When commitment to your story fails you.

I like helping new writers make sense of this writing gig. It’s my way of giving back to my community. Which is a big reason why I enjoy hanging around on Wattpad. (Yes, I have indeed warmed to it.)

A whole lot of writers there are in fact still learning. Which means many writers are asking for advice. (A good thing, because it gives me fodder to write about.)

One of those things that people keep asking about is about commitment.

Things like: “How do I stay committed to the stories I’m writing? I always start stories, but I never finish them.”

Usually, my immediate response would be: “Say no to the shiny new ideas, then. Make a choice to stay committed and keep going.”

BUT.

I think there’s more going on to this question than “You’re just not committed.”

Why?

Well, I think back to when I was a writer learning the craft. I started seven drafts that I was excited about. I finished exactly none of them. At the time, I also thought it was commitment issues. Which was why, when draft number 8 came along, I started blogging about it as an accountability measure.

The thing is, in retrospect, I realized that The Vanished Knight happened as the result of a happy coincidence of commitment and just enough writing knowledge to get by.

Because in those other seven drafts, I’d be all excited and write, then suddenly something would just make me go meh and stop. And that something is my whole point.

That something was something that was wrong with the story. A Mary-Sue character. Lack of conflict. Lack of stakes. Lack of proper motivation. Lack of focus. (And on… and on… and on.)

There’s always something that makes a serious difference between our expectation and reality. And when we realize that reality isn’t stacking up, we stop.

That’s what I did. (In fact, I still do it. I just changed my habits a slight bit.)

So how did I finish The Vanished Knight? (Actually that’s a much longer story, but anyway.) I fell in love with the characters and concept and committed myself to finish it. Same as always. Except I added a blog to keep myself motivated. But that would NOT have helped me if not for the next thing I did.

I committed myself to figuring out what went wrong in the previous “failed” drafts so that I didn’t make those same mistakes again. 

Yes. I recognized that there would be flaws in my story ahead of time and set about correcting them before they happened. And this time, I was lucky enough that I had learned enough to get all the way to the end. 
So if you’re still struggling with finishing your first book, take heart. Use all your previous mistakes as lessons. Find what made them stop working, and then make sure you’re not doing the same things in your current project. I promise you that you;ll at least get further than you did before. (Unless you go chasing after every bright idea that comes your way. In which case, read here.)
To the new kids: How many tries have you made? To the old hands at this writing thing: How many tries did it take you to finish one book? 

A to Z Challenge: Beginnings

Continuing with my theme of Things Writers Should Know About Writing, I’m exploring one of the most difficult things that writers encounter. 

Beginnings 

If you’ve ever started a fiction project, you must have some idea of what I’m talking about. 
Blank pages are terrifying. No seriously. I’ve had to do with very few writers in my life who doesn’t know what it’s like to have a bright idea, but draw a blank once we have a blank page in front of us. Suddenly, the words we’d had is gone. And we sit. 
And sit. 
And sit. 
Staring at that blank page, pens or typing fingers poised. 
Waiting for the words when they don’t want to come. 
Then you finally get past it and write the first chapter, the second… the third… You start to think you’re safe. After all, you’re in the middle of the story now, right? 
Wrong. 
Every chapter has a beginning, which means that every chapter has a beginning. And that blank you draw can strike at any of them. 
The good news is: this is absolutely normal. 
The bad news: Well… there’s not really a cure. Those blanks will come and there’s not all that much that you can do to stop it. 
More good news: You can deal with it. When I get stuck on a blank page, I write down anything vaguely related to what I want to happen. Once that sentence is on the page, it’s a lot less difficult to continue. Other people try to cut down on the number of blank beginnings by always ending in the middle of a scene or chapter. Some people, follow Jack Torrance’s example in The Shining. Not the bit where he chops through the door. Although, if you’re really that frustrated with beginnings… You might want to go have a lie down. 
No, I’m talking about his habit of writing All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Basically, he writes anything on that blank page so it isn’t blank anymore. 
It works. No really. Any of my suggestions work because our fear of the blank page is a psychological issue. So, the solution is to find a way to trick the brain into thinking the blank page isn’t there any more. 
See? Simple. 
Now PUT THAT AX DOWN!

What do you beat the blank page blank outs? If you’re new, which suggestion are you going to try? 

Sometimes, it’s just necessary to talk to someone.

I’ve been having a frustrating couple of writing weeks centering around the third book in The War of Six Crowns. 

