In Which I Am A Terrible Person, OR Why The Right Book Makes a Difference

(Also: Why I Decided To Publish My Own Books.)

This was supposed to be a lot more coherent that I suspect it’s going to be, because I have a throat cold* and this is the busy point in my two-week timetable and my sanity has pretty much fled, but anyway. I’m doing this blogging thing, yes I am, see me do it.

* Not sinus stuffy, just coughing and hacking and GUNK, ew, glerk.

Confession: I am a terrible person.

I mean, I’m not *actually*, not for the reason I’m talking about today, but it sounds satisfyingly melodramatic to say so, so you know.

Why am I terrible?

I am not working on Sanctuary 3. 

My original deadline was the end of the year for the content-edited book, so I could pull a late Feb/early March release, because that’s what I’ve been telling everyone. Which means I was supposed to start the draft at least 2.5 weeks ago.

Dear readers, This Was Not A Pleasant Experience.

I tried. I really did try.

I spend a week trying to scrape together an outline from the notes I’d made. I skyped the twin, who is Expert at Plotting. I made notes of all the threads I needed to tie up from books 1 and 2 (that’s them in the background of the picture below).

I had an outline – of sorts.

I had an idea – of sorts.

And then the second week, I sat down to force myself to start writing it. You want to be a writer, I reminded myself. That means actually writing. You know. Words. On pages. But it was like the proverbial blood from the proverbial stone, and it was Not Fun.

Look, I have a day job, okay? And two small businesses aside from writing. I don’t NEED writing to earn money for me, I don’t NEED to publish… So if it’s not going to be fun? Ick. Just, ick.

Also, I hadn’t written a novel in over a year, and honestly I haven’t done much writing at all this year so far, it’s mostly been formatting and editing and proofing and so much more formatting. So I was worried that maybe I’d just forgotten how to write easily, that maybe this was a Me Thing.

Then, on a whim, I opened an older novel, one that was supposed to be next in the queue after Sanctuary 3, which I’m basically rewriting from the ground up now that I am a seriously better writer than I was in 2011 (THANK GOODNESS) but which I passionately love and adore and which early readers back in the day did too. Oh, look, you can go read about it here.

So anyway, yeah, I pulled that out to *ahem* look at. And, uh, oops. I’ve written 9k on it in the last 3 days. o.O

I mean, granted, a lot of that is totally blocked out, so the shape of the action is all there for me, and I’m just adding character and voice and setting, but whoa. 9k in 3 days? Ain’t never written that much so quickly, except maybe the week I was finishing up Through Roads Between when I drafted it last year.

So: clearly the problem is not that *I* am broken, but that something with Sanctuary 3 is just not gelling yet. I’ll write it, obviously I will – it’s not a runaway best seller (AH HA HA) but I do have a tiny, encouraging core of fans for the series (*waves*) and I’m not going to leave them/you in the lurch.

Just… not yet.

I could force it, but honestly, this is one of the main reasons I decided in the end to go with indie publishing: complete flexibility. HNOT is *working* right now, by golly is it working, and Sanctuary 3 is *not*. I’d meant to point out a whole bunch of metaphors here for the fact that sometimes, when you’re trying to hard to force something in life to work, it’s a pretty good signal you’re going in the wrong direction – but I’m lacking brain and my throat’s now sore too :\ So instead, Imma wrap this up and find a handy bed to collapse into, because yay + sleep + yay. Then I’ll probably get up and write some more of HNOT, because it’s totally captured my creativity, and I don’t feel like doing much else except writing it.

And I’m going to be grateful for that, and enjoy it, because this? This is what I signed up for.

Bring it on.

 

Slow Down (Repost)

In a similar vein to the last repost, and again, applicable to a lot more than just writing……..

I was originally going to title this post ‘A New Cure For Writers’ Block’. But really, it’s not a new cure, for either the world in general, or myself. You’ve heard me talk about it before; the cure is simple: listen to your characters.

But it occurs to me that the principle involved has so many more applications, and can be summed up in just one word: listen.

Most of us are not so crash hot at the concept of listening. The fact that it’s a primary skill taught in relationship seminars speaks to this point. Sure, we hear other people talking, and we can repeat back a rough idea of what they’ve said, and we can even respond appropriately, but how often do we actually listen?

Listening is hard. It requires focussing completely on the speaker, clearing your mind of everything but what they’re trying to convey. No wandering off onto tangents of your own, no pondering what you’re going to say next as soon as they finish speaking; just listening.

One of the primary reasons we’re so bad at listening is the kind of world we live in, where minute-long soundbites are six times too long and an article nearing a thousand words is more like an essay. We’re used to doing ten things at once – we call it ‘multi-tasking’, and we’re proud of it.

As I type, I’m also half-watching The Flintstones on tv, I’m chatting to my baby sister via gtalk, I’m discussing puppy care with my husband, looking up a timetable on the school intranet, and uploading photos to my webalbums. I also have my email inbox open, a short story I’m editing, the spreadsheet that reminds me I need to weigh the puppies, and a host of writing related articles to read. Oh yeah, and Twitter.

Is it any wonder, then, that we struggle to really listen?

I mean, seriously. I’m a writer. I know I need to listen to my characters. I know my characters should have personalities that are well-rounded and unique and individual, and that motivate all of their actions. I know this. I know that this requires listening to them, letting them be.

So why am I so bad at doing it? Why, every time I butt my head against another wall in my story, does it take me forever to remember to stop, breathe, relax, listen?

I think there’s a clue in what I said about the kind of society we live in. Our lives are so fast paced, we’re conditioned to believe that everything can happen at the click of a button or the speed of thought. I sit down to write, and I expect that the words will be there, waiting for me – and if they’re not, I get restless, dissatisfied, think I’m doing something wrong.

I procrastinate, because I know it will take me fifteen minutes or so of concentrating on writing for things to start flowing each day, and fifteen minutes seems like a Really Long Time.

But here’s the thing: Creativity takes time.

It takes time for ideas to filter through our mind, for connections to be made, ideas to be formed. It takes time for these things to consolidate, to shape themselves into more than ephemerality, to live.

It takes time.

So I need to remember to give it time. I need to slow down. In the scheme of things, fifteen minutes isn’t that long; and it’s certainly less time than the hours I can fritter away through procrastination otherwise.

Turning off the distractions doesn’t help; if I’m not committed to sitting down and pushing through those fifteen minutes, I’ll find other things to keep me occupied – dishes, dinner, tidying, puppies…

As writers, it’s so tempting to look around and see how much progress other writers are making, and to let that get us down. I need to work faster, I need to work harder……

Well, maybe. But that’s only going to happen if first, I slow down.