Friday, January 29, 2010

Help, I've fallen and I can't get up! (Or how to resume writing if you have stopped)

Before I begin with this entry, I wanted to extend a kind thank you to those who have started to follow this blog and for those who have linked to specific entries, or even the blog itself! Your support is greatly appreciated.

I write this blog with no intent to profit or benefit from it beyond having taken the journey doing it. As you've probably noticed, I have not added ads to the blog, nor will I ever. I do not even have a donation button. So, that anyone has taken the time to respond to this blog at all is extremely valuable to me. I hope that you continue to enjoy and make use of the things I have learned.

In addition to this, I would like to point out -- once again -- that these are my opinions. I try to support my opinion with the opinions of other writers. Sometimes, I even find some facts out there on the internet! Please do not swallow every word I say with blind trust. I want every person who reads this blog to reach out and come to their own conclusions. If it happens to be inline with mine, that is wonderful.

Now, onto the real subject.

Something I hear about frequently is that a writer friend of mine has abandoned writing or has not picked up their pen in months. Some made the long haul for Nanowrimo and have since jumped off of the bandwagon. In some cases, they face-planted directly into a mud puddle. This often just adds insult to injury.

It causes a bit of pain to realize that I too have suffered from this syndrome. I think all writers do from time to time.

I have some insights that I have developed, oddly enough, without much influence from others. Writing is a very personal journey. For me, even more so. I'm fairly willing to hand out copies of my work to people who want to read if I have any trust in them whatsoever. However, until the moment I dedicated myself to posting to this blog as I became inspired to, I had not shared many of the details of the actual journey itself.

This post, I warn you now, is extremely personal for me. Because of this, I will be opinionated, stubborn and sometimes surly. I may even sound grumpy. (That may be due to the fact that it is 5:19 AM and I am looking at a draft with 61,661 words and I don't want to type a word because I really enjoy the look of that word count.)

Yes, I am procrastinating.

In order for this post to make sense, I will have to tell you a bit about two projects I am working on. This is relevant, because this is what I had to do to dig myself out of the latest hole I have buried myself in.

I will also warn you that this post meanders in all sorts of directions. If you're looking for the nice, neat and tidy posts you are used to. . . look away. Quickly. This is the union of a pig sty with chaos. This may sound angsty as well. In a way, it is. Emotions tend to be angsty things, and these are some of the darker emotions of writing.

The Projects!

Project One: My epic fantasy series. (As of yet, Untitled)

This is the novel series that I started with NaNoWriMo '09. I have 61,661 words to it at the moment. I have done some drafting, I have done some minor edits, and I have done a lot of world building for this story. I am writing slowly. After November, I admit to having done the inelegant face-plant directly into a pile of ....

... I'll let you imagine just what I fell into.

This story is my love child. It has been hard for me to write, however. I have strayed outside of my normal comfort zone and have not only pursued an epic, but I have pursued a story where people die. I have pursued a story that delves into grief, joy and difficulties. I have pursued a tale where a man must give up the things that he loves in the hopes of protecting them and giving them a future, only to find out that those hopes and those sacrifices meant nothing in the end.

I pursue a tale where men and women struggle for things that they believe in for the sake of people other than themselves. I pursue a tale where these same people then sacrifice those things they have fought so hard and long for in hopes of doing something purely for themselves.

This is a tale about building a future through a shroud of tragedy. It is a dark epic that finds glimmers of light in the oddest of places.

It is action and adventure paired with a little romance. And lust. (What is a good story without at least a little bit of lust, after all?)

I fell off the bandwagon on this story for a few reasons. As I mentioned before, it is difficult to write. I do not like writing of the deaths of people, even fictional. I have always been a fan of those stories where many people somehow manage to survive against all odds.

This time, I sacrificed those people. I let people die as is their fate. If someone is struck through the heart with an arrow, I allow them to bleed and become a statistic.

I have let main characters survive and die as necessary. After all, these people are but human, and humans are fragile.

So, I admit, I did get a keen sense of pleasure from killing off the random villages and describing their fates. There was something thrilling about the process. Also, there was something gleeful about making some of my friends squirm as I discomforted them.

I love a good, dark epic fantasy. So, this is my journey to write one. But I fell off! Woe is me.

Project Two: Ten Years Later (Tentatively titled: Darkest before the Dawn)

Yep. I revisited the world of the epic fantasy ten years later, on a different side of the continent that the main story takes place. Characters from the epic reappear. Ones who have not yet been introduced earn their keep. Ground work on "What Happened After?" is set into place. A few major players from the epic have minor roles, but are not the stars.

The star of this book is someone who does play a major role in the epic. However, she is not a major character, nor does she have a long term role. Her story did not begin until after she died and became a witch.

Er.. what?

In my world, in order to become a witch, you must first suffer fatal injuries. In a sense, it is a divine intervention of sorts. The powers of a witch are powers of nature, and a tie with nature that can only be completed once she (or he) has experienced all aspects of life. Including death.

If the person who dies is to be a witch, then he or she survives the injuries after walking through the shadows of death, of a sort. It is those "I have seen the light in the tunnel and somehow survived" type of people, who by all rights should have died. More people with the power to become a witch die than actually become a witch. It takes someone - or something - with a lot of dedication to keep one of these people from dying completely.

In this character's case, it was a bit of both.

This story is also a dark tale, at least at first. However, the main point of this story is a story of hope. It is the story of someone who has lost it all and has somehow survived despite that fact and has a glorious chance to take it all back. With an indominable spirit and a desire for vengeance, this witch goes on to not only serve justice, but to reclaim everything that she has lost.

