Writing for Fun and Profit

Ok, let’s admit it. Some of you have novels and other length fiction in the closet.

I hope it will be helpful to offer some advice here, and to answer questions that you may have.

Here’s a set of The Rules

1. “Follow no rule off a cliff”—CJ Cherryh, I forget when. When advice conflicts with your concept of your story, don’t try to go there. Seek other advice.

2. “Editors excuse and expect typos, not bad grammar.” Words are your equipment. Respect them. Use them precisely. And write a lot. Your natural mode of expression is talking. You have to make it so words flow out of your fingers accurately spelled, accurately typed, and making exactly the sense you want. This skill  comes with practice. Months and years of practice. You have time to make up for: get cracking, no matter what  you write.

The corollary to this is: “Never trust Grammatik or a computer spell checker.”

3. “Don’t plan: do. The plan will occur to you as you go.” Some writers do plan everything. They must not be as often distracted as I am. Get it on paper, in any form you can.

4. “Study word derivations.” Learn them in families, as, for instance, the Latin reg-rect (Rule, govern, regulate) gives us: regent, regnant, regulation, regular, cor-RECT, insurrection, rectangular, regent, Rex, incorrigible, (why did that e change to i? accented double consonant in front of it.) Etc. When you need a word, think of one of your core groups and let that core instruct you.

In the huge Webster’s International, there are some fine-print pages at the front that nobody ever reads. Read them. They contain all the rules for English grammar and spelling ever concocted, in less than 25 pages. Mastery of that section is all that’s between you and Gandalf-like wisdom, at least where it regards the English language.

5. “Plan to publish or don’t. Both are honorable ways to write.” Nuff said. Write for yourself and your friends, or do it for pub. And if  you do it for pub, I’d recommend going for paper books, not e-pub. If you can do it, it will give you a springboard you can’t get online.

6. “Don’t drive or handle operate heavy equipment while working out a scene in your head.” Your vision may switch without warning to a spaceport dock or a mediaeval castle. This is no time to be navigating downtown or running a lathe.

7. “Never imagine that you are a better writer while on substances.” You aren’t. Don’t even write on aspirin if you can avoid it. You need as keen a mind as you can muster.

8. “Don’t ask your Aunt Hattie to critique. She loves you too much.” Find some reader who’ll ask the hard questions, and the proper questions for the kind of story you write.

9. “Do not mix up advice about short stories with advice about novels.” I’ve seen more confused young writers who took a short course from some writer and never thought to ask what that writer writes. The mediums are vastly different.

10. “Write. Write often. Write daily. If you can’t do anything else that day, keep a journal of your thoughts and observations and take on life in general, just to keep your fingers in practice.” Thinking about writing is not practice. Writing is practice. You wouldn’t expect to look at a piano and think about the piano and listen to people play the piano and then hope to go to Carnegie Hall rarely having touched a keyboard yourself. Same problem.

11. “Don’t be too critical.” Ted Sturgeon said “98 percent of everything is crap.” Yep. Write garbage. Write, write, write. Then learn to edit brilliantly.

12. “If your book has one brilliant scene, and you’re now stalled, that scene is your problem, especially if it’s the best thing you ever wrote.” Get it out of there, however lovingly crafted. Back up, and get going.

13. “You can say anything if you can punctuate it correctly.”  —“Good No Fear to kill the King.—rough literal translation of a famous Latin sentence. It can read:  “Not good situation. Fear to Kill the King.” Or. “Situation ok. No fear. OK to kill the king.” Where you put the period matters.  In this instance, the bearer could assess the situation, add one dot on the paper—or not—and poor king Edward was toast. Pay meticulous attention to dots, whether 3, or 4, or over commas… … …. ; : etc.

14. “If you’ve mailed out a book to a publisher, get busy on another one.” Or you’ll go nuts. An answer can take months.

