Category Archives: Finish It!

Back it Up

gibberishA few months ago, the fam had gone out of town, which meant I could get some serious writing done. I was zipping along when all of the sudden my words turned to what you see to the left.

I closed it down, opened it back up and nothing changed. Frantic, I called my IT guy and he walked me through a few things to try—still no good. I sent it to a couple other folks, tried a slew of suggested remedies, but nothing worked—It was gone.

Turns out the last time I had saved the file was about a month earlier. Also turns out I’d been really rocking on this project for the last month and so my previous version looked about 150 pages shy.

“Jesus Saves. You Should Too.”

I received this advice from a friend. He was right. It would have taken just a couple seconds to save the file—essentially sparing me a month’s worth of rework. I write on a laptop, so I never really shut down the computer. I did save it. I saved it often. But I never made a backup copy. I just saved on top of the old version making a new one.

I’m told that the file had grown so large (to about 4MB) that Word couldn’t handle it and wigged out and this had something to do with RAM.

Word sucks by the way, but it is part of my writing process. I haven’t been able to make Scrivener part of my process yet.

So now I save. I save everyday. Multiple times a day. In multiple versions. I saved a file today with 916 at the end, indicating to me that it is the version done in September 2016. I put a letter after 916 so I can go right on through the alphabet with different versions.

Now while this was extremely painful, and many of you probably winced at the thought, let me assure you that I got through it. After a night of depression, I awoke, determined to redo it. I spent the next two days writing. In the end, I caught up to where I was before my misfortune.

The new version was shorter by about 20 pages. And it was better. Only by the time I finished, I was spent on the project and my pantser mind went on to other things. I have yet to circle back to finish the dang thing.

Moral of the story:

  1. Safe often. Save in different names and locations. Email it. Flash drive it. Google Drive it.
  2. A rewrite can be a good thing.

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.

Write Like the Wind

A Guest Post by Gama Martinez

I have a rather ambitious release schedule this year. This Tuesday, March 29, Beastwalker, the third book in my Pharim War series gets released. After that, I’m releasing, on average, one project a month until the end of the year. Seven of those will be novels, and three will be short story collections. When I tell people this, the look at me like I’m crazy, but there are a couple of things I’m doing that make this much more bearable.

One of the most wonderful things the internet age has given me is the ability to write from anywhere. I save my manuscripts on my dropbox, which I can access from my computer, my tablet, or my phone. If I have thirty minutes in which I’m not doing something, it’s a simple matter to pull out my phone and add a hundred words or so to my latest project. It’s not the easiest thing to do on my phone without a keyboard, but a hundred words is a hundred words. They add up. I generally set aside at least three hours a day to write, usually at night, and during that time, I tend to write about twice what I did during the little chunks, but think about that for a second. A full third of my writing is done outside of my “writing time.” Doing this, I end up with a first draft in roughly a month.

That brings up an important point. I’ve learned to write in small time chunks. This took me a long time to learn how to do. Some people need time to make the mental transition into writing mode. It can be difficult to learn. There is one thing that really helped me overcome that, and that was realizing that it’s okay if my first drafts are terrible. They are full of plot holes. I frequently go five pages with nothing but dialog. I have major reveals that weren’t foreshadowed at all. I might have as many as thirty problems like that in a manuscript, though it’s rarely been that many. It’s the first draft so it’s fine. None of those things, by themselves, are that big of a deal. That’s the key point. Once I get to my revision phase, each of these problems might take me a day to fix. Most won’t actually be that long, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say each takes me a day. That means if I have my hypothetical first draft written in a month with thirty day long items to fix, I can have a viable draft in two months. It’s still not ready for submission, but 85% of the work is done. After that, its proofreading, beta readers, and editors. Each of those take time, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably won’t have a problem with that.

You also need to find what time works best for you. There have been cognitive studies that suggest the two halves of your brain fall asleep at different times. It varies from person to person. Some people write best early in the morning. I do late at night. Frank Herbert wrote part Dune in one hour chunks, sitting in his car during his lunch break. Multiple other have done similar things. Find when works for you.

