Category Archives: Your Writing Environment

Momentum in the Real World

This month is supposed to be all about how to build and keep momentum. But I must admit that right now I feel sort of like a phony talking about all my amazing momentum hints and tips. Because I’ve been pretty low on the momentum scale for the past year or so.

That’s because life.

Two years ago, I had crazy dreams of being a full-time writer. I had the luxury of living off a separation package that provided a good income for most of a year, and I used that time to hammer out my War Chronicles trilogy. Or most of it. It turns out that making a living as a writer isn’t something that I was able to just turn a key, and bang! I’m a successful writer!

Don’t get me wrong, I did very well with my trilogy. I got an audio publishing contract to go along with my self-published e-book, and between the two of them, I did quite well for a first-time author without a standard publishing contract. I’m proud of what I accomplished.

But in the end, I had to go back to work. Full time. With additional hours quite often. And that meant I had to learn the new job, and learn an entirely new sort of programming to go along with it. Which meant long evenings and weekends taking online programming classes and writing code to learn how it all actually worked. I am one of those who learns by doing, so I had to do it.

On top of that, we had just purchased a lot on a lake, and built a house. The house was finished about ten months ago. Well, “finished” is a relative term. The basement and landscaping weren’t finished. I had to do all that myself. Which meant lots of long nights and weekends focusing on house finishing tasks, which are still not completely done, and I am just now really getting into the landscaping side. So that’s also lots of long nights and weekends.

So, in the past ten months, I’ve managed to write only about 40,000 words on my current novel.

And you know what? That’s probably pretty good for the circumstances I’ve been in. Even if it does come out to roughly three hundred words a day. Because at the very least, I’ve kept at it. And what I have written, I think, shows a lot of growth from my previous writing. I learned a lot from my first experience as a writer.

But I can’t really call that “momentum” in the sense that most of these articles mean. But sometimes I think that “momentum” of the sort I’ve managed can be just as important as pounding out a thousand words a day, day after day, to the tune of three or four books a year.

Because I’ve never considered giving up on my dream. It’s just been prioritized against some other very important priorities, and I’ve made steady, if slow, progress.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, in the context of momentum, is that the most important aspect of momentum may not be how many words you write each day. It may be more important that you just maintain the dream, and even when it is incredibly difficult to find the time to write, you manage to carve out evenings or weekends when you pick up where you left off, dust off your keyboard, and pound out another scene. And another. My output may have been a trickle, instead of a flood, these last ten months, but that trickle has never dried up. I’ve never lost track of the story, and when I do find the time to write, it feels great to put another chapter behind me.

And that’s the thing that really matters. Writing, as important as it is to me, is not my entire life. Other things matter, and sometimes they matter more than writing. But as my time has become freer since completing some major projects, I’ve been improving my word count, and I feel like that will continue. I’ll get this story done. And another. And another. It just may not be as fast as I would like, that’s all.

Reset

Guest Post by Connie Schultz

This past year was a rough one for me; full of changes and growth and not nearly as much writing as I would’ve liked, I can sit here and tell you until I’m blue in the face that I did the best I could with what I had. But now I can show you. I can stick my money where my mouth is, and show you how worth it all of the challenges of 2016 were to me.

Behold the New Year’s mindset.

It’s got a sort of magic all its own, doesn’t it?

As I sit here writing this, the second day of 2017, bookstore attendants running around me (I can’t write at home—one of many things I discovered about myself last year), I can’t help but be excited by the idea of a new slate. And I certainly hope that this isn’t just me. Because this is more than just a time for me to prove that I can measure up to my goals and expectations for this year.

It’s your time to prove this to yourself as well.

As we step further into January, here are some ways to go about taking this new chance, and owning this fresh clean canvas we’ve all been given.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

I’m still learning this one myself, to be honest with you. It’s hard, and more often than not I feel slightly dumb when I think about this, and then think about all the people pushing themselves to new heights, but this is a pivotal point to wrap your head around. It’s not easy doing new things, and growth takes time. How much harder will it be if you’re criticizing yourself every time you make a mistake?

  1. Set Aside Time Periodically to Make It a Habit

This is something you’ve probably heard several times, especially in regards to writing. J.K. Rowling once said to “be ruthless about protecting writing days,” and even if it’s just thirty minutes a day, or an hour on Sundays, I agree heavily that that is essential. Even if you have non-writing goals, be ruthless about protecting them. Write down what you want to complete over and over again as many times as it takes until you think about it so much that you’re dreaming about it at night. And then go do it.

