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December 12th, 2012, 11:44 AM #1
Knock Me Into Shape (Writing-wise)
So, I'm not usually the type to come and ask for guidance or help. I usually dispense it, even if I don't particularly feel like I'm the best qualified person to do it. Anyway, I'm currently near(ish) the beginning of a new project. I previously got locked into a bit of a "fantasy rut" where I couldn't break free from a pretty standard sort of epic fantasy plot that wasn't sparking my imagination at all. I wrote a modern-day thriller for a while for my own enjoyment and then had an exciting idea for a fantasy story. So, I'm now back on familiar territory, writing a fantasy story that I actually feel enthused about. The writing is flowing out easily right now and brings me back to pre-2012, where I actually wrote more than one chapter of any project in question.
However, here is the point of my post. I'm really the only person who can keep myself on track. I know that. But if you have any pearls of wisdom or words of encouragement, no matter how harsh, I want to hear them.
Let's see if I can actually finish this story for once. Maybe someone else reading this will also benefit from your comments.
December 12th, 2012, 12:33 PM #2
Take the Fight Club view. Imagine a psychotic genius will kill you if you do not pursue your personal goals.
December 12th, 2012, 12:53 PM #3
Promise yourself something you really want, and make sure you're able to actually have it. When the story is written.
December 12th, 2012, 01:00 PM #4
Cirias, here's my pearl, or two cents, or idiocy, or whatever you'd like to call it.
I don't know how old you are. I'm 41, about to turn 42 in a couple of months. My writing stagnated for much of my adult life; I'd write a thousand words or so, all excited, and then I wouldn't touch it again for weeks, maybe months, if ever. I'd get what I thought were these great ideas, but when I sat down in front of the computer screen, I'd freeze. I don't think it was laziness, or an unwillingness to write. It was more of a, "You suck, Wilson, why bother? No one wants to read this stuff."
My words? No regrets. We have enough regret in our ordinary lives as it is: things we wish we would've said, or not said, people we wish we had known better, a left turn instead of that normal right we always took.
You're absolutely right, only you can keep yourself on track. Do you want to end up a 41-year-old guy who always wanted to be a writer without actually having to write? Days, weeks, months and then years will go by before you know it. Do it now, with no regrets, before you run out of time.
December 12th, 2012, 04:24 PM #5
- Join Date
- Dec 2009
- caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
I think you need to find what motivates you. Whether that is an award like Pete was saying (be it a new car to replace your old clunker, a piece of cake, tickets to that movie you want to see coming out in a few months, etc.) or an image of yourself years older, still wanting to do write but never having done so or even the image of a murderous lunatic running right toward you, you need to find and use that motivation.
For me, I have found that it is a public awareness, an announcement if you will, of an intended goal. In my writing life the thought of what others will think of me pushes me toward that goal. That was why I was so excited and upbeat about the monthly goal threads you, Pete, Wulfen and I have all participated in (sorry, Zachariah, can't remember if you were in any). It is also the reason I am so bummed that we aren't doing them anymore. My writing has definitely faltered as well. If you were motivated by those at all, there was a little discussion of restarting them in the 2012 Results and 2013 Goals thread. I think I killed that discussion though. But I'll let you go investigate if you want to know more on that.
Anyways, find what motivates you and then use it to do just that.
December 12th, 2012, 04:40 PM #6
Hard to give advice when I've never had this problem. Everything I do has "The End" tacked on sooner or later. Writing, for me, is a passion, obsession, and commitment. The day I just drop a book in mid-flight out of apathy is the day I'll know it's time to quit.
Do you have enough imagination to think up something new and interesting, or are you woodenly tacking together a formula? If your heart's not in the story, you've no business even starting. Are you writing, or simply going through the motions necessary to tell someone you're a writer? Ever heard of a chapter outline? That's a great way to see if you have a story or just a half-baked idea. Why? Because outlines end.
No confidence? Aw, gee. Get educated. Learn the basics. Practice. If after all that you still have no guts, then stop wasting your time trying to be something you aren't. The true mark of a professional writer, to me, is that they at least believe their work is good enough to pay for. Writing is not for the weak willed.
Yes, but I haven't got the ti...SQUIRREL! Ahem. There's this unpopular virtue called self-discipline. You know, the one that sets a schedule and keeps to it. Stays committed for the long haul. Learns the not-so-fun mechanics of writing. This is what gets "The End" typed out. Try it on for size. Wanna-be writers need not apply.
Heinlein once talked about this. Gave a big number of those who said they wanted to be writers and started whittling it down. I think he halved the number just by saying that most folks never even put pen to paper - just kept talking about it. By the time he got around to those who actually (gasp) finished the book, he was down to just a couple numbers. Got down to maybe one or two by sifting out the remainder who didn't have enough confidence to even submit their finished product.
So where do you want to be? Sure, I know that answer. That's why you're here, right? Here's the bigger question. Are you really a writer, or is the only fantasy the one playing in your head?
December 12th, 2012, 05:51 PM #7
There's no magic formula for the level or type of self-discipline that you need to get a novel out. It all comes down to what gets you, as a individual and a writer, writing and writing and writing some more.
