Okay. Now I’m finally back. Obviously, I’m ridiculously behind, so I’m not really hoping to finish the A to Z Challenge in time.
Someone suggested that I just drop in on today’s letter, but the thing is… I just don’t want to do that. I was really enjoying writing these posts, so it just feels a bit off for me to skip like half the alphabet in an attempt to conform to some sort of arbitrary expectation.
Sorry if I’m sounding like I’m being all faux academic. Really, I’m not. I’m really just pulling words out of the ether as I’m writing this. And the post will go live as soon as I’m done. I know, I know. I wouldn’t even be in this pickle if I’d just scheduled posts ahead but… You know what? I like living on the edge even if I fall off every now and then.
What I’m going to do is change the name a bit and call my posts for the A to Z Challenge (and Beyond) the A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing and then I’m just going to keep going on my own time until the posts are done.
Maybe, when I’m done, I might decide to start another A to Z series, because I’m enjoying the mental acrobatics involved, but we’ll see. In the meantime:
Today, I’m at M, which in my mind stands for Muse.
No, not the band – although they’re EPIC.
I’m talking about the muse. Your muse. My muse. Different muses.
I used to write about mine (even in passing) much more than I do these days. Mostly, it’s because someone ALWAYS comments that “Muses don’t exist and you should just write”. And although this is sort of true, it’s a bit tiring to keep explaining that I’m not really all airy fairy in my approach to writing. (I think my recent monthly posts on my writing progress might have convinced people of this. But there you go.)
I suspect, from those “Muses don’t exist” comments that not all writers have the same experience as me. Or if they do, they’ve shoved their muse into some faraway corner of their imagination in an effort to simplify their writing process. Which is, of course, just as valid an approach to writing as mine.
This is still important for everyone to know, though, so even if you’re rolling your eyes, shush a moment longer and pay attention.
See, whatever you think, you as a writer need to make sure you have a healthy relationship with your writing. Your muse, if you will.
The way I look at it, my creativity in general and my writing creativity specifically comes from some place other than my writing thought. So I’m a very intuitive writer, I suppose, writing words down literally as they come to me. (Although the words do sometimes come faster than I can write them down.) There is, however, not much along the lines of conscious thought to my writing efforts. Especially when I’m drafting fiction.
So for me, the muse idea works, in the sense of it’s a psychological embodiment of my creative efforts. So to me, it’s not a question of muses existing or not. Mine (both of them) exist because I called them into existence the same way I call my characters into existence. (In fact, one of my muses is one of my characters in my fantasy series.)
However, you might prefer to call a muse your creativity, or your dedication to a story, or your desire to write a story down, or the million little moments of inspiration that go into creating a story. That’s exactly what a muse is.
I just call them my muses because it’s a bit catchier.
Now that I have that sorted, let me get to the important things you should know about muses.
1) Muses are very erratic creatures, so you can’t sit around waiting for them to inspire you to write.
2) Muses can (and will, if you let them) bury you under new ideas. In a sense, that’s their job. Your job is to finish ideas one at a time so you can actually call things done.
That’s pretty much it, really. Muses give you ideas, but they don’t give you the determination or dedication to your story that you’ll need to finish it. You will, however, find that if you show dedication and determination, your muse will be kinder to you.
Not always, mind you. But if you commit to finishing a story until that commitment is part of your process, your muse will give you the inspiration needed to know what you should be writing down.
But read this and absorb it:
That comes from our dedication to and love of our story. It took me a while to learn this, which is why I’m putting this bluntly. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you’ll become an efficient writer.
Do you believe in muses? What’s yours like? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about your creative process?
Please note that the announcement I’ve promised last night will be made on Monday. Basically, I misjudged my timing a bit and don’t really want to reveal something before it’s ready.
April has gone by seriously fast. So fast, in fact, that it’s now ten minutes to midnight on the last Friday of the month, and I still haven’t sat down to take stock for my own bloghop.
Since quite a few of you are new here, let me just do a quick explanation. Basically, I have that huge goal stated at the top of my blog. When I discovered that I’m not the only person that ambitious/crazy, Beth Fred and I decided to start a bloghop for similarly-minded individuals. It’s open to anyone, though, so if you’d like information or just to see how everyone else is doing, please feel free to click here.
