A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Underwhelmed

I’m still on my mission to complete my A to Z Challenge theme, and I’m actually feeling like I’m finally in my home stretch.

And today, I’m writing about a biggie.

Writers all have to come to terms with this simple fact or we simply couldn’t function as writers.

First drafts almost never live up to the pictures we have in our minds.
(Unless we’re temporarily delusional.)

I wish I can say that it becomes better, but really, all that happens is we learn to expect that compared to our idea, the draft will suck. So we’re not as crushed when we find this when we re-read what we’ve written. 
Why is this, though? Why don’t we just write the idea the way we have in our mind? 
Well… For one thing, writing is hard. Don’t ever let someone tell you it isn’t. Furthermore, our minds have a way of making ideas look incredibly shiny, because along with just the basic idea, we also see how we expect it to look and feel in the end. But the truth is that this sense of perfection is an illusion. 
It’s a nice illusion. It helps us be excited enough about our ideas to commit to the writing. 

But as soon as words start appearing on paper, you’ll find you don’t have exactly the right words to get the feels across that you have. You’ll discover plot-holes you never considered (even if you did plot). You’ll discover that the characters simply refuse to act in the way that you need them to in order to bring your vision about. 
Or you’ll get to the end and reread the whole thing, find that you got almost everything that you envisaged down and… it… just… sucks. 
There’s not really all that much that you can do about it. The translation from idea to draft is never perfect, and there’s not much you can do to change this. 
You can, however, change the way you see and react to the imperfection. 
I think all writers come to terms with imperfection in various ways, but this is what I do: 
1) When reading what I’ve written, I make note of flaws and weaknesses, but focus on the positives. No, no one’s rough draft sucks in its entirety. There’s always something worth keeping. Your job is to find that thing. And make note of all the things you need to change in order to improve your story. 
2) Remember that it’s always better to have one sucky draft than a million good ideas. This might seem counter-intuitive, but an idea is worth very little until you have it written on paper. Especially because of our mind’s way of making things look shinier in our thoughts than in reality. Once the story is written, we can fix it no matter how bad it looks. (Even if it takes a rewrite.) But if you don’t ever write it, there’s nothing you can do to it.
So yes, be underwhelmed, but remember that a sucky first draft is just part of the process. And be glad that you’re underwhelmed, because it will help you in edits later.
How do you deal with first draft suckage? Are you struggling with first draft suckage at the moment?
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A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Time

Yeah yeah. I know. It’s August and I still haven’t finished April’s A to Z Challenge. I’m getting there, though.

For those of you who missed it, my theme was: Things Writers Should Know About Writing, and I planned to post once a week on the theme until it was done. But then I published two books and held a month long blog tour…

Which actually brings me to the whole point of today’s post.

Since I define writers as people who are writing, (as supposed to people who say “I have this great idea, but I just don’t have time…”) this relates to actual writers having time.

More specifically, I want to point out that writers very rarely have any time to spare. We never have enough time to write enough. And when we do, we don’t have time for anything else.

It’s a curse, I tell you.

It is, however, quite normal, and you needn’t feel guilty about it.

Nor should you feel guilty when you steal time.

Or when you make time, be it to write or not.

You’re writing. Even if it’s only a small bit at a time.

You’re writing, and that’s the important thing.

What’s your relationship with time like?

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Stupid People

If you haven’t been on my blog in a while (which I admit is partially my own fault), you might not know that I’m still technically doing the A to Z Challenge. 

See, back in April, my Internet, electricity and even just my life conspired together to stop me finishing the Challenge in April. I wanted to finish the posts, though, so I turned it into a weekly series. Slowly, but surely, I’m getting there. And I have to say that I’m enjoying the fact that I have a ready-made topic at least once a week. 
Today, I’m going to address a little-expected fact of a writer’s life: 
We all get exposed to an alarming number of stupid people. 

Which is to say: 
People who think they know everything about writing when they’ve never really ever tried it. 

