Howdy, howdy! It’s mid-March, and as many of you know, I’ve been sick most of the year thus far. I don’t want to jinx it, so I won’t say that I’m definitely better, but I think I’m on the right track. Anyway, I thought I would take this week’s post easy and revise my goals for the year since everything is screwed up. I’ll try to post something writerly or personal or worth reading next week. Suggestions for topics or questions are always welcome. For now, let’s get to it.
So, yeah. Goals: revised.
1. Finish revising LR1. I was hoping to get this done by early April, but that’s not happening. All I’ve managed to do with this story is figure out I forgot to swap some scenes around as I was going through it. So, I’m hoping I can get it done by late June or early July. At least I’ll know where to start when I can dig back into this one!
2. Begin revising DS1. I was hoping to get this novel polished up by the end of the year, but with all the work it needs, that’s a tall order. I’ll be happy if I can get through a second draft and end up with something vaguely readable by the end of the year. There’s always next year if I need more time.
3. Submit short stories/flash pieces (at least 2 subs a week). I admit that I fell a few weeks behind on this while I was sick, but I did take a day to send a bunch out in order to catch up. Now, I’m back to doing it regularly, so this is one goal that gets to stay the same.
4. Write 5 short stories/flash pieces. I highly doubt I’ll get the story I wanted to get done by the end of March finished. However, I still believe that five new short pieces is a reasonable goal. It’s less than one per month. Maybe I’ll also add some poetry, but I can decide that later.
5. Shop LR around to agents. Still hoping to meet this goal. If I can get it revised by July, I don’t see why this isn’t something I could accomplish. It’s not like I’m saying I want to get it published or anything. That’s more of a five year plan goal.
6. Read 25 books. This was originally 30 books, but I’ve lost a lot of time and don’t know if I can make it up. I’m a slow reader. But I’ve still got a long list of to-be-read books!
I should also throw it out there that I need to socialize more and write to people and take care of my health. Hopefully, I can do all that plus get to everything on my list. What about you? Do you have any goals you need to rework this year? Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!
Hello, hello! I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day or Excuse for Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call Thursday. I have no plans, but I do have chocolate. Huzzah! Anyway, that’s tomorrow. Today is about confessions of a writerly nature. Namely, I haven’t done anything productive since January 20th (the day before the sickness of doom took over). Yeah, I can blame the illness for about two weeks worth of laziness, but what about the last week and a half? I had no excuse for vegging out. So, I thought I would talk a little about what some people call writer’s block and my plan to deal with it.
First off, I want to say that I don’t particularly like the term “writer’s block.” It sounds like something that just happens, something you have no control over. For some people, that might be true. Other people might enjoy having the excuse, being able to say that their lack of writing time is out of their control. Not me. I fully acknowledge that when I’m not writing, I’m usually procrastinating. It’s rare for me to run out of words, at least on fictional things. Motivation is my biggest issue. And sometimes, I admit that the procrastination bug digs deep and stubbornly refuses to let go. It’s what’s happening right now. My motivation is low due to an influx of rejections I’ve been expecting (because of my year-end submissions that are just now being looked at). It’s hard to want to write and revise when you keep getting told “it’s not for us, but good luck elsewhere.” So, when the opportunity to procrastinate presented itself, I didn’t bother fighting it.
However, it’s about time for me to get over myself and get back to writing regularly. Before the sickness decided to knock out all my will to work, I was actually struggling back into a decent rhythm. How? I joined a sprint group and one of the leaders happens to write around the same time I do during the week (early evening). So, I have the support of checking in after each sprint and being held accountable. Even if the leaders aren’t doing sprints, I can still create my own sprints and see if anyone wants to join me. It’s a super helpful group for me and I plan to get back into it this week.
Aside from the sprint group, I need to find other forms of motivation as well, otherwise I know I’ll eventually fall back into the procrastination pit. The problem is that I don’t respond well to self-appointed rewards. Mostly because I usually forgo the rewards. I promise myself anime or manga and by the time I get everything done, I’m either too lazy to find something to watch/read or it’s time for dinner and TV with Dad. I guess all I can do is keep trying different things until I find something that works for me.