  1. Never Give Up

Sometimes this is easier said than done. To keep going with a project idea when you just aren’t getting anything is hard. I’ve been there several times. It’s hard to not look down on yourself because you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. But sometimes the only way to get around something, is to walk straight through it. Don’t let yourself give up just because you run into what feels like a brick wall. Grab your climbing gear and start pulling yourself up, because sometimes that’s the only way to continue moving forward.

  1. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Writing is meant to be an enjoyable act. It’s taking the weird in your brain and making it tangible for all the world to see. It’s giving the inner child in you as much candy as you dare, and letting them run. As much as it can feel like work at times, and as much as part of it is work, don’t forget why you love this. Because at the end of the day, that’s why all of us stick around. Enjoy yourself. Love what you’re doing.

As much as some this probably feels like a rehash of the same old advice you’ve read a thousand times before, I think it’s important to hear all of this again. Because we’re human, and humans tend to have difficulty remembering things from time to time. Especially the things that can sometimes be vital to our sanity. So I hope that as you continue this month, typing or biking or sweating or whatever-else-you-plan-on-doing away, you come back to this. And maybe you smile, or maybe you sniff and click out of the window. But you’re here for a reason, and I admire you for remembering that.

Happy writing. And Happy New Year.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed as of late, is that there’s a distinct difference between waking up one morning to the realization that you’re just one day closer to the end of the month, and waking up to realize you’ve lasted another full rotation around the sun. Part of it, I think, is the hype we silly humans place on it—New Year’s and New Year’s Eve parties are the next big focus after Christmas, and boy do they come fast. The part that gets to me the most, though, is that this is another chance to make things how I want them to be. And even more personally, to become the writer and author I so strongly want to be.

My name is Connie Schultz, I’m 18, and currently attending community college to attain my bachelor’s in journalism. I love fantasy and science fiction, but if the blurb on the back catches my attention, I will read just about anything. Eventually I would like to write novels full-time, but if I happen to write articles for science magazines/anything else involving science, I wouldn’t mind that either.

Some of my favorite things: J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, Star Trek, Veritasium, Philip K. Dick, Neil Gaiman, Stranger Things, and also dogs, chocolate, and orange juice.

When Crap Hits the Fan

A Guest Post by Karen Pellett

There are two major rules to being a better writer: 1) read abundantly (especially in the genre that you are writing), and 2) participate in critique groups.

In 2016, both of those rules went out the window and run over by a bus. And both for the same reason. Life happens.

Five years ago, I attended a conference at my local library with other writers where were guided in the art of critiquing. The group I was a part of clicked so well, that by the end of the day we agreed to keep a good thing going. Thus, C.R.A.P. (Creative Rockstar Author People) was formed. For the next four years, we met at each other’s homes, chowing down and glorious cookie pizzas and hummus while providing feedback on each other’s works in progress. Sometimes we laughed so hard my stomach hurt for days afterwards.

The beauty of C.R.A.P. was the individuals that made up the group: Betsy was a genius at snark, voice, point of view shifts, and story mashups, Jessica was a savant at description, plot gaps, and setting, and T.J. was the grammar guru, character flaws, and the one who ensured that we did honor to our male characters. Their feedback was incalculably valuable. Our brainstorming sessions enlivening. Their friendship immeasurable. And, they provided the perfect counterbalance to another critique group which I am a part of. My writing was propelled to higher levels as a direct result of being a member of these groups.

Then 2016 happened and our worlds were tossed about on the tempest of life. We lost one member to a move across the country. Another, changed jobs and had a new baby join their family. Two of us had family members diagnosed with cancer. As for me . . . well, let’s just say that I’m the magnet for insane life complications, so we’ll just skip what happened to me last year.

As a direct result, C.R.A.P. hit the fan and we stopped meeting. We planned on Skyping our meetings in a vain attempt to keep the group intact, but each time we had to reschedule. It took many months before I realized that since, we stopped I had not written anything new, nor had I read a single book for enjoyment. I still attend the other critique group, but always arrived with previously written works that needed drastic editing help. I was in severe writing depression and this other group was my lifeline.
But I missed C.R.A.P. They had become family.

So how do you replace family? You don’t. There will always be a place on my calendar the next moment we can all get online to meet. But I needed that counterbalance. I personally needed that second stash of writers to enhance and expand on the information gained from my one remaining critique group. I felt like an orphaned writer wandering the streets of literature town begging, “Please adopt me.” But my heart wasn’t in it.

