Posts Tagged ‘advice’
Scrolling through my Feedly feed yesterday, I came to Copyblogger’s interview with bestselling author Hugh Howey, who wrote and self-published Wool.
It was a Q-and-A, and one question in particular caught my eye:
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
“Other people say it happens, and I don’t feel that I have the right to disbelieve them. It doesn’t happen to me. What I get is the urge to procrastinate or do something other than writing. Or I feel disgusted with my current output and want to just stop.
“The key is to write through that and know you’ll delete the bad bits later.”
I think he nailed it. When I get writer’s block, it’s less inability to write anything at all and more desire to do anything but write. That’s when baking cookies or cleaning out the pantry (or pinning a slew of recipes I’ll probably never have time to make) starts to sound mighty appealing.
So next time that urge hits, I’ll have to try writing through it.
I can always delete anything unsalvageable.
My first Desert Dreams Conference won’t be my last.
It’s over now, and I just settled into my favorite spot at the Starbucks in Camp Verde (near the outlet, naturally). The plan is to sneak in a little writing time before I crash.
Am I nuts? Why not skip the attempt to work and crash right away? How much will I really get done?
Of course I’m nuts. Aren’t all writers a little off-kilter? The thing is, even though I’m physically exhausted, my mind is racing. I have thoughts I need to get down before I forget every last one of them. Plus, I have a synopsis I need to rewrite — and fast — so I can ship requested material.
Every day of the conference was jam-packed with learning, laughter and inspiration.
Here are a few of the gems I walked away with from the weekend:
— Never talk badly about yourself. There are enough other people willing to do that for you. (Bob Mayer, Friday afternoon workshop)
— All writers wrestle with self-doubt. To reach your goals, you have to slay the doubt demons. (Allison Brennan, Saturday keynote speech)
— The way you structure your writing space can help your subconscious mind — and your muse — realize it’s time to work. (Tawny Weber, Saturday workshop)
— Not every sex scene needs to be mind-blowingly perfect. In real life, first times are often awkward. (Elizabeth Hoyt, Saturday workshop)
— In both dialogue and description, word choices set the mood and will vary depending on the character doing the speaking/observing. (Laurie Schnebly Campbell, Saturday workshop)
— Don’t give away all the details about a character’s backstory at once. Curiosity about why a character is doing what he’s doing pulls the reader into the story. (Martha Alderson, Sunday workshop)
There was so much fantastic information to be gleaned from the presentations that I’ll never remember it all. The conference center hotel was great, with a gorgeous courtyard and two pools. (Next time, I’ll remember to pack a bathing suit.) Late April is the perfect time to be in Phoenix, because it’s not yet hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
The conference couldn’t have come at a better time, either. My Golden Heart score sheets came back on Friday and one of my two entries earned not one but two 3s. Ouch.
Luckily, I had plenty of positive support from my chaptermates who were also at the conference. Even better, I was too busy to dwell on those sucky scores. Until now, that is. Maybe I’ll get lucky and crash before I start to think too much about ’em.
Desert Dreams only happens every two years, but it’s definitely worth the short drive from Flagstaff. I’m already making plans to save up for the next one … or I will be as soon as I come back from RWA Nationals in Anaheim this summer.
Let’s get something straight: I might not be the best choice to talk about time management.
As I sat preparing the remarks about time management I was supposed to deliver — less than 12 hours before I was set to deliver them — I certainly felt like a fraud.
Then I remembered there’s a lot on my plate. I work 40-plus hours a week at the day job, spend quality time with the Boyfriend, run a growing weight-loss blog and have just started working out regularly again, thanks to my entry in an online bootcamp class.
Despite all that, I still manage to write for one to two hours most days of the week. In the past year, I’ve not only done some pretty heavy revising on two manuscripts, but also written first drafts of two more. I also attended my first RWA Nationals, took on the vice presidency of my local RWA chapter and edited/laid out six issues of the chapter newsletter.
What’s the secret, you ask?
