Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What to do when the words won't come

Hmmm- what an original title. As I sit here looking at the blog title I realize that probably every single writer has at one time posted such a blog. (Ok every writer with a blog, so that narrows it down to only about 5 billion).

But this is a serious problem. The last few weeks I have simply been unable to get my butt to stay in the chair. Not just writing, I'm not really going online much when I get home either.

All I do is come home, eat, and watch ....TV. UGH. It started innocently, I pushed myself to get to the half way point on one of my projects, then once that pressure was off, limped into a few half hearted writing attempts (mostly re-reading and PULLING things out). Last week and a half- NOTHING.

Now I do love to write, so what the heck is wrong? Part of it could be self doubt- it always stomps around asking why I'm doing this. Thing is I like doing it- or rather I love having written ;).

But instead, I'm coming home and watching tv reruns. Then going into bed early because I'm tired. I'm not a big tv person. I only follow a few shows. But instead of doing something I love, I find myself channel surfing stuff I don't even want to watch? It's like eating something bad for you that doesn't even taste good but you eat it anyway- just because it's decadent.

Ha- maybe that's a clue. Maybe it's a "treat" to just go brain dead for an evening (they do insist on making me think at work) and I've taken that treat too far.

Tonight I realized I really had a problem, and am hoping I can pull myself back from the edge.
I've forced myself to get in 200 words in tonight on the Glass Gargoyle before I wrote this blog. I'm not leaving until I hit 500. It's not much, but it adds up. I'm hoping that I can just work my way through this serious, serious slump. I don't want to throw away my writing dreams because I'm addicted to the brain numbness of TV.

Anyone out there? What do you do when your "OMPF" to write has vanished?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Avoiding a bad case of the stupids

I hate stupid people.

Now when I say that, I am not talking about uneducated people. In my opinion there are plenty of highly degreed idiots out there and smarts is not always correlated with being able to sit through long lectures and regurgitate that information on command (I can mock them- yes, I have been through the education mill- I have the student loans and useless degrees to show for it ;)).

What I hate are people who just won’t try to figure things out. You know the ones who walk into the abandoned house right after a serial killer on the loose has just been announced? The ones who even though they meet the man or woman of their dreams just can’t forgive them for something extremely trivial? Now in these cases it’s not the fault of the character or actor- sadly we have met the enemy and it is us.

Writers create stupid people.

We don’t mean to. Sometimes it’s just that we are focusing so much on getting all of the little plot pieces where they need to go, when they need to be there, we fail to realize our characters have crossed into “TSTL” range (Too Stupid To Live).

We worry too much about “making things happen” that we fail to pay attention to the character. Most often, when a character is acting TSTL the cause is an author pushing the character somewhere they didn’t want to go.

So how can we as writers make sure we don’t create stupid characters? By always questioning our character's actions, goals, and motivations. They not only need to be progressing through the story- they need to be progressing in a logical way through the story. When your character turns into that haunted house right after the news announcement of a crazed head hunter on the loose- she better have a damn good reason. (And no, chasing a missing cat, dog, or gerbil doesn’t count. BEEN DONE TO DEATH – aka BDTD). And for goodness sakes if your character absolutely has to do something stupid- make sure they acknowledge it. They can admit it’s dumb, they can fret about doing it, but their reasons for doing it had better be solid and stronger than the argument for not doing it.

Make sure your characters are moving how they are supposed to- not the way YOU want them to. Question EVERYTHING!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Ok, yet another sort of off topic post. I promise the next ones will be on track.

But today is father's day and I would be remiss if I didn't remember my dad.
William H. Andreas passed away in Jan 1983 at the far too young age of 53. He died of lung cancer (see previous post for my anger at that vile disease).

But this isn't meant to be a sad post. I want to remember him as he was and how he'd want me to remember him.

My dad wasn't famous or rich. He didn't have a fancy job, he didn't climb mountains or dive into oceans. But he was a great man nonetheless.

He stayed with a very mundane job to make sure our family had a house, food, etc. I know he would have loved to have been out driving a race car, climbing mountains, jumping out of planes- but he didn't because he was a Father. Taking care of the family was his number one goal- and he did it very well.

I always knew that my dad believed in me, that no matter what I wanted to be when I grew up- he was behind me (my mom is that way too- some folks are just lucky ;)). He had an adventuresome side but also a love of communicating. He wrote all the family letters and did some writing for a local paper when my folks lived in Hawaii.

I like to think he's up there watching my sister climb those crazy mountains and me pursuing a writing career with a big grin on his face. And neither she nor I would be doing what we do without him.

Happy father's day Dad- I love you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life, death, and writing

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov

Today isn't a normal day. I'm in a very different place today. A little sad, a little looking at life through new eyes, and more than a bit introspective (yes it does happen sometimes.)

Life is short. For some people it's far far shorter than it should be. Today I found out a friend and former co-worker/supervisor has a stage four cancer. It was in her brain, it's now out, but it's not a good prognosis.

I have lost a dear family friend, two aunts, my father, and my best friend (she was only 38) to cancer. I'm tired of cancer. I'm tired of people I know getting it. As a bumper sticker I've seen around says, "Cancer Sucks". If there is one thing that needs to be ended in this world, it is cancer.

Aside from my sadness at my friend's prognosis, I have been overcome with a feeling of intense introspection. What would I do it I knew I had a limited time to live? (Which in reality we all do, just some folks know their deadline, and some don't.)

My sister is a hiker and adventurer. She's climbed Mt. Whitney, Mt Kilimanjaro, gone to New Zealand, Japan, a safari in Africa. Her next trip is planned for Antarctica- yep down as south as she can go. If she only had a known limited time to live- she's already doing what she would do (aside from quiting her job to travel more).

