“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Stephen Wright
As we close up Genreality and begin a new year, it seems like a good time to discuss the myth of having it all. As comedian Stephen Wright points out, you really can’t have everything. But this doesn’t stop us from (self-defeatingly) trying.
Planning for a new year or for a successful project begins with resource management. How much time and energy do you have to work with? What outside resources can you rely on to free up more time and energy for the project at hand? Nobody has infinite resources, and while it’s easy for me to envy writers who have older kids and aren’t trying to juggle a career around diapers, they have plenty of demands on their time, too.
Ways to outsource tasks on your list can be as simple as deciding the yard really only needs to be mowed twice a month instead of four times, or hiring somebody to clean, or getting a family member to babysit on a regular basis. Whittle down to the things you really do have to do and can’t put off or offload.
Another approach is to look at ways to create more energy. It’s true that working out leads to feeling more energetic but to get there you have to fight the tired glued to the couch feeling and begin. Same for eating right; in the long run it’ll lead to more energy. In the short term it means investing in the time to make better nutrition choices and maybe cook more. It’s the same old boring advice, but the best way to get the most out of your time is to get enough rest, eat right, and exercise.
How do you do that? Add walking to your daily routine whenever possible. Park further away from the store when you shop, walk to the day job, or just take a walk a couple of times a week. Lift weights; I’ve been doing the 12 Second Sequence workout on and off for years, and it really does get great results in 2 20 minute workouts a week. In November and December I really was so busy I could only do it once a week, but I stuck to that 20 minute commitment and it paid off.
Which brings me to; it’s always better to do a little consistently than to do nothing or to try to do too much and set yourself back. Do a little exercise. Eat one apple instead of a second slice of pizza. Write one page while your toddler plays with an older sibling. Decide if raked leaves are really worth while, and if so, can somebody else rake them?
Your life is lived one day at a time so getting the life you want in 2013 comes down to planning your days and your weeks to make it happen. You can’t have everything. But you can choose the things that matter most.
My new year is starting off with a new book in stores, The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance. I’m glad I chose to write the story, I’m happy to have contributed here with my merry cohorts, and I hope we all enjoy more of what we want and value most in the new year to come. Happy New Year!
Five Years ago I was feeling a bit lost in this big bad cyber world of publishing. I was a National Bestselling author of erotic fiction, multi-published with an agent, three big New York Publishers as well as a great ePublisher, yet I still felt … unanchored. After thinking on it for a while I figured out that I felt that way because despite my accomplishments, I was still basically a newbie to this world.
I’d only been writing for 6 years, and was woefully under-educated about the business. I’d simply set out to write, and it happened. I was one of those writers who thought, “Hey, I’ve got multiple contracts, and am on my way!” I soon realized there was so much more to this than writing a good story…at least if I wanted to build a lasting career. I wanted to learn what the Big Name authors did to make things work, and because there is always more than one way to do things I figured it didn’t matter what genre they wrote in. So it was with a somewhat selfish intent that I set out to build a group blog of successful, multi-published authors, all of them best-sellers in their own genre.
In January 2009, Genreality was born. For the past four years it’s been a large part of my life. I’ve learned from some of the best authors out there, and surprisingly, some people have even learned from me.
It’s going to feel funny to not be here every week, (even though I will be blogging on my own site )but I’ve no doubt I’ll be back here often, searching through the posts/archives for inspiration, tips and advice, and the occasional kick-in-the-pants reality check about the business. I really hope that many of you will also do the same.
Ms. Carrie Vaughn, you and I are the last original members standing. I cannot express how thankful I am to you for being part of this blog. Without your enthusiam and encouragement, right from the get-go, we might never have gottenoff the ground. You’ve been here from the first day, and I’m so glad you stuck with it, and are here at the end. You are not only a talented woman, but a generous one. You’ve always been one of my favorite authors, over the past several years you’ve become an inspiration, and I’m honored to call you a friend.
Now…Carrie left you all some wonderful short bits of advice yesterday, and for my last bit of advice I’m going to leave you with a movie trailer. Me, I find inspiration in many places, and movies are a big well to draw from. It’s not really story ideas I get from them, but the inspiration to keep going after what I want, and to keep dreaming. This clip is from the movie Take The Lead with Antonio Banderas. The tagline for the movie is Every dream begins by taking One Step.
