Tag Archives: consistency

Wrapping Up June and Our Summer Sanity

checklistDid we make it? Did we survive the June heat and the mid-year failures or successes? I learned a lot and got reminded of more. So for me, this was a good month… on the Fictorians and in achieving my personal goals. If you missed anything, here’s a quick summary with links.

Evan discussed health and writing and finding a balance between the two which I am always in need of rem
inders about since staying healthy for me usually means trying to avoid the potato chips.  Guy showed how to take our writing with us when we’re out enjoying the summer. As he said, not typing doesn’t mean you’re not working. Creativity takes a lot of thinking and observing life around us.  I reminded us all that sometimes we have to say No to other things so we can achieve success in writing and in life. Being stressed out about being over-committed is no one’s friend.  Nancy shared some tools for organizing our complicated and busy lives.  And who can’t use better ways not to drop all those balls we’re juggling.

Sherry gave us insight into her thought process on deciding to self-publish and then how she succeeded at it.  I know I’m reading her book on Silencing Your Inner Saboteur and getting a lot out of it.  I loved Frank’s Go Big or Go Home post.  We have to take big risks  to get the big rewards. And Brandon’s discussion on how your environment can impact your productivity resonated as I have been displaced from my office for weeks during some construction work being done on my house. I liked Mary’s take on how despite having health challenges, we can be productive if we play to our strengths when we ‘re strong.

Ace gave us some ideas on ways we sabotage our goals and ways we can score with them.   Quincy’s post on sacrifice and being in writing for the long haul reminded me that if we just keep at it, we can be a success. And it is a grind, but a worthy one. I found Lou’s post funny and true.  Focus, discipline and being consistent are key. Colette reminded us that we can get away from the summer heat by attending a cool Con.  James showed how tricky setting reasonable and attainable goals can be.  Jace showed how recalibration is just needed sometimes to get going again.

My dear friend Kelli Ann gave some concrete tools for taking any derail and getting the train back on the tracks. I loved Kristin’s post on how we all fail, but that doesn’t have to define our success.  Kim talks about using good planning skills and realistic expectations to keep us productive and sane.  Nathan makes a great point in that what we choose to do with our time is a statement of value. As I’m heading off to a four day writing retreat, this was an affirmation of what I’m doing with my life and career.  And after watching the video of Jim Carrey’s speech (all 28 minutes), feed your soul , folks! It was completely worth it. I found Tristan’s post on reassessing goals refreshing. He had a lot of goodl ideas on looking at goals that were helpful. And finally, John’s post on consistency speaks to a variety of types of consistency, all of which are important.

I hope you enjoyed the month and got as much out of it as I did.


A guest post by John D. Payne

John Payne cover (1)I chose to write about consistency because it’s something that I myself need to work on. So I’m going to keep this in first person and talk about some of the ways I want to be more consistent.

1. Consistent writing
A professional writing at a decent clip produces about a thousand words in an hour. At that pace, you’ll have the first draft of a nice fat novel in one year even if you only write 15 minutes a day, as a number of successful pros have observed. That’s a lot of result for not much effort.

So, two summers ago I made a goal to write every day, even if only for a few minutes. I have months where I pretty much pull this off, and months where I’m not terribly close. But even with this spotty record, the last two years have been my best in terms of output.

Output matters. Lots of writers have been quoted as saying that the first million words anyone writes are just practice.  This really is just a variant of the ten thousand hour rule, that it takes lots of time to become successful at anything.

And not only will churning out lots of stories help me develop my skills as a writer, but it will help me feel more confident and comfortable with my voice. Rather than expecting that everything I write has to be perfectly polished before I can move on, I can be a little more forgiving of myself and have fun as I go. It’s like playing with legos. I pour out a bunch of ideas, grab my favorites, and then assemble them in whatever way strikes my fancy.  I’m just having a good time making a bunch of cool stuff.

I’ve tried inspiring myself to produce more in different ways. The desire to finish my first novel was a powerful motivation. Weekly submissions to my writing group make good mini-deadlines. And of course deadlines written in contracts and attached to paychecks are the best of all.

It also feels good just to keep a streak alive. That’s the secret to Tony Pisculli’s online writing tracker, The Magic Cricket. There are lots of others out there. The thing that has worked best for me so far is a calendar with stickers. It feels good to see all those gold stars.

This July, I’m going to use Camp Nanowrimo as another way to push myself to greater heights of accomplishment. Given my lack of consistency over the last few months, I fear that this will be like running a marathon without proper preparation. But even if I don’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month, every word I write will prepare me for what comes next. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from Dean Wesley Smith, it’s that every month is Nanowrimo if writing is your career.

2. Consistent finishing 
When I was younger, I got bogged down trying to perfect and polish stories that weren’t even finished. Since then I’ve realized that finishing something is a better use of my time than trying to get the beginning of something perfect.

Everything I write is in some ways an experiment, and not all of it will be equally appealing to me, or to readers. That’s hard to accept, because of course I want everything I produce to be of the very finest quality. But as Clausewitz said, quantity has a quality all its own.

For one thing, every story I finish (and get out there where people can read it) helps me build an audience. I love both Pat Rothfuss as much as I love John Scalzi and Brandon Sanderson. But I have a lot more of John and Brandon’s work on my shelves (both digital and physical) because both of them consistently put out new books for me to buy.

In addition to daily wordcount goals, I also have goals to finish stories.  At the Superstars Writing Seminar, Kevin J. Anderson (a very consistent producer) said that there’s no reason any new writer of genre fiction shouldn’t submit a new story to the Writers of the Future contest every quarter. I’m very glad to say that I’ve followed that advice, and I recommend that everyone who’s eligible do the same.

