Author Archives: fictorians

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting – A Guest Post by Heidi A. Wilde

A guest post by Heidi A. Wilde.

When I was first asked to submit a post about knowing when to quit your goals I had mixed feelings. Aren’t we supposed to never quit? “Winners never quit and quitters never win” and all that? But the more I thought about it, and read other people’s thoughts on the subject, the more I realized that there are quite a few instances where quitting is actually the right thing to do, and that it doesn’t mean you have failed. I love playing games of all sorts, board games, video games, computer games/MMOs/etc, you name it; and as I was pondering how best to talk about the circumstances when it is okay to abandon a goal a few gaming correlations came to mind. Stick with me here, and I’ll share five examples of when quitting is the better option.

  1. Your quest log is full and/or you’ve out leveled the area you’re in. In order to make room for more level appropriate quests, you need to abandon some whose rewards are minimal because your level is too high. If you made a goal in your 20s and you’re now in your 30s but have yet to accomplish it, chances are that the goal just doesn’t fit your life now. You’ve grown past it. It’s hard to let go sometimes, especially as we’ve been told so often that quitting equals failing. If you’re only hanging on to this goal because you don’t want to be labeled a quitter, but it’s not actually going to give you anything in return, it’s time to let it go to make room for goals that are more appropriate to where your life is currently heading.
  2. Your raid group cannot defeat a certain boss. Every week you and your friends group up to try their hands at the new raid boss (big level character that takes many people to defeat), but just can’t seem to do it. Perhaps it’s time to look at your equipment, your understanding of the boss mechanics, your understanding of your own class abilities. In other words, you’ve set a goal for yourself that you don’t actually have the tools to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with setting aside a goal for a time when you are equipped to complete it, or of simply dropping it completely.
  3. Overcomplicated Quest line whose benefits are not worth the effort. You heard about a quest that sounded pretty cool, but when you get into it you discover it has 36 mini quests and you need to complete them all before getting any rewards, and the reward you do end up getting is a piece of junk. Are the developers trolling you? I would say this example would be when you set a goal for something you thought would be simple, but discovered it would take much more time and effort than you thought. Now, there will still be goals that are worth pursuing even if they end up being more complicated, but that is something you will have to decide for yourself. Is the end reward what I thought it was going to be, and will it be worth my effort? If not, then don’t waste your time. There are plenty of other quests in the game 😉
  4. Limiting Quest Line. There are some quest lines that open up relations with certain factions, but by doing so you become hated by/closed from interaction with an opposing faction. You need to find out which faction will give you the benefits you want and can use. Does a goal of yours cut you off from interactions that would be more beneficial than the ones brought about by that goal? This would be a time where dropping a goal would be appropriate. Again, you are the only one who can decide which benefits are best for you, but don’t be afraid to let one go just because you’ve invested time into it if there is a better goal for you out there.
  5. Misleading Quest Line. Either a quest line looks like it will lead to a certain perk (new mount/companion/area), or you were told it would, but you find out once you get into it that it doesn’t. It’s not uncommon to set a goal with a certain outcome in mind only to find out that working on the goal is actually taking you in a different direction. If that direction is not something you want, don’t feel bad about letting go of this goal. Just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to finish it if it is going to work against you in the end.

These are just a few things that popped into my head while contemplating this topic. I hope you were able to get something out of them whether you are a gamer or not. There are a couple of other thoughts I had that I want to hit on before I end.

The first one is about mindset. Sometimes being too focused on results can be a detriment. Enjoying the process, the journey, and focusing on that will bring more joy. The Bhagavad Gita (Gandhi’s ‘spiritual dictionary’) states “Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.” A goal should have you thinking more about ‘getting better’ than ‘being good’.

Secondly, if you are contemplating abandoning a goal, I want you to ask yourself a few questions. Why did you set the goal in the first place? Do you still have the same reasons for completing it? Do you want to quit merely because it is harder than you thought it would be? Or is it that the effort involved is too great compared to what you will actually obtain from completing it?

