Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.

What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Writing & Life Events: Plugging away through life’s hurdles

So BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, guys! I’m moving to Florida! And by moving to Florida, I mean packing up the essentials, the border collie and myself all into my Mini Cooper Clubman for the 15-hour drive down the East Coast. Friday and Saturday are going to be rough for me. It’s okay though, I have Marissa Meyer’s Cinder on audiobook to keep me occupied.

But despite all the hassle of laundry and packing and nonsense this past weekend, I’ve still managed to put 3,000 words toward the new draft of my WIP. I realize that at some point, I will crash and need a sabbatical, but if there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years, is life rarely ever makes time for writing.

J.K. Rowling said, “Be ruthless about protecting writing days.” And she couldn’t be more right.

There are numerous reasons for why you should follow Ms. Rowling’s advice (i.e. Harry Potter, books 1-7), but specifically in this case. If you want to write, do it! Yes, life happens and things get in the way, but if you want to write, sit down and get to work.

Believe me, I get it. Life is a constant merry-go-round of hurdles and excuses, but at the end of the day, you have to decide whether or not your WIP is important enough to put the time in to finish it. If you’re not motivated to put in that time, that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing your writing farther down on the totem pole, but here’s the thing: OWN YOUR PRIORITIES LIST!

Well, we’re officially venturing into rant territory, so you’re welcome?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a crazy, workaholic freak of nature. This is because my hobbies and my work go hand-in-hand. My need for a creative outlet and productivity COMPLETELY outweighs my social needs. I am an introvert. This is a thing.

For example, working non-stop for three days with approximately 4-6 hours of sleep per night is less exhausting to me than 8 hours of constant human interaction with acquaintances. My closest friends, the ones I spend HOURS talking to, are all creative like-minded crazies who will discuss the epic nuances of the cinematography of the show, Hannibal, for hours on end. (This may or may not have happened last night . . . after a few hours of co-working.)

Extroverts have the opposite problem. They burn out without social interaction, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Basically, I just really want everyone to accept what they are and what they are not and own their own process. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to prioritize work. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing work. But neither party should ever feel like they owe an explanation or apology for their progress/life choices. Your success shouldn’t be measured by the person next to you, but based on your specific goals/aspirations.

Till next time,


The Writing Slump

Well folks, I’ve hit it, the dubious “writing slump”. Granted, I’ve had a lot going on, but if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I think it’s rather clear that I don’t accept that as a valid excuse. Now don’t get me wrong, a break is good for the soul every now and again, but I look at my past month and the workaholic in me sees all the things I didn’t do. It’s a character flaw I need to work on, but in the eternal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking.”

Yes, that was a Buffy reference. Get over it.

Anyhoo, back to Vesuvius the writing slump (because I name things that make me angry after things that go “BOOM”), it’s not that I can’t write or won’t write, more over my brain is too caught up in what’s going on around me to focus on a new novel. Vesuvius just came in, scraped his rusted fold-out chair across the varnished hardwood floors of my brain, set up shop at the intersection of creativity and productivity and heckled me until I gave up and jumped into the next episode of Veronica Mars.

So yes, I had plans for this past month while book 1 was with beta readers. I was going to rewrite book 2 and map out book 3, along with publishing weekly posts here. The reality of this past month is as follows:

  1. 3 blog posts – skipped a week because I was coming back from a writing retreat with Raw Dog Screaming Press. It was a lot of fun and exactly what I needed.
  2. Read through book 2, made a lot of notes for changes to plot/character and such, spent the rest of the month mauling over whether or not to just start from scratch completely. I’ve rewritten the first paragraph in my head many, many, MANY times before going to sleep the past few weeks.
  3. Wrote the first chapter (that will be scrapped) of book 3. I don’t regret writing it, because of that scrap chapter, I was able to finally let go of a setting that was only half-cocked anyway. I did map out the book, but only got as far as the midpoint. Hint: Time Travel is not easy to plot.
  4. I also put together a 53-page digital magazine and put my sister-in-law and her puppy on a plane to Germany (for any of your who’ve ever flown internationally with pets through the military, you know that this is a HIGH-STRESS event).

I promise there is a reason why I chose to list out what I’ve accomplished this month. I wanted to show that just because we writers tend to fall on the side of “I haven’t accomplished anything,” doesn’t mean that what we’re feeling is the reality. So if you’re in a writing slump, take the time to make a list of the things you have accomplished during that time, it may take some of the pressure off.

The First Draft: Just get it out on paper

Oh first drafts. So full of joy and adventure and excitement – until you read them.

There’s a reason they’re called “ROUGH” drafts, folks, and it’s because they are usually, indeed rough. When we’re turning our stories into words for the first time, the writing isn’t always going to be presentable. Lord knows mine is in shambles my first go around, always including too much redundant character motion and not enough scenic details. Transitions get left out. Dialogue tags are out of control. Scene movement can get choppy.

But that’s okay because the rough draft isn’t the final draft.

A while ago, I was at a critique meet when I heard someone call their first draft, her “vomit draft,” and it’s stuck with me ever since. And here’s why . . .

A vomit draft implies a couple of things:

  • You throw your story onto paper as quickly as your body will allow.
  • You don’t worry about what’s pouring out of you being pretty or perfect, you just get the story out.

It’s crazy how changing one word in your vocabulary can alter the way you view writing. Thinking of my first draft this way helped me out in more ways than I expected, but here’s just a small list:

  • My productivity shot through the roof. I went from having 2/3rd of a rough draft for one book to (in nine months) having two complete drafts of two books.
  • It took the pressure off, letting me enjoy the adventure of writing instead of seeing it as a chore.
  • It also allowed me to dive deeper into the tension/pacing of each scene instead of worrying so much about the details.

But like I said before, the vomit draft should never, EVER, be your final draft. So now that you’ve gotten your story completely written out, go revise it then ask a fellow writer/reader to look at it – we’ll discuss the importance of critique partners and beta readers in a later post. Hint: You want one!

Happy Writing!