It’s easy to spot them. Some recent favorites that I’ve read/heard people say: 
John Green is a pervert because he writes about teenage girls. 
Writers should bow to the wishes of their fandom and change canon to suit them. 
Then there are the old classics: 
How hard can it be, sweety? 
You can’t be any good if you don’t have a publisher yet. 
Oh, so you’re published? You must be swimming in money. 
Or the million little variations of absolute bullshit spewed by Literature teachers everywhere (Sorry. Not sorry.), which then gets perpetuated in some negative way by people who know even less about writing, because the last time they even read anything was in high school. 
In short: People who pretend to know all about my life as a writer. They then try to belittle my experience as a writer. And in reality they don’t even have a vague clue. This. Pisses. Me. Off.
Generally speaking, there are three reactions: 
1) Hit a shovel into the stupid person’s face. (But this might land you in jail.) 
2) Ignore the idiot, but seethe about it for days. 
3) Or basically respond with some variation of “Well, why don’t you try writing and then get back to me, you asshole.”
I usually go with option 3. Sometimes, I even take the time to explain. The worrying thing is that more often than not, these people insist on remaining stupid. They don’t want to learn because really, they want to persist in belittling writers. Maybe it makes them feel better about their insignificant little lives. Or maybe they’re just trying to bully people for daring to be even a little different. 
The point is, if you’ve explained why things don’t work the way people imagine, and people still refuse to stop belittling you, you now know to wash your hands of the whole situation. You’re not a bad writer because of not living up to the stupid person’s expectations. They just can’t/won’t understand. 
And hey, if you’ve tried, you’ve tried. Sometimes, you don’t get through to them. Sometimes, you convert people to the dark-side. In trying to prove us wrong, they not only prove us right, but discover their own love for writing. Or sometimes, they discover they don’t love writing because it’s so dang difficult. But at least then, you’ve got them to shut up. 
Either way, the important thing to know is that when it comes to writing, non-writers are the stupid ones. Not you. Never you. 
Any stupid people in your life? What’s your pet peeve stupid question? How do you deal with the stupidity?

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Rejection

Hi all! Welcome back to another installment of A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing. Today I’m writing about something that all writers must get used to.

Rejection.

It’s totally a thing.

And it can be devastating. I mean, we create our stories. We spend weeks, months — even years — to write them, edit them and polish them until they’re practically begging to be published. Or so we think.

Until we keep hearing the same thing again and again: No.

No.

No.

No.

No.

Oh, these “no’s” take a million different forms when we’re querying. Anything from a form rejection (which can and has come in in less than a minute from sending) to personalized rejections that can and do make us feel like we missed it by a tiny fraction — which might be worse than a form rejection.

Even when we finally get a yes and get published, or if we decided to go the self-publishing way, there is still rejection to be found.

Readers might not like our stories. After everything we went through to put a story before them, they might simply not like it. And that really hurts. Arguably, even more than the agent and publisher rejection.

Readers are, after all, the reason why we publish. (Not why we write, mind you, but publishing’s another animal entirely.)

We publish because we want people to read our work. More than that, we want people to like our work. And getting a “no” in any form (even if it really wasn’t meant that way), it hurts.

So what do we do? People always speak about writers needing thick skins. But as I thought of this post, I realized that a thick skin really isn’t the thing. See, when we write, we actually revealed our souls in our writing. Our stories are part of us. So having them rejected in any way just won’t stop stinging any more than a slap to a face would.

No. I think we really just learn how to breathe through the pain. We feel it. We learn how to deal with it.

And you can learn how to do it too. Start by accepting critiques on your work without letting yourself feel personally insulted. Cultivate a habit of learning what you can and knowing when a rejection means something.

Yeah, I know that this might sound stupid, but it really isn’t. Really, it comes down to realizing that, although our stories are personal, differing opinions about those stories really aren’t. It might feel that every person who doesn’t like our story that much is really insulting us as much as it.

That’s just not true. Honestly, I don’t even think the reader ever thinks of the writer when he/she reads. Which is how it should be.

So learn to realize that although the story is part of you, the rejection isn’t aimed at you. You’ll be a much better writer that way.

Anyone want to share war stories from querying/publishing trenches? Got tips?

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Questions

I’m trying to post three times a week, but at the moment, work and life is still going crazy. That said, I’m still determined to see this series through. 

The way I see it, there are lots of new writers out there who are wondering if their writing experience is abnormal in some way, and this series is me saying: Phhhht. What’s normal? We’re writers, for heaven’s sake. 
Going on with this theme, I’m just going to come out and say that it’s completely okay to ask your characters questions. 
In fact, I recommend it. Yes, I know some writers create characters similarly to how people create cakes. (As in with a recipe or a set method.) You might be one of them. If you do the creation right, though, there should be some sort of aspect where the characters come alive. If they don’t, you’re doing it wrong. 
This is where asking questions comes in handy. Often, when characters refuse to play along, it’s because you don’t know all you need to know yet. The easy way to do this is go: Hey, character (using their actual name), what’s going on? 
No, doing this doesn’t make you insane. It makes you a writer. 
Or it might make you insane and I’m insane because I do this often. In fact, when I feel like I’m not getting everything I should into my story, I’ll sit down and do a character interview. Sometimes, the characters love talking about their hopes and dreams and whether they like cats. Others…not so much. 
But then, even with the sullen ones being sullen, I’m learning about them. I learn how they talk. I learn how they react to people prying. I learn all sorts of lovely things I can torture them with *ahem* use later.
See? All totally sane. 
What about you? Do you talk to your characters? How does it go for you? 

