Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

5 Ways to Not Be A Lonely Writer

Writing is known for being a solitary pursuit. While there are writer’s groups and ways to create a network around writing, the work itself has to be done alone. Chatting with friends cuts into writing time. It’s easy for a write to tumble into THE ANTI-SOCIAL BUBBLE aka the thunder dome where no one makes eye-contact or speaks. It’s even easier when the creative life takes a nosedive and depression crawls in.

You get wrapped into the world of writing and see relationships drift away until you look up to see you’re a thousand miles from where you started with no one there to help and little energy to even call for help.  There’s a reason that the classic image of a writer is someone alone with nothing but a bottle keeping them company.  Writers tend to be introverted but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need people, social contact and to remember how to say hello and have a conversation. Having a rich fantasy life won’t save you from having to still call the phone company, interact with readers/reviewers/editors/people or any number of other things.

Not to mention that writing can be an emotionally draining and challenging roller coaster. I always fall into a heavy crash after I finish a project and even though I don’t want to be around people, it’s what I need to help get me out of my funk and into the next project. A support system can be a lifesaver.

Here are five ways that I try to get myself out of the bubble and back into being a somewhat functioning part of life.

1.     Make plans in advance

Know that you’re finishing a draft at the end of September and going to crash emotionally? Make plans with a friend to do something you’re excited about. It could be a big trip, or it could just be watching a TV show you’ve been meaning to catch up on.  Have those plans in place in advance.

2.     Reach out online/text/phone/video

Sometimes the people you most want to see aren’t able to physically be there. That’s okay. We live in the future and you have a device around where you can send someone a message. Email a friend and talk about what’s going on. Text a friend that you’re having a hard time. Skype with your sister. Send a silly cat video to your friend who lives in Korea.

3.     Celebrate.

I like throwing parties so planning a gathering almost always helps throw me out of a funk. There’s so much to do to get ready that I keep myself busy and excited about my friends coming over. Plan parties around times you think you’ll be feeling rough.

4.     Go to a class

Interested in Sky Yoga? What about marketing? Find a class, online or in person, and go check it out. You’ll learn a lot and meet interesting new people. Who knows, maybe you’re next story will spring from what you’re learning?

5.     Find help.

Sometimes you need more than just a friend to talk and you need to look to talk to a therapist or other type of professional. There are options online, there are help lines and ways to reach someone at little to no cost. Don’t be afraid to reach out for that lifeline.

The roller coaster of the creative life can be a challenge to manage, especially when you’re a new writer and still learning what patterns your work might trigger, or when you’re querying, going on submission, or through a rough edit for the first time.  There’s no shame in reaching out to the people around you for support.

Interview with Lisa M. Collins

I have the pleasure of having Lisa. M. Collins on my blog to answer a few questions. Lisa is a talented author (and an amazing friend!) and I’m happy to have her here to talk about writing and her new novella, The House Bast Made: Reid Cannon Archaeologist.  You can buy her new novella here.

So without further ado… here’s Lisa!

Lisa about to take flight!

Lisa about to take flight!

What’s your new book about?

The book is novella length. The House Bast Made is an adventure where a young archaeologist, Reid Cannon, learns myths need not be fairytales. The story is set on a dig near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Do you write for a set time every day or aim for a certain number of words each day or do something else?

I work a 40hr a week job. Often I can find time on my breaks or at lunch to jot a few words down, but those times aren’t really productive. I hit my stride around 5pm-8pm, and if it wasn’t for the pesky commute I do at 5:30-6:30ish that would be my ideal time to get my word count. For now I write after my shift while waiting to be picked up, after dinner while I’m hanging out with my family, and on the weekends.

Do you outline or just run with an idea?

Oh, Lordy, you really want to know about my process? LOL. OK.

For shorter works like 1,000-8,000 words, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants. My imagination works much like watching a movie—I can see the cuts and the action, and all I have to do is add the dialogue. Now for works that are longer I usually make notes and do a bit of research. I very rarely outline or do story boards, but I think that may change in the near future.