What about you? How do you battle writer’s block or the procrastination bug? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! How is everyone’s year going so far? I’ve been fairly productive in getting ready to dive back into revisions in a serious manner. I read through the revisions thus far, made sure I knew where I was going with things, and reviewed the plot to come. But I admit that it’s a daunting task to sit down and seriously work on the story. That’s why I’ve been looking into different variations of writing stints/time management methods. I thought I would ramble on about a few of my options today, since I have nothing else to write about.
For a while, a friend and I did a couple of hour long stints a day (or when we were both writing at the same time). In other words, we’d check in with each other with our goals for our stints that day, write (or revise or blog or whatever we needed to do) for an hour, take a short break to check in and rest, then repeat the last two steps until we met our goals or were exhausted. That method worked for me. It helped me concentrate and reporting in with said friend helped hold me accountable. Unfortunately, life gets in the way of these things and makes it impossible for us to do this at the moment. And, honestly, I don’t know if I could keep up that kind of momentum on my own. An hour is a long time. That’s why I’ve been looking at other options.
One of the most popular options for time management seems to be the Pomodoro Technique. Yes, it means tomato. Supposedly, the guy who started it used a tomato shaped timer. In this one, you select a task and work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat 4 times, after which you take a 15 minute break then start all over again until you’re done. It sounds useful and there are tons of apps to use that will help with my accountability issues. I might try this.
Some of my other friends have recently started doing a 15 minute stint followed by two half hour stints and another 15 minute stint to finish up. They take short breaks between each stint to check in with each other as well. It’s a method they found on Twitter through Leigh Bardugo. Our writing schedules just don’t mesh, so I haven’t been able to join them, but it seems like a helpful style. Maybe live tweeting progress during breaks could even work for me. Or at least posting progress on my private Facebook page. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to publicly announce how slow I am.
Anyway, this is all to say that I need to start doing stints again. I’ll probably try my old way on my own for a while. If that fails, I’ll try the Pomodoro Technique. What about you? Do you have any time management tips? What do you do to get yourself on track? Feel free to share your thoughts, methods, or comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! It’s December again (didn’t we just do this?). Happy holidays and all that jazz! I don’t really have anything to talk about this week and I’ve been super slacking on the writing front (and at life in general), so I thought I would take a minute to make my goals for the month known. This way, you can heckle me until I succeed. I know these posts are pretty boring, so I try not to do them a lot. Apologies in advance. But here are my goals in no particular order!
1. Submit stuff 10 times (2 every Monday). I’ve consistently submitted two stories a week all year long. Granted, it wasn’t always on Mondays, but it got done even when I really didn’t feel like it. I’m super proud of that. Now, I just have to keep it up the rest of this month and do it all over again next year.
2. Revise more of LR. Revising has been beyond slow and I have no one and nothing to blame but myself. I love the story and I’m excited about it, but I can’t get into a good rhythm with the revisions. I get into it a few days then can’t bring myself to open the files for a while. It’s weird.
3. Read 2 books. Actually, I need to finish two books (at least) this month. I started them both last month. When I got the okay on The Razor, I stopped in the middle of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. There was just no way for me to finish both last month. And I decided to start this month’s review book before I finish European Travel. I somehow clumped too many long books together and it’s thrown my whole reading schedule off, but I’m past my goal for the year, so it’s okay.
4. Make time for people. It’s just really hard to talk to people when I like being a recluse so much. Luckily, around the holidays, I randomly text people to wish them well and usually end up chatting with a few of them. It’s the only time of year I’m not a completely shitty friend!
5. Decide on a couple of days to go through my files and tidy everything up. I seriously need to do this. I used to know exactly where every song, picture, and file was on my computer. Now, I can’t find half the stuff I go looking for. It’s a mess.
6. Start ripping old CDs to my computer. A few months ago, I got a new radio because my 60 disc player stopped working. Do you know how hard it is to find a new 60+ disc player that is it’s own stereo, not a component to a make-your-own stereo system? Impossible. In other words, I have a bunch of CDs that I need to transfer to my computer so I can play my old favorites and annoy the crap out of Dad.
