Writing has been a nightmare lately

Well, perhaps ‘nightmare’ is too strong a phrase to use.  I can’t finish anything!  All my ideas seem like crap!  It feels like when I was sleeping, somebody performed sneak genetic surgery on me, removing every single bit of creativity in my DNA and replaced it with diseased squirrel poop!  Perhaps, this needs a bit of explanation.

A few weeks back, I picked what, for me, is a dream project back up after awhile.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s, my father wrote an anti-terrorism novel.  It was 800 pages typed.  Upon completion, he sent the novel into a publisher for review.  It was rejected, as so many novels are.  But (and get this), his rejection letter was 21 pages long, typed!  Anyone that’s ever sent in a novel and had it rejected knows how rare a 21 page rejection letter is.  Hell, most of them are form letters, maybe a paragraph or two, usually just a form that they sign and send off.  A 21 page rejection letter means in no uncertain terms that the person who reviewed it believes that there is something there worth paying attention to.

My father’s reaction?  He stopped writing it, and the novel sat in a box in his garage for almost 20 years.  A few years ago, I asked him if I could have it, and if he’d mind if I rewrote it.  He agreed, so I began working on entering the text into Liquid Story Binder (a writing software).  I switched to scrivener and started transferring it into that (more on the switch another time).  After a month or so, I started working more on projects of my own, so I put it aside again.  A month or so ago, I picked it back up.  As of this writing, I am on page 181 of his manuscript.  I end up entering a minimum of 1000 words a day into Scrivener.

The problem has been that whenever I try and write a new story or start a new novel, my brain turns into mush.  What seems like a good idea when I’m thinking about it turns into “blah blah blah”, I write like 20 or 30 words and then stop, stuck.

Now, I have several works that are in the editing stage that I could work on, but for some reason I feel like I ought to start something fresh.  I just…it’s like every time I try to write something original, the stupid fairy beats me with a stick.

I keep chugging away at it, though.  I know that sooner or later, somehow, some way, the writer neurons in my brain will start firing again

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How do you know when it’s time to stop?

I’m wondering this right now.  I’ve got a short story that I’m working on.  I was really excited about the idea when I started.  The story has gone through 4 iterations as I’m writing it, and it’s been over a month now.  On a short story?  What the fuck?  I’m a big believer in Chuck Wendig when he says “FINISH YOUR SHIT”, but when do you stop trying to finish?  I can’t think that my current slump is just because I started playing WoW again.  It’s not a lack of ideas, but a lack of ‘inspiration’ as to how to put those ideas together.  Maybe some of it’s because I’ve been a bit scatterbrained lately.

One thing about me (and if you know me, you already know this), I did a lot of drugs.  I don’t like to blame things on that, and I definitely don’t believe I deserve any special kind of treatment because of it.  I’m not really sorry I did drugs, but (and I have no proof of this; this is just what I think), I have trouble sometimes holding a lot in my mind at once.  If I’m not careful and not prepared, I have a lot of trouble concentrating on one thing for a long period of time, sometimes even forgetting what I say in the middle of a sentence.  I can usually turn it into something that seems funny and everyone laughs, but the truth is that it’s really embarassing and it scares me.  The way it relates to this particular topic is that I sometimes lose interest in something as I’m writing it.  Now a lot of the time I’m able to muscle through that and write anyway, but for some reason I haven’t been able to do that lately.  I don’t know what to do about it except to keep writing and hope something comes out of it.  If it doesn’t, I try again until it does.

But another idea has occurred to me.  I haven’t worked on it in awhile, but I’m kind of excited by it.  Back in the late eighties/early nineties, my father wrote a novel packed with espionage, terrorism, and anti-terrorism.  It wasn’t what the editor he sent it to was looking for, but he sent a 21 page rejection letter, so OBVIOUSLY he saw something in it he liked.  Well, so do I.  A few years back, I asked my father if I could have the novel and rewrite it, and he agreed.  It’s 800 pages typed, so my first task is just entering the story into my laptop so I can edit it proper.  I plan to work with him on every aspect of it.  It’s not my usual genre, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to connect with my father on this.  I plan to pick that up after I work on my short story, and I have a feeling that’s gonna be sooner rather than later.  I guess that’s about it for now.

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It’s Been Awhile…

Hey Everyone (I’m addressing this like there a bunch of folks that read it, heh).  It’s been quite awhile.  A lot of things have happened since my last entry.  I got married in June 2k14, got laid off, had a few jobs, worked for Twitter for 2 1/2 months, got laid off again.  I started playing World of Warcraft again.  I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t let it affect my writing or my working out, and I’ve failed on both of those counts. One of my cats, BigHead, died the other day.  That was more traumatic than I expected.  I’m getting ready to go on a little mini-Phish tour in a few days (only three shows, but I haven’t seen them since ’99).  I’ve started vaping, and mostly do that now, though I still smoke 5 or 6 cigarettes a day.  So a lot has been going on.  The  biggest thing (at least as it relates to this blog) is that my writing is in the fucking toilet lately.