I recently read Rachel Aaron’s book: 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Rachel has so many great ideas to get you productive. I decided that I would take her advice on my next long format novel. Who knows this could be the end of my footloose and fancy free days!

What was the hardest thing about writing your newest work?

I have a deep and abiding love Egyptology and specifically the Valley of the Kings. When dealing with a large pantheon of gods and goddess you have to keep your stuff straight. Each of them has a unique personality leading them to actions. Keeping the good guys and the bad guys batting on the right team took a bit of notes.

The House Bast Made: Reid Cannon Archaeologist

The House Bast Made: Reid Cannon Archaeologist

What are you currently reading?

The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle.

What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

First drafts are where the writing happens, but editing is where the authoring happens.

So many writers think each word perfect must be perfect, editing as they go. The problem is nothing is ever perfect, even in Pulitzers you will find grammar errors or misused wording. What is the difference between a writer and an author? Authors finish. Churn out that first draft, don’t worry, no one has to read it but you. Editing is where the magic happens.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Twitter http://twitter.com/coolvstar650

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/lisaauthor

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisacollins

Pinterest http://pinterest.com/coolvstar650/

Google+ http://google.com/+LisaMCollins/posts

Instagram http://instagram.com/coolvstar650

Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/lisa-matthews-collins

Pen and Cape Society: http://penandcapesociety.com/lisa-m-collins/

Wookiees for Cookies Racing team https://wookieesforcookies.wordpress.com/

For Deep Fried Dixie Goodness follow Lisa as Tea and Cornbread https://twitter.com/teaandcornbread https://www.facebook.com/teaandcornbread

And at the Tea and Cornbread blog http://teaandcornbread.wordpress.com/

“I love Southern charm and food. I think everyone should get a taste of what we have cooking down here in the South…and not just in our skillets, but what we have cooking in our industry and our general Faulkneresque attitudes about life, liberty, the Oxford comma, and pursuit of happiness.”  – Lisa M. Collins aka Tea and Cornbread

Looking for more of:

Healthy Writer Series https://lisacollins.wordpress.com/category/healthy-lifestyle/

Author Interview Series https://lisacollins.wordpress.com/category/interviews/

You can buy The House Bast Made: Reid Cannon Archaeologist here.

Bio:

Lisa M. Collins has always been interested in Outer Space, Adventure stories, and Southern culture. She was born in Dixie and has always lived south of the Mason Dixon Line. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in history with specializations in American and Russian history. Lisa lives in central Arkansas with her husband and an adorable cat, Baby Girl, who believes she is Lisa’s co-author. Lisa has one adult son who is married to his high school sweetheart.

Lisa’s non-fiction has been published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. . She copy edited and researched on Understanding Global Slavery by University of California Press. Her science fiction story, The Tree of Life, is in the 2013-2014 anthology by Holdfast Magazine. These days she edits for Metahuman Press, and is an upcoming creative contributor with Pro Se Productions and Mechanoid Press. She is a Sally A. Williams Grant winner from the Arkansas Arts Council for writing.

 

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Stressed out about overworrying about being anxious

Stress

I’m an incredibly anxious person. I over worry about everything. For example, I once panicked about what I was going to wear on a flight to interview for a job in Oregon… BEFORE I had even submitted my job application for the position. I’m always thinking 15 steps ahead, and at least 13 of those steps are worst case scenarios and what could go wrong.

I live with the constant thought that people always hate it when I text or email them because I’m bothering them. I worry that I responded too quickly to a message; I worry that I responded too slowly to a message and that either option means I’m a lost cause and this person will no longer respect or like me. I wake up some mornings with a sense of doom that wraps around my neck like a wool scarf suffocating me in the middle of July.