7. Attack the slush pile. I’ve been sporadic with my first reader duties over at Pseudopod. I need to buckle down and help get through this period’s submissions. It’s always a fun experience.
Those are my goals. What about you? Do you have any stuff you want to focus on this month? Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Welcome to another guest post. This time, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, JosephCarro. He’s got some super helpful tips for working around writer’s block, which I struggle with a lot. So, read on!
On Writer’s Block
By Joseph Carro
Writing can be an extremely frustrating and hopelessly solitary artistic endeavor, and as writers we know and understand this when we choose it as our lifestyle. Yet it doesn’t make it any easier when we’re holed up in the basement, writing the next big thing on our minds. Whether you’re trying to write a blog post, a poem, a screenplay, or a novel – Writer’s Block afflicts us all. I know that personally, real life usually gets in the way and saps my creative juices with its constant demands, but to keep writing I have acquired several techniques which I use in order to get my brain jumpstarted again. My hope is to share a couple of my own techniques with you. I know that many of you have your own techniques, but as a writer – I usually appreciate any new ways in which I can defeat this annoying affliction. Feel free to chime in with your own methods below in the comments section.
WALK OR DRIVE: Walking, to me, is a lost pastime. And I’m not the only oneto think so. If you’re stuck on a certain spot in your manuscript or post or what have you, get OUT of that space for a little while. If you don’t like walking, then just sit outside or maybe take a drive. Anything to get yourself out of your stagnant state. Maybe you’ll see or experience something that will ignite that spark. You just have to step outside your comfort zone for a bit. Fresh air does wonders for the mind and the thought process needed for writing.
READ SOMETHING: As Stephen King once said; “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Writing is a skill in which you absorb technique and inspiration from reading other writers. To do so, you need to actually read. Sometimes, reading someone else’s work is the perfect way to jumpstart your own. In my case, I will sometimes put aside my writing for one day and try to finish the book I was already reading or start another one. By the time I’m through a few chapters, I’m usually chomping at the bit to get back into my writing project. Obviously, it’s “dangerous” to put aside the writing to do something else (because you can get too much into the habit of doing that), but in moderation I think it works. Just really pay attention to what the authors are doing; their prose, the construction of the novel or short story or poem or whatever, and the way in which the strongest parts of it make you feel as a reader. Try to infuse your writing with some of that magic, without trying to ape their style. Be you.
LISTEN TO MUSIC: This one is very divisive within the writing community. In one camp, you have people who absolutely cannot listen to music while writing. Or, they at least must listen to very quiet, ambient music rather than anything heady with lyrics. That’s okay, this technique may not be for you either. However – when I’m trying to write a certain scene or a certain tone to my short story or screenplay, I sometimes pick an appropriate piece of music. For a tone, I will generally choose a playlist I’ve created on Spotify or find a playlist on YouTube – for example, if I’m looking for a melancholy tone I will choose a playlist that’s labeled as “sad songs” or “bittersweet songs”. Generally, the mood conveyed through these songs, and the emotions they bring out enhance my writing. It’s all about knowing your tolerance for this kind of distraction while you’re trying to write. This also works if you just need to listen to a song or two BEFORE you write, rather than listening to entire tracks during your actual writing. Just make sure to fire up another song here and there to renew your creative juices and emotions, because sometimes sitting in a chair and writing prose does not automatically generate emotions until you really get into the meat of the story. Writing is both a technical skill and an art, and art comes from emotion. Sometimes, we wade too far into the technical aspects and lose the emotional momentum.
USE WRITING EXERCISES AND PROMPTS: This method is actually my favorite, and thanks to the internet, there are countless online sources for finding writing ideas. These aren’t necessarily meant to replace the project you’re working on, but are more for trying to write something in general when you’re stuck. However, if you need some distance from your novel, it’s okay to take a brief respite and write something else. A few of my favorite sources for writing prompts are from books I’ve found or have been given. My wife gifted me a sort of “activity book” called 400 Writing Prompts by PiccadillyInc and that one has given me quite a few ideas. A couple of other books I’ve found to be pretty useful are The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts To Ignite Your Fiction from Writer’s Digest Books, What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, and The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. There are also lots of online sources out there as I mentioned above, and some of my favorites are Writer’sDigest, Poets & Writers, tumblr, and even reddit. Various bloggers like myself also dedicate entire sections of their blog to writing prompts. My own blog, Away With Words, has just such a section that you can find HERE. I try to do at least one weekly prompt, but sometimes I do more.