Honestly, I’m not really all that sure about what to say for my month of April. For one thing, it’s still not really over. We’ve still got a couple of days short of a week in which to get stuff done. On the other hand, the wheels fell off for me this past week and I decided to kick back a bit rather than to add to my stress.
I didn’t slouch around, though. But because I still have almost a week, I’m making allowance for what I’ll probably get done this week. (Especially given that Monday and Friday are public holidays. Yes, I know Friday’s in May already.)
My Goals for April:
1) Sort out covers for Wo6C1, Wo6C2 and BvB1
This one I did actually make an effort at, but it seems to be falling flat yet again. The reason will take up a whole post, though, which I’ll probably get to soon.
2) Proofread Wo6C2
3) Copyedit BvB1
Not done, and probably won’t this month.
4) Start Revising ES1
Planning to start this this weekend.
5) Write 50 000 words (rewrites included.)
Currently at about 30k words. Will probably add some over the weekend.
6) Start looking at the concepts for P and my Sci Fi projects. (I’m now at the point where I’m running out of draft projects where I know what I want to write about.)
Not done and won’t get to it this weekend.
Writing wise, this is what April looked like:
1) Start King Lear
Not done. Might get to it before the end of the month.
2) Start a French book.
Currently reading Les Justes by Albert Camus. I should have it done sometime tomorrow.
3) Read four other books.
Read 2 so far, but should have one more finished by the end of the month.
It’s A to Z Challenge and I have two posts entered. However, I’m also doing Camp NaNo this year, and since I’m a writer first, that’s getting priority.
I’m way behind on Camp NaNo at the moment, but it’s not so bad that I can’t catch up. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved, though.
I would, however, like to survive the A to Z Challenge for both blogs, while keeping up with the comments to every day’s post. Anything extra that I can add to that is extra.
This one I failed miserably, mainly because of Internet failure (again.) and the accompanying work stress. Not fun trying to write fun, upbeat blog posts every day when really you’re struggling just to get the simplest things done.
Also, I’ve been critiquing first chapters on Wattpad and I’d really like to keep that going.
The Internet ruined these plans as well.
1) Find a good balance between my job, writing, networking and the rest of my life.
This one was kind of sweet and sour for me. I did well until last week. Of course, a lot of my writing, networking and job depend almost exclusively on my Internet connection. So not being able to function at those really puts a wrinkle on anything else as well.
2) Finish at least two skeins of wool on crocheting my blanket.
I finished one.
3) Edit my most recently taken photographs.
This I did. All 400 of them.
My Goals for May:
Okay, so the thing is, I set some really ambitious goals for April, but life really got in the way. The fact that I basically took a week without really doing anything (no seriously. I keep track), tells me that life’s stressing me out a bit more than anticipated. So with that in mind, I’m setting these goals only to see what I can get done, but I’m really not going to push myself too hard for the month. In fact, the astute ones among you might see that I’m giving myself a nice, month-long breather. My writing goals are only being stated because they’re on my timeline for the month:
The idea here is to do what I can without burning out.
1) Write, edit and/or rewrite something every weekday.
2) Continuity edits between Wo6C1 and 2.
3) Copy edits for BvB1
4) Revisions/Edits for ES1 and the Untethered Realms Anthology story I submitted.
5) Finish rewrites to O1.
6) Flesh out concepts for P and my Science Fiction story idea.
1) Read King Lear
2) Read something by one of my blogging buddies.
3) See how close I can get to reading 10 books this month.
This is assuming that Internet and/or my country’s electricity provider actually work like they should…
1) Catch up on blog visits.
2) Catch up on Wattpad Critiques I’ve promised.
1) Mainly, my goal is to get back to my happy place this month. (Other than my continuing goal of getting my business back off the ground.)
2) Do something artistic or crafty that isn’t writing related every weekend.
That’s it for me for tonight. Just as well, because it’s well past midnight now. How was your April? Are you surviving Camp NaNoWriMo and/or the A to Z Challenge?
So, I’ve come to a decision about this year’s A to Z Challenge.
It’s Sunday night and about 8:30 PM. And I was going to write my first post in an attempt to start catching up.
The thing is… Right now, I don’t feel all that light-hearted, which makes my attempts at writing fun, light-hearted posts fall flat. More than that, they jar me. The same thing for my other posts where I’m looking for the positive spin in everything.
Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those letters that warns people to frantically start calling, texting, send mailer pigeons and all that stuff.