The stories inspired by the life of Dance instructor Piere DuLaine, and it’s about him, and the way he believed in the talent of a group of problem kids. Check it out….
“You can get whatever you want,” DuLaine says.
Rock shakes his head and replies. “Nah, only some people get the shit they want.”
“That’s true,” Dulaine says as he looks Rock in the eyes. “And those are the people who show up to get it.”
You can get whatever you want, if you show up to get it. Show up, put the work in, don’t give up, and you will find success at whatever you chose to do…even writing.
Thanks to all of you for helping to make Genreality a success.
Happy New Year, and welcome back from our holiday break at Genreality. We’re wrapping things up this week. Never fear, the blog will stay archived, posts will still be available for reading.
I’ve enjoyed posting here, having a place to put all my thoughts about writing and to share what I’ve learned about the business of writing and publishing. Thanks to all of you who’ve been reading, and especially to those of you who’ve come up to me at signings and conventions to tell me how much you’ve liked the blog. I’m so glad our work here has been useful for you. I’m still blogging at my personal site, and you can also find me on Facebook. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about writing in days to come.
In closing: The question I get asked most, even more than “Where do you get your ideas?” is “What advice would you give to new writers?” I get asked this in interviews, in e-mails, at signings, at parties. I try to condense my response into something short, memorable, true — and practical. Here’s what I say:
Write as much as you can. When you’ve finished and sent off one thing, start the next. Always be working on something new.
Improve your writing as much as you can. You have to get better. Challenge yourself. Write more, write better.
Read as much as you can. Words are tools, you can learn a lot by seeing how other people use them.
Analyze what you read. Figure out what you like, and do that in your writing. Figure out what you hate, and why, and then don’t do that. This is how you get better.
Educate yourself. Know how the business works. Know what a scam looks like. Talk to people. Learn.
Aren’t you glad you stopped by Genreality? Now you’re singing along with Alice Cooper so your day is already better. You’re welcome. But what does this have to do with writing? Just what the song says, you have to feed your imagination.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the grind of words, words, words, produce, produce, produce. But all of those words spring from someplace. You can argue philosophy all day long about where and how inspiration works, but there’s no arguing what happens when you forget to feed the process. For those coming to the end of the NaNoWriMo sprint, the piled up words are a mighty accomplishment. Still, it pays to think like a farmer and invest in the next crop of your imagination. Time to fertilize.
What feeds your imagination? The answers vary wildly and there are no wrong answers. A good place to start is by making a list and seeing what jumps out. A list of movies to watch, books to read, a fun coffee mug to drink from, a nifty pen for your desk, a tempting notebook you love the color or texture of. Look around you and see what catches your attention. That’s the thing calling to your imagination.
Maybe you suddenly want to read about dinosaurs or go to a natural history museum or wander through a science center playing with levers and pulleys. And before you know it, the technical story problem you’d been wrestling with has a solution. Maybe you find yourself obsessed with maps and realize a map of your world would help you write the next book in the series. Just the process of drawing your places or people can make the story’s shape gel.
Maybe you suddenly have an overwhelming urge to bury yourself in shape and color and the next day you visualize the setting for your fantasy world in vivid detail.
The words come from the recombining of multiple elements. Sensory details, historical details, geological or engineering details. Feed your imagination a varied diet of art, history, music, new flavorful foods, science journals, stellar photography. Dabble in wordless creative efforts; draw, paint, sculpt, play an instrument. Take a walk. Play with a child.
Feed your Frankenstein and the monster of a new story, poem, song, novel will be ready to catch lightning and come alive in words, words, words.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss
One thing many people ask is where do your ideas come from? Or how do you do it? Meaning, how do you create/come up with/tell theses stories.
For me, the answer is always the same. I don’t really know where the ideas come from, (everywhere? nowhere?) and how do I do it? I sit down, and start writing.
It really is that simple. If you want to write, you have to sit down and do it. You can’t wait around for the lightening of inspiration, or for the perfect idea, you just sit down, and write. It’s work. The idea might not be perfect, which is why you write it out, and work on it, and make it the best it can be. But, the only way to do that is to start.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I certainly did, starting with a holiday trip and ending with dinner at my parents, and a relaxing weekend settling back into my routine. If you like shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, I hope you got in plenty of shopping — and if you did, that you bought books to give as gifts! I worked in a bookstore for a few years right after college, and I loved this time of year, up to and including the holiday CDs on endless replay, the people we’d bring in to do free gift wrapping, and most of all, the recommendations I’d get to make for customers looking for that perfect gift. There’s a book out there for everyone. Usually several. Novels of every shape and size, art books, travel books, science books, memoirs and history, craft books, how-to books. There’s nothing better than curling up on the sofa on Christmas afternoon, after the presents and the dinners and the church services, and reading for hours.