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Procrastination

For those of you who missed the A to Z Challenge (or just forgot because I’m taking forever to finish the series), I’m currently writing about the A to Z of things writers (especially new ones) should know about writing.

Today I’m tackling Procrastination, because it’s a pain in the butt.

I mean seriously. We’re writers. We love writing. We love having stories to share with the world. It’s like breathing to us. Things just don’t feel right unless we’re working on our stories.

You’d think that it means that we just hop to work whenever we have time to write.

Weeeeeeeeeeellllll… 

No. 

No, we don’t. 

Because there’s tv and chores and all manner of “legit” activities like social networking or refreshing ranking pages to death to see if our book babies are doing okay.

Really, though, it reminds me of this scene in Stuart Little. Except in this case, we’re both the mouse and the cat at the same time. Or maybe Stuart is the good writer side and the cat’s the bad writer side. Either way, the cat having his way and not doing what he should usually ends up with someone getting hurt. (Or with writing not happening, which does hurt.)

The sad thing is that we do this to ourselves all the time. Especially when we know that some major deadline is looming over us. It makes us feel like we’re totally overwhelmed. Drowning even. But instead of just sitting down and just getting the stuff done, we make things worse by doing:

Nothing. 

Which of course overwhelms us even more.

Really. Try not to do this. It’s a vicious circle. Because it makes you not enjoy writing even though you love it. Have you ever loved something and not like something (or someone) at the same time? It’s incredibly frustrating.

The thing is, if you no longer like writing, you’ll put it off more, which means that it overwhelms you even more later. Which makes you like it less. And on it goes.

Stop the cycle. Don’t put writing off when you can do it right now. Put off the things you want to do now but know you could do later.

Trust me. Your writing will thank you for it.

Any addicted or reforming procrastination addicts here today? What’s your method of choice? If it’s blogging: STOP NOW AND GO WRITE.

After you’ve commented, of course. 😉

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: New

See? I told you I’d actually write about things not related to the two books I’m about to release into the wild. Can’t help it, honestly. I know posting only about my books makes me a bore. Heck, it bores me to be so boring.

BUT! This is my shameless marketing plug for those of you who’ve missed recent events. Firstly, I’m still looking for people who’ll spread the word, so if you’d like to help, please click here. Then, The Vanished Knight is back on Goodreads and available for pre-order. Click here for more info. 

Right. Now that’s done. Time for the proper post.

New

If you’re still new to the writing gig, you’re probably approaching the whole thing with stars in your eyes. It’s a wonderful feeling, that liberal sense of endless possibility mixed with the delusion that your muse is actually your friend.

In this time, you’re going to find that you’re very productive. You’ll be able to churn out hundreds or thousands of words every day while you’re exploring the characters, world and story.

If you’re a veteran to the fiction writing gig, you’ll be writing like a madman-or woman, trying to get as many words down as possible while the going is good.

Why? Because for most of us, the feeling of “newness” wears off around the time we hit the middle of the story. (The exception to this being those writers who can write 10k words per day, every day, for a week. I know exactly one such writer.)

The sucky thing about the newness wearing off at this particular point is that usually, the middles are the hardest parts to get right. Because the middle will usually be where you discover plot holes. The middle is where you’ll find that your goal is too weak to sustain a story. Where you’ll find that the stakes aren’t what they should be. Where other characters start clamoring for the title of “Main Character”.

So exactly when the newness fades (and perhaps because of it), we’re faced with the harsh realities of our story. Mainly, those realities circle around the fact that the story really isn’t as good as we thought. (More on this later.)

Either way, the middle is arguably the place where most people lose steam and give up.

Don’t. Be. That. Person. 

Remember when I said that you need discipline more than inspiration? This is where the change happens. Once the newness is gone, you need to find it within yourself to keep going.

But while the story is new, get as much writing done as possible. The more you get done, the more momentum you have. Which in plain English means that the more you’ve written, the less intimidating the rest of the required word count will look.

So whatever you do, don’t procrastinate while your story’s new.

Because newness has a fixed expiry date. And your time’s ticking.

Anyone here capable of huge word counts in a day? Do you also have your writing slump when the newness wears off? By how much?