Make a list of honest pros and cons for quitting. Only you can know what’s best for you and what will make you happy. Get rid of goals that don’t bring happiness and fulfillment. Executive coach Steve Robbins said, “The people who had the least extraordinary lives were the ones who managed to adhere closest to their plans.” Lives change, circumstances change, so don’t be afraid to dump any goal that isn’t working for you anymore.

 

About Heidi A. Wilde

Heidi A. Wilde is a Respiratory Therapist by night and aspiring author by day. She spends her nights dragging people back from the brink of death, but she has dedicated her daylight hours to the pursuit of writing. Current projects include a Regency Romance series, a fantasy saga, and even a foray into the realm of Steampunk, as well as the occasional short story competition. She attributes the bulk of what knowledge she can claim to attendance in fabulous programs such as Superstars Writing Seminars, Dave Farland’s workshops, and various conventions.

Quitting – A Guest Post by Nicholas Ruva

A guest post by Nicholas Ruva.

When I was asked to write a guest post on quitting, I wasn’t exactly sure how to react. I am a journeyman writer. I’ve completed several shorts, and two novels, but nothing has seen the light of day outside of writing groups and Editor’s slush piles. As someone who has tried my hand at this craft for the past decade, after finally giving in and finishing a minor in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, I should probably take a hint and throw in the towel. After a decade, if you’re still toiling away, trying to form writer groups, and producing content that gets polite, but definite, rejection letters, well… Shouldn’t I quit?

It’s been a topic on my mind for the last year. After a hellish turn of personal events, a sick dog, stress at work, the dog sick again, bills piling up, and the internal thrumming of a voice that says, “Make this happen, or move on,” yeah, I feel this topic through and through.

However, I don’t think that’s exactly the point of this series, and this topic, and let’s be honest, the majority of you reading this are probably wearing similar pants, and have also been rut-writing for nearly a decade with little to show. It comes with the territory, and eventually you get to this point and you say, “This is who I am. There is no real quitting this.”

So, Okay, fair enough. Let’s not all collectively quit writing for the new year. Let’s bury our nose into that old manuscript. Let’s hammer out that short that’s been sitting unwritten for a long time. Let’s send that submission out to Clarkesworld, Glimmer Train, the Atlantic, the New Yorker. Let’s put butt in seat and fingers on keys and finish that opus!

Well, maybe. I’m guilty of that too. The albatross. The chain wrapped so taut, and so heavy around the neck that it is hard to even make it to my desk. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year you put that old manuscript down. Maybe this is the year you say to yourself that the story in your head will never make it to the page, and you free yourself to do something new, something amazing. Maybe.

That’s hard advice. I have a book, two in fact, that I’ve lugged around for the past decade. The first is complete, but it’s terrible. It’s woefully bad on a level that I wouldn’t share even with my closest friends, though I was giddy to submit it to my writing class at USC. I was so sure they would recognize the brilliance that lay untapped. I was shocked when only one person in the class could even follow my magnificent work.

It was horrible. Going back to it now it’s painful to read, but there’s a glimmer there. The story idea is still strong, and sticks with me to this day. I know, given ten years of experience and a hell of a lot less ego, I could really do it justice. I want to do it justice, but sitting down to it is hard, so it sits.

The second work I should quit is more recent. I started a novel three years ago, and it was a fever-pitch writing session. I tore through fifty thousand words in a little under three days. I brought the rough story to workshops, and it gathered praise from students and instructors alike. It isn’t a big idea story, and probably won’t sell worth a damn, but it is a good story and it deserves to be finished. Still, the longer it sits, the harder it is to bring myself to conclusion.

I know how the story ends. I know exactly where I’m going from here, but sitting down to it is complete brain paralysis. All of that fever and excitement is gone, and it sinks into my creative conscious like a cork, bottling up any desire to move forward, and keeping me from tackling other larger works.

I’ve completed several short stories during the time I’ve been working on this novel, and come up with a few great ideas for other full length works. One idea in waiting I am almost certain will become a series of books, and that excites me completely, but when I go to sit-down and work on it, my WiP haunts me and taunts me from the depth of my creative consciousness.