15. “Rejection means I’m bad.” Nope. It can mean the book needs work: assume that, and you’ll send out a better book. But it can also mean the publisher just bought a book very like yours and wants to balance the list. It can also mean everybody on the editorial committee liked it but the company president, and that did it. It can also mean the new-hire first reader was scared to bring a really innovative manuscript to the scary 3rd editor, and just sent it back as the easier course. Or it can mean that somebody backed into the editor’s car this morning and the editor is not in the mood for humor. Reasons vary. Don’t second guess or blame your skills. Just send out the best book you can.

159 Comments

  1. aelith

    Spence, dear, I just tride to register there and it said it is not taking new people.

    • HRHSpence

      It is now, just sign up and leave me a note in the thread you can see. I’ll change your status after that.

  2. ToddRM

    I love that question, “What’s it about?” Actually it makes me squirm. Usually I start with, “It’s scince fiction,” and gage their reaction. An “Oh,” with a “I just stepped in something gross” look on their face says tons, then I go vrey abstract.

    If they say, “Really? I love Science Fiction!” and look interested, then I actually tell them a little more, usually more than they wanted to know. LOL

    • CJ

      DOn’t let ’em get you down. We have the most erudite, intelligent readership outside the really esoteric academics, and WE understand science better than they do. 😉

      • Asad Sayeed

        It’s really weird how some people still dismiss SF. I remember e.g. Margaret Atwood attempting to dissociate herself from SF when clearly some of her work fits well within the genre (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake—for both of which I can cite several SF authors who either anticipated her in terms of themes/subgenres or compete well). But she has to do this because the Toronto lit crowd won’t apparently voluntarily read SF, it must be spooned delicately down their throats or something.

        And people who think it’s “childish” or something. Told over the cell phone, while surfing the web…

        • CJ

          sf doesn’t sell as many copies as mainstream: that’s her motive, unless it’s a personal distaste, and something her publisher has asked her to do in speaking.

          Also, sf scares people. I have been invited to speak at writers’ conferences. At one such, in which I spoke about the optimism of sf, one of the officers of the group who had hid in the hall during most of the lecture came to me in tears to say she had been so scared by the prospect of my speaking she couldn’t eat, and she heard the speech expecting me to say the world was going to end, and she was so glad I hadn’t, etc, etc, and she felt totally different and not scared anymore.

          It was a strange experience. But the woman was perfectly sincere, just scared to death of the world ending.

  3. Asad Sayeed

    Meh. I’ll leave fiction writing to the pros 🙂 I can only recall three times when I made an attempt at writing fiction that wasn’t a USENET RPG:

    1. In grade seven, I started writing a fantasy novel. I only made it three chapters in before the plot holes started multiplying. More interesting, though, was the religion I tried to install. I decided to call their god “The Writer”. That’s right! I made my characters worship me. I mean, why not?

    2. A bizarre two-page story about an alien rationalizing her desire to eat her human neighbour. It was a parody of an essay I had been forced to read in grade 12 English class by some Famous “Literary” Author about her desire to continue to eat meat rather than become a vegetarian. (I am not and wasn’t then a vegetarian either, but it was ridiculously self-indulgent.) I should have tried to sell it to PETA.

    3. In the same grade the English teacher assigned “descriptive writing” essays based on two word themes, and the one I got was “The Eccentric”. Naturally, I decided to interpret it geometrically. As a giant, pointless eccentric wheel at the end of a walk through a surrealistic landscape.

    But generally, novel-writing seems to require a heroic amount of concentration and mental organization. I salute y’all. I’ll stick to an easier line of work, like scientific research 😉

  4. green_knight

    Lots of great stuff (and I still can’t get the avatar to work, sigh. Those odd-headed aliens are just not very _me_.)

    The ‘don’t work out a scene’ comment intrigued me – are you a visual writer? (I’m not. I know how my characters feel, but I have to work at what they see.)

    I had to laugh at The best way is to start with a bang because so many of your books do anything but. I *love* the way that you set a scene, that a seemingly incongruous descriptive passage gives meaning to the story and enriches it. And those scenes never feel infodumpy or superfluous; the worlds are as much characters as the people in them, and I wish I had half your descriptive skills.

    If you ever want to expand on how to create that sense of intrigue, how give readers just a glimpse of something elusive and to keep them reading just for that, rathe rthan piling worse and worse clichees upon the poor protagonists, you’ll have at least one avid listener.