I stress out about what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, in a month, a year, ten years, twenty years. I panic about the imaginary things I haven’t done yet, and I worry that the things I have done, I’ve done all wrong somehow. I worry that every time I mess up even in the slightest, that I’ve doomed myself forever and should just go shove my head in the ground and hide.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and sometimes it flares up in wickeder than usual ways that leave me ill, depressed, and a general mess who just wants to lock myself in my room so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

Sometimes I can write my way through it, and other times I’m so worried that what I’m writing is awful, and therefore I’m awful that I can barely write a sentence. One of the things I struggle with as a writer is building high enough conflicts because tension worries me (yes even fictional tension) and I just want things to go smoothly which doesn’t make for compelling stories exactly.

I write this not because I want coddling or anything like that (and I worry immensely that’s what this post will be taken as), but because I know it’s a problem, and I’m not going to continue to hide from it, instead I’m working on ways to manage it.

  • I run, walk, or just jump in circles in my room.
  • I send a message to someone I admire and tell them why they’re amazing.
  • I look through a folder of all of the things I have accomplished.
  • I keep track of what I do every day, and praise myself for finishing things.
  • I do yoga or just lay on the floor and listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm.

Sometimes these work, some days it’s like trying to run from a swarm of killer bees that I can already feel digging into my skin. No day is perfect, and I’ve come to accept that and to try to not (hahahaha) worry about it.

I know I spend most of my time on this blog talking about writing, but this is a part of my writing (and every day life) that I don’t mention much, and I feel like it’s time to own it. Writing on some days is like trying to wade through a locust swarm in my gut that’s constantly trying to devour me from the inside out. But the things I want to write help me make it through the storm and to the other side where I can see the non-bug-infested light again.

I wish there were some piece of advice, some great tip from a self-help book that I could pass along, but the truth is, I just sort of throw a dart towards where I want to go and blindly push forward through locust swarms and all. Some days I lay down and let the bugs crawl all over me, and some days I walk through beautiful sunlight. But at the end of the day I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got going on, and to just keep pushing forward. You’re not alone.

Patience aka WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY BOOK NOW?

Patience is probably one the virtues I wish I was better at. Writing is a slow process THAT TAKES FOREVER AND WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY BOOK NOW?

Depending on how fast you write, finishing the first draft of a single short story can take a month or more, and if you start working on a longer piece… that can drag on for years (just don’t be one of those people who is ‘working on a novel’ without ever writing a word, okay? Get it on paper.). You finally get the story done and stare at your lovely, little word blob and then it just magically becomes a book instantly. That’s a new mac attachment clearly, the iPublishnow.

Truth: ALL OF THAT WRITING ISN’T EVEN THE HALF OF IT.

After you finish that first steaming draft full of problems and trouble THEN you have to go back and edit, and sometimes rewrite it. And you do this step over and over and over. Until your eyes sizzle and coffee drizzles from your nose.

After that, you submit it off into the wild blue-green yonder where it either a) goes off to an agent to look for representation b) goes to a publisher (and probably the BUMBUMBUM slush pile) or c) self-pub baby!

(okay, those are not every option ever available for a writer, but let’s just stick with those three for simplicity’s sake, kay?)

From here, everything requires more steps.

AKA No don’t just type THE END and throw it up on Amazon and wait for the money to rain down from the muses that live above your bed.

From here it will try to find a home, contracts will be negotiated, drawn up, yadda yadda, THEN it will go through a series of edits, a title will be decided, descriptions created, covers  made, and formatting fought with. Annnnd probably more that I’m forgetting or just plain don’t know about because they haven’t happened to me yet.

End of story: There’s still a TON of steps from after you type the end to when you hold your precious word vomit baby in your arms and coo over it.

The fastest one has gone for me is a short story that took roughly 6 months from THE END to print version, and that was damn fast because it only had four people in the anthology.

The longest?

Well, let’s just say there are some 3+ year projects that haven’t moved forward past typing THE END yet.

That’s another part of writing you don’t learn about until you’re there. Projects can and will just freeze for unknown reasons. Sometimes a project falls through the little literary cracks and plops into a whole lot of nope. When that happens you’ve got to pull your story out of that muck and try to find your baby a new home. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and that little sucker lives in a drawer in your desk for forever.