Regarding writer’s block: I’ve already partially addressed it. Like I said earlier, it’s okay if your first draft is bad. That’s what the second draft is for. There is another school of thought on this that I don’t follow but that may be of use to you. Orson Scott Card says that when you have writer’s block, it means you’re subconsciously detecting something fundamentally wrong with what you’ve already written, and that you need to go back and fix it. I can understand that view. If there is something fundamentally wrong, your story could go off in a completely random direction, however, I am an outliner, and I always know where my story is going, that keeps me from getting too far off track. If you don’t outline, and you find yourself with writer’s block, you may want to go back and see if there’s something wrong you can fix.

There is one more thing I would like to point out. My process, the habits I’ve outlined above, work for me. It’s taken me a long time to reach this point. I started writing seriously nearly eight years ago. You probably won’t be able to read this post and churn out half a dozen books in the next year. It will take time to find your process, and that’s okay.

Gama Martinez:

Gama Martinez lives in the Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He is currently working on the Pharim War, a series about angels as well as The Nylean Chronicles, a new series about unicorns.

Managing the Attention Deficit Thingy

a-d-d-attention-deficit-disorder-funny-retro-posterI find little in life more enjoyable than discovering something new, a character, a world, a scene. I love watching how things develop as I discover write them. I’m what they call a Pantser. I wrote of my writing disorder a couple months ago in A Pantser’s Plight.

In one of David Farland‘s workshops he said something to the effect that discovery writing was to him the most enjoyable and the least productive. I have found that to be true. So I’ve worked hard to develop a plot, outline the direction, but I still discovery write the scenes. I’m finding that the story develops and takes life.

Just this past month I wrote a scene that I had loosely outlined for my protagonist who started a new job on Wall Street. As the scene unfolded, a cute red-headed receptionist entered the mix. And suddenly my protagonist took interest and next thing I know they’re digging on each other. I did not see that coming in my outline but it works nicely.

I developed two other characters who, according to my outline, were scheduled to be killed later on in the story. These characters have grown and become significant in the story. I’ve used them to bridge plot gaps and deepen side plots. Now I’m not sure I want to kill them off. I probably still will, but I could see some spin off stories developing, so I’m going to keep discovering where it goes.

This last month I’ve written about 30,000 words on the same book. I haven’t touched anything else. Not the two short stories, brewing in the back of my brain. Not the other three novels half finished. This is pretty significant for me and I wanted to share my newly acquired trick to stay focused.

The Problems

First, as I mention earlier, I get really excited about discovering something new and tend to lose interest in something that I’ve already figured out in my mind though I haven’t written it yet. This usually leads me to ping-ponging from project to project but never finishing anything.

Second, squirrel. I get easily pulled onto something else more exciting and I have a hard time focusing my mind on what it doesn’t want to focus on.

Third, sometimes I discover write my characters into a situation that just doesn’t work with the rest of the story and I get stumped. And sometimes my characters get into a situation they just can’t get out of.

The Solutions

First, I do a light outline to give myself direction. And I try not to over develop. When I do, it usually becomes cliche or boring.

Second, I noticed awhile ago that whatever book or movie or television show I was into would effect which of my projects my brain thought important at the moment. So, as I’m writing a financial thriller, I’ve tricked my brain to staying focused on this book by reading two John Grisham books, watching shows like Better Call Saul and movies like Wall Street. And more importantly I won’t let myself read or watch anything science fiction or fantasy related. It’s working quite well.

Third, I used to revere what my brain discovered as sacred. I credited inspiration. But I’m learning now that sometimes it’s crap and I need to chuck it out the window. I hated rewriting a scene that I had already thought out a different way and I still don’t enjoy it, but the end result makes it worth it. Sometimes I’ve got to suck it up and push through.

Funny thing, writing this post has gotten me excited to discover more on this particular project. It’s called Unknown Soldier and if I can keep it up, I’ll finish it in a couple more months.

