way, shape or form that I didn't, but you know, I promised myself I would write every weekday, and I have, for several weeks. But you're about to find out why.
For a long time, I've dreamed about living a creative life, and spending my days working on writing novels and music. I say "dream" because I didn't think it was something I could do while I was awake. But every day that I go to work and get micromanaged, or work on things I'm not passionate about, I get more and more frustrated.
You see, deep down, I know I can write books for a living. I don't think so, I know so. But the problem is that it takes time to write and edit books. And with working, being a dad/husband/scoutmaster/supervillain and everything else I have going on, writing a book just doesn't seem like something I can fit into my schedule.
But I need to make this happen. I don't need to "fit" in time to write: I need to make it my singular goal if I'm going to ever break free of working for a corporation. Can I actually write enough to quit my day job? Is it even possible?
A few days ago, I wrote about my reasoning and motivation for diving into deep projects. I didn't really get into how those things happen, though, and so I figured I'd give you a glimpse into what my creative process looks like.
I developed a few things I've begun doing to make it easier to dive into big projects. Some of these aren't exactly revelatory. Some of them I got from Cal Newport's "Deep Habits" study hacks blog, some of them I just figured out.
So, here's my suggestions for Creativity Brain Hacks:
Fall is coming. That means November, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month is also rapidly approaching.
For the last few years, I've been trying to work on drafting another novel- a couple of them, in fact- and I haven't been able to put enough time into it to really make a dent in it. I've discussed it before, in fact.
My friend(s) who are single are writing up a storm, and then asking me "when are you going to have time to edit my book?" to which I have to laugh. (I love you, man, I really do.) I don't even have time to work on mine, much less edit other people's. I don't have time to work on my bikes, fix my car, work on my music projects. I certainly don't have time to work on other people's. But they still ask, and I still want to help, because I'm just that kind of guy.
In fact, I've gotten so busy, I've had to slow down my creative freight train (thank you, ADD brain) just in order to get simple things done. Like cooking dinner, showering, sleeping, and other semi-important stuff.
I've been working on outlining my novel plots, which is new territory for me. I generally enjoy writing off the cuff without an outline, but this poses problems for me when I'm trying to bring the story to a close.
I have to be satisfied to just keep thinking about it, taking notes, and when the opportunity presents itself, I'll pull the 100+ hours it takes to actually write the book (not to mention editing it).
We'll see how it goes. I have nine weeks to decide whether or not I want to try to "win" NaNoWriMo again this year.
As a (admittedly lacking) science fiction reader/author, I've been following the rumpus surrounding the 2015 Hugo Awards for Science Fiction. Simply put, they're fan-based awards, given to works of science fiction* that exemplify the best talent in the industry.
* Or at least, that's what it used to be. In the last 2 years, we've discovered it was a thinly disguised club who used it to promote works that were neither science fiction, nor the best that the industry had to offer.
Naturally, people were upset about this and pressed back, and so the Hugo Awards ended up burning themselves to the ground instead of letting "unapproved" authors and editors get their coveted awards.
Honestly, Larry Corriea explains it perfectly here.
I've noticed over the last year or so, with GamerGate and now the Hugo Awards, that being a moderate in these areas is ineffective and counterproductive. Not wanting to hurt people's feelings ends up backfiring 99% of the time, because the people you're trying not to offend don't care if they offend you.
So as believers, do we simply smile and back away? Do we take our toys and go play in another sandbox? Or do we put our foot down, insist on playing by the same rules, and beat them at their own game?
As a writer, you're probably aware that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I haven't decided if I'm going to officially participate, but I'll probably get some writing done anyway. When I sit down to write, this is what my desktop looks like:
First and foremost, the centerpiece of my writing, is Scrivener for linux. I've already written about it here.
Second (and almost as important) is my full-screen "motivational" app, Write or Die 2. It kills writer's block dead! This is for grinding through word counts, when I have an idea for a scene in my head but it just won't come out. WriteOrDie gets the words out, whether I like it or not.
For non-fiction, I'm learning to use the program Zotero for annotations and footnotes. It integrates into Scrivener, too.
Thirdly is background music. Sometimes I can listen to rock, but mostly, I listen to ambient sounds, and the best thing for that is SomaFM.com. They've got several ambient and downtempo stations, so I'll play that through RhythmBox. I really like the stations DroneZone and BeatBlender. On the rare occasion I want to listen to something specific, I'll listen to Pandora with an app called Pithos.
This is how I get my fiction writing done. What's your writing desktop look like?
As a creative-type person, I understand when people get picky about what tools they use to create their particular art form. Musicians will obsess over the tiniest things to get the sound "just right." Photographers will spend hours waiting for just the right light.
But why are writers usually just the opposite? They use kludgy writing tools, and sometimes even physical "index card" information management. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a single program that could do everything a writer needed? Formatting, templates, organization, storyboarding, corkboards, revision management, links and information, pictures, exporting direct to publishing formats, and even a full-screen writing mode?
Well, there *is* such a program. It's called Scrivener. It's completely changed the way I write, for the better.
Scrivener was made *by* authors, *for* authors. It's like a tool that plugs directly into your brain and lets you focus on writing. There are plenty of testimonials praising the OSX and Windows versions, but I run the Linux-specific version, which is technically still in beta. It still has more features than a regular word processor, and I've found it has become integral to my writing process.
For those of you familiar with Scrivener, the Linux version is available as a free (for now) Beta. For the rest of you, here's the overview: