Tag Archives: effort

Camp in July: Motivation Stops Here

Camp Nanowrimo has famously been difficult for me, except for a couple of times. I do this to myself, of course, over and over, because I must be a masochist. Really, I’m just ambitious. After finding my groove with an older story again, wanting to finish and spurred on by my great energy with the revision of my erotica in April, I picked up where I left off.

And got firmly stuck in the mud, days later.

This has had to be my worst month. I didn’t really keep track of wordcount. I could barely get myself to write every day. I was avoiding the camp website. It was sticky and awful and kind of depressing, to be honest.

I was also having the hardest time trying to figure out why it was so hard for me. When I know there’s a goal in sight, I’m usually steadfast toward it, and make great strides and bounds. This time it was like my neck was craned back, staring up at a billboard that I thought was too high to climb, with a ladder right in front of me.

I refused to think it was motivation. I’ve wanted to write and finish this novel so badly. Inspiration was all there, I knew how to tap into more, how to get my mind going.

But there it was, at the eye of the storm. I wanted to write but I didn’t want to. Were my ideas good enough, was I making enough sense? Had I really read through the more crucial chapters again and actually gotten a feel for what was going on, so I knew the tone to start off with? How was my pacing?

Every question just came at me. I didn’t want to accept it, but I couldn’t deny it, either.

More commonly known as Writer’s Block, it sucks. And sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about it but let it pass and relax and not worry until it leaves you the hell alone. Trying to force it away may or may not do something for you.

Even now, I’m having a hard time getting through this. I question my credibility and my ability and whether or not I’m getting off topic or staying on track. Everything is questioned, because I don’t know if I should trust myself or not just by plowing through something. Quieting those questions can be harder because there’s always a nag at the back of your head wondering if you’re doing it right, and that you don’t want to have to overhaul it completely…

It’s the Hot Mess Express, and I’m the conductor, apparently.

But it makes sense, when I think about it boiling down to trust. Trusting myself and what I do and how I do it makes me less likely to move forward. Friend has been having a particularly nasty case of writer’s block as well, where he’s very uncertain of himself. Along the same lines, where he wants it to look good and be a long, great read, but it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot for him to live up to with every piece and he’s not trusting himself to simply write and come up with something, at all, that’s readable.

The big hurdle here is to let go of all of those insecurities and just do it. Forget everything holding you down and just go. But that is much easier said than done.

Hopefully my NaNoWriMo experience won’t be this terrible. I’m looking to do just as well as last year, if not better. I just have to find a story I want to write…

-The Novice Wordsmith

 

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Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

The Fires of Passion: Part 2

The first part of this post, was meant as a reply to the Charlie Hebdo attack, but also as a segue into the topic of letting your heart help you write. To say that what you believe in, or what makes your heart race, the ideas that make your eyes light up and keep you awake at night, can be one of the best vehicles for your writing.

The opposite of this is hating what you’re writing and dragging your feet through it. “It wrote itself” versus, “I am so glad this is over.”

There’s the unmistakable joy of a frenzy of writing because you love it and because you want to, because something about the topic speaks to you. Fiction, non-fiction, journalism, memoirs, biographies, whatever it is, there’s pieces that capture you and don’t let go.

“It writes itself” when you’re on fire, when you can see the scene in front of you clearly and you’re in love with the view. From where you’re sitting, you should be able to blast through whatever comes up, and by the time you’re done, probably you’ll be stunned at the volume you accomplished in the amount of time you did it.

Even if the story doesn’t lay itself all out to you at once, isn’t to say you have no passion, either. With excitement comes a varying degree of push and desire, controlled by a few factors including how important the piece is, how strong the different scenes are playing in your head, and what you feel about the scene or scenes themselves. Why not add in if it’s a big project, with it’s intimidation, mild or not, and if you know you’re looking to publish, the worry you get from making sure everything is perfect.

My personal view on the other side of this, the sluggishness, has always been to change something. Figure out what’s got you stuck and move things around. Find a way to dig yourself out of the rut. In those cases that you can’t, which I experienced first hand in November, you just have to hunker down and find a way through.

With gusto behind your words, all things are possible. Your stories can take you where you want to go if you let them, if you get out every bit of care and painstaking effort that you can muster. Zest peppering each paragraph and verse puts more weight and meaning into the words that are taken down and consumed in reading.

Because if you don’t like what you’re writing, who’s to say the reader will?

-The Novice Wordsmith

**PS for those interested in half of what inspired this post, you can read the quote by Ray Bradbury here, which is part of an essay he wrote about the same thing.

Rush Hour

The holidays are a prime example of ‘not enough hours in the day,’ typically if you have a lot to do. Family to visit and helping with dinner usually means that you don’t get much time to yourself, if any, outside of turkey naps or food comas. If you’re the one cooking and setting up, even less time is given.