It also touches into grief and healing, but is mostly a feel-good story about someone who does overcome those odds.

This novel was how I picked myself up off of the ground.

How I stood back up

After NaNoWriMo '09 ended, I think I wrote maybe 1,000 words a week total. Of which I deleted more words than I added. Very counterproductive, that. In furstration, I put it aside completely at the end of December, flailing in general. Who doesn't, sometimes?

I knew where I wanted to go with this story. I worked hard poking at it, but the inspiration that is still with me was having trouble coming to the surface. It is a form of writer's block, but somewhat different. I had the entire story, I knew what I needed to write, I knew what was happening in the scene. I just could not get myself to type the words onto the computer.

When coupled with a general sense of failure, this can result in tragedy for a writer. And the inability to put words to the page.

So, I asked my husband one day to buy me some writing journal or another. I wanted to jot down some story idea or another that was rattling in my brain.

He came out of the store with a pack of four 16 sheet journals.

Truly, these were the bestestestest things I have ever laid my eyes on. I squealed. There is a yellow, a blue, a green and a pink journal in each pack.

My creative juices had a collective freak fit and went into a state of catatonic shock. Who ever would have thought something so simple as a 16 sheet writing journal could make such a difference?

Armed with these journals, I began to write random stories. I had two false starts before I found project #2 kicking around in my skull.

The first 24 hours resulted in 6,400 handwritten words.

By the weekend, I had 12,800 and had the starts to a story I was really satisfied with.

After the shine wore off a bit, I found myself right back to where I had left off: saddened, discouraged and thinking I would never get a project properly finished, edited and out the door.

I took a step back, blogged a bit to motivate myself, and glared at my computer.

Then, I fell onto the solution of my problem.


For one critical moment, I believed I could do this. I just had to figure out how. So, I made this expression at my computer and my writing paper: >:|

Project One is my dream novel(s). It is the story I wish to publish and share with the world. I had reached that precipice and stared into the abyss. The abyss stared back and mocked me.

No one is going to help pick you up when you fall. You must do it on your own. I realized this and started trying to find out just how to do it. I sat on my rump and reflected and found that I still had that critical belief in myself. It had just gone into hiding into some dark, dusty corner. It was a skeleton in my closet.

Just to repeat this: No one is going to help pick you up when you fall.

People will say kind things and try to help, but only you can help you get back up at the end of the day.

This is kind of painful to write about. And embarrassing. But, I am human, so there we have it.

Again, just in case the first two times weren't opinionated and stubborn enough:

If you want to be a writer, stop relying on other people to pick you up and start relying on you. People, like me, will tell you kind words or mean ones trying to motivate you. But at the end of the day, when you fall in the mud, you need to believe that you can stand back up. An agent may love your story, an editor may shower you with praise. A publication house may pick up your story. However, none of this will ever happen if you do not believe that you can make it happen.

Now, onto the next stage of recovery:

Remembering to Write

Life gets in the way. Some of the time, I just forgot to fit writing into my day. I got distracted by shiny objects or by how warm and comfortable my bed really was and how much I enjoyed sleeping.

I cannot tell you how to remember to write each day! I fail at it miserably enough. (I am one week in of non interrupted writing. I feel like I'm succeeding at rehab.)

One tip I can suggest: Never ever take a day off completely. Write one sentence at a minimum. Once I fail to do that, it is sometimes a month before I pick up my pen again, which is totally unacceptable if I wish to become a professional author, as I do wish to do.

Finally, making progress!

Once you have gotten back up, it is easier to stay on the horse than to get back on after you have fallen. Train yourself not to give up. Once you do, you have to go back and find those shreds of belief and motivate yourself. This is hard. Oh, is it ever hard. But if you sit there and tell yourself that you can do it AND you actually do it, good things will happen.

Oh, yes. Good things will happen.

Believe. Remember to Write. Make it Happen.

Three very simple things that are extremely difficult to do. But, I stand by it. Hindsight is rather good for me, and each time I have fallen off, this is exactly how I ended up getting back up on the saddle and riding off towards that gorgeous sunset.

Now, as soon as I submit this and drink some tea to soothe my frayed nerves, I will exceed that shiny 61,661 word count. I want 75,000 by Monday, and they will not write themselves down.

By Friday, I want 85,000.

Two weeks from now, I want 100,000.

Can I do it?

I don't know. But I'm back up on the saddle, and I refuse to fall just yet. If I do, I will get back up.

But, I can thank four little 16 sheet writing journals and Project Two for helping me get the courage to resume on Project One. I will continue to write Project Two as a reward, but I have rededicated my focus back onto Project One where it properly belongs.

I would like to note that I had five spelling mistakes in this entire entry. For writing at 5-6 AM, not bad!

Also, a piece of advice before I find some fancy schmancy quotes to share: Do not forget to take your tea bag out of your water. It leaves unpleasant surprises an hour later.

Quotes on Motivation, Inspiration and anything else I feel interesting at this hour:

  • Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it. – George Lucas
  • A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. - John Barrymore
  • The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore. - Dale Carnegie
  • Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. - Mahatma Gandhi
  • The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them. - Robert Frost
  • The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination. - Tommy Lasorda
  • The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. - Vince Lombardi
  • One’s best success comes after his greatest disappointments. - Henry Ward Beecher
  • Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps. - David Lloyd George
  • A man's doubts and fears are his worst enemies. – William Wrigley Jr.
  • Failures are divided into two classes - those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought. - John Charles Salak

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