The point is, if you’re going to play the game and get your thing out into the world then you’ve got to have a certain level of patience and know that things move SLLLOOOOWWWW when it comes to publishing.

Finish your projects, send them off, meet your deadlines (please don’t be the jerk to hold up everyone else), and then START ON A NEW PROJECT. Don’t sit and stare at the screen, waiting for an email of every step of the process, let go of that sent-off darling and start vomiting out a new lovely, word baby. Try to have projects out and about all the time, and remember to just breathe and keep writing: that’s your job.

Horror isn’t about the blood

Let’s play a word association game. I say something and you tell me the first thing that pops into your head.

Horror.

This is what pops into Google’s mind first.

Most people first think of a monster, or of a violent, gruesome, possibly totally unrealistic death. But that isn’t what makes horror, horror.

The moment that the character is stabbed is not the moment horror is born. Horror walks the line of supsense keeping the entire world of the story contain within a tightly coiled spring. The moment the monster appears, attacks, maims, etc. that’s the moment the spring comes undone and then (if it’s not the climax) the spring begins to coil back down, ready to spring again.

The scare doesn’t come from violence. The scare comes from a delicate rhythm of tension, and release, of the unknown threat, or unseen danger finally being realized. In horror, sometimes the most powerful jolts are based on the things you don’t see, or don’t expect. It’s jarring.

But that jolt alone does not a horror story make. The best analogy I heard is that one spark does not start a fire unless there’s something surrounding it to catch flame. A single moment won’t set the way for a horror story unless you’ve done the work and set the rest of the scene. For example:

Bill and Ted were having coffee. It was Tuesday and a good day.

Stan walked over to Bill and stabbed him, ripping his belly button open and pulling out his insides.

Shocking? Maybe. Horror? Eh…..

The scene doesn’t set up anything. So rather than tension being released, you instead get a blank stare of ‘…wait, what?’ it lends itself more to confusion than to fear. There is no build-up, no tension, no fear, just blood. This is like a lighter going off in a vaccum. There’s nothing to set fire so nothing can spread.

For horror, the devil is in the details. You can’t have a scary story without tension. Think of the oldest horror cliche in the world. The woman alone in a dark house with a killer. Why is it scary? Because you know something is going to happen. You see it everywhere. Something runs down the hall? Here he comes… oh, just her dog. Phew. Wait? Her dog’s bleeding! And so it continues onwards until the tension finally snaps into action.

So, here’s a challenge for you. Write your own revised version of Ted, Bill and Stan’s Tuesday morning and share it with me!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged by the awesome Meghan for the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I’m really excited (and slightly scared) to answer these questions and play along! So, let’s go!

 

1. What Am I Working On?

Currently I am editing a Lewis Carroll inspired short story called “Rain, Rain” and writing a short haunted house story. I’m having a lot of fun with both of them and am just very pleased with myself because both of these stories I was very concerned would turn out awful, and neither one has! Whoo!

I just finished the really ugly zero draft of my project “Blessed” which is a YA novel about a hot-headed superhero in training who learns there is nothing she won’t do to save her mother, even if it means teaming up with a supervillain. It’s a hot mess of a draft but I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing.

I’m also working on a few other short stories, but those are still in the ‘thinking about it’ phase.

2. How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

With a lot of the pulp stories I write, I think that I add in a female voice that has been lacking, and tell stories that look at things in a little bit different of a way. I think everyone has an interesting way of looking at the world and I’m happy to share mine around me. I’m not afraid to blur the lines, and to dance around with various genres from horror to romance.

I don’t like excessive amounts of gore and I have a fondness for bones and bright colors. Colorfully morbid is the best way I’ve been described and I think that translate beautifully into my writing.