In my head, I hear the advice Brandon Sanderson gave us at the Out of Excuses retreat in 2013. He warned of the same exact problem I suffer from today, that if you have this great work you’ve been trying to tell for a number of years, a story that you’ve carried with you afraid to finish due to not having the skill, or wanting to perfect over and over until it’s paralysis. If you have such a story… Kill it. It’s better to put that one in the ground then to allow it to weigh on your writing.

It’s solid advice that I can’t take. I feel invested. I feel so close to finishing, but I know it’s the right advice. I know the power spontaneity can bring. Over the past year, I’ve released three full albums of new music, most of the tracks completely improvised and then reworked, not unlike how I approach my writing. The experience is exciting, and I am often shocked at the results. Even my current work in progress novel was a completely spontaneous writing session that turned into a blistering paced seed of a novel. Allowing myself to remove the shackles of my previous work would free me to be more creative.

I am a computer programmer by trade. An odd one that specializes in automation, and removing manual steps from mission critical processes to optimize and standardize work. That’s a really long and drawn out way to say I am successful at my day job if I am able to remove myself from the process. To me, nothing is more satisfying than letting the gears move freely and getting out of the way of the collective machines so they can run at their best.

Although writing is, of course, wholly different in approach, the idea of clearing away obstacles and creating an environment where things run optimally is basically in my genes. I have no problem excessing legacy routines, rewriting bad code, or completely throwing away an entire way of thinking in order to ask, “What am I really trying to solve here?”

If I was to take that same approach to my writing, I’d have pulled the plug on this novel years ago, but it’s a part of me, more so than the code I write, or the job I do every day. The characters speak to me, and through me, and demand to have their story told. These darlings are damn hard to kill.

My monitor is rimmed with sticky notes for daily tasks, a product of the Agile development method. I use various colors for various tasks, but pink is set for personal goals. In all capital letters, stuck to the left side of my monitor, directly at eye level, a pink sticky note reads, “WORK ON THE NOVEL.” It is joined with other pink items with less urgent capitalization, but it’s there to be a constant reminder, a constant goading. It’s tough to quit on something so personal, especially when you know where it goes from here, and how freaking awesome that payoff of an ending will be. So, the novel sits, and I try and convince myself that this is the year things move forward with the work.

When I was approached to write about quitting, I didn’t know it would trigger such a response from my collective writer subconscious. I thought, maybe I will talk about buckling down and getting through it, but I’d be a phony if I did. I know how hard this can be, and maybe you are in a similar situation. If you are, I can’t offer you any advice other than you should probably quit on the work. I know I should have quit on this story last year, or even the year before, but I didn’t, and I likely won’t this year either.

Maybe, eventually, the guilt of it will spill over into another three-day-binge-session that sees me through to the story’s conclusion. Maybe it will be wholly mediocre, but cathartic in all the right ways to finally free myself. If this hasn’t happened to you. If you are the type that finishes everything they start, I envy you. I’ve met folks like you before, and their productivity was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I hope that’s you. Me, I’ll offer myself the advice I know I won’t take: Sometimes it’s alright to move on. You can quit and still be successful. Sometimes quitting is exactly what you need.

I wish I could take that advice, but, then again maybe this is the year I finally finish that novel.

 

About Nicholas Ruva

Nicholas Ruva is a writer, musician, and DevOps Engineer living in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not creating, he’s likely in the kitchen working on a new recipe, or in front of a keyboard trying to complete a catering job in Cook, Serve, Delicious. If you’d like to follow him on his publishing journey, you can find him on Facebook, Instagram, or toss a few fractions of a penny his direction by listening to his music under the name of Lake Onondaga on Spotify or pretty much anywhere music is streamed.

2017 In Review: On Big Wins, New Wounds, and Old Demons – A Guest Post by Shannon Fox

A guest post by Shannon Fox.

There’s nobody who pushes me harder than myself. I set the bar high when it comes to my professional development and I’m constantly challenging myself with new goals. Sometimes I fantasize about what life would be like if I was the sort of person who was content to come home from work, eat dinner, and sit on the couch watching TV for the rest of the night. And then I get itchy thinking about all that wasted time and potential and quickly shelve that idea.