One very important exception: don’t give self-help books as gifts. As well meaning as your intentions may be, as much as you may think you’re trying to help your loved one, it’s just about impossible for the recipient to view a self-help book as anything but criticism and judgment, and what should be a happy day will suddenly be filled with resentment and frustration. Do I know this from personal experience? Why, yes. Yes I do.
What books do you have on your shopping list to give as gifts this year? What books are you asking for?
Me, I’m probably going to stop by the Tattered Cover in Denver for a few hours sometime in the next couple of weeks, and just wander to see what jumps out at me. That’s one of the things I miss about working in the bookstore: while hunting for books for customers, I could also browse the entire store for myself, and pick out the perfect books for my whole family (and a few for myself as well — oh, that employee discount could be deadly. . .). A bit of wandering is as close as I can get to that these days. But it’s usually enough.
NaNoWriMo is a more than halfway to the finish line. Once again, I’m not participating, because I know my writing pace and schedule, and I’m just not set up for it. Also, I’m on vacation this week. Woooo!
But if you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re probably encountering, or have encountered, or have bogged down in the “messy middle” part of writing a novel. Many novelists go through this at every stage in their careers. It seems to be a natural part of the novel-writing process: you get to a point where you’ve got a bunch of characters, a bunch of plot lines, a bunch of things happening, and you’re not entirely sure how it’s all going to come together for a slam-bang ending. No matter how carefully you outlined, you seem to be missing one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle, and at some point, you stall out. Hit a wall. You’ve got tens of thousands of words, and it all seems to be falling apart in front of you. Many people who start writing novels might quit at this point, thinking their once-brilliant idea is, in fact, junk.
Do not despair. Do not quit. These feelings are all normal. Here are a few things I do to get out of the slump, past the wall, and get excited about writing again.
Step away from the computer. If you normally sit at a desktop computer, take a pen and paper and move to the sofa. If you normally write in a coffee shop, go somewhere else. Change scenery, change mode of writing. This will physically get you out of the rut, and your brain will probably follow.
Brainstorm. Open a new file, grab that pen and paper again, and make a list of everything that can possibly happen next. Think of your characters in whatever situation they’re in, and think of every possible thing that could happen. Go wild. Maybe they all drop whatever they’re doing and go home. Maybe aliens abduct them. Maybe a man walks through the door with a gun. Be outrageous. You’re not going to use most of these options anyway, but once again, this will jolt your brain into new ways of thinking. You’ll have to reassess where your characters are, why they’re there, and what they want to do next. At least a couple of options should get you excited and give you new ideas on how to move forward.
Go backwards. Sometimes if you’re stalled out, it’s because you’ve made a mistake earlier. I know on NaNoWriMo you’re not supposed to go back and revise, but sometimes you need to go back and figure out if you took a wrong turn. Maybe a character stayed home when she was supposed to go out and be reckless, or vice versa. Maybe these two characters met too late, or too early. If you find a problem, you don’t have to fix it right this minute — leave yourself a note in the manuscript marking where you took the wrong turn and what should really happen next. But then you can move forward, on the right path again.
Talk it out. Find a willing partner, maybe another NaNoWriMo buddy, and talk out the problem. Explaining where you are in the story and where you want to go, and articulating the problem out loud can give you new insight on what’s really going on and how to move the story forward.
Skip scenes. It is absolutely, totally okay to skip scenes. This happens to me all the time: I may not know what happens next, but I definitely know what happens two or three scenes down the line. So I’ll skip to what I do know about the story rather than dwelling on what I don’t. This works up to and including writing the end before you’ve written the middle. I do that a lot. If you know where you’re going, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to get there. If you know A and C, B looks a little clearer. Or, you may discover you didn’t need that middle scene at all, that the story works just great without it. For some writers (like me), this can be a very efficient way of writing! One way or another, you’ll get your word count in.
All of the above. You might need a combination of these techniques to get you back on track. That’s okay.
Good luck, you NaNoWriMo jockeys out there. I hope this helps you make it to the finish line.