Not so fast. First, a look at the things that keep me (and others) from writing:
- Commitments to work/family/friends. I admit, I have it easier than writers with children/spouses who expect dinner on the table at a certain time. If I decide not to stop writing to cook a meal, the only one I’m hurting is myself.
- Procrastination. Self explanatory, right?
- Social media time-sucks. Twitter and Facebook, I’m looking at you. Pinterest too. It’s all too easy to fritter away an hour — or more — pinning, tweeting or reading all my friends’ status updates.
Let’s tackle the last one first. Author Jody Hedlund recently wrote a blog post on three ways to keep social media from taking over your writing time.
The other two can be managed by making writing a priority.
Yes, it’s hard to juggle writing with all the other responsibilities of day-to-day life. But if you’re going to be a writer, you have to make time to write. It’s non-negotiable.
I’ve gotten pretty good at making time to write. In fact, I’m so good at it that other things — like my talk on time management — fall by the wayside. 😉
What are your tips for effective time management?
If your mother was anything like mine, she dispensed tons of advice: Sit up straight … Don’t go outside with a wet head or you’ll catch a cold … and NEVER stop at a rest area after dark.
Well, I slouch all the time, frequently go out with wet hair and recently stopped at Sunset Point at midnight (under the Boyfriend’s watchful eye) — and the world didn’t stop spinning. My posture may suffer, but I didn’t catch my death of cold or get myself murdered.
So Mom doesn’t always know best.
She was right about one thing, though: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
As a reporter, my best interviews happen when I approach them like I’m sitting down to chat with a friend. Interview subjects share more — and give better quotes — if you set a friendly tone and bond over something you have in common.
Interviewing characters is similar. I like to sit down with my laptop, usually in a coffee shop, and make myself comfortable. Then we chat.
Of course, your characters are in your head, so you control the response. However, if your characters are anything like mine, they’re mouthy at best, uncooperative at worst.
To get the conversational ball rolling, I lob them a few softball questions first, questions like How’d you get your nickname? Where do you live? Any roommates?
With the niceties out of the way (and the creative juices flowing), you can get serious. If you’re lucky, your characters’ responses tell you something you didn’t know or didn’t consider important … something you can use to enrich your story.
For example, when I sat down with the hero in a half-finished, still-untitled WIP, I discovered he’s a bit of a stuffed shirt who likes to please everyone but himself.
So, Drew, tell me about your childhood.
(shrugs) There’s not much to tell. I grew up in a stable home with a mother and father who both loved me to distraction. I’m the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.
I understand they’re both screw-ups.
Denise is a successful attorney. I’d hardly call that a screw-up. Of course, Mom isn’t happy that she’s decided to get herself artificially inseminated.
How do you feel about that decision?
It’s not my decision to make. She is 32 years old and still without a husband or any prospect of one. I say if she thinks the sperm bank is the best way to achieve her goal of having a family, she should go for it. (Hmm … I sense a story there! 😉 ) Just don’t tell my Mom I said so.
I like being “the good child.” If Mom heard me siding with Denise, I might lose my standing.
What about your brother?
Dan? He’s no threat. He can’t hold a job for more than a few months at a time. He just lost another one, for boinking some girl in the copier room.
Let’s explore your need to be “the good child.”
Now you sound like my shrink.
You have a shrink?
No, but if I did, he’d surely want to “explore my need to be ‘the good child.’”
Pass. Ask me another question.
No, I think we’re onto something here. We’re going to continue exploring this topic, if you don’t mind.
(scowls) I like making people happy. Is that a crime?
Not at all — unless, of course, by making someone else happy you’re not pleasing yourself, too.
You can’t please someone else and yourself at the same time, genius.
Of course you can, if you both have similar goals, needs and desires.
And how many truly compatible people do you find in this world? I’m willing to bet the answer is “not too damn many.”
It only takes one, Drew.
Now you’re talking romance, huh?
You got it, genius.
So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and have a heart-to-heart with your hero/heroine. What you find out just might surprise you — and it’ll probably improve your WIP.