These are just some tools for trying to get back into the swing of things, and my hope is that by using these techniques and resources, you can dig yourself out of whatever funk you’re in and get back to writing. Remember – try not to be too hard on yourself. Writing is hard work, it’s thirsty work, and your brain can quickly become parched when it’s dealing with the same tedious task over and over. Give it some variety and keep yourself from getting mired. Good luck!
My name is Joseph Carro, and I am a Maine-based freelance writer and editor trying to make it in the big world of letters and semi-colons. I work currently as a barista to (barely) pay the bills, and in the meantime, I’m working on a YA novel, currently untitled, as well as various other works like screenplays, comic scripts, short stories, and flash fiction. Heck, you may as well toss in some comic books with that, too.
I live in Portland, here in Maine – with my beautiful wife and our five-pound chihuahua, Brewtus.
Hello, hello! It finally happened. On Saturday, I wrote THE END on the shitty first draft of novel attempt number three! Yay!!! I celebrated by doing nothing productive whatsoever on Sunday. Monday, I slowly dipped my toe into the revision pool by revising a micro fiction piece before sending it and another piece out into slush land. Which brings us to today (because I’m writing this on Tuesday). Now, the real revision struggle begins. Sure, I have a short story that needs to be doubled in length and smoothed out. That’s my immediate focus. But then, I have to decide which novel attempt to revise, two or three. And that’s what I plan on rambling about today.
Option 1: revise novel attempt two (LR from here on out). In my head, I know this would be the smart choice. For one thing, it would give me a break from the one I just finished, which is always encouraged so that when it comes time to trim the fat away, you won’t be blindly attached to it. I’ve had more than enough time away from LR to be able to make the hard cuts. I’m still super excited about LR, so that’s a plus. And I really do miss being around those characters.
The downside of revising LR first: while I love it, I’m not really sure it has much potential in the way of attracting agents. Are dragons even “in” anymore? Or are they passé? I know I shouldn’t worry about stuff like that, and I should work on whatever my heart tells me to, but it’s something I think about. I’ll have to do some research on the trends right now/where the trends seem to be headed. Plus, I’m concerned that if I get caught up in LR’s world, I’ll lose steam in the other one.
Option 2: revise novel attempt three (DS from here on out). Some of the advantages include that the plot is fresh in my mind and I still remember what all my little revision notes mean. From that perspective, it makes sense to dive right back into DS. It’s also a genre that’s always in high demand, but with a supernatural twist. So, I feel like it has a better chance of catching an agent’s eye. Plus, I’m completely in love with these characters and their stories.
The problem with starting with DS is that I wouldn’t have much time away from it, so I would probably still be super attached to all the fluff that needs to be chopped out. I have trouble decluttering my room because of sentimental values, decluttering a story isn’t any easier. It would also mean more time away from LR, which has been randomly popping into my head the last couple of months. Plus, I’m not entirely sure if the supernatural elements will be attractive in this particular genre or if it’ll be confusing and off-putting.
I guess I’ll read through both of them and see which one pulls me toward it more. Until then, I have a short story to focus on. What about you? How do you decide which projects to revise and when? What’s your method of making these kinds of choices? As always, please feel free to leave your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! How is everyone’s April going so far? Are you keeping up with all of your goals? I actually want to talk about how I’ve been doing with that whole “write every day” thing that I mentioned trying back in March. It’s been working! Every day in March (including Sundays and those days when I really didn’t want to), I wrote at least 50 words. Sometimes, I even made it up to 1,000 words. When April arrived, I upped it to at least 100 words a day. So far, I’ve kept at it! And I’ve learned some things from my experience thus far, which is what I’m going to ramble about right now.
