Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dum Dum Dum Da Da Dum Dum, Under Pressure

I think Queen (the band) had a bit of this in mind when they sang that song.
We all have pressures on us and our time. When we have something of real value the balance that exists in the universe will attempt to rob that from us.

The pressure is caused when we resist that change.  The building pressure or result of resisting the easy path to nothing is what makes us strong and produces things of value.  When I go the gym I quite frequently drag myself there.  All I want is to go take a nap or read a book or do anything but exercise, but it's the act of winning over my weakness that builds strength.  It's the same with writing.

I often wonder why my best writing comes from the smallest periods of time.   Those last few minutes before my writing time expires is when I get the most value.  The idea's and words flow.  It's not because those last thirty minutes are any better than the first ninety.  I believe it's because I have pressure to perform.  I have a deadline at 6:29am that says your time is up.  If I want something at that point I had better push hard and make progress.  The pressure of deadlines drive us and opens our potential. 

Most days on my breaks at work I try to rough draft some notes about the current story I'm writing or developing.  Not once in the past year I've been doing that have I ever sat down thinking I knew what I was going to write, but knowing I've got ten minutes makes it work.  The first seven minutes are sheer torture, the pressure builds and I fear not getting anywhere.  Then it breaks and for three minutes until I drag myself away from the burst dam of idea's I've gotten somewhere. 
A deadline, even if self imposed, gives us a road map.  We can see and plan out milestones to reach a bigger goal.  Without deadlines there is at best an ambiguous destination.  Essentially there is no path with check points.  Therefore no pressure.  No growth.  Anyone could walk a hundred miles if given an eternity.  But if you've been given 48 hours, you bet you could foot that distance, but you'd have to create specific goals and checks to ensure you don't miss your target.  What is the difference.  The latter provides growth.  If you take an eternity to get there and had no pressure you can't possibly grow.

If you're like me you have many things pulling on your time.  Work, family, religious duties, the growing need to eat or sleep soon.  Don't look at these as obstacles, but as blessed pressure builders.  Carve out your writing time and guard it jealously, but don't abandon your life.  You need those things to make this, your writing, worth while.  You need the pressure they'll give while you struggle to write. 

For me it took making sacrifices I didn't think I could before before I could write regularly.  Maybe it will for you also? 

When you're under pressure, don't give up.  When (not if) you're feeling pressure it's because you're on track.  It's what this life/world is about.  Push past your barriers and create new wider boundaries for yourself.  That's right.  Get your backside in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and push those keys.  Eventually you'll be making words, and soon those words will mean something.  Not likely until the last moment, but you'll have something you didn't have before.  And that is valuable.

Happy writing to you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pop Tarts and Tap water at 4am

It may not be the most desirable way to write, but it's mine and I own it.

You heard it right 4 AM every day, no excuses. I've been on that path since October 1, 2010. It's been a bumpy road at times, but it's mine. I've been wanting to be a committed writer for years, and 2010 was going to be my year. The year I finished my novel or bust! However after struggling seven months with an evening time slot of 10pm to midnight when my mind was shut down and I couldn't motivate myself into anything creative, I eventually decided that if I was going to make a big commitment in my life to write a book I needed to show to my self that I was committed beyond the days left over minutes. I wasn't getting anywhere robbing time from the next day.

The night owl shed his feathers and picked up mornings. Ouch... that still hurts.

I turned to the mornings with vengeance and here I am today with 2 complete first draft novels and I'm fresh into first edits on my number one project, Lightning Child.

Things went very well at first. Then life happened and my 10pm bed time was delayed and I'd wake up too tired to get much done. My high target of 1600+ words a day gets missed nearly every day and then I started struggling to reach my 1200+ target. Baby's get sick or teething and all sorts of things that I let keep me from writing before. Things both in and out of my control. (I'm sure all the mom's out there know just how much infants cripple your ability to write. I've also decided that children only wake up in the 4 to 6:30 am time frame if you are writing.)

I learned that my journey in being a daily writer included several things. First of all I needed the support of my wife with the children during writing times. I must make strong use of my break times at work to write. I need a solid 4+ pages to transcribe in the morning and get me started. If I have that then my morning is at least 1200 words or better. If I don't, it's a gamble.
Some day's I'm so exhausted I can barely keep my hands on the keyboards, so I've taken to standing up and pacing to get the blood pumping so I can stay awake for even just sixty seconds more before I have to pace around again. (I wonder if I look as stupid as I feel when I'm doing it?)

Saturday and Sunday afternoon nap times are my sweet spot. I use them to make up for lost ground in the week. Deadlines are deadlines. If you don't reach them... you're dead meat. I had to create deadlines to keep myself motivated. My wife follows up and asks how I'm doing. Shame, if I didn't meet my goal, is self delivered and in plenty big scoops.

I also have taken to snacking on sugary breakfast pop tarts or their off brand equivalents to keep the blood alive in the early A.M.. Then I wash the stale dry goodness down with some fresh tap water.... yum!

Still when all is said and done, even counting those days when I failed or when children or other distractions hit me hard, I did it. I wrote my book in 2010, and I started 2011 with a new goal to get 4 more before the year is out. 4 completely written novels, including first round edits. Unofficially I want to have book 1 submitted to even just one house or agent, with room for the others to follow. I'm all about those rejections. Bring them on.
I have a plan. This plan I hope to beat. If I keep writing and make my daily goal I'll have 1 million words in less than 2 and a half years. I suspect by then that I will be strong enough to get publication considerations.
I'm also supplementing my deficient ego with inexpensive writing conferences, author presentations/signings,writing pod casts and blogs. I've learned so much speaking to and listening to those who've already walked a similar path that I'm on. I try to be in the community and support it the best I can.