    • CJ

      True. I do have some slow starts. 😉 I should add also–“Or start with a mystery or a mood.” Good suggestion.

      And I’m sorry about that avatar situation. Keep trying. You did see our post over there >>>>> about getting an avatar. There are some workarounds. And if they still don’t work, ask again and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do from admin. I don’t THINK I can directly install an avatar: that’s something you have to work out with Gravatar.

  5. Ron Sullivan

    Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden have a blog called Making Light, which sometimes includes useful info for writers, especially new writers, about publishing. They blow great loud whistles on outfits that fleece writers while telling them they’re getting published, e.g. The commentariat includes several familiar SF writers.

    There’s also some kickass medical writing there, re: first aid, disaster preparedness, vaccinations, and just stuff it’s useful for everyone to know.

  6. Jcrow9

    Oddly enough, I was successful in changing my avatar twice–once (from cartoony alien thingie automatically assigned when I joined) by going to Gravatar and uploading a photo–me as a six-foot two inch Oompa-Loompa (hey, it was Halloween). Then a couple weeks ago I went back to Gravatar and uploaded a new photo, my brother’s psycho standard poodle, and after a week or so of my avatar randomly changing back and forthe between Oompa-Loompa and poodle, it seems to have stabilized correctly–both here and at Jane’s site. Go figure.
    Jeff

    • tulrose

      Luv the poodle. The alien wierdo avatar suits me.

  7. CJ

    Start with a bang? Or not?

    Tossing a grenade over the transom is one sort of beginning—but that, in an alien world, often starts things going so fast at the start that you don’t have time to explain where we are.
    There are ways around this: in Dune, for instance, Herbert starts with a boy, a test, a room—and widens the view around this scene, step by step.

    You can start with a mystery. That works. Puzzle the reader.

    Whatever you do, try to engage the reader’s curiosity, and DON’T immediately launch into a 4 page infodump of the political system, followed by a discussion of the local coinage and the calendar system and its relation to religion. I can’t say you could never do that—but please don’t do it just for the challenge of it. There are reasons we say KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and don’t take on unnecessar problems.

    Best way to engage your audience? Think of that kid in the fifth grade who was totally diagreeable, Sammy Smith who made faces at you when you had to give an extemp speech, who wiggled his eyebrows at you during your oral book report.
    Set up that first scene to shut him up and make him listen. Always write to the tough audience, not the sure sell, and say it simply enough Sammy can follow it.

    • makoiyi

      That’s always the ‘thing’ (Sue’s favorite get-rid-of word) isn’t it? If you take the ‘presumption’ that readers know your world sometimes that actually works. In context, sometimes using odd words does work without detailed explanation, if the author is clever. Dorothy Dunnett could info-dump to her heart’s content and everyone would love it, because she made it so damned interesting, but very few can. People will scream at you that they want more details about character and world and then when you go back and add it they scream info-dump, so balancing it, I guess, is the art.

      I love your analogy here. I think I will print it out and put it by my comp.

      *Goes back to look at her opening*

  8. CJ

    So has anybody got a question apropos of writing? Technique? Etc? I can’t have exhausted the topic…

  9. makoiyi

    You said, and I quote:

    2. “Editors excuse and expect typos, not bad grammar.” Words are your equipment. Respect them. Use them precisely. And write a lot. Your natural mode of expression is talking. You have to make it so words flow out of your fingers accurately spelled, accurately typed, and making exactly the sense you want. This skill comes with practice. Months and years of practice. You have time to make up for: get cracking, no matter what you write.

    I realise that grammar and ‘style’ are two different things, but if say I were to compare your writing with Janny Wurts’ forex the styles/voice are so completely different you might think the grammar did come from two different schools.

    I struggle with grammar. I am basically self-taught, but I do try very hard at it. I was never taught grammar at school and punctuation was, place a comma where you pause for breath. So clarity is a huge issue when getting a point across. I do read aloud, yes. But it’s like driving for thirty years and then suddenly having to take a test in a new country, which I did.