Instead, it was time to start over; start fresh. Over the last few months some of my friends have asked me what to look for in a critique group. My advice: 1) you must be open to others criticizing your babies, 2) find a group with a blend of backgrounds and writing styles, 3) your partners should inspire and improve your writing, not tear you down, and 4) it is okay to say no thank you.

A successful critique group must work well together. But how are you supposed to know that if you have never worked with these individuals before? In talking to another critique member, we agreed on a plan. We sent out notices to those individuals who’d expressed interest in being part of a new group. As part of the selection process we requested that these individuals email submissions of their works in which we would read and provide feedback on. Then, we asked them to do the same for us. Afterward, we would make a group decision. Could work as a team for the greater good? If yes, then we have a new beginning for the new year. If not, then we would utilize our Get out of jail Free card and start the process over again.

Will it work? I sure hope so. Because writing is my therapy and my critique partners my support group.

Will I give up on C.R.A.P.? Never. I will never give up on family.

Karen Pellett:

Karen Pellett is a crazy woman with a computer, and she’s not afraid to use it. Most of her time is spent between raising three overly brilliant and stinkin’ cute children, playing video games with her stepsons, and the rare peaceful moment with her husband. When opportunity provides she escapes to the alternate dimension to write fantasy & magical realism novels, the occasional short story, and essays on raising special needs children. Karen lives, plots & writes in American Fork, Utah.

Stop Writing!

My goodness, that’s an interesting title to find on a website devoted to helping writers improve their craft. It’s an easy thing to tell someone to just sit down and do your best to get as many words on the digital paper, and for most folks that’s the secret they’ve been trying to avoid.

For others, sometimes it’s important to know when you should focus on other things.

Medical Issues

This one caught up with me in a big way for the past year. It’s important to take care of yourself when you’re younger. The older you get, the tougher it is to fix the old chassis. In some extreme cases you may find you have to have defective parts removed, such as an appendix. In other extreme cases, one may require spare parts to be installed, such as a new kidney or a sense of humor.

My issues include heart problems that put me in the hospital twice in the last thirty days, plus the slow deterioration of other important things like kidneys and joints. I now usually walk with a cane, which is not what I was expecting.

If you can, go to those doctor appointments even if you think you’re feeling fit as a fiddle. Sometimes a fiddle string can be on the verge of snapping, and it takes a practiced eye to spot it.

If you have persistent aches and pains, go find out what is causing them. It may be something as simple as bad posture or something that a chiropractor can adjust. It may be something more sinister lurking under your skin.

Ibuprofin, Tylenol, and Naproxen Sodium are not cures for pains. They mask the symptoms. Finding out the cause is the best method for long-term relief.

If it hurts your arms, wrists, hands, or fingers to write or type, stop doing it. You can take a break to let your appendages recover. I have repetitive motion issues, particularly in my left arm and wrist. I am in the process of switching over to dictation as my writing method. It takes a while to get used to it and to train the software.

Mental Issues

Personal mental health problems are tough to deal with, especially when one goes from twenty eight years of marriage to two years of living alone. Depression is a tough foe to battle. Find a therapist you can afford when you need one. I’m still waiting to see one from the Veterans Administration, but I’ll get to see one eventually. Hopefully they’ll be competent, but sometimes it is hit and miss with the VA.

Don’t get sidelined by the stigma of talking to a professional. Sometimes just talking is enough to get you through some of the tougher spots in life. Get it taken care of now instead of when it’s a life-threatening emergency.

Family

It’s easy to get sidetracked with writing deadlines (or your occupation in general) and forget to do things with your family. This will come around and bite you in your later years. Go play catch with your daughter or kick the soccer ball around. Take some time off to go to the beach or some other inexpensive day trip. The kids won’t remember how much you spent on them, but they will remember the time you were there. This is particularly tough if you happen to be in the military, but do the best you can when you’re not deployed.

Work on issues with your spouse when the problems are small. They will grow with age, just like a mutant troll who feeds on your trash and lives in your basement. If you don’t solve the issues when they’re relatively minor, you’ll be waging a war later on — or even sitting alone in a quiet house writing up posts for a website during Christmas week.

♦ ♦ ♦

This is a bit of a depressing blog post, but it is an important one for writers to hear and understand. Think of me as your Ghost of Christmas Past, pointing out the error of my ways in order that you don’t get bound by the same rattling chains I forged and attached to myself. Think about your future, since your life and your family are important pieces of your writing life.


Self-Promotion Time: I’ve been heading up a project called ConDB (http://www.condb.com), which is a convention database listing website geared towards authors, artists, and creative professionals. Stop by and check it out.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.