Category Archives: Write Whenever You Can

What Does It Take To Perform Under Fire?

I’ve been involved in the Martial Arts for over ten years. I have a black belt, and if I hadn’t become a writer on top of my day job I would be a second degree. But I got distracted by writing, and that’s that.

Belt tests are some of my least favorite parts of the martial arts. I love class. I love my lessons. I love punching and kicking and knife techniques and sparring and sometimes I pretend to love forms. But belt tests are a different animal.

In short, the instructors—who are usually cool people—turn into demons that are there to push you until you’re teetering on the edge of your endurance and sanity. I can do techniques all day long, but make me run around the building or scale a wall and I go to pieces. Other people lose it if they have to do defense techniques quickly, or spar more than one person. (Most people don’t do well with that, by the way.) Whatever it is, the instructors will find it. And then, once you’re barely standing and thinking about quitting, they ask you to do a form. Or spar. Or defend yourself from them.

On some level it’s awesome. Especially after you’re at the end looking back. There’s nothing like knowing that you did every single Defense Maneuver you have flawlessly against guys taller and stronger than you. Or that you didn’t get stabbed when they brought the fake knives out.

But in the middle of it, there isn’t time to think, and if you do think, it’s usually about how much some part of your body hurts. Sometimes that includes your brain.

I’m short and round and don’t look much like a black belt, but when I’m in practice, I’m pretty darn good.

And that’s the key to passing a test. Being in practice. Because if you’re in practice, then when a fist is coming straight for your face, no matter how tired you are, you will do something. It might even be the right thing. Either way, you won’t get hit, and the next moment the other guy will be on the ground and you’ll think, “Hey, that really works. Oh crap, there’s another guy coming.”

I feel like this relates to writing. Lately I’ve been extremely busy, and my writing has been suffering. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve thought about the fact that I’m out of practice. I work part time and write part time, but I haven’t been consistently writing. I work on marketing or editing or blogging or putting together a newsletter or a giveaway. I pour words onto the page when there is a deadline looming, but not every day. I’m out of practice. Which is silly, because I know how important it is to write each day, and yet I’m not doing it.

So that’s my suggestion. Write each day, even if it is just 200 or 500 words. Write something. Stay in practice. Get a list of writing prompts off the web if you don’t have any ideas on what to write about or you don’t want to work on your current work in process. That way, when the pressure comes, and it will come, you can crack your knuckles and go for it.

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.

 

Writing Short Articles for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a great time to build up a collection of short articles that you can schedule during the next year. It’s a reasonable method to build up your word count while simultaneously getting more blog posts.

Since my blog is about writing in general, I like to include how-to articles and other subjects useful to authors. My target for each post is around 500 words.

The first thing I have to come up with is a subject I haven’t written about. Lucky for me, I have a lot of folks who ask interesting questions. Many times I can get an entire blog post out of a single question. I also glean ideas from industry news and the regular mainstream media. The secret is to get an idea that you can cover in a short article without glossing over things or beating a dead horse.

Once I have an idea, I try to come up with two or three major points about that subject. For example:

NaNoWriMo for Beginners

1. Sign up on the website.
2. How to come up with an idea for a book or novella.
3. Writing until the cows come home (on November 30th.)

Conclusion

That took me all of two minutes. If it looks a bit familiar, it’s the method most US grade schools teach their English students when it comes to writing a paper. You can come up with ideas on subjects that you’re familiar with. If you like flowers, teach us what the colors of roses represent. If you like trucks, tell us why the 7.3 liter diesel engine was the best ever made. Start out with what you know, then begin to explore areas that you need to research. That will help you with worldbuilding and give your readers some variety.


 

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.

NanoWriMo Neophyte

Before getting into the meat of this post, I have three admissions to make.

  1. I have never participated in NanoWriMo.
  2. I won’t be participating in NanoWriMo this year.
  3. I may never participate in NanoWriMo.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t think NanoWriMo can be a very valuable activity. It’s just that my own circumstances never seem to align with NanoWriMo. For example, right now I am 65,000 words into a probably 90,000-word novel that I intend to submit for publication as soon as it’s done. By the time NanoWriMo kicks off, I hope to be pretty close to wrapping up that novel, and will be working on the other things that are required for a book to be publishable, including editing, drawing maps, getting cover art, etc.

By the time I get all that done, it might be Christmas. Hard to say. That mostly depends on how much editing is needed.

If I weren’t in the middle of writing a novel, NanoWriMo might make sense. But it is my current intention to be in the middle of writing a novel as long as I can put eyes to screen and fingers to keyboard.

Having said that, I do have some thoughts about NanoWriMo for those who do participate, from the perspective of moving a story forward.

The main advice I would have is to get an outline done before you start writing. The biggest thing that delays my writing is when I reach a point where I’m not entirely certain which direction the narrative needs to go. I’m not completely an outliner, I have a fair bit of “pantsing” in my writing, but having a map to follow generally makes it much easier to keep moving, and NanoWriMo is all about keeping moving.

To reach 50,000 words in a 30-day month, you need to average 1,667 words per day. That’s a manageable number of words to write, even if you have a full-time job and, say, a family or something. But it’s a lot more manageable if you aren’t having to figure out your next paragraph in the middle of your current paragraph.

The next bit of advice is good advice whether you are doing NanoWriMo or just writing in general, and that is to try not to worry that much about the quality of your writing while you’re hammering the story out. The most important part of writing is getting the basic story on paper so that you have something you can edit into something readable.

If you do manage to complete NanoWriMo and end up with 50,000 words, don’t let them just sit on your computer. Put a plan together to get that effort honed and polished into something you can submit to an editor. Get your work out there. Make all that effort worthwhile. Even if you don’t get it published, you will learn a lot from the experience, and every time you do, you’ll get a little closer to your goal.