    I wrote an opening the other day and most of my readers never said a word, but one person said, you’d better go buy a book on grammar, and I couldn’t see why.

    When I think back, the very first book of yours I read I found it very difficult to get into the style. Gawd, this was years ago. Once I did, I had no problems whatsoever. I’m wondering though if this is common, that when we come to new authors sometimes it does take a while to get into their style. I can think of a number of authors where I’ve had whoa moments right at the beginning, but then I’ve got the rythmn and then the writing flows.

    I have found over the years of reviewing and being reviewed that ‘writers’ are not nearly the same as regular readers. How important is it to have readers, or do you think we should plow on alone and trust our own instincts?

    • CJ

      Try the first things alone: you don’t need too much criticism at that stage. You need to find your own ‘voice.’ And your characters’ voices. Every book/series I write develops its own style, from the antique to the hypermodern, and the characters have their own voices. This is why you need to be in command of your grammar. You can do anything, as long as you punctuate it to make it make the same sense to the reader it made to you—and likewise, you need to settle into a way of handling ancient speech, or modern, that makes sense for that story.

      • philospher77

        I remember reading somewhere on your sight about your battles with editors about semi-colons, and the difference in how the line reads with either a comma or a period instead.

        • philospher77

          And of course, right after I clicked submit my brain screamed out “that should be site”.

        • CJ

          punctuation matters. But with these modern typefaces, it takes eagle eyes to even see the punctuation. I understand their point: I just wish they’d use a different typeface, rathen than these skinny modern jobs.

          • Sandor

            I purposely chose Century Schoolbook for my dissertation a while ago, just because I wanted a more open typeface than the standard – now that was a typeface that was meant to be easily read. I had also played around with Adobe Garamond, but I couldn’t get the symbol typeface to match up with my equations because of the different ratio on the midline.

            – S

          • ranger

            My favorite font for a while now has been Trebuchet…it looks nice and it’s named after a seige engine. What’s not to like? 🙂 LOL

  10. katoji

    Third person limited POV and description. Love the economy of words, the intensity of feeling and thinking through a set of events instead of just hearing about them, but there’s a trade off. You lose a powerful tool in not being as free to use words to describe a setting–because they are filtered through another’s experience. You can tell when you’ve slipped in a word that doesn’t belong! To be able to add to the setting, its pretty much the facts only. Too sparse? I wonder. And how can you tell?

    Third person limited POV and time. Something told from this perspective is so intense, you can feel the sands flowing through the hourglass. It seems like a story told in this fashion takes place over the period of a few days. This is good, I find it believable that big, dramatic, life changing events happen quickly–its what makes for a gripping story. But sometimes, its not plausible. How can you fast forward through time without the POV slipping out of limited and hopping over to omniscient–and more importantly, is that going to alienate the reader if its, say a jump of months–or perhaps a year. Sometimes things happen in character development that just can’t survive through a horrid flashback or an info-dump…or sneak out in a snatch of dialogue, or an unexpected reaction. What’s the balance to be? If it’s too far into the future one must jump–then its safe to say the story started at the wrong place in time.

    • CJ

      This is going to be a long one, and I’ll have to think about it.

    • green_knight

      If it’s too far into the future one must jump–then its safe to say the story started at the wrong place in time.

      I can’t follow that at all. Often – not always – you need to show something happening. Then not much happens because other events unravel, so you have a transition – a clean cut or ‘summer turned into autumn, and still there was no word of him. One morning, when the last leaf gave up their fight and trundled slowly towards the ground’and you’re off again. That doesn’t mean that the previous stuff wasn’t necessary.

      Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to change the focus – have some scenes play out in tight third, then draw back a little, then move in again.

      The only important rule is ‘whatever works.’ If what you’ve written doesn’t work, find out why and fix it or do something else. If it works, why worry? Look at the book as a whole.