This year, I have two goals relating to finishing. I want to start and finish a new novel between this summer and next. And I want to finish a new story every month, even if it’s only flash fiction.  After all, every story I finish is a story I can sell– which is good, because I also plan to continue submitting a story to a paying market every single week. I’ve done that for the last two years, and although I’ve only made one sale so far it has also taught me a ton about this business.

3. Consistent self-education
No matter how well-informed I am at this minute, no matter how perfect my business strategy is for today’s market, continuing to educate myself is just plain necessary.  Of course, as with any other non-writing activity (social media, etc.), I need to always ask myself: Would I Be Better Off Writing? But without self-education, my career will not move forward.

I need to learn about every part of the industry– and the industry is constantly changing. Covers and interior design, blurbs and back cover copy, contracts, marketing, printing, etc. Fortunately, there are lots of people who are sharing their knowledge and teaching me how to do things myself: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joe Konrath, The Passive Voice, Hugh Howey, etc.

Even if I become the pampered darling of a big New York firm, or in some other way outsource everything but the actual writing, I need to know enough to protect myself. I hate taking my car to the shop and not knowing whether I really need to spend $700 to get that O2 sensor fixed. Educating myself means I don’t just have to hope that everyone else is being nice to me. Trust, but verify, as Reagan and Gorbachev agreed.

4. Consistent niceness

As with most any career, it’s a good idea for me to be nice. This means more than just handing my business card to big names in the industry (although I do that). First and foremost, I have an obligation to fans to be approachable and friendly. After all, it’s their good will, and of course their money, that ultimately fuels my career. And it’s important to be consistent about this, because even one bad moment might turn into a story that floats around the community for years to come.

Speaking of having a good reputation, I want to be someone that others want to work with. That means three things: doing good work, delivering on time, and not being a horrible, horrible jerk. Neil Gaiman rightly notes that you can get by on just two out of three. But if you want to maximize the chances that people will send work your way, shoot for all of the above.

So be a mensch. Mensches make the world go round, as my dissertation advisor told me many times. One way I practice meeting my professional obligations is by participating in a writing group. Every week, other people read my submissions and give me valuable feedback. The least I can do is return the favor.

There’s lots more to say, but (as usual), I’m over my word count. So I’ll just close by saying that writing this blog has helped me realize two things. First, there are lots of ways that consistency can help me as a writer. Second, I’m not bad at all of these.

So, as you’re revisiting your goals and thinking about what you’re going to do with the second half of this year, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself credit for the things you’re doing well. After all, feeling good about how you’re doing makes it easier to maintain a consistent effort.

Good luck!

John D. Payne Bio: John Payne (1)
JOHN D. PAYNE is a Houston-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. His debut novel, The Crown and the Dragon is now a major motion picture.http://wordfirepress.com/authors/john-d-payne/

Meeting Summer Goals (or Not)

Lou's kink-tailed cat
Lou’s kink-tailed cat

A guest post by Lou Berger.

Summer is a fantastic time, depending on your particular situation, to knock out some writing assignments.  I set goals, myself, that are frequently too aggressive. “If I can write 5,000 words per day, I can have this middle grade novel knocked out in TWELVE DAYS!”

I then hop about, making fist pumps and hooting, which frequently frightens the kink-tailed cat into yawning and turning over.

Then I sit at the computer and open up my manuscript to the place I left it: the blank screen, the header, the ominous “about xxx words” at the top.

Then I check Facebook. I mean, seriously, one has to make sure nobody is in need of witty retorts before settling down to some AWESOME writing, right?  I whip through the latest posts, make my snarky comments, then, with a flourish, close out the Facebook application entirely.

WTF?!  That took TWO hours?!

Fine.  Log out of the Internet, open up the manuscript again, stare at the xxx word count.

In a flurry of activity, I bang out the opening paragraph, putting in that necessary “hook” to grab the reader, maybe a multi-armed alien wielding a blaster in each six-fingered hand, complicated technology spilling around its green, malformed body.  Strike that.  Two arms (we have human readers, after all, and we can’t be TOO weird) and a six-gun in each hand, mowing down the inbred members of Black Bart’s gang.  Dammit!  That’s a Western!

Delete.  Delete…delete.

Grr.  Another wasted hour.

Hitting your goals requires focus and discipline.  Try different times of the day for your writing until you strike one that fits your circadian rhythm.  Some people can only write when the day’s chores are done and silence descends upon the world in the late evening darkness. Some can only write early, when everybody else is asleep, in the pre-dawn darkness, when the remnants of sleep haven’t quite left our brains and our internal editor is still slumbering, damn his scaly hide. Others need the noise and bustle of a coffee shop and the myriad of goings-on to provide a white-noise-esque background to settle down the creative parts of the writing brain.

Choose your best time and location, and make it a goal to be consistent.  100 words a day, every day, beats the guy who writes 2,000 words in one sitting once every month.  Consistency is key, and giving yourself permission to write utter crap as a first draft is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in my long journey to becoming an author.  Letting your editor mumble into your ear while you write is certain death and doom to any project you embark upon.  She (he) is not cognizant of the freedom required to write down utter dreck, but wants it picture-perfect on the FIRST try!

Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

My goals are to write consistently this summer, to carve off reasonable chunks of word products in relaxed sittings that, hopefully, happen once or twice a day.  To focus on ignoring the snarky comment quotient in my Facebook pages.  And to get this damned middle-grade novel DONE, at least in first draft form, no later than 6/15.  I have an editor who wants to see the whole manuscript and she’s been SO patient with me.  She deserves better.

What about your goals?  Write me and tell me what they are at Lou@LouJBerger.com.


Lou Berger Bio:
Lou Berger is a Denver writer who lives with three kids, three Sheltie dogs and a kink-tailed cat.  He’s unsure of the cat’s motives but permits cohabitation. His blog can be found at www.LouJBerger.com.