Thursday, February 28, 2013

Post Writing Malaise – Or What Happens When You Finish a Book

As a full time writer, I write every day. I treat this like the job it is and only take off on the weekends and sometimes, not even then. When I had a day job I only asked myself to write 1,000 words each day, but now I expect 3,000+ each day. So when I finish a book I’m always at a loss.

I had a moment of pure, crystalline clear joy that it is finally done. Yesterday, when I finished the first draft of the Dystopian book I’ve been writing, I jumped up, ran out into the front of the house and just screamed. This book has been especially difficult for me since none of the characters could perform magic. And there were days that I never thought I would finish. There were days where I questioned why I ever wanted to write a book outside of my wheelhouse – after all I write Paranormal fiction, why would I risk hurting my brand by straying from it? There were days where I told myself, just put in zombies, or make someone a firestarter, or something, just add some magic and it’ll be easier. But I managed to keep with the plan and left out the magic and supernatural creatures. And, in doing so, I had a brilliant idea that will lead into the second book.

And yesterday I wrote for five straight hours, hearing the last words of the main character echo in my head, waiting for me to catch up in the story to type them, and I finished the damn thing.

Then I ran out and screamed. I jumped up and down and screamed some more.

Then I ran back to my office and quickly backed up the document in three different locations. Remember to back up your work people!

Then I went in search for food because the whole day all I had consumed was coffee and protein shakes, not wanting to waste time preparing food or eating it. But after I ate I sat down and just stared. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Wasn’t I supposed to be doing something?

Right, I’m supposed to be writing. But I finished.

So what do I do now?



Watch some TV.

But I’m supposed to be writing.

But you finished the manuscript. Now you need to take a breath and regroup.

Regroup for what?

For the next project.

The next project! Yes! I’ll start that!

No, the next project is editing and you’re too tired to do that right now. You’ll take a long weekend, decompress, get the end-of-the-world story out of your head and print off the Paranormal book on Monday.


Yes, Monday – that is when you’ll start editing.


Yes, that’s the next project!
That’s not writing! I’m supposed to be writing! See! Even Neil Gaiman says I should!

Editing is writing, it’s re-writing, much more important in the process.

So what do I do now?

Sit. Relax.


That is the inner monologue that goes through my mind when I finish a book. I used to try to plan little trips when I finished a book, giving myself a deadline to meet so that when I finished that last sentence I knew the next day I would be out of the office and didn’t have to think about “what now?” But I didn’t do that for the last book or even this one. I finished a the first book in a new series in January and then the next week I started writing the Dystopian book, again the first in a new series. And again I have nothing planned to get me away from the computer. 

One of the things I always tell my writer friends is to make sure you do something nice for yourself to celebrate the victories, big and little. Even if the celebrations is as small as treating yourself to your favorite cup of coffee, an hour on the couch and your favorite show. I did this after the first week I managed to write 20,000 words in five days. 
Maybe buy yourself a small present. I bought myself some sparkly pink slippers after I finished writing that Paranormal book in January.

Now I’ve added up the numbers and I’ve found that I have written over 155,000 words in two months. So I have to do SOMETHING for myself. I think my husband and I will pile into the car this weekend and we’ll take a drive down the coast, get some seafood, watch the waves and the sunset over the ocean. I’m going to buy some lilies and plant them in the front yard. And I’m going to read for pleasure. It’s not much but it is more than I’ve been able to do for myself in the last two months.

When you are your own boss you have to remember to treat your employees well or they’ll quit on you. So I’m giving myself a few, hard earned days off.

Do something nice for yourself, I’m sure you deserve it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reader Questions Part 6

How do you get into “the zone” to write? Have you ever had to deal with writer’s block? How do you get around it?

Seems appropriate to answer all of these questions in one post. You would be amazed how often I get these questions. Seriously. All the time. Even from other writers.

First, let me dispel this concept of “the zone.” There is no such thing. Sure, there are things that you like to do to make it more enjoyable, things that get you into the right mood, maybe, but other than that? Nope.

If you want to be a writer the plain and simple truth is you have to write. People have so many excuses why they don’t have time to write or why they couldn’t yesterday or how tired they are today. Blah blah blah.

I write fulltime now; this is my job. But before I had “all the time in the world” I wrote while having a day job. I’m not a morning person so I didn’t write before work. I like spending time with my husband so I didn’t write after work. I wrote during work. Oh yeah, that’s right. How did I manage it? Easy, you are given breaks at work so I took that time to write. For every four hours you get a 15 min break and if you work eight hours a day you get a lunch break. So, every day I wrote through my breaks. Sometimes I would save up my two breaks and lump them onto my lunch break to give myself that extra time, sometimes I didn’t.