The clock becomes a race instead of a stationary figure, and you’re making sure throughout the day that everything gets done and prepared on time. Did you start the casserole early enough? Should you have pre-baked the pies last night? Crap, I can’t find the pickles and olives, oh… thank god, there they are. Now I can start wondering when to take the ham out of the oven…

In the midst of it all, the day becomes, rightfully so, about your holiday and how well it’s going to go instead of any obligations you may have held up. So, instead of worrying about having enough time to get that bodyweight exercise out of the way, you can devote all of your time to worrying about getting grandma from the nursing home on time.

At the end of the day, you might have a few hours to yourself. Holidays are synonymous with ruining streaks of anything, but what about writing? Where does ‘just a little’ become ‘too little to be acceptable’?

I’ve purposely allowed myself to revise a few old stories simply to keep up the streak. I go through and end up finding a few things I didn’t like anyway, but I have also only edited a few words before and let that be it because of whatever reason. Busy or my head wasn’t in it or something to that effect.

It becomes a struggle between semantics and meaningful effort, at that point. There can be a 200 wordcount daily to-do on your mental list, but how much do you put into it, and how much is simply getting it out of the way because it’s in the way in the first place?

I could go into a whole other post about meaningful words and fluff during Nano, but I’m not going to. Instead, I will say that it can be difficult to see the purpose and keep up with actual effort that makes a difference when you have bigger things to worry about, or limited time. Especially, in the case of this post, holiday arrangements and obligations.

Finding something that captures your interest, whether it’s new or old, can sometimes be the key. Go searching. Think about where your head is at. Write something about the holiday’s impact on a character. Do something reflective. If you can only get out the few hundred words and need to rush off, there’s still the chance to come back to it later, but don’t let yourself forget about it. Or, keep it for all of the other holidays. Come back to it when you have limited time.

Whatever you can do to make it go quickly, or if you need to focus because it’s been a long, eventful day and you finally have some time to yourself before it ends. Even swift can still make a difference, if you want it to.

On that note, I hope everyone enjoys their holiday, or has enjoyed it (I’m in NA, so I’m late for everyone on the other side of the world)! I hope it is (has been) plentiful, and that you get everything done just like you wanted to! Don’t stretch yourself too thin!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Specialty

Writing from the heart isn’t difficult when you do it so often. Even easier, at times, is writing something for someone you love or care for. This manages to come well in handy during the holiday season or for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

I found years ago that writing, like painting, is an acceptable medium of which to gift someone something. It’s personal, it’s creative, and it’s intimate. It is an expression of how you know that person in some ways, an inside joke expansion, or maybe it’s just something you came up with that reminded you of that person.

For some time, I’d felt a little self conscious about the idea. I always saw it as being able to gift someone a gift made from personal creativity should have been limited to things that didn’t take too much effort on their part. For the people who don’t care for reading, pictures, drawings, photos, sculptures, a craft, something you can touch and hold.

Having a story, a poem, a chapter dedication, a character description, specifically made for someone is just as special as a crocheted hat that you had to do and redo and redo about five times in five hours. It comes from your hands and your heart, it’s crafted, from you, special, with that person in mind specifically. You gave your time and your effort and your care to make sure that it was nurtured and put together just how you felt it would be right.  It was made perfect because you made it so.

Consider your passion when you gift. Do it for everyone or just a few people. Do it for your lover, or your sibling, do it for the neighbor who has been having a tough time recently. Most of all, do it because you can, and because you want to.

The person’s interest still matter, I realize; you wouldn’t gift someone a huge story who doesn’t care to read, but someone who you know will appreciate your effort in that regard. Writing may be a fickle gift to give in some cases, but it’s certainly more personal than a tie, which is why it’s sometimes my favorite gift to give, to certain people. ❤

Also, one of the best things about writing something for a gift is that it’s FREE! So if you’re broke (like me), it’s perfect! This way you can be thoughtful and savvy! Who doesn’t love that?

In conclusion, it’s the thought that counts, so why not bring it to life?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Out of Sync

Korielle sighed as she leaned back, running a hand through her hair and crossing one long, lean leg over the other in a show of seduction. “I guess I’ll just have to–

Crumple, erase, backspace until it’s gone. Sigh, stare at the screen or paper, purse of the lips. Wait. Think. Try again.

She looked out of the window with a forlorn expression, despite letting the jacket fall off her shoulders and showing long expanses of bare arms. “I’ll find a way,” she said. “I alwa–

“Dammit,” sigh, stand up, walk around, wait. Stare. Think. Wonder.

Being out of sync with your character or story is not only one of the most frustrating things you can encounter, but it’s hard to find where you are on the line that separates, “I should step back and wait,” and, “I need to hunker down and figure this out.” You know something is wrong, but how do you re-align yourself with your hero again to finally see what they really want to do?

Or… Is it more than that? Are they the ones acting out of character? Is there no other way for them to feel for this scene, where they want to jump the bones of another despite your wanting the scenario to go a different direction?

I’ve experienced both, really; where a character runs into a situation head on that I never expected, and it turns into something bigger than I could have imagined, and on the same token, I’ve created bad circumstance simply because I wasn’t so with it on that day. I’ve scrutinized a piece of writing over and over until I’ve felt it was right.

