Frustrations and Inspirations

Man, dear reader, I meant to already be done with this blog post and on to my current work in progress, but computer issues saw that I spent 30 of my precious hour this morning trying to unfreeze and close stuck programs.

But, we’ve moved past that and here we are.

This morning I want to talk about the inspirations that keep me going. I’ve talked a lot of about eliminating negative self-talk and how important it is not to give up, but maybe you don’t think about how many other people who we consider successful had setbacks.

After all, it’s not a failure unless you stop.

Dr. Suess was rejected. Isaac Asimov had short stories he never sold. Ursula K. LeGuin was told that the Hand of Darkness was ‘endlessly complicated’. I know I’ve heard Laura K. Hamilton tell audiences at Dragon*Con that her Anita Blake series was rejected over 300 times.

I remember this when I can’t get started or when my stress is triggered. I look at J.K. Rowling, who is currently doing Quite Well For Herself and remember that her book was rejected as being too long for readers. I remember what Stephen King said in his book “On Writing” about the time he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash and his wife went, pulled it out, straightened it and put it back on his desk.

Its a short post today Lovelies, but after my 30 minute war with getting my writing machine to play nice, I wanted to lay this down for y’all to remember.

No matter how frustrating the day has been, we’re not alone. We’re walking roads that the greats have trod before us and we can make it happen.

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Inspiration and the Habit

Whenever I listen to writers who have more experience than me, writers who are farther than I am down their own publishing/creating/business journey, they usually say that they’ve “been writing stories for as long as they can remember”.

Well I’ve been reading stories for as long as I can remember. My family is definitely a book family. All of us have some wall or another devoted to the collection of our favorite texts. And these are stories that get passed on.

I started writing when I hit puberty. I remember when I realized that it was more than just writing that made an author.

I used to think that when I read a book, the writer had sat down and just pulled the story out of their head like they were unwinding a skein of yarn and just laid a perfect coil of fiber on the page, mailed it to a printer and that was the end of it. It was David Edding’s book “The Rivan Codex” that burst my illusions about the publishing industry.

In the book, Eddings is candid about what he had to do to publish and polish his many fantasy epics. Eddings stated that he didn’t feel like any fantasy writer would ever be able to write a good fantasy without a degree in medieval history, which I think now, is very much a reflection of his time period. We live in a constant changing and ever fluctuating world and while the formulaic books by Eddings did form the backbone of my childhood expectation of what a story was.

The one thing he didn’t talk about what the habits and methods to getting one’s story out of your head and onto the page.

It was a DragonCon, I’m not sure if it was 2008 or 2009, where my Author SuperHero-Idol Mercedes Lackey was at a Women of Sci/Fi and Fantasy panel that the key to getting a book finished was summed up by, “Get your ass into the chair.”

Floored.

I had all these moments where I’d relied on inspiration, on that ‘IDEA’ spark. Then I’d pour out my work in a flurry of excitement, throwing out hundreds and sometimes thousands of words on a page, before running out of steam and happily filing that story to a file.

But then I’d go pick up that brilliant story only to find I had no idea where I was going from there.

It can happen where a writer throws out a fully formed story on the first try, sort of like a potter throwing a pot on the first try, but every potter would point out that’s rare. It was a lesson I badly needed.

Inspiration is a part of writing. You can’t tell a story if you don’t have the creative idea to pull from. But it doesn’t get TOLD that way. It gets told by getting into a routine and putting work into it every day.

For 2016 I’m going to tell stories. Every day. Whether its days like today where I am a bit parched from the New Year’s festivities or days where I’ve had plenty of sleep and can slam out entire chapters.

Thank you for joining me on this road towards publication, this road towards sharing good stories with the world. Thank you for watching one more traveler plinking out the words to make the chapter to make the book that I hope will entertain someone. Happy 2016.

Mondays, Perseverance and Clean Starts

Every year I think, “This time, this time I’m going to do it better.”

Maybe its the clean calendar, full of open days that have no obligations or memories attached to them yet. It makes a new year feel like a new notebook. Pages fresh and clean, no blot outs, no torn pages…everything has the potential to be new.

But those new notebooks come with a lot of pressure. You are taking a thing that is beautifully pure, unvarnished with your mistakes and you pour yourself into it, ink drop by pencil scratch.

New Years are like that.

2015 brought a lot of changes into my life. We bought a house. We got a Roommate. My location for my Wage Labor job changed. My husband made it through another semester of college. We got Star Wars. My roller derby team disbanded. My parents moved. My sister brought a new man into our family. I’ve gained pets with my roommate. I’ve had to throw away old things, relocate the things I have, and then turn around to get new things to replace the things that no longer fit.