    • CJ

      It’s not QUITE that bad, but doing your title in Crayola is a definitely fatal move…

  11. CJ

    Ok, you asked me how to establish viewpoint.
    Stand in the middle of the room. Shut your eyes. Open them slowly, noting everything you see as you open your eyes.
    Do NOT note anything you don’t see. Make a mental note. Field of vision.
    Lighting conditions. It’s light. If it were dark, what you would see would be different.
    How are you feeling? What do your other senses say? THAT is your viewpoint. What do you remember? THAT is your viewpoint. What do you intend to do next? THAT is your viewpoint.
    You are a walking human recording machine, as well as a participant in the action.
    You can report only what you see, smell, taste, hear, touch, within your field of vision, under those lighting conditions; or what you remember; what you intend; or what you think someone else intends.

    Does that make sense?

    You live within another skin. You assume that person’s strength, height, opinions, shortsightedness, scope of vision, scope of intelligence. You become an actor, and you play that part to the max.

    If you change personae, and you can—as I do between, for instance, Bren and Cajeiri—
    you should do what’s called a ‘line drop’ or ‘line break’ by installing a blank line and an asterisk.

    You also have to observe a timeline: ie, you cannot back up. You can leap forward in time, but no fair backing up.

  12. CJ

    Another item you learn from multiple foreign languages: connective words are variable, and one may serve, but another may serve better.
    The major conjunctions (connectives)
    When (temporal), since (causal), if (conditional), although (concessive) because (another causal), and (plain connective) but (contrary connective).
    among the temporals:
    when
    after
    since (NOT meaning because)
    whereupon

    Among the causals
    since,
    because
    whereas,
    insofar as

    the concessives
    although
    though
    even if

    the conditionals (may require subjunctive verb if contrary to fact or reality)
    if
    assuming that
    granted that

    connectives:
    and
    and also
    too (meaning also)
    both…and (correlative (2 part) connective)
    either…or (exclusive correlative: excludes one part)
    or..or (archaic correlative)

    negative connective

    but…(negative)
    however…

    negative correlative
    neither nor
    nor…nor (archaic)

    The deal is—you can trade one for the other of these items either for more precision or for simple variety.

    I have a rule not to repeat a major or unusual word (a, an, and the are excepted) 2x on the same page…unless deliberately for rhythm or emphasis. I do not repeat a really unusual word in the same book. 😉

    Likewise your sentences should not observe the same structure…vary it. I read a story by a young writer recently where almost every sentence used a present participle introductory phrase. “Groaning, he rose to his feet. Running, he crossed the hall. Leaning crazily, the door blocked his way.” Don’t do that. Alternates to your connectives are one way to force yourself into different structures.

    • ranger

      I also dislike sentences that are too much the same…but I would extend that to include the length of the sentence as well as its structure. Too many sentences the same length tend to sound monotonous.

  13. HRHSpence

    I do hate it when I can tell the vocabulary word of the month when a specific word is repeated several times and in the same way in a book. The vocabulary in your books never make me cringe.

  14. makoiyi

    Words are such fun. It’s why i get cross if i use a word and then everyone comes down on me like a ton of bricks. yes, don’t use a ten dollar word when a ten cent one will do to show your meaning. at the same time, my vocabularly is good because i read. because i am more than happy to look up something i don’t know. to – sorry my caps thingy isn’t working properly – me a word like surcease forex isn’t a ‘big’ word. there are lots of words i don’t know but it doesn’t stop me in my tracks to look them up. there is also a difference between deliberately using ‘big’ words to show one’s cleverness and sometimes when a particular word so fits the context.

  15. CJ

    By the way, if you want some more stuff on words, go to The Library on http://www.cherryh.com and investigate some informational stuff I did on archaic words and how not to do anachronisms in a fantasy story, etc. In the interest of saving space on sites that may sprawl, I’ll keep certain things over there rather than store them in both places. But it must be helpful: I have gotten quite a lot of requests to reprint it.

    • ranger

      Thank you. That will be quite useful 🙂

      I also read your bit on strong vs weak characters…and when you got to the part where you mentioned that some people have difficulty plotting a character driven story because they don’t know how the characters will respond until it’s all written out, I found myself nodding in agreement.