 

3. Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because I don’t know what else to do? I never know how to answer questions like these because the only reason is that I write what I write because those are the stories I’m excited about, and that I want to see. I try to write things I would like to read and that excite me, sometimes I miss the mark and sometimes I nail it, but I always try to get the words on the page to share what I see.

 

4. How Does My Writing Process Work?

I use to try to set up a specific writing process. I’d light a candle, make a cup of tea, and sit at my desk, but what I started to realize was that all I was doing was complicating everything. Now I have a simple trick: when I have time I sit down and write. I write until I reach at least 1000 words then I take a break and reward myself. Sometimes, I’ll make a deal that I can’t eat dinner until I’ve written 1000 words, and I can’t shower until 2000 words.

I try to reward myself for working and staying on task. I use timers and race to see how many words I can get in during a period of time. The main thing that I do is write every day, even though some days I just write out a plan of what I want to write over the next few weeks.

Generally speaking I write with a soundtrack for whatever I’m working on, and I work from beginning to end making changes as I go in the first draft. I’m very much a ‘get it all on the page right this second’ person and then I’ll go back to edit. I’ve tried doing things out of order by writing the end first but it just doesn’t work for me and I end up confusing myself about what’s going on.

Lately I’ve been more organized about what I write. I track the number of words I write every day and log my total word count for the week, this has really helped me see how much I can do and to schedule accordingly. I even have a little system where I give myself a gold star sticker on the calendar for every day I write more than 1000 words. It’s kind of lame, but it works for me.

HOWEVER, writing processes can change all the time and what works for one story, might not work for the next. People change all the time so never be afraid to shake up your routine and try a new way of doing things. You might learn something else works way better than your usual method.

 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now here’s where I’m suppose to tag someone to do this but almost every single one of my friends has already done this, so… if you’re reading this and have a blog consider yourself TAGGED!

 

To participate, write a blog post next week and…

  • Acknowledge the person and the site who invited you into the tour (that’d be me and you’d link back to this post.)
  • Label your post as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour.
  • Answer these same four questions about your writing process in the post.
  • Nominate and link to up to three people to participate who would then post their answers the week after yours.
  • Let me know in the comments if you’re going to participate, so I can add your link to this post.

Patient Zero- The first draft

I’ve been working away on my latest work in progress, and just crossed the 60,000 word mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it up before the end of this week.

At first I thought I was writing my first draft. And I suppose in a way I am, aside from my outline, this is the first time these characters have seen the light of the page and the first time I’ve told this story to anyone. But, about halfway through, the story veered in a direction I hadn’t seen. I realized I needed to change a major character and rework my main character and the plot in a big way.

For about a day I just stared at this mess of a draft and considered just starting it over again and making all the changes.

I’ve been down that road plenty of times before where I write the first 20,000 words over and over and over in a perpetual groundhog’s day loop of writing.

Instead of sending myself into that kind of hell, I decided to just make a note to myself (set aside with XXX) and keep going as if those changes had already been made.

What this means is that a minor character named Virgil became a main character at word 31,008, and that a main character named Darcy completely disappeared at 40,000 and I never backtracked to fix the words behind them. I’ve even gone back and rechanged the changes I made. So maybe for about 3000 words, Darcy existed again and then was erased for good.

This draft is going to be a mess when I finish, like a Frankenstein monster sewn together with hands on his head instead of ears, and eyes for a belly button. It’s ugly, and gross and going to have to be ripped to pieces to be put back together again. That’s why I’ve decided to call it a zero draft, and not a first draft.

But now that I’m nearing the end of this story, I feel more confident in the characters, in the voice and the story I’m telling. It’s changed drastically, and that’s okay. I’m sure it will change a dozen more times before it’s ready to be unleashed onto the world as a (mostly) right-side together Frankenstein.

The advice I most frequently people at any of the writing panels I’ve been on is to finish what you start, but I’m terrible at following my own advice. I want my first draft to be a perfect story and that just can’t happen (at least not with the way I write) so I make do with what I can make. I paint in the lines as best as I can, and then I go back and clean up.