I’m reminded of a small piece of advice I learned, of little mistakes. “Just run with it.” It’s not so easy some times, though, when you have to be conscious of what’s better for the story or not. Smaller things can be passed off, but the bigger things take a lot of consideration, and some days, it’s harder to tell what lines up and what would make a better story.

As I’ve said I don’t know how many times, it’s difficult to take a step back. Forcing things often can make them worse, but letting things alone and just waiting for them to settle can take time and patience that even saints don’t have. Well, maybe not so much patience, but it does take a lot to be able to accept that you need to set your hands down, maybe watch a movie or play a game, do some other work, and just let your head reset for what you’ve been working on.

Seeing that you aren’t writing a character to par can be the first sign of that, too. Doubting yourself makes it worse, and then you keep digging and trying to make something work and it’s just frayed ends and bad wires. Don’t overwork it. Doing too much can make things worse, too.

Sometimes, after being able to find the voice of the character well enough, glancing back at what you were hedging on before might provide you with new ideas and an expansion to the one you had come up with when things weren’t all lined up.

One thing I’ve found that helped me recently was doing practice-writes, putting two characters together and just feeling out the scene without really intending to get anywhere. Such as Friday’s post said, don’t edit anything, no revisions, just write. If you need the practice, if you feel like you’re not getting the voice right, having a quick, easy scenario can sometimes be best for a writing-equivalent rough sketch.

The best part about being out of sync with your slew of characters is that it’s temporary. It just takes time away and some searching, but usually it doesn’t last too long and you’re back in the game. I’ve found that the best is not to force something that isn’t able to go te way you want it to.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Walking Around the Writer’s Block

The irony of this post for me right now is that I’ve spent so many hours trying to figure out how to write it, if I should, and if not, what should I write instead. For that reason, it’s a perfect candidate, and I’ll use it as an example.

There are plenty of reasons why one gets writer’s block in the first place. It’s a lack of motivation in what’s up next, it’s apprehension for tackling it initially, or it’s not knowing what to do or say, if the style you’re using is the right one, or if your word choice could use work. It’s worry, either too much or not enough, not being excited enough about what to do or not having enough of an idea of where to go.

For me, I have to have an outline of where I’m going, I have to have a clue. When I finally sit down, I want to know where the words are going to take me, to see the outline, to know how vague it is and what kind of limits I have or don’t have. Sometimes, giving me carte blanche  is overwhelming, and other times, it’s like giving me a playground and telling me that I don’t have a curfew and that it’ll be bug-free after the sun goes down.

I have the pleasure this month of writing a story with my best friend for the Camp Nanowrimo* event. The problem here is that we’re two totally different writers when we have a month of daily writing ahead of us. He’s what you’d call a “panster,” or someone who writes the story as it comes to him, and I have to have as much organization and outlining as I possibly can. What happened in the beginning of the month was that I stalled out, to a point, that when the clock started, where I usually start sprinting, I walked at a light pace, because I didn’t know what was ahead of me.

My comfort level is such that I find a block, a halting point, when I don’t know where I’m going. For others, especially my friend, it’s no problem. Though I’ll admit that as soon as I had a basic starting point, I went with it, and we have yet to fall into a huge plot hole (thankfully).

Other signs of writer’s block definitely include feeling like writing is a chore. When it gets to that point, look for other ideas of how to handle the situation that you’re dealing with. What is the character going through, is there a better way to do it? Is there a way that would be less detrimental, is the difficulty in the fact that you don’t like the idea, or because you’re not sure how to start it?

Getting overwhelmed is easy, too, if you have a huge project ahead of you. Such in the case of exam week, “I have so much to do, I think I’ll go take a nap.” Take the nap, though, relax, and try to break it into smaller segments, do what you can to make the big thing less scary, so you can give it a hug and keep moving through the story.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was just starting to get more serious about writing was to “just write.” I was originally very worried that I wasn’t going to be able to put visualization to what I had in my head correctly, and I shied away from writing for a long while for that reason. The best thing to do is to get it out any way you can, even if it’s small, a short scene with a couple of lines of dialogue.

In example; I’d had a scene in my head from January that kept prodding me. The problem with getting it out was that there was nowhere to go with it. It was a simple scene of one character saying something to another in a desert, but what made it stand out was the intensity between them, and what brought them together.

What I graced over lightly earlier was that my issue with finally getting this post out was that I couldn’t figure out what to say. I didn’t know how to say it or what sort of tone was going to be appropriate. I tried to make a very flowery entrance work for a couple of hours, and then promptly gave up for something more casual. I’m mostly certain people would rather read something by someone who speaks in a way they can relate to than someone who goes on in the most poetic way possible. Which, by the way, is the furthest thing from natural for me on a regular basis.

Whatever your poison is, there’s an antidote for you, whether it’s finding other ways to go about your scene or scenes, taking a break, or pushing forward. All it takes is a little effort, and some desire to keep going.

– The Novice Wordsmith

* Camp Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is an event that takes place in two months out of the year, in spring/summer, dedicated to revisions and writing whatever your heart desires, you set the goal. http://campnanowrimo.org