      I am having a heck of a time outlining. I know generally the direction the story is going to take. I have a good notion of the big actions that will take place, beginning, middle and end. But when I try to plot, I get a few scenes in and my characters collide in a way I didn’t predict–and yet the interaction is more satisfying than what I had originally planned. Of course this subtly alters what happens next…and even to a certain extent what came before, since any discovery I make about a character’s nature needs to be reflected in his/her earlier behavior if relevant.

      I am tempted to give up on the outline for now and just write…let the characters interact as they will, and then edit like mad afterwards. I’m just worried I will find the whole process too messy, LOL. On the other hand, if I keep rewriting my outline whenever one of my characters grows into something better, I may never write it at all. Ack!! Sometimes I feel less like a writer than a wrangler…just trying to kep these characters in line and doing what they’re supposed to…

      • CJ

        Don’t ‘outline’ tightly. In the words of the old pirate, they’re more like guidelines.
        Worm-herding, with some characters, certainly! I started out that way, often had to rip out 30,000 words because of some trick my characters played—but nowadays I’ve learned the wisdom of outlining by just setting down a few road markers every few miles, leading generally toward the ending, not meticulous outline. Let your actors wander the stage at will, but before something major has to happen, try to herd them toward the ‘mark’ that will set them up for interaction with the character that enters from stage left.

        • ranger

          That’s pretty much what I am doing…I’ve got some key scenes to shoot for, so it’s just a matter of trying to get from A to B and then from B to C without needing to go back and tear it all up. If I didn’t have these little pit stops on the way I’d likely have characters headed off in a dozen random directions, LOL.

      • green_knight

        Two things: I’d reccommend ‘just writing’ because that’s how I work. It’s a perfectly good way of writing as long as you are willing to edit rigorously. The other is trying to kep these characters in line and doing what they’re supposed to which has me wondering why you want to do that. I see it as a positive thing if the characters know what they want to do. Given them a chance to prove they know what they’re doing. If you absolutely want to tell a particular story and they’re digging in their heels, audition for characters who are willing to do what you want them to do.

  16. Glyn

    I think it depends on your mind set. Some people have to outline or else their character run all over them. Erm.. namely me. You try convincing a character that he has to die without outlining. It’s hard. I’m working on it, though, I truly am. My current WIP has little to no outlining at all, for the first third. The next bit I’ll try outlining the heck out of it so I can compare.

    Editing this piece is going be fun.

    • CJ

      😆 Some of our most engaging characters have refused to die on schedule, and have ended up spawning more books.

      And did I mention finding an outline in files, thinking, “Cool. I should do this book.”
      The character names told the story. It was the original ‘outline’ for Downbelow Station, and I didn’t even recognize it, it had morphed so much. The only thing left intact was the central set of character names, but who was important had totally shifted, and while I’d had a clue about the ending, I didn’t have anything about the planet, and not much about Union.

      • Glyn

        That’s amazing, CJ, but not surprising. The last time I heavily outlined anything, two short stories in this case, I kept having to go back and update the outline. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the snowflake method, but that’s what I was using. I’m working on my own version now in the hopes of producing more character based fiction.

        In the case of my own character, I had a fairly good reason for him to die. Namely: I didn’t want to write another story starring him. Hmm… does that mean that I murdered my character? Now I have this urge to hide the body and hope that my investigator doesn’t find out…

        • ranger

          I decided to look up the snowflake method, and nearly fell out of my chair. That is almost exactly what I have been doing lately to plot my story! LOL 🙂 It seemed the logical way to develop a story which is much more character driven than plot driven…

  17. makoiyi

    Reading this blog and your previous one, I often wonder, how do you keep the impetus up to write? I think, since many of my friends on Internet land write as well, the obvious answer is, we all love it and we would write whether a publishing deal ever looms or not. The point is though, to be professional one has to be consistent. How do you manage that with the busy lives you lead?

    It seems to me most writers are in the same boat. If they don’t physically go out to work then they are homemakers, which is just as hard. I work three full days which end at about 10-11pm (because I work in a kennels). I have two horses, only one son at home, but even so, because the dh is full time, although he cooks (wonderfully!) I do everything else including cutting the lawns. This isn’t a moan or whine but often I am just too exhausted to write. I want to. Desperately want to and I often do when the dh leaves at 5am, then out comes the laptop and I sit in bed and pound out a few words.