The story I’m righting now is a perfect example.  I’m writing a short story with one of my characters in my Urban Fantasy series, Marcus Bent (charming guy: I’ll explain him in another blog post), and it hasn’t been going well.  I had a pretty good idea for the story when I started.  I took it through the steps outlined in a book by KS Tan called “How to Write Short Stories in Six Easy Steps” (I’ve used this book for several years now and it’s always worked pretty well for me).  When I started writing it, certain aspects started to not make sense to me.  I started changing it and kept starting over.  Long story short, I’ve been writing it for about 4 or 5 weeks now and have started several drafts, only to throw each one out and start over before I finish the story.  When I go to write, it’s like I push the “brain to jelly” button or something and can’t write for shit.  And this brings me to the present.

Normally on Sunday Mornings, I get together with a guy from my Writer’s Group (it’s called “Foot Klub 2000, The New Millenium”, but more on that another time) and we write at a local Panera.  When I woke up this morning, I had a text from him that said he was feeling sick and was gonna skip our meeting today.  I decided I was going to go up to Starbucks, get a cheap (for them) cup of Iced Coffee and sit outside to write.  I wrote probably 375 words, but got nowhere.

Then, the idea occurred to me that it might help to have a place to write about my writing, that if I did that every day (or most days), that it may go a long way toward helping me break the self-imposed block I’ve got right now, so that’s what this is.  I don’t know if it’s going to work, but at this point, I’ll try anything that might work.

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My Writing Process (or, who gives a shit anyway)

Most of this was posted on the creative writing forums, but it made me think of starting a blog, so here goes.
I don’t know that I have a set process yet.
I’ve been writing for years and years and years, just little bits at a time, but never got anywhere.
About 5 years ago after getting laid off the first time, I decided that if JK Rowling could get rich and off welfare by writing, why not I? I certainly had better ideas than Harry Potter.
About a month or so after that, I discovered that it wasn’t as easy as all that. I floundered for a few months but kept at it. I discovered that though it was hard work and that I wasn’t going to be rich any time soon, I was going to keep at it.
It’s now almost 5 years, six novels and almost 500k words later, and I still feel like a newbie. My writing group published a book of short stories and I’ve had several looks (but no bites) from agents/publishers. I continue to work at this almost every day, all while holding down a real job, three kids, recovery from addiction/alchoholism, and terminal procrastination.
I don’t have a set writing process.
What I do have is an evolving set of guidelines that I try to follow. Some are relatively new, some have been in place for awhile. Being a part of a regular writing group helps; it’s a group of people that I can not only run my current prose by, but with whom I can talk about the writing process in a manner that I can’t with everyone else. If something is not working, I figure out what that something is and change it.  In short, the following is my current process. It may change soon.
1) I keep a running file of cool ideas. Often while I’m working on something else, an idea will come up. I don’t want to lose it, but I don’t want to stop working on what I’m working currently. Some of these are ridiculous; some stay.
2) I usually start out by using the first little bit of “The 90 day novel” by Alan Watt. I don’t use the whole thing, but his process of gathering ideas to start a book with intrigues me. I follow it ’till it seems counter-productive. This encompasses what I believe would be called “pre-writing”.  There’s a lot of background material and character work. By the time I’m done with this phase, I know my story and my characters pretty well.
3) I try to have a rough outline together. It’s been loose at times, but it’s getting more specific.  (note: I tried writing completely ‘seat of the pants’ recently; it was a complete disaster for me, but it did show me that I’m not a discovery writer. No opinion on it, it just didn’t work for me)
4) I write my first draft almost to exclusion. I write very little else during this time period. This can take me anywhere from 3 months to about 9 months.
5) I leave it completely alone for about 3 to 6 months. I want to have a completely new experience with it when I come back to revise it. I don’t always wait that long, but whenever I don’t, I discover pretty quickly why I made that rule, and I stop soon.
6) I reread it and see where the plot holes are. I sketch out an outline, fixing those holes.
7) I rewrite it completely, fixing any plot holes.
8) I repeat steps 5 through 7 as often as needed.
9) At some point, it just becomes copy-editing. I know when this point is.  I cant’ describe how I know, but I know.
10) I find a few dedicated beta readers and have them go over it, giving me detailed reports.
11) I go over the responses, usually following steps seven through nine.
12)  Time to shop it!
Like I said, this is an evolving process.  I am NOT one of those authors that can make a first draft so good that it barely needs editing.  I have some folks in my writing group like that. I tried to emulate it and got nowhere. I just don’t have it like that.  The best advice I can have is to try a bunch of things and make your process yours. DO NOT listen to people who tell you “it must be like this, this is THE WAY to write”.  In fairness, it may be ‘THE WAY’ for them, but I can almost guarantee that it won’t be for you.  People that have their process down, that can write and barely edit, that know what they ‘re doing, they’ve come to that process usually by years of trial and error.  This ain’t a quick thing.  Find your process. Stick to what works for you, and only change that when it isn’t working.  It may take awhile, but you’ll find your process.
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