Friday, October 17, 2014

Attainable vacation goals.

I'm on vacation next week--well, more like a staycation, because it's a writing-related week off and I'll be spending most of it at home.

In the past, when I've taken a week off for writing purposes, I've overloaded myself to the point where I couldn't do any writing activities, and then I crawled in bed and slept for hours, only emerging to watch old Project Runway DVDs and eat all manner of bad-for-you gluten-free food. That is not going to happen this time.

This time, there are no lofty goals, like "write half your book." Nope. Those kind of goals backfire--I can't meet them, then I get discouraged, and then I hide under the covers because I feel like I can't accomplish anything. This time, there are reasonable goals, attainable goals, which are:

1. At the end of the week, have a solid game plan in place for how I'm revising both (eek!) of my novels. (No need to do any actual revising--I just need to have the plan in place and be confident that it's right for me.)

2. Read a lot. Read the 3 books on revision technique. Reread a few of your favorite books to remind yourself what good fiction looks like. It's okay to read all day long! During this vacation, it's not possible to have too much reading!

3. Go for walks. I live very close to a park, and I often get great ideas while walking. It'll also be a nice chill-out sort of activity if I find myself getting anxious about writing-related stuff.

4. Do fun and useful things. I already have a haircut and massage scheduled, and I plan on visiting my parents, too.

5. Relax. I've barely taken any time off all year. I'll allow myself to relax and recharge. I plan to watch the birds, make some cards and crafts, take midday naps in the sunshine--whatever it takes to get my stress level down before I jump into revision.

Perhaps it doesn't seem like I'll accomplish a lot during vacation, but taking this time to refocus and recharge will help me accomplish a ton once vacation is over and I start revising with a plan and schedule in mind.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

So what?

So I finished the first draft of Book 2 on Friday. I'm still a little stupefied about it. But as I try to get over my stupor, I've begun crafting a revision plan for books 1 and 2--which I'm revising more or less at the same time because I'm insane (and care very much about continuity).

Part of that plan is stripping away some of the fear that causes me to hold back sometimes in my writing. In the second drafts of both these books, I'm going to go there--oh, yes, I am. Part of being able to go there is articulating my fears and then talking myself down from them. I call this the "So what?" talk, and I'm including it here to help any other writers who are in my situation--full of potential, but fearful of judgment.

Think about each fear you feel when you start writing something that almost seems too truthful, too authentic. Remind yourself that authenticity is essential for impactful writing, and counter that fear with "So what?" and a reason why it doesn't really matter as much as you think it does. Here are some of the "So what?" bits I go through almost on a daily basis:

They’ll think I’m writing about them.
So what? You write fiction. By definition, it’s made-up, not biographical. Sure, the people in your life may at times inspire a character’s behavior or traits, but they are not that character. And if they really think they’re that character, then that says more about them than you.

(On the off chance that your character was very much inspired by someone in your life, just remember that if they don’t like it, then perhaps they should have behaved better. Their problem, not yours.)

They’ll be uncomfortable with topics/details I’m writing about.
So what? Then they can stop reading it at any time. Make sure they know they’re not obligated to read or finish anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Remember, this story is an extension of you. It’s your brainchild—and it has to be authentic. Stay true to what you know you need to write about. If you don’t, it’ll show—and it’ll suck. So no matter how icky it is, take it and run with it—you and your story will be better for it.

They’ll think I’m weird.
So what? Writers are weird. You’re a writer. Weirdness comes with the territory—and you’re in very good company.

They’ll think differently of me.
So what? Again, that’s a them thing, not a you thing. You can’t control what they think. You can only control what you write—not how they react to it.

They’ll think I’m that character.
So what? There’s probably a piece of you in every character you write. Some pieces may be bigger than others, but you write fiction, not autobiography.

They’ll disown me, won’t love me anymore, etc.
This is less of a “So what?” (because it would actually matter if that happened!) and more of a “Hey, writer, you’re letting that great imagination get the best of you. That’s highly unlikely to happen, and *wink* even unlikelier if anyone thinks you’ll be the recipient of hefty royalty checks in the future.

If the "So what?" talks have helped you too, let me know in the comments below!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pep talk.

Things have not been easy lately. Not writing-wise, not otherwise.

The good news is, it’s all research.

Every time you feel like things are spinning out of control? Research.

Every time you have to keep your anger in check? Research.

Every time you use semantics? Research.

Every time you stay quiet about something, resisting the urge to act on impulse and instead saving it for a more opportune time? Research.

Every time you keep a secret, particularly one of your own? You guessed it--research. 

It sucks to perpetually have a mood in flux. But if you were happy all the time, you wouldn’t learn a damn thing that would be useful for writing.

As you work to finish book 2, remember this:

Be authentic. This is who you are. Listen to those twisted thoughts; give them a home in your words. Let yourself be on the edge, where you belong.

Even slow progress is progress. (But when and where you can—for god’s sake, speed it up.)

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. (Perfect—or as close to it as possible—happens after a few more revisions.)

Push through even when you’re tired or cold.

Allow yourself to feel.

Listen to your muses, wackadoo though they may sometimes be. Listen to the characters in your head when they start talking. 

You can do this.

In fact, you’re the only one who can write this book, these characters, this series. 

You can, and you will.