Writing is like that for me. Always changing. Always moving. Most of the time, forward, as new ideas and new stories come to me. Sometimes backwards as life gets in the way of the thing I really Want to do.

Yesterday, after returning home from the holidays, I began to re-organize my kitchen. My kitchen is the hearth in my home. We all have to eat after all, and if you’re going to eat, you’re going to need a tidy place to make the food.

I also reorganized my current work in progress. My process for both is similar.

For my kitchen I took out everything that I had in each cabinet, looked at it, matched Like with Like and returned it, stacking it neatly so that I could find what I needed. For my novella, I pulled up Scrivener, and then copied and pasted in my project, scene by scene, labeling each card with the character’s POV and folding them together so as to make better sense of where the heck these two crazy kids are going.

Every year is the year we’re going to do it better. And it starts with doing better every day.

It’s so much easier to take it a day. A page. A cabinet at a time. And that is my goal for 2016.

One word.
One step.
One day at a time.

Top 3 Writing Podcasts and Staying the Course

I work a day job that has nothing to do with writing or creating in general. I’m passably good at it and it pays my bills, lets my husband go to school and generally keeps us fed and clothed. It starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. It goes Monday through Friday and gives me vacation during the year. It’s stable and I feel incredibly grateful that I am blessed enough to have gainful, paying employment.

But despite reaching this achievement of the American Dream, in so many ways, I look forward for the day that comes when I can hang up the office scrubs and stay home full time to write and work on my projects. I look forward to one day being able to really push myself as a writer and to sell that which I have been sweating at alone to craft.

It’s hard to keep my motivation up when the wage labor gets intense. After all, what I’ve been doing the past two weeks is training myself to do a part time job along with my full time one. I am so excited to tell y’all that it has been FIFTEEN DAYS of consistent writing. I have gotten up at 5:30am, I have put my butt in the chair and on each of those days have managed to work on SOMETHING that is going to be one day (hopefully) sold to readers.

The best motivator during this time of growth has been podcasts. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to listen to music or podcasts while they’re working, and I recognize this might not be a solution for everyone, but I have found that if I can at least squeeze one or two episodes of a writing-centric podcast while I’m doing some of the more repetitive tasks at work, I’m able to stay focused on what I’m going to write for the next day. It’s the best of both worlds: I am fulfilling my wage labor obligations while also hearing this encouragement from fellow writers.

So, here are my top three recommendations from the last two weeks.

1.I Should Be Writing / Ditch Diggers:

First up, I’m going to cheat and count these two podcasts as one entry because they share a host.  Mur Lafferty caught my attention with her podcast “I Should Be Writing” that is aimed at beginning authors. It was the second/third day of my own personal writing challenge and she was talking about despair and how it can get to you while you’re trying to do a creative thing. I was hooked, because Lafferty  gets it. She truly understands what fragile and in contrast, strong creatures creative people can be.

http://murverse.com/podcasts/

She does a joint podcast with Matt Wallace for her second one, which is Ditch Diggers. This ‘cast has a totally different feel from ISBW. Matt and Mur are speaking to the professional writers who do the writing gig every day. They talk about struggles that professionals face and how they overcome it. They’re hilarious and their banter and chemistry as cohosts really drives the episodes. They also do some pretty excellent interviews with fellow indie artists and creators. I’ve learned lots for my future with them and I hope everyone who needs a little solidarity will pick them up and give them a listen.

2. Upgrade Your Story

http://www.upgradeyourstory.com/podcast/

Ally Bishop is an editor who puts out the ‘Upgrade Your Story’ podcast in an effort to help newer writers and seasoned vets improve their craft. While Mur’s casts are about the lifestyle and motivations of a writer, Bishop is a mechanic for the nuts and bolts of writing. I have found that listening to her podcast while on my way to and from work have helped the editing side of my brain when I am working on tweaking my few finished stories for sending out. Give her a listen. She has over 90 episodes so she’s likely covered something useful to you.

Finally, last but certainly not least,

3. DIY MFA

http://diymfa.com/category/podcast

One of my mutual Twitter followers just finished her book a few months ago and is in the querying/synopsis stage of Agent-hunting. She posted a link to Gabriela Pereira’s ‘cast about Query letters and as I listened I realized how useful all of this advice was to me.

