Category Archives: Day Jobs

The Case Against NaNoWriMo

I started off this month intending to talk about ways to help your writing by shutting out the world, a thing that seems increasingly difficult to do these days. Instead: heresy! You writers of delicate constitution, turn away now! For I am about to reveal to you the case against participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Sure, NaNo’s intentions are pure: provide a structured and semi-competitive environment to get writers writing. What could be wrong with that? Well, frequent readers of my posts at Fictorians will know that I set a lot of store by each writer figuring out what works for them and following that.

And the thing is, for some writers, cranking out 50,000 words in a month is either not doable, or, more likely, not recommended.

Once upon a time, shortly after my very first trip to Superstars Writing Seminar, I wrote the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in under three months. I left the seminar more inspired than I’d every felt about my writing, and was determined to prove that I could write a novel faster than my first, which took … well, it took a long time. For this second book, I averaged 10,000 words a week, more than a thousand a day. That’s not quite NaNo speed, but it’s close, and it continued well past one month.

I wound up with a completed first draft, a feat I was immensely proud of. The problem? It was utter trash, and even worse, I was so burned out I didn’t plop down in front of the keyboard again for several months. When I did, rather than cleaning up the draft, which I frankly couldn’t bear to look at again, I started work on my actual second novel, which I still plan to show the world someday. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to fix up that three-month draft. In the end, I’d done what I set out to do, but I’d cranked it out so fast and with so little consideration I ended up with something I had no motivation left to finish. I’d burned too bright, Blade Runner-style.

Flash forward a couple of years to the only time I’ve ever truly done NaNo as it was meant to be done, with a new book and all fresh writing. That time, I worked on the first draft of a book that would that would never see the light of day. Starting to notice a pattern? I certainly did. Apparently, when I force myself to write too fast, I end up with books I hate.

As with all good rules, there’s an exception. When I was working on Ungrateful God, I had an editing deadline I had to hit, and I burned myself out doing it. I was pleased with the result this time, but it required a lot of edits once I got it back, edits I wasn’t able to get going with for several months. The pattern again.

I’ve finally learned my lesson. So long as I have a day job (hint-hint, potential fans!), I can only write so fast without burning out. Push it too much past that for too long, and my creative river dries up whether I like it or not.

NaNo is a great motivator for a great many writers. I’ve even participated since that first time, but I relax the rules for myself. Edited words count. Working on a different project (or, say, a blog post for Fictorians) counts. Even if all I do in a given day is some mental planning out of scenes or chapters or arcs, that counts. Because the point of NaNo isn’t to rigidly adhere to an arbitrary set of rules. It’s to provide you a little motivation to get writing in the form of your friends who are doing the same thing. Whether that’s 50,000 works, 500,000 words, or 500 words, the point is the same. Remember: even one word is better than zero.

So take a seat behind the keyboard and, without worrying about how many, see if you can crank out some words this month. C’mon, everybody’s doing it!

 

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Working the floor…

This month I’m afraid I don’t have much experience to draw on for my blog post. I’ve attended exactly one writing related convention in my life. And that was Denver ComicCon in 2015. I was invited to participate because of my Superstars Writing Seminars attendance in February of 2015, and at the time I was living on a separation package from being laid off, so I had time to kill. I agreed, even though I had no books to sell and would mostly be doing the grunt work of hauling books, selling other author’s books and trying to get the public to buy books.

It was also a chance to network with some actual published authors, which is valuable in itself.

There is some work to do pre-convention to set up the booth, but that’s about as interesting as it sounds. So I’ll focus instead on the activities on the actual convention floor.

The first thing I was asked to do was to distribute leaflets directing people to the booth itself. The meant walking the line of incoming attendees as they waited to get inside, and handing out the leaflets. For a natural introvert like me, that was stressful enough, but I managed to get through it.

Then I was back behind the booth, using an iPad with a card-reading device to take orders. That wasn’t too bad either. Then I was asked if I would be willing to “work the floor.” Which meant moving out from behind the booth, into the milling mass of feverish fandom. Right there with the cosplayers and the hardcore fan base.

So I waded in. Again, my natural introversion makes this sort of thing very difficult for me. On top of that, I tend to dislike being approached myself in such situations, so I felt more than a little hypocritical even attempting to engage with the public.

But I try my best to fulfill my obligations, so I buckled down and did my best.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I couldn’t help but notice your Star Wars T-shirt. Are you a fan? You are? That’s great, I remember standing in line for the first one back in 1977. Say, if you like Star Wars, you would probably really enjoy these books set in the Star Wars universe…”

Or

“Hi there, that’s an awesome steampunk outfit you’ve got there. Do you like steampunk novels? You do? Well, come on over here, because I think you’ll like this.”

Over and over, for hours. Sometimes you get the cold shoulder. Sometimes you get the “are you flirting with me” gaze, but mostly people are willing to check things out and over time, the sales accumulated. It was amazing to see how well it worked. But that’s mostly because the product I was selling, was a solid product. In many cases the author of the books I was directing people toward were behind the booth, so I could increase the effectiveness of the pitch with:

“Oh, you like the look of this one? Well, if you have any questions, the author happens to be right here, and I’ll be glad to introduce you.”

That leads to signed versions of books being sold, and that usually makes everyone happier.

I’d like to do more convention work. I’d like to sell my own books at a convention. Unfortunately I still haven’t been able to get away from the reality of a day job that is still paying the bills.

But someday. Hopefully soon. 🙂

I Work Out

For the last decade, with life after college and kids and long hours of building a career, I put some other things on the back burner, like my health. Occasionally, I’d get sick of fast food and energy drinks and commit to a diet. But they were always short lived. More recently, I faced the music. I got a gym membership and a gym bag and changed my lifestyle. Now, I work out.

At first it sucked. I hated it. I told myself that i didn’t have to do much, just show up. It was okay to even just get in the pool and float. Every day I added a little more to the routine. After a week I started making it hurt. Then I got a personal trainer and things really started to hurt.

Now, two months later, it’s every day. I’ve got my routine. My stays of 15 minutes before now extend to an hour or more. And it’s shown. I’ve lost 30 pounds. I’ve put on some muscle. And I’ve got plans to lose a bit more. I’ve got momentum. I enjoy my mornings. If I miss my routine, it nags at me the rest of the day.

Writing isn’t any different other than it is undoubtedly more enjoyable than lifting weights. Just about every article this month, (and there have been many wonderful articles) have mentioned the importance of writing daily. Start off slow, just a few words. Join the 100 club: 100 words for 100 days. Reality is, that more often you write the easier it gets to tap into your muse. 100 words isn’t anything.

Many can write 1000 words in an hour. Do that every day and after 3 months, you’ve got a novel. That’s one hour a day for 3 months. Easy peasy.

While working out I struggled to write. It was difficult to find the time where I’d spend an hour at the gym nearly every day. I listened to several novels through Audible, but couldn’t find time to write. Until a couple weeks ago I started with just a few minutes everyday after my workout session, writing while eating breakfast. That has expanded now and soon I expect to produce at least 1000 words a day. So check back in with me in a few months to see when that novel will be finished. I’ve got me some momentum.

 

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.

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.