In case you’ve missed updates on it, I’ve had to re-draft it twice now. I haven’t had time to mention that right before the house move came, I got seriously stuck. The moment I got past the re-introduction of the characters in the current draft, the wheels fell off spectacularly.

I just couldn’t seem to make the book work in my head. It even got to the point where I was wondering whether I had to scrap the whole idea for what I had in mind for this book, which meant scrapping the whole rest of the series, because a significant amount of it depends on the events taking place right now.

Just like everything depends on the two first books.

And you know what? There comes a point where one’s fears multiply to such a point that you can’t even think straight about something. No amount of telling myself to be rational and just think things through helped. The moment I put serious thought into this book, any thoughts that might have been stewing away vanished and I was again left with nothing but a vague yet growing sense of panic.

So what’s a girl to do? I went to the Untethered Realms Facebook group and said:

“I can’t seem to make book three in my series work. *curls up into a sobbing little ball of misery.*”

Luckily Graeme Ing stepped in and offered to help. How? Basically by asking me a ton of questions about the first two books, then the third. 
It might sound silly, but it really helps. I think it’s just the fact that writing out the answers for him required that at least at first, I had to stick with what I knew. Once there, I could focus on what I didn’t know and needed. 
Scary thing: Everything that’s not working comes from two causes: 1) I’ve been nitpicking just to add more problems to my process. (Panic does that. Creates problems where there aren’t any so I have more reason to panic.) 2) I haven’t yet figured out how to get two characters to meet. 
That second one… it’s… well. Stupid. I’ve been panicking about something stupid. It’s just that when one panics, it’s not easy to get into perspective again. Talking to someone else puts things into perspective. Even if I’d talked other writers through their plot problems in exactly the same way. 
Sometimes, another set of ears is just necessary. 
Do you have another set of ears? No? Well, you have me. All you have to do is drop me a line. mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. 
 

Well… this sucks… but let me tell you about this interesting thing…

Mmm. My blog tour host absconded with my post, it seems. Or she’s asleep and the time zone difference is killing us. Or aliens sucked my blog from her schedule.

Either way, although I waited all day for the link to go live, it hasn’t.

*blink blink*

So… uh… *does a random tap dance*

And now, on to a somewhat more regular posting.

I figured I’d do a post on something weird today. Or… not weird. Just different.

See recently, the stresses of my day-job with the magician fruit thieves *snarl* had a massive toll on me. Not only was I becoming about as snappish as a non-extinct and hungry TRex, but my creativity was suffering. As was every single other activity in my life.

It came to the point where I went to a psychologist, knowing I’d never faced this sort of stress before. I needed a way to deal with everything. A healthy way.

Not being one to pop pills, I was pleasantly surprised when he shared my sentiment. The surprise grew when he introduced me to this thing called Emotion Freedom Technique, EFT.

It’s weird. Really weird. Basically, the premise is that our bodies build up with negative emotions until the result is quite similar to an electric short circuit. Our thoughts, memories, basically everything works on electric impulses running through our nervous system. Negative things like fear, perfectionism, anger, trauma etc. mess with the way the impulses flow.

And when that happens, we lose our capacity to perform certain tasks. Or any tasks, for that matter.

I think you guys know what I mean. That sucky feeling you get when you’ve had a bad day, followed by feeling as if you’re writing through goo in your brain? Yup. That’s what I’m talking about.

So far, so normal(ish). The weird thing is that tapping, or rubbing certain nerve points on your body can make it go away. It doesn’t remove the cause or the memories of your problem, but it usually makes the fear and angst associated with it disappear. And when that happens, it’s easier to deal with everything.

The best thing (for me) about it is that it can take as little as ten minutes to get rid of baggage. Sometimes it comes back, but I can get rid of it again, and again, and again.

This month, I basically dropped into the doldrums because of the magical fruit thieves, me not being able to write, the cat dying and all other manners of tiny but significant tortures. Usually I come out of the funk soon enough, but this time, it just kept on coming. So today, I decided to give the tapping a chance.

I’m already feeling a ton better. And I’ll  probably do it again closer to NaNo. In the meantime, I’m rearing to get back into my stories. Guess I should have done the EFT sooner.

Anyway, it’s really easy to learn, but it is in a bit of an experimental stage, so if you think it might help you in some way (and it probably can), please go find a professional who can help you. I think it’s safe, but I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t refer you to those who know better than me.

Anyone hear of EFT or use it?

Re-evaluation completed

Hey all! Before I start, just want to let you know that I’m at S.K. Anthony’s blog talking about how I beat insecurities and at Gwen Gardner’s talking about how I create complex characters.