I'm not like her- we'll I am an adventurer- but I'm an interior adventurer. I love the outdoors, but only when there is indoor plumbing nearby. But my writing is my adventure. Today I realized that (aside from my day job) I am doing what I want to do. Even if no one ever reads my work- I am doing what I want to do; what I need to do. I am a writer. Like the quote above states- I'd just write faster.

I think more of us need to look at our lives and think what would we do with limited time (but without the melancholy that can come with that thought). Would we be nicer to strangers, kinder to friends, spend less time watching tv and more time creating and spending time with loved ones? It's a thought not answered quickly, but it's where I am.

I tried to write a different post today. Something light and witty. It just wouldn't come out. This rambling was in my head and it needed expression. Today I came one step closer to mortality. It's made me look at things more closely. It's nice to know that in some cases-my writing- I am following the correct path for my heart.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Confessions of a Pantser

First off- check out the new blog! I wasn't really happy with the old template, and I am very fond of green- so here it is :).

Now back to today.

I have a confession- I'm a pantser (or pantster- seen it both ways ;), for those of you not in the RWA (the first place I saw this term) it means someone who writes by the seat of their pants. AKA- the antithesis of a "plotter". But that's not really the secret confession.

I love being a seat of the pants type of gal. My more organic style of writing has taken me to many places that my story would never have gone had I plotted it out. Part of it is because in the time of writing a novel a person changes who they are. Each day the world influences your mental state of being. Things not noticed previously suddenly take on a new color and vibrancy and pop up as a twist in the story. That vividness is the main reason I have always written the way I do.

Also, I'm afraid if I know the whole story I might lose my drive to write it. I write to find out what happened. Just like the reader, I keep going thinking, "And THEN what happened?!"

That is me, it's how I write, how I create.

My confession is that I may have to reevaluate it at least for one project.

*cue DUM DUM DUMMMM music here*

As many of you know, I am working on multiple projects. Editing (in theory) a science fiction book, finishing the rough draft of a humorous fantasy (word count listed here on the blog), and working my way with PAINFUL slowness to the half way point on my Victorian SF/steampunk book, A Curious Invasion (also tracked here).

A Curious Invasion is becoming a curious book indeed. I still love my characters, love the plot. I love where things are going...but it just won't move. Now it could be the pull of the almost finished book. Those characters are old friends, the world is my very own, and is more comfortable than the world of A Curious Invasion. But whatever the reason- things just ain't moving.

For a challenge for my local RWA chapter, I need to get to 50,000 words by June 19th. Take a quick look at the word widget to the's not happening.

I was hitting 1,000 words a day between the two projects, now I'm lucky to get 500 a few days out of the week.

I may have to break down and do an outline....I may have to (wait for it) PLOT the rest of A Curious Invasion! Now, I know this is a radical concept. But I've seen these "plotter" folks before- they seem fairly normal. The plotting really hasn't scarred them that I can see. They function in polite society without facing mocking from others.

I can do this and survive. Or so I keep telling myself.

The fact is, I need to do something, some radical triage to find out why this book is just running around chasing it's tail at 43,000 words.

So tomorrow I will begin a plot outline. Today I will steel myself for it through a brunch and movie afternoon with some friends. Fortify myself for the coming psychological battle between my freewheeling, hippy, panster psyche and my rational, "this ain't working girlfriend" brain.

I will post the results of the ensuing battle here for the world to see.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Does your inner child have her warpaint on?

Writers, like all folks with creative bents to their psyches, have to keep their inner child alive and well. But more than that. We need to keep our inner child stubborn, determined, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what we want. In sort, our inner child needs to be a brat. Now not a brat as in falling on the floor and throwing a foaming fit, but a brat as in hunkering down and not taking no for an answer.

Plus, not only does the delightful little inner brat have to be stubborn as heck- they have to be willing and able to follow flights of fancy wherever they may lead.

As kids, most all of us had amazing imaginations – both good and bad- a great imagination meant that we really COULD think of the monster from the movie we just saw coming to get us. But it also meant the entire world was ours. We could be a high powered princess one day, a horse the next and the president of the galaxy the day after. Listen to little kids, the vast majority of their play is story telling. Sometimes very active storytelling, most of us don’t act out our tales, but story telling nonetheless.

Then somewhere we lose that.

The world comes down on us and says the things we make up aren’t real, could never happen, and are extremely silly besides. Most humans retire their story telling at that point. But a few of us hang on to it. We write because these great, “What If’s” keep popping in our heads. We see a headline and think, “What if it didn’t go like that? What if it went like this?” Eventually, in an effort to quiet the voices- we start writing these ideas down.

Now some folks are fine with that. They story is out of them, they don’t need to go further and can now return to a somewhat normal life.

But for the rest of us, our inner child needs to get her war paint on. Have you ever seen a kid want something so badly they keep crying for it until they fall asleep exhausted? We as writers writing for publication need to do that. Ok, not the crying part (well it’s ok after being shot down yet again in the query wars), but the hanging on to something so tight we never let go.
We need to hold this need close to our hearts. We need to honor our inner brat and not tell it it’s stupid (such as the inner comments of “I suck”, “I can’t write”, “I’ll never be published”.) Like external children, those kind of comments can be very damaging.

And we need to build our resilience. If one story doesn’t work, do another. Re-write it. Re-envision it. Like the kid who keeps building towers in the kitchen until they get that damn cookie jar, we need to keep working until we hit publication. Then keep it up for each book afterwards.

We need to keep our inner brat hungry for the prize. Creative, stubborn, and willing to get whatever help it takes to get it to our goal.

A friend once gave me a framed print that says it all:

“Never, Never give up”- Winston Churchill
“Never, Never grow up”- Dr. Seuss