I suppose this is a journey and I'm going to live and love it the best I can. I'm one of those types that Bree Despain spoke about in her recent 'Tips for Aspiring Writers' presentation at the Whitmore Library in Salt Lake City 3/12/2011. I've had my eyes on future events for so long saying 'I'll be happy when...' that I forget to love my life now. Of course I knew this already and my extremely wise and beautiful wife reminds me of this all the time. But it's very applicable to my writing. If I have a tough morning writing, then I need to remember that I love writing. Do what makes it fun, even if it detracts from my word count that day. I need to enjoy my journey.
I'll liken how my writing is to how road trips can be. If you travel from point A to B in as short a time as possible. It's really rather un-enjoyable. If you make stops along the way to enjoy scenic views, historical markers, attractions and other fun things you'll take longer but enjoy your journey. It's the journey in life that we have to love. If I've decided I won't love my journey then I won't and with my eyes only focused on the destination I won't be happy until I get there. If there ever arrives, but that's a conundrum for another discussion.

So when writing has so much to enjoy along the way it would be rather fruitless to not just plan to enjoy the journey.
All journeys are different. I hope yours turns out to be fun and that you never lose the love in writing. If we don't quit, one day we will all get published regardless. May today's destination be two hours of writing fun.

In the mean time I'm just going to sit here at 4am and keep writing. With the occasional pacing, pop tart chomping and tap water chugging... of course.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Day You'll Thank Me

LTUE, Life the Universe and Everything, writing convention was very exciting for me. Writing conventions have always been to expensive for me to even consider, however this one, put on at BYU, was very affordable and worth much more than the meager $25 they wanted to charge me for my visit.

After three full days of excellent panels and lecture I came away with a much better understanding of writing and a whole composition pad of notes to review. I have to admit, that I'll probably forget more than I'll remember about what was presented at LTUE.
One great experience, and bit funny for me was the Key Note address.
James Dashner, guest of honor, presented his Key Note on the third day of the event in February of 2011. I personally loved it's title: "The most boring Keynote Ever!" For which it was anything but boring.

Having attended the previous three hours of panel discussions in the same room I had managed to secure a seat right up front. Which for a fellow with long legs is extremely desirable.

Just before the key note one of the LTUE staff (and I believe she may have been a panelist as well) visited with me. She asked about the seat next to me. At the time there weren't a lot of other participants there so I placed my coat, bag and things on the seat next to me a few hours earlier. Realizing it was there and taking up a seat as the auditorium was filling I apologized and removed them and happily stated, yes, these two seats next to me are open.
The kind woman paused for a moment longer than expected. Not being the sharpest stick in the bunch I hadn't yet realized from the glowing pink badge around her neck that she was one of the LTUE members and was probably asking, without saying it, for me to move.
I later discovered the poor girl was trying to place some VIP's up front, and that I wasn't one of those. ;-)
Turns out she was trying to place Bree Despain and Brodi Ashton. Not being as savvy as I am now I recognized Bree because the day before she was on a panel that I attend and I managed to get a photo with her then.

So this kind woman brought the fine ladies to their seats and as she left she patted my knee and said, "One day you'll thank me for sitting you next to Brodi Ashton."

I said hi to Bree, and spoke briefly with Brodi who sat directly to my left. At the time all she said was that we was a writer (aren't we all, so I didn't press the point with questions) and she asked about myself. I told her in short about my current project and the keynote began.

As it ended I asked her again about her book (Everneath), but saw that they had paces to go so I excused my self, but I did learn that it is based on the Greek myth of Persephone. My memory fades from there, but link here to find out more about it. It comes out winter of 2012.

Thank you mystery lady!
p.s. I've got an idea who you were but didn't want to embarrass my self any further by getting it wrong.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paths On Hold

I never explained this, but around mid-October, 2010, I decided to put my first novel (series) attempt 'Path Of The Immortals' on hold. I received some great advice that I was way to close to the story to write it. You know the reason, I'd been dying to write it my whole life, but didn't until now and now I'm not just good enough to do it justice so I risk quiting or spending years on one novel. I decided to start Nanowrimo with a new novel in November. So my first novel became, 'Lightning Child'. It was something that I could write, even if badly, and I wouldn't offend myself when I wrote it badly.

I've since moved on to my second novel which is nearly complete, 'Speaker of the Winds'. It's really great, a bit challenging and has some risky decisions. The kind that I hope I don't offend your sensibilities with, but it's just a fun emotional journey.

I'll be wrapping this up in a week or so, putting it aside and working on Lightning Child's first few rounds of edits, so that I can get it out to my Alpha readers. A.K.A. My loving wife and a few friends who dared me.

I've commit ed to write 4 novels this year. That's one written and edited every quarter. (I'm just beginning to grasp just how crazy that is. Oh well, I'm new I can get away with it.)

I'll pick up Paths later probably next year 2012 mid-year. I need to get some of the green out of my gills first.

Today I updated a few things to the blog. Progress trackers (that's cool!), celebrity photo's, and a new banner.
Here is the old one.

I'd like to shift the branding over to my name, since the blog is about me and my writing journey, not the one book, but I'm afraid of my url changing so I'll research that some more first.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Witch Song and Amber Argyle

Hey crew,
Amber Argyle is a local author who I met recently at LTUE (writers conference held at BYU in Provo, Ut yearly).
Her debut novel 'Witch Song' will come out soon. I suggest you check it out. It's available for pre-order and that would be cool for you to support her this early.
She was real lucky and had a publisher who realizes that you need awesome cover art, and she got it. (Linked here to full cover art.)

You can check it out here on Goodreads.

I remember seeing her card around a lot and she's been active in the communities. She has her head on straight. So if she writes as well as she promotes you'll be in for a treat.
Give her a visit, pre-order or just check out some of her cool give aways.
Check them out here.