For example, there's...well, me. Everything is in my head, all the characters, plot twists, settings, and even the jokes, a good portion of which is done on the fly as I type it up. Drafts? I have one pre-release draft, which just gets edited bit by bit as I go, and then I give it a good going-over near the end. Outlines? Nope, never done one.
Sounds like a formula for a train wreck, right?
I have two novels self-published. I started seriously writing halfway through 2010, got the first novel out in October 2011, and got the second one out earlier this month. I have plans to start work on a third (a sequel to the second) in January, and plan to finish it before the end of 2013. And all this while holding basically a full-time job, as well as writing stories for and helping our friendly neighborhood tmso get our little anthology out the door this year.
Pure mental discipline has gotten me this far, and hopefully I can go farther. But it's not for everyone. So ask yourself...what can help you keep yourself to the grindstone?
December 12th, 2012, 11:54 PM #8
My two cents:
1) Butt in chair
2) Write! Write when you feel like it. Write when you don't feel like it. Write when you're happy. Write when you're sad. Write when you feel good. Write when you're in pain. Write!
3) Don't give in to excuses.
4) Don't give in to distraction
5) Track your progress (I used an excel spread sheet that evolved throughout the year, yeah, it was distracting at times)
6) Hold yourself accountable. Set a goal, a target, a deadline. Stay focused on that goal, target, deadline
7) Reward yourself along the way as you hit milestones.
How'd this work for me? I set a goal to write 450,000 words starting from Jan 1st to Dec 31st. To date I've written 481,856 words with 19 days left to go! It's possible. Take it in small chunks and it's much easier than it seems.
Also, I plan to help relaunch the monthly motivation threads that were going on. I hope we get some participation. It'll be a hoot to see how others are doing and encourage people.
December 13th, 2012, 04:22 AM #9
Good responses from everyone, thanks for that!
In response to various comments above:
- I'm 24 years old, so that's young with respect to being published. However, I've been at this for 12 years, on-off, so I feel like it's getting late when it maybe isn't.
- I just became a father, so that's one big thing that could try to assassinate my writing. I won't let it, though.
- My biggest problem isn't finding time or being inspired by my story, but getting home and resisting working on my website or playing Xbox. Heck, I mentally plan and run through entire scenes during the day and driving to and from work, it's just getting it down on paper that I always find the challenge.
- I love writing. It's better than any of my other hobbies. It's great to write away and have the story pour from you. Plus, I love thinking up characters, places and those unexpected twists.
- I'll probably try the milestone thing. Break up my target word/chapter counts into small chunks and tackle them week-by-week.
As always, your advice has been really helpful and interesting to read
December 13th, 2012, 09:11 PM #10
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Northern California
- Blog Entries
Do we have a thread for you!
Join our crack team of word-masters that'll whip you into shape. We'll poke a needle in your eye when you need it (okay, maybe just PM you), we'll pander to your ego or beat it into submission (well, really, just cheer you on), we'll even eat your hat (no, we won't, but that was fun to write) to get you over your word count goals. Just sign here on the bottom line and leave the rest to us!
Coming soon, to a forum near you! :-)
That was lame.
Anyway, we are thinking of reviving the monthly goal threads we had going a while back. RedMage's in charge for January. Watch out for the thread.
We are also thinking of changing some things around in regards to the forum contests (prizes! shiny and new!) and maybe even continuing our anthology efforts (a chance to be "published"!). We'll see. Everything hinges on our collective enthusiasm - so get excited! :-D
December 13th, 2012, 11:36 PM #11
December 14th, 2012, 01:23 AM #12
- Join Date
- Dec 2009
- caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
The thread will be up on January 1! It might even be up January 1 at midnight, who knows ha hahaha!
(for more details about the return of the monthly goal setting/motivational threads, check out this thread. We're doing all our planning and dreaming there. You have ideas to make it even better, let us know over there!)
December 14th, 2012, 11:41 AM #13
Hiya Cirias-- You might try building it into your life as a social expectation. Tolkien's most productive years were the years in which the Inklings met twice per week for beer, discussion, translation and the reading of new works. I've spent the past two years in a writing group of only three people, meeting only once per week; but the simple fact that everyone expects a weekly chapter from me puts me on my honor to actually produce one.
This is no different than any other act of shared will. Those who wish to kick drugs or alcohol are well advised to join Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Those who want to be true to their physical exercise commitment are more likely to succeed if they have a standing date with a work-out buddy, a running buddy, or a golf foursome.
In the Buddy System, my motivation comes from several directions: I discover that I am on my honor to produce; the commitment evolves into being the most important date in my weekly social calendar; and (most importantly) my skill levels improve because my brain actually changes as it is constantly engaged in the desired activity. Being both presenter and critic increases my objectivity and my ability to take criticism seriously.
The Buddy System forces one to be honest. If I were to go six weeks without bringing something to the table, it would get progressively more difficult to lie to my friends -- thus it would become more difficult to lie to myself. My writing group began with five participants. Two had produced nothing for about three months. They're long gone, and that's okay... both for themselves and for those who remain.
Good luck. You're way too good a writer to walk away from it. -- WB