So when life gets in the way and forces me to revise my goals, I have a hard time being kind to myself and not feeling like I failed. Even if I ultimately accomplish everything I set out to do, I have a hard time seeing it as a “win” because I didn’t achieve it on my original timeline. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s just how I’m wired.

As I’m looking back on 2017, I find myself facing a surprising amount of objective wins: I rewrote an entire novel this year and started on the next revision. I attended two writing conferences, had some face-to-face conversations with literary agents, and pitched for the first time. I kept up with creating content for my book review and writing blog, Isle of Books, which saw more traffic that ever this year. I had several blogs and articles published by different companies in the equine industry. I even won a contest with one of those blogs! I started a free marketing resource site, Minute Marketing, and have been creating content for that as well. And Goodreads tells me I’ve read 65 books so far this year.

Yet, it’s too easy for me to focus on what didn’t happen:

My primary book about Nikola Tesla is still not ready for the querying process. So I still don’t have an agent and I still haven’t sold a book. My other books continue to sit around, gather dust, and wait for me to get around to fixing them. If I ever will.

And the worst of all the things that didn’t happened this year? My writing is still not where I want to be. I know that writing isn’t really a thing you master. It’s something you work at for your entire life. But I feel like I’m making glacial progress, which was further reinforced by a few incidents that happened to me this summer.

Simply put, I suffered a blow to my confidence that took me several months to get over. Portions of my book were reviewed in a couple of different public settings and let’s just say that it didn’t go well. The criticism itself wasn’t particularly savage, but it was relentless and hammering and left my confidence completely shredded all the same. Worse than the pain of that lost confidence though is that I really thought I was stronger and tougher than that. That I didn’t let people get under my skin anymore and that I could take criticism with the best of them. I’ve done so much growing over the years and have had to pick myself up and dust myself off so often I thought I had exorcised that particular demon. I guess not.

When I look back on 2017, I see some big wins and a few failures too. But with 2018 looming on the horizon, I’m working on being as kind to myself as I am to other people. I’ve been trying to be consistent about doing daily positive affirmations, which I do think really, really help. Not only do they make me feel happier and more positive, I feel like some really incredible opportunities have been showing up because I’ve been putting what I want out there so much.

In case this would be helpful to anyone else, here are a few of my affirmations that are writing specific:

  • I am working on my craft and growing as a writer.
  • I am refining my personal writing style and voice to make my stories uniquely me.
  • I am focusing on telling the best story possible.
  • I am attracting only those people who will help and support me in my journey and repelling that which doesn’t serve me.
  • I am open to receiving opportunities that will carry me further towards my goals.

If any of you are also struggling with having confidence in your art, I encourage you to try doing some affirmations before you sit down to write or edit – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I feel like my writing sessions are more productive and successful if I’ve done affirmations before starting.

2017 wasn’t the year to top all years like I’d hoped it would be, but I learned a lot and got more clarity on my career goals. I know 2018 has some really exciting opportunities in the pipeline for me and while I can’t share what they are yet, I am confident 2018 will be my best year ever! I know the journey certainly won’t be smooth, but calm seas never did make for a skillful sailor.

 

About Shannon Fox:

I have a B.A. in Literature-Writing from UC-San Diego. I write novels and short stories, particularly young adult, contemporary, historical, and science fiction. I maintain my own blog of book reviews and writing advice at IsleofBooks.com. I am a regular blogger for Equine Journal and Coastal Premier Properties. I have authored over 200 articles and blogs for online and print publication. I was also a research assistant to the authors for the published novels Teen 2.0 and Against Their Will. In addition to writing, my professional background is in marketing and advertising. I run a free marketing resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners at www.MinMarketing.com.