    I realise that you have deadlines and I guess having that makes? you write the wordcount. Do you say, right, I am going to do this scene today or so many words and go for it? I also realise that every writer does things differently. They have their methods/habits and often swear by them, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. It’s odd that even though I don’t have deadlines written in stone I actually feel guilty–or maybe that something is missing–when I don’t write. When I am *really* excited about a story, conversely somtimes I am so wound up I find it difficult to put words on the page. I always end up doing so but I’d like to be more consistent.

    I guess that is a personal discipline issue. I always finish. I’ve finished seven novels now, but not to what I call publishing standard. In other words as clean as I can possibly get them with all the threads lined up etc etc. When we all have access to this wonderful Internet thingy we often see fellow writers send stuff out, have agents ask for a partial, and all of sudden there they are on the shelves, and whereas I know it isn’t as simple as that, it becomes daunting.

    The answer, I presume, is write a damned good book and write it well but I wondered if I am alone in this almost-fear.

    • CJ

      Defending your writing time is hard. People think you’re not employed. People think if you’re sitting still not apparently doing anything, you’re not working. My solution was to establish a Place where I write, and when I am there, one may assume I am working. That helps solve the interruption problem.
      I also keep the word count to remind myself that ANY progress is good progress. Even if you have to rip it out, at least you got that idea out of your head and can now proceed on a better one. Outtakes in a book are sometimes 3 to one.
      The best advice I can give, is establish a time of day and a place you work, and be in it once a day, as faithfully as if you were punching a time clock. Figure out your most creative time, and defend it tooth and nail. As yesterday—I got a bit done, because mornings are my best time, and I will get up at 5 am to be sure I have a morning, and get something done.
      I also have an appointed length of time I stay in my Spot, so if I want to fritter time away, at least I’m aware I’m doing it. As it’s morning now, you may assume I’m taking a breather from a scene—I do that often—but I also get right back to it.
      Another tip: never write to the dead end of a scene, wondering what comes next. Leave a tag undone that you are not going to forget, so you’ve got something waiting for you to do.
      If you get stuck, water the plants or lie down for a moment thinking about your story. Your hindbrain may find the answer. Then again, don’t write the idea all the way to the end. Leave a loose end out for tomorrow.
      Do not feel guilty about not working when you’re brain-fried. That creates more problems than it solves.

  18. makoiyi

    That’s a really good idea, having a set time. My other half is pretty good about the whole thing compared to some I know but, no, doesn’t take it ‘seriously’. He thinks I’m just playing, when I’m not. So, yes, some me time would be a good thing.

    Yes, trying too hard at something is deadly; I tend ot ‘overwrite’ at such times. Hmms, never end a scene. Good idea, because no doubt the brain continues working on it subconsciously as well as consciously.

    Thank you!

    • Jcrow9

      Per “never end a scene”, what I do is to re-start about 10 or 15 pages back in what’s already been written, editing and correcting, working my way forward so that by the time I reach the blank spacce at the foot of the last-page-so-far, I’ve rebooted the story and the scene, and can usually proceed forward with the new stuff.
      #
      My personal cross is that I find myself bogged down in cliches. I just hate that. 😛
      #
      My personal revelatory moment was discovering that I could ‘disappear’ into the writing process for hours at a pop. I’d sit back or stretch a stiff shoulder and realize that I had no memory of the past several hours, and when I read what I had written during that time, it was like I was seeing most of it for the first time. Very freaky, especially the first time that happened. That was never the cliched stuff, either, the dialog felt right and the scenes flowed the way they needed to. I could just never reliably string together the zone-out sessions, that’s all. But these were also the times that my characters would reliably roar off in a new direction that I hadn’t even thought of, at least not consciously.

      • CJ

        A writer from the Kansas City area died over his keyboard. Just—checked out, while waiting for the next sentence.
        It could happen.

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