So, as I mentioned on Friday, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, but that at this stage I needed to re-evaluate how I was going to approach it.

I decided I’m going to let myself off the hook while pushing myself at the same time. Sounds crazy, I know, but here’s how I look at it.

As far as drafting’s concerned, I don’t really care what my word counts go towards, as long as I write. So at the moment, I’m a bit too stressed to focus on my current WiPs, but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t write. Just means I can write without focusing on a given project.

Does it mean I’m wasting my time? Probably not. The way I see it, I’ll be adding words to most of my projects, since I won’t really be able to stay away from them. Maybe not 50k to one, but I’ll finish all of them anyway.

Also, doing prompts will open up my thoughts again. It’s been weeks since I could focus on writing, so I need to get back into the swing of things.

Besides, who knows? Maybe one or more of those random prompts I’ll do will lead to an awesome story.

Who else is doing NaNo? If you want to buddy up, my user name’s iceangel. What will you be working on?

Update Day

Before I start, I just want to let you know that I’m at Tyrean’s for an one-word interview. Also, I’m visiting Alex to share a Nordian joke.

And now, to the point. You know… This month started off on a high. The Vanished Knight got published, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s doing pretty good for a debut.

But other than that, I can safely say the wheels have come off. See, the drafting in my down-time went to hell when my publisher let me know that hey, edits are done and I’d be published a week later. (Not really anyone’s fault, and honestly, it turned out well, so I don’t mind.)

What I do mind is that I’m simply not in a head space to write. Tried to kick-start it by writing 31k by the end of the month. I managed 10k. 8k of which were guest posts.

Then there were family trips, work issues (which I will continue to refuse to dignify with expansion on the internet) and this week, food poisoning. In fact, I’m only starting to feel human again now.

Except I’m feeling a lot like an injured one. Because today, one of my family’s cats died. Just so you know, it wasn’t one of the kittens. It was an older cat. Eight years old, but utterly devoted to my brother. His loss has been closely felt in my family. And I’m crying as I write this. Honestly, he was too young to die, and his illness was way too sudden. It took him in one week. We don’t know why, but maybe we’ll have some answers when the necropsy comes back. I’m just praying now that this isn’t something contagious.

So yeah. I’m currently physically and emotionally tired. And I really need a rest. Blog hiatus is out of the question, though. And I’m NOT going to miss NaNo.

I will, however re-evaluate in this week before NaNo starts. I’m not sure if I want to work on any important drafts right now. Right now, I don’t think I need to feel like writing is work. So I’ll need to figure out a way to get me writing in a way that’ll get me back on capacity. Without pushing me over the edge.

Where are you writing-wise?

EDIT: The necropsy came back. Seems the cat’s cause of death was congenital. He had smaller than average kidneys and liver, and the longest small intestine either of the animal hospital’s vets have ever seen. Looks like Sylvester had been suffering for some time without us knowing, and it was just a matter of time before his systems shut down. 

We did see him before he died, and it seems as if  he’d waited the whole day for us to visit. Because the vet found he’d died within an hour after that. Already missing him like hell. 


On my first days as a published author

Hey all! Today I’m at Mark Koopmans’s blog, talking about why paying it forward is so important.

BTW, the Paying Forward Awards are on, and I’m collecting prizes. Please see here for details.

Some of you might be wondering what I’m up to at the moment? Signings? Press releases? T.V. interviews? Nope. I’m being a writer. I.E. I (supposedly) write.

At the moment, though, I’m struggling a bit. I’m so busy with writing blog posts, visiting blogs, checking my Amazon rankings (seriously. It’s something I do compulsively.), responding to comments on guest posts and interviews etc. that when I do sit down to write, the words aren’t there.

Which is annoying, because I know my muse is tapping her feet, waiting for me to get my butt into gear. But maybe I’m not in the right mental space to write. Which sucks, because deep down, I know I need to get writing again.

I need to escape the craziness that is being newly published and to focus on my real love. Yes, I’d love to be read. I want desperately for people to read The Vanished Knight. But first of all, I love creating stories. And I feel that if I lose sight of that for even a moment, my creativity will suffer.

So what I’m doing is this. I set a goal for 31k words this month. And every day, I’m sitting down by a blank page. If the words come, I write. Even if it’s nowhere near my daily goal. I’m not forcing out more. But I am dedicating time to my muse.

Hopefully, the words will come easier as I fall into the new routine that comes with being a published writer.

How do you balance marketing with writing? Do you think I’m nuts for even trying?