Really, the thing is… I’m tired. Not of writing. I’ve only really gotten back to it in December. Emotionally. See at the moment, I’m putting a lot into getting another new business off the ground. And while my new business is still in a very crucial place where I’m trying to create trust and to make money…
To a crawl.
Which is a problem when my office is in a place with zero reception and the phone works through the Internet too.
Oh, and when my Internet connection is “online” it’s not, because I live in a country where our government runs the power company and their solution to not being able to generate enough power for its economy and population is:
“When it’s cold. Please burn fires instead of turning your heaters on. Turn off unnecessary appliances in peak times and HOLY CRAP. WE DIDN’T MAINTAIN SO SOMETHING BROKE, SO ALTHOUGH IT’S DURING BUSINESS HOURS, EVERYONE MUST TAKE TURNS OF BETWEEN ONE AND THREE HOURS A DAY WHERE WE TURN THE POWER OFF. SORRY ECONOMY.”
Seriously. If you ever wondered: State run utilities are dinosaurs that should be extinct. The sooner the government puts it out of its misery and brings in private suppliers with no price regulation, the better. This is basic economics and the sooner the people in power (See what I did there?) get with the damned program, the sooner everyone else (and the economy) can move on.
On the plus side, my company exports goods, so all these screw ups are technically good for me because they push the exchange rate in the right direction to increase my profits. Would just be very very nice if I could stay connected long enough to do the freaking business. (From my mouth/fingertips to God’s ears/eyes.)
Because how exactly am I supposed to get anything done when I can’t even send as much as a text?
This week has been rough, ya’ll.
Tuesday knocked me onto my ass. Wednesday had me recovering a bit but waiting for Friday. Now this weekend’s over and I’m rested, but I’m just not in the mood.
And you know, even now as I’m writing this, I know I’m still in a good place. Next week should see the business done and things going better again. A lot of people don’t even have a hope of that. I know this.
So anyway… Right now I’m deciding if I should decide to call it quits for the A to Z Challenge this year. Honestly, it’s been days since I’ve been able to visit anyone and just posting without visiting isn’t really in the spirit of this challenge. I feel terrible about it. I just don’t know if I can do anything about it while my Internet continues to be an ass.
That said, it’s night, and I might still be a bit tired, so I’ll sleep on it and see. Let me know if you have any advice/encouragement, though.
Sigh. This year’s Challenge just seems marred with troubles for me. I’m now two days behind, but hey, it’s all good, because the reason for my absence ties in quite nicely with the post I have to write at the moment. (And I will find a way to catch up.)
This thing writers must know about writing is especially important if you’re goal driven. I know, because I am. (For proof, see right at the top of my blog. The title and the bit under it (sorry, can’t remember what it’s called because I haven’t had a lot of peaceful sleep these past two days. (And while you’re being forgiving, please forgive my overuse of parentheses (You know… brackets. (Lots of them.)))))
*counts brackets, then shakes head* Where was I? Oh yes. Goals. If you’re new to my blog, you probably don’t know how big my goals get. To give you an idea, my goal for April is to finish two A to Z Challenges, to write 50k words for Camp NaNoWriMo and to spend 30 hours this month editing. (Or some sort of combination of that.) WHILE getting my own business back off the ground.
You’d think that by now, I’d be on that great big hamster wheel called panic. I’m not. In fact, yesterday and the day before, I took two whole days off from all my literary projects. The reason is simple:
Goals are excellent ways to keep up some forward momentum, but they often don’t take life into account.
And the thing with life is that it happens, whether we like it or not. Two days ago, I was so stressed that I couldn’t focus on my writing. Yesterday, things turned around so fast that I almost got whiplash. But then I was so busy riding the wave that I couldn’t focus on my writing.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break and falling short on goals. (Unless you’re, say, contractually bound to a deadline.) Sometimes we need it. Sometimes, those things in life that really suck gives us the emotional depth we need to write our next story. Life is, in the end, what inspires out writing. Even if you got your idea from reading someone else’s book. Life is what let you read that book in the first place.
So don’t begrudge yourself your life just because you’re falling short on some goals. Make new goals. Adapt to them. Don’t give up on them. Just keep going and keep calm.
Because upsetting yourself more because you’re struggling to write amid all the chaos around you does not help. Finding a way to get at least something done even if it falls short of your expectations does. Trust me. Even ten words once a week eventually might add up to a book before you die.