I set myself a word count, back then the minimum amount of words I would demand of myself per day was 1,000. Now that I write full time I aim for 2,500. I know, doesn’t seem like enough, but writing full time and being self-published means I have a lot of other things I have to do that take up time. Like writing this blog. But recently I’ve managed to write 3,500 or more a day. I don’t like to get more than 5,500 words in one day though because it does wear you down.

I do enjoy writing to music and I do like noise to drown out the neighborhood, the dogs and even my husband. And I like to have something to drink with me. But other than that, everything else is just procrastinating. And sometimes I don’t have music to write to, or something to drink, but I still write. Hell, I wrote two chapters one day when I was waiting to be called for Jury Duty. Talk about less than ideal.

But if you want to write, you have to write. Consistently. This is not a hobby for me. Is it a hobby for you?

Writer’s block. I think this is a myth. I think there are days where you don’t feel like writing. I think there are days where you’ve written so much for so many days in a row that you need a break. I think there are times where you’ve written yourself into a corner and can’t figure out how to get out of it. I think you can drop a plot point and mess up the entire roadmap of your story and feel stuck. But there is no such thing as writer’s block.

Sure, there are days where you’ll just stare at the computer, the cursor blinking at you and hours will pass before you start typing, but eventually you do start typing.

On days where I’m having trouble with one scene and I just can’t get into it, I’ll open a blank document and start writing a scene I know is coming so that I can work the kinks out of my brain. While I’m working on that suddenly I’ll realize where I went wrong or where I have to go in that other scene and I’ll pick up where I left off. Because I have to.

For much of The Elemental Series I was a panster, that is to say, I wrote by the seat of my pants, with no outline or idea of where it was going to go. This gave me a sense of urgency to tell the story before I lost it. I always knew what the last scene or great battle was going to be, but I went on the journey to that point much like you, the reader, did – having no idea what was going to happen or what characters were going to walk on stage.

It wasn’t until I was writing Fire that I found I needed to start loosely plotting and outlining. For this new book, I have a full outline. I’m not following it closely, things have changed as I went along, but when I have gotten stuck, I can look back at that outline and remember things I wanted to include. You have to figure out what kind of writer you are and remember every book is going to be different.

But writer’s block is just another excuse not to write. Remember that. If you want to call yourself a writer then you have to write. Simple as that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Reader Questions Part 5

How do you go into so much detail in fight/magic/love scenes?

I was a creative writing major in college. I went into college thinking I knew how to write, boy was I wrong.

Obviously I took a lot of writing courses, creative writing, children’s literature, exposition writing and on and on. But the course that really helped shape my skills was my Creative Writing: Poetry class. I was lucky enough to be taught by Dr. Jack T. Ledbetter, an award winning poet and playwright.

He was the first person to tell me what a horrid writer I was. He didn’t say it so bluntly, but he opened my eyes. JT liked to tell us about the year a student wrote a poem about staring out his window at the moon. But he didn’t say that, he call the moon, “Yon sailing orb!” Yep. That happened. So, whenever we got too ridiculous or flowery in our poems JT would write in bright red “YSO!” on your paper, across your poem so you knew you’d gone off the descriptive cliff.

JT told us about the French writers of the early Nineteen Century who would write these “masterpieces” that no one actually understood. They thought, “Wonderful! This is Art! The average man shouldn’t understand what we’re saying!” That was the kind of writer I was when I started college. Thank goodness I signed up for Dr. Ledbetter’s class.

Now I know how to write clearly. I can still paint a picture with prose (say that three times fast!) but you, as the reader, still understand just what the hell I’m trying to say.

I’m also lucky enough to have a husband who is a self-defense instructor who has been training in various martial arts for nearly 30 years. So when I need to figure out a fight scene, I turn to him and he teaches me how to hurt someone and then let’s me practice on him. Now that’s love.

In my last post I’ve already told you how much research I’ve done on magic and Wicca, so I just remember what JT taught me about being clear and direct so you see what I see in my mind when I write.

As for the love scenes… well… this is a family friendly page for the most part. Let’s just say I’ve gone through my fair share of poisonous apples until my prince charming came along and broke the spell. I think knowing love helps you write it.

But even with all of that education it still takes practice. I think Air was a better book than Earth, and Water was better than Air and so on. You have to hone your craft and like any skill, if you don’t practice, your writing can get rusty. I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago because I just keep at it and I listen to constructive criticism and have learned to edit my own writing.