Lafferty and Bishop deal with the writing and lifestyle aspects of the craft, Pereira has framed her cast as if you were taking a remote MFA class. She has interviews with many different professional writers on each episode and lets the listener take to the episode as if they were in a class, learning and growing through a lecture series. I’ve found listening to her while doing things around the house, driving to work and some of the more tedious data-entry that’s required in my job has helped me shake lose areas where my stories are stuck. Plus, because she has so many different interviews, it lets me grow my perspective on what others do.

So that’s it. That’s my list of people who have helped me keep my motivation as I work my way through finishing some of my projects that I have on my task list right now. These are my own opinions, as always, and I’m not receiving any compensation for recommendations made on this blog.

Who inspires you when you’re doing non-writing things?

Upcoming Content and Paying it Forward

Upcoming on The Writings, we’re going to have some personal blog posts about observations I’ve had during this wild and exhilarating writing-career journey, commentary on on-going projects, book reviews and Author reviews.

I might also repost or link business articles and other posts I find entertaining, so if that’s your thing, fab.

Today I want to talk about reach and the pay it forward effect that we writers can experience while we sit alone in our rooms and talk to ourselves.

When I was in college, one of my best friends was in the process of getting her first book ready to sell. I was so damn Impressed y’all. She was working full time at a library and yet still managed not only to finish a book, but also had begun trying to get an agent to sell it. I began to try a little harder on my own writing, try a little harder to become a better writer and become different from where I was at.

Then in 2012 I graduated, moved, started MY first ‘Adult’ job that was a 9-5 style office gig and my writing dried up. What had been easy in college, became something I had to fight with myself about.

Feb of 2014 I challenged her to a one month March-madness word war.

That word war began a spreadsheet that has spanned since then to present day.

For the last 10 day I’ve busted all the eggs (aka the zeros) and put SOMETHING there.

Accountability cannot be under rated. It was because of that sheet that I wrote 163k of words on different projects from March-December.
This year, between taking time off to move and fighting depression and anxiety, I have 36k between Jan-May plus what I’ve pulled up this month.

Those words are almost 200k of progress and effort that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for fellow writers pushing me, family members asking and putting myself out there so that I could learn. Thanks to all.

Coming up in new posts:
Book Review on Anne Bishop’s The Invisible Ring
Podcast Reviews
Editing versus Drafting

 

Influence and Heroes

I see that a lot of published writers get asked about influence and who inspires them. The answers, just like the authors, are all different. So this week I pondered who my biggest influences were and found the answer to be really eclectic. I was able to break it down into three catagories: Personal, Professional and Creative. (Man I wish I’d come up with another p word. Alliteration is the best.)

We all have those people who influenced us growing up. When it came to writing, I think it was the act of reading that first gave seed to the plant. I’d read tons of stories so the natural course was to write my own. My mom, a poet who used her writing as a type of therapy, always encouraged me. When I got older, I joined with friends who had similar interests and now have a carefully chosen network of fellow writers that are constantly challenging me to push myself beyond where I’ve already reached.

Professionally, I feel that Orson Scott Card, Hilari Bell, Kristine Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have really inspired me. Maybe inspire isn’t the right word. Inspire doesn’t really sum up the kick in the tail that I feel when I read their writing and publishing advice. They are to inspire as a boot camp drill Sargent is to ‘persuade’. While I don’t know any of them past the words that they put out into the net, I never walk away from any of their non-fiction posts without feeling at least like pushing a little harder in my own endeavors.

Finally, Creatively. This category belongs to the books that I’ve read over the years that hit those emotional notes for me. Mercedes Lackey’s understanding of growing up in a world where adults aren’t as smart as they think they are and where young people become the very adults that they once admired. The Lark and the Wren changed my entire world outlook when I was young. If Rune, the illegitimate daughter of a tavern wench could save a country, then so could I. I didn’t have to be the chosen one. I didn’t have to have some magical star over my crib to do great things. Just like Rune, I would work my ass off and get what I wanted. Other books brought technical thought into play. David Edding’s early work gave me a love of the quest in fantasy and introduced me to Arthurian legend as a base for world and story building. Jim Butcher, the best pacer ever in fiction, taught me about building up your climax and making your pay off count. Kresley Cole has taught me the importance of a dynamic character and how relationships can push a story to it’s final conclusion.

In the end, I can’t BE any of these people. As Oscar Wilde is oft quoted, I must ‘be myself for everyone else is already taken.’ Yet I’m proud of these influences. Proud to push forward in my hopes of finishing what I start and to achieve the dreams that keep me walking on this road.

Who influences you?