 

jace 1I 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’ve got 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 visit my author website at www.jacekillan.com, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.

 

Making Tea…and time to write.

Here’s a stupid joke:
“How do you identify a writer in a crowd?”

You call out “Shut up and write!” and wait for them to wail back “But I don’t have the tiiime!”

Haha, I’m so funny.

But also, I’m that writer. We all are at times. We think, “Oh man, if I could just quit my day job, then all I’d have to do is write! I could wake up at the crack of dawn, grab some coffee after a nice brisk walk to get my blood flowing to the creative part of my brain, and just sit at the keyboard until lunch and bleed.”

Oh and how I dream, readers. I dream of this idyllic life. All that free time just to sit and write and write and write…

If that’d be the case, if I were so disciplined and motivated, on my days off of my Breadjob, I’d be doing that. I mean, wouldn’t I? 

But what do I do oftentimes? Get some coffee, sit down at my keyboard, and not write a single word.

Oh sure, I’ll type out some things on Facebook. To people. I can tell them all the words. I can tell them all about my story and my thoughts and my feelings and what happens in this particular scene. Meanwhile, my manuscript is sitting all alone in its little folder, quietly sobbing to itself and wondering why, if I love it so much, I tell other people and not it?

So what am I doing, really? Waiting for Calliope herself to descend to this mortal plane and wrap her arms around me, sing sweet hymns into my ears to inspire me? Not even inspire me, just tell me what to write! It’s not like writing is work or anything. Make her do all the work and complain when she doesn’t.

That’s the ticket to success right there.

JimCHines_Writethestory
One of the things that helps is to prioritize what needs to be done today, and what my needs are for the week. For example, on my days off from work, is it more important for me to recover and rest from whatever is going on and spend time on myself, or is it more important to get my deadline done for my long-term goals?

But in our drive to succeed, we can’t forget that we need to nourish ourselves. Not just our bodies with food and sleep, but our connections to the things and people we love. The story isn’t more important than the person writing it, and oftentimes seeking out new experiences or conversations will refill your creative well, so to speak.

Authors often talk of rituals that work for them, and you should find what works for you. I have mine, but they don’t always work.

For example:
“I’ll brew some tea. A little caffeine to help me focus. Also, tea.”
“I’ll just check Facebook while it brews!”
“…Aww those rat pictures sure are super cute.”
“A political argument? On the internet? This is important and I should join in!”
“Ooh, this article my friend linked is super interesting.”
“I should talk to them about it.”
“Well, they’re afk, so I’ll check on Wattpad.”
“Maybe another episode of my favorite TV show will inspire me…”
“Aww my friend is back! I love talking to friends!”
“Oh man! What time is it? Jeez, what have I been doing. I never have any time to write. I don’t know how other authors do it. It’s not fair.”
“I’m going to go write and be a Good Writer.”
“I should make some tea before I write.”
“…Oh.”

But the better one that works involves eliminating those distractions:

“I’ll brew some tea. While it brews I can look over what I have and edit the outline a bit more and organize what scenes I plan to get done.”
~Two Hours Later~
“Well, got 1,000 words done, about half the chapter. I’ll give it a look over tonight before I post it.”
“Didn’t I have some tea? I should make some tea…”
“…oh.”

When I get distracted, what gets me back on track is to realize how much time I’m wasting and eliminate those distractions. I turn off the WiFi and go find a secluded spot where I can put on my noise-canceling headphones and just write. It takes about 15 minutes to get really focused on a task, and then once I’m focused I dedicate the next 45-55 minutes to it, since that’s about how long something can generally hold attention.

Then I like to do something else that doesn’t take much thought, such as walking, errands, or chores. I get my work done so I’m not neglecting other aspects of my life, and it gives my brain a chance to recharge and refresh for when I sit down to write again.

So when are you going to find time to write?

WRITE-NOW-LOGO-AWI make no apologies for puns.