Thing the first: Sunday will never be a good writing day for me. Right now, Sunday is set aside for things that take up most of the day, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with even 50 words. I did. Even 100 words has proven to be doable. But I don’t think I’ll ever do more than that on Sundays. It’s actually kind of annoying writing on those days. I miss my day off.
Thing the second: I still write better at night. I’ve tried for a long time to adjust to writing in the late afternoon/early evening with mixed results. Sometimes, words flow easily and I finish my 1,000 words before I even realize it. A lot of times, writing the words is like pulling teeth. But, I’ve found that when I open a story around 11ish at night to write my words on those days I’m too lazy to do it in the afternoon, the words always flow. Granted, I’m usually only aiming for 100-150 at that point, so it might just be that I’m not pressuring myself with a difficult goal. It’s just something I noticed. But I’ve always been a night owl, so this is no surprise.
Thing the last: writing every day is not a stress reliever for me. A lot of people I know say that they feel so much better after they write their words for the day. It’s like a catharsis for them to get words on the page (even if it’s just 50 words). I am not one of these people. I usually feel the same or worse after I write, unless I hit one of those rare days where the words tumble out onto the page almost by themselves. Most of the time, I’m just happy that I can play games or read or watch anime or whatever without feeling guilty. At least until I realize that it’s too late to do any of that stuff, then I’m just annoyed that I don’t have a day off to do any of it.
In other words, my experiment with writing every day is going well. I’m about halfway through the last chapter of my current novel attempt (hoping to finish by the end of the week). When I switch to revision mode, I’m not sure if I’ll keep up with writing every single day, but I’m glad I’ve done it. I admit that setting low goals for each day is a helpful way of getting back into the sway of writing. Do you have any experience with something like this? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! It’s (already) April once again. Can you believe it? A quarter of the year has passed us by. As many of you know, that means it’s National Poetry Month. I admit that I haven’t given poetry much of my time this past year, but I want to change that. At least for a month. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until my Facebook friends started posting daily poems. So, I thought I would devote this post to a few of the ways that I hope to celebrate this month.
1. Write a poem. I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote one. But I recently had a nostalgia moment where I read through some of the ones I wrote as an undergrad, and that made me really miss the structure that poetry provides. I used to love writing villanelles and haikus and sestinas. Anything with strict constraints. I liked looser forms as well, but they weren’t as challenging. That little trip down memory lane even resulted in me submitting a poem to a contest. Send good vibes!
2. Read a book of poetry. Maybe I’ll read an anthology filled with different authors writing about the same subject. It’s always interesting to see how different people tackle the same basic topic. Then again, maybe I’ll read a collection by one author. I like to see how a collection connects from one poem to the next (or doesn’t connect at all). Hell, maybe I’ll read both kinds. It’s still early in the month after all.
3. Base a story off a poem. I’m almost done with my current novel attempt, so I’m hoping to work on more short stories and flash pieces, that way I have more things to submit. I know I use art a lot for inspiration, but I’ve also been known to use songs and poetry in the past as well. It might be an adaptation, or it could just be loosely connected, but hopefully it’ll be something good.
4. Take the time to listen to some poetry. I don’t know of any upcoming readings around here, but YouTube has plenty. And there are always podcasts. I’m sure if I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations, I’d come away with too many options to check out in a month. Feel free to shoot me some podcast or other ideas for places to listen to poetry here as well!
5. Look back at some of my old favorites. I used to have a few poems memorized, but I can’t get all the way through any of them anymore. From Ai to Donne to Poe, there are a lot of poems I should probably revisit.
That’s my plan for celebrating National Poetry Month. What about you? Are you going to read or reread some of your favorite poems? Maybe you’ll write some of your own poetry. What about my visual art friends? Have you thought about making your art based around a poem? Feel free to share your plans here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Apparently, March arrived when I wasn’t looking. The problem with that is, it forces me to make a confession. I still haven’t finished the shitty first draft of my current novel attempt. There’s no real excuse for it. Sure, I could blame the killer headaches my allergies decided to unload on me. I could blame the general blahs I’ve been feeling for the past few months. But the truth is, I didn’t even push it with my writing on the days when I felt normal. I’d start writing and let myself get distracted by stupid things. I just haven’t been able to find the right rhythm for this particular novel. I’ve struggled with this one all along. So, I decided to do something I said I would never do.