This now hangs above my desk as a gentle NUDGENUDGE in bright blue.

This now hangs above my desk as a gentle NUDGENUDGE in bright blue.

So, draft zero I hope you’re ready to be finished off…and don’t worry, I’ll get your foot out of your eye socket soon.

Promise.

“Books are written with time stolen from other people”

Selfish.

It’s a word that plays on repeat in my brain. On a good day I’ll only hear it once or twice. On a bad day it plays a song that lasts from the moment my eyes open to the second I finally drift to sleep.

One of the things that I struggle the most with writing is the selfishness that it requires. I don’t mean the Golum hoarding type of selfishness, I mean the ‘I have to go lock myself in my bedroom for the entire evening rather than hang out with my friends/family’ sort of selfishness.

I’ve always been very bad at saying no or not doing something for someone else. I am a people pleaser at my very core, and I struggle with any time I have to say no to doing something for someone. I have a terrible case of balloon hand where I volunteer for tasks that pop up and cut away from my time.

I want to help everyone and do everything for all of the people I care about. I will drop everything and drive eight hours through the night if someone really needs me to. But the problem with that is that I constantly give away time that I need to spend on my writing.

What I probably struggle the most with is writing in the evenings when my roommates are home. I adore my roommates and it’s rare that we’re all home at the same time so I want to savor that, but I struggle to get much work done when camped out in the living room half listening to a conversation, and half plotting on how to kill the troublesome centaur in chapter 3.

I’m half way everywhere and getting nothing done.

I recently read the quote that became the title of this post, “Books are written with time stolen from other people” and as much as I’ve searched the Internet I can’t figure out who said it (if you know please tell me!). But this quote is probably one of the truest things I’ve ever read. The time spent on writing is time not spent doing something else, and a lot of  that means cutting time with people you love.

How do you get around it?

For me, I’m starting to adjust myself to getting up earlier in the morning and trying to write then. I’m looking at a few other options to see if I can make the time I need without feeling like I’m cutting contact with the people I love, because while writing can be a lonely job, you need contact with people and a support network for the inevitable swings that writing brings.

I think this problem is particularly an issue when you work full time, because after that 8-10 hours a day are gone, there’s not many hours left to fit in everything else. To everyone with children, and spouses, I admire your dedication even more. I’m single, childless and still stress about time on a daily basis.

The truth of the matter is that there is no way to just magically ‘find’ time in your day like a discarded nickel found in the washing machine. You make time, you carve it out from the flesh of the day and you have to leave pieces behind because there just isn’t enough to go around. The important thing is to be aware of what you’re cutting out, and to take control of the hours you can free.

Eternal_clock copy

Writing Spaces

A writer’s space is one of the places he or she will spend the most time. While I know a lot of writers who tend to write in more public spaces like Starbucks (or other coffee shops) I also know a lot who work at a particular desk day after day. These desks tend to reflect a lot of the wrter within the space so I thought it would be neat to show what my writing space looks like.

… continue reading this entry.

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

A few months ago I posted about putting a ban on the word luck, and I’ve been done pretty well with keeping my word and owning what I’ve done. Recently I saw an incredible quote that finally summed up what I felt about luck. It’s from a Business Insider article, and is something that Betty Liu heard from her television coach.

“Opportunity + Preparation = Luck” (hence the blog post title, I’m so clever)

You can be in the exact right place and meet the exact right person but if you’re not prepared then it’s for nothing. Imagine meeting a Hollywood executive looking for his/her next big movie option, and runs into you. You don’t have a screenplay written, you’ve just got a kind of half-formed idea. Even though you’re in the right place, things probably aren’t going to work out for you because you’re not prepared.

Luck comes to people who work hard and put themselves into positions to luck out. You’re never going to just get lucky and land a new job in a different field by sitting at home and never learning those skills you need. You’re never going to just happen to sell the next Harry Potter sitting at home never writing.

You have to put in the time and effort for all the pieces to fall into place.

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