Six Jedi Mind Tricks for Writers

A Guest Post by David Farland

    1. Write in your sleep. The day before you plan to write, stay up a little late and plot out the scene you will write. As you do, consider where it will be set, who will appear in it, when it will occur in relation to other scenes, who will be your viewpoint character, and what actions or changes will occur in that scene. Write a quick sketch of a paragraph or two about the scene, then go to bed. You subconscious mind will worry about the scene while you sleep, piecing it together, and in the morning it will appear vividly in your mind so that you write it with ease.
    2. Create a “Sacred Writing Space.” When you plan to write, some people find it helpful to write down the goal: I will write tomorrow from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Then, when you go to work, do not let anyone violate your time. That means that you don’t check your mail or talk to friends on Facebook. Your writing time must be dedicated to writing only. If you plan to start at 6:00 get your butt in your chair a few minutes early, open your files, think, and begin typing at or before 6:00. In the same way, the space where you sit must also be dedicated to writing. Some people find that over time, they get in a habit of doing some things—like watching videos—in a certain chair. It might be difficult to break that habit consciously, so it may be easier for you to move your chair or move into a new room to create your sacred writing space. I don’t know why, but I tend to write with fantastic ease while sitting in airports.
    3. Shut the freak up. Doctor Jerry Pournelle once pointed out that the desire to write arises out of a profound need to communicate. If you stop communicating with others—by turning off your television and your radio, stop talking to friends, don’t answer emails, and simply let the silence grow around you, you will find that very soon your imaginary characters in your story will start speaking to each other, so that you will find yourself writing dialog. (This may take a couple of hours, but it works!)
    4. Put yourself in the writing mood. Sometimes you sit down at your writing desk and just don’t feel in the mood to write. You may be anxious about other things, or tired, or whatever. Don’t let your mood derail you. Simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, then remember as vividly as possible a time when you were writing freely and without effort and enjoying the act. Hold that emotion for thirty seconds. If you don’t feel ready to write, try it again, only time hold in your mind a time when you felt excited to right. Hold it for thirty seconds. If that doesn’t work, try it again, only this time sit and remember times when you receive praise or awards or publishing contracts for writing. Hold the emotion for thirty seconds. You will soon find yourself “in the mood” to write.
    5. Develop the habit of getting into your “Writer’s Trance.” We all have times when we slip into our imaginary worlds fully. Sometimes it happens when you’re driving, or exercising, or washing dishes, or late at night while listening to music. Once you find yourself in that sphere, simply stop whatever you are doing and write! I often keep a notepad in my car, for example, so that if I find myself vividly imagining scenes while driving, I can stop and take notes. In the same way, listening to music late at night often gives me inspiration, as does lying in bed and thinking about my book before I fully wake up. Find out what works best for you, and learn to court your muse.
    6. Learn to think. Many times, a writer will try to sit down to write, only to find that he doesn’t know what to do next. Perhaps a certain character’s voice won’t come, or the writer hasn’t plotted his novel well enough to begin composing. Many writers feel intimidated at this point and feel “stuck.” Instead of giving up, simply imagine that you are getting up from your “stuck place,” and you are moving to a more creative spot. In other words, focus your mental energy on solving you writing problem. Getting stuck is a common part of the writing process, and it’s perfectly natural. A real writer doesn’t give up—instead he begin brainstorming, thinking about how to handle the upcoming scene. Simply put, you have to brainstorm the scene, looking at it from all sides, until you get excited about writing it. As ideas come to you and you look at the scene from different angles, some of those ideas will feel so “right” to you, that you’ll find yourself growing eager. When you’re ready, just write!

David Farland:

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and he has won over seven awards—including the International Book Award and the Hollywood Book Festival, Grand Prize—for his fantasy thriller Nightingale. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Farland has written for major franchises such as Star Wars and The Mummy. He has worked in Hollywood greenlighting movies and doctoring scripts. He has been a movie producer, and he has even lived in China working as a screenwriter for a major fantasy film franchise.

As a writing instructor, Farland has mentored dozens who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

Farland judges L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, the one of the largest worldwide writing competitions for new fantasy and science fiction authors. In the video game industry, he has been both a designer and a scripter and was the co-leader on the design team for StarCraft: Brood War. He set the Guinness World Record for the largest single-author, single-book signing.

David Farland has been hailed as “The wizard of storytelling” and his work has been called “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”