So don’t sweat. Set goals, but just aim to fall somewhere inside the ballpark every time.
Any other goal freaks out there? No? What is your relationship between writing goals and your life?
Don’t worry. I’m not going all 50 Shades on you today. Honestly, I guess I could have called this something else, but I had a shortage of relevant words starting with K, so deal with it.
It is, however, a very important thing that all writers should know about writing.
You can do what you want. You can plan. You can decide on your road to the end of the story. You can decide how fast you write or how a small thing in your story will have a huge impact in the end.
Your characters (if they’re at all well constructed) will invariably screw it up.
No really. To most of us (or at least I think so), our characters are real people. And no matter how good an idea you think you have, if they disagree, your story ain’t going anywhere.
So, no matter how straight a line you’re setting out on when you start to write a story, there will always be some unexpected kinks to it. (See what I did there?)
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Often, those kinks actually make the story much better than what you’d set out to do in the first place. Especially if what you wanted would have negated your character’s motivation, personality etc.
So go with it. See where it goes. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back and wangle things to make them work the way you’d planned. Don’t do that right off though, because characters like to believe they’re really the ones in control.
Failing that, try bribing characters. They like bribes.
Anyone else have characters who like to have their own way? How do you deal with it?
If you’re a new kid, this thing you need to know about writing will probably take you by surprise. Unless you’ve been hanging with us old hands for a while, you’re probably buying into one of two myths. Or, if you’re really warped, both.
The first myth:
The second myth:
I can see the old hands nodding. We all know the guy.
Oh, you are that guy? Sit down, kid, or your plot bunnies get it.
Yes, dear, I love your plot bunnies with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. *makes slurping sounds*
So here’s the truth:
Your first draft will be junk. Your second draft will suck a little bit less. Once you’ve revised, your manuscript will look better. And it will keep looking better with every successive round of edits you put it through.
And then, when you’ve polished it until you’re proud of your baby and you can see your reflection in it, you’ll publish it.
In other words: You’re human, and therefore, nothing you create will ever be completely perfect. If you think your story is, you’re either delusional, or you’ve been editing so many times that you’re no longer seeing your own errors.
This holds true for all writers. I know some people like to brag about how pretty they write and how easy it is, but this is like (to borrow from an interview I heard, but I can’t remember the writer’s name) the stunning looking Hollywood starlet who’s prancing before the cameras and saying: “Oh… this? I just threw it on.”
Or maybe, it’s the fact that there are very few people who really can remember pain.
Really. I’m one of the lucky ones. I like editing. You might feel like it’s stabbing yourself in the heart every time you have to delete something. In fact, if you’re that guy it’ll definitely feel that way.
Which is really the reason I’m telling you not to be that guy. Yes, they’re annoying as hell. Especially when they ask old hands to critique but really only expect praise. But all and all, not being that guy is better for your emotional welfare.
So repeat after me:
And keep repeating it every time you open your rough draft. You’ll thank me for it later. For so many more reasons than I can tell you here tonight.
Are you that guy? Were you that guy? What made you realize the truth?
This is probably one of the more important things that writers should know about writing. We all need help at some point.
This can possibly taking the form of getting your spouse to do the dishes so you can steal some writing time. Other times, it’s when you’re stuck writing and the only person who can help will be another writer.
When I started out, (long before I started blogging) I was lucky enough to have a published writer in the house. However, I started moving over to the spec fic dark side and my Gran just isn’t all that interested in it (she writes poetry and romance.) Also, she publishes exclusively in South Africa and I focused more on foreign markets, so it just meant that… well… I needed a lot of help from foreign writers.
Sometimes, that makes for… interesting… dinner conversation.
Back to the point (I’m afraid I’m REALLY good at digressing.)
Sometimes, you might simply need to have someone who knows read your story and tell you it doesn’t suck. And if it does suck, to tell you what’s wrong.
Sometimes, you will be so tired of looking at your own story while editing it that you can’t see your own mistakes anymore. Or you’ll need someone to read your query. Or to say “There there” when you got your hundredth rejection (trust me. Non-writers don’t EVER get it).
No writer is an island. At some point, we all need some advice or a helping hand. So get yourself involved in the writing community.
Just remember: Be the friend you need.
You want to be helped down the line? MAKE SURE YOU HELP OTHER WRITERS RIGHT NOW.
What do you usually need help with?