I decided to write every single day (which is totally not as impressive as it sounds when done my way).
It’s one of those golden writing rules that writers say they live by in order to sound like they’re doing a ton of work every day, but in reality, most are lucky if they write a few days a week. Then, they throw a word count on top of it that makes it even more daunting. Like 1,000+ words a day is some easy task they can pull off in ten minutes. It’s not. In fact, writing 1,000+ words in a day can be exhausting. And it’s why I swore I would never be one of those people who even attempts it when I already know I’ll fail.
That being said, when my usual writing techniques failed me (repeatedly), I decided it was time to give this whole every day thing a go. BUT! I promised I wasn’t going to kill myself with 1,000+ words a day. Even 500+ words was too high for me to consider. So, I made my daily goal ridiculously low, with the caveat that four days a week I would shoot for my usual 1,000+ words. Otherwise, my goal is a measly 50+ words a day.
It might seem stupid, but I can knock 50+ words out in ten minutes before I get ready for bed. And I’ve actually averaged about 100 words a day. I’m still struggling with my 1,000+ words days, but even those are getting a little easier. People will say that I’m building a habit and that’s why it’s getting easier, but for me, that’s not exactly true. I’m very much achievement oriented, so when I fail to meet my goals, I get stressed and upset. Setting super easy goals helps me build my self-esteem back up, which motivates me to tackle harder goals. And so far, it seems to be working.
I suppose it’s important to try new techniques when old ones stop working. Hopefully, I’ll finally finish that draft this month. What about you? Do you have any projects that might benefit from setting super low goals? What do you do when your standard techniques stop working? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Welcome to February. Today, I want to share my goals for the month, but I also want to talk about allergies. Down here in Texas, the trees are getting ready for spring by spewing pollen everywhere. Depending on which way the wind’s blowing and which trees are shaking off their dust, this can create a miserable environment for people with allergies. People like me. Which, in turn, makes completing goals hard. So, along with my goals, I’ll talk about how I work them around the worst of my allergy days.
So, here are my goals:
1. Finish DS1’s shitty first draft. Writing in general is super hard when your head feels like it’s going to explode and your mucus can’t decide if it wants to hole up in your sinuses or pour all over your face (spoiler: it decides to do both). Sure, you can take a bunch of allergy meds and hope they don’t knock you out before you get your words done, but we both know that won’t work. Instead, I try to make sure I work as much as possible on the days I feel okay, so that I don’t feel too guilty for slacking on the days I feel like crap. That’s really all we can do to get the writing goals done during allergy season.
2. Submit stuff 8 times (2 every Monday). This is the kind of thing I do regardless of whether allergies are kicking my ass or not. My cover letter is already written and my manuscript is properly formatted. All I have to do is double check submission guidelines, make any formatting tweaks, and send stuff out. It doesn’t take much energy or time, so if I’m feeling really bad, I can put it off until the initial medication drowsiness has faded.
3. Write 1 flash piece OR short story. For those days you feel good enough to write but don’t have the brain function to focus on your novel. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I just need something quick to distract me from all the plot lines I have to keep straight in the novels. Especially when my brain already feels fuzzy from allergies.
4. Read 2 books. I tend to save reading for the days when I just can’t bring myself to write, but feel like I should be doing something productive. If it gets too hard to focus, I can always switch to Netflix.
5. Make time for people/leaving the house. I’m always bad at this whether allergies are involved or not. But I do have a tendency to say yes to leaving the house (running errands with Dad) when I don’t feel up to writing. It makes me feel productive in a different way and I don’t have to worry about the allergies making my words come out weird.
Those are my goals for February. I figure it’s easier to stick to a few just in case my allergies get evil. What are some of your goals this month? How do you work around your allergies? Or do you prefer to push through them?