Competitive Writing

Early in the year, when I was all gung-ho about publishing and marketing, I was reading a lot of blogs with advice for new and aspiring authors. There is one piece of advice that has – in a way – stuck with me, niggling at the back of my mind.

The tip that the blogger was attempting to impart was that, in order to be “competitive” in today’s market, a writer should be producing two novels and a short story each year. That’s two complete, polished, ready-to-publish novels and a complete, polished, ready-to-publish short story. The reasoning seemed to be that if you didn’t have something coming out every 4-6 months, the modern reader would grow bored and forget all about you.

Wether this is true or not, it still bothers me. Admittedly, I am the kind of writer who needs deadlines, I can’t and won’t deny that, I am a woefully unmotivated writer. Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that anyone who can nail 5,000 words in a breezy day of writing wouldn’t need help finishing anything, and yet here we are.

So, surely, this benchmark would seem like a good thing for me? This kind of thing that I could strive for? After all, surely the faster you can write books, the more money you could (theoretically) make, right? Well, maybe that day is still yet to come for me, but in the meantime, I found this little ray of hope:

GerogeRRMartinGoodBooks

Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire is insanely complicated, and I’m not even close to being in that league, but I have a little faith in my readers that, even if they forget me in between novels, I found them once and I will find them again.

BONUS! Check out this Buzzfeed on how George R.R. Martin will destroy everything you love (caution: spoilers).

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My Own Worst Enemy

Writer’s block. It seems to plague even the most prolific of writers. That creative stoppage that keeps you from moving forward.

The trouble with writer’s block is that it is only a symptom. The disease is far more insidious. There are thousands of tips, strategies, techniques, & exercises for overcoming or by-passing that looming sense of “not knowing what to write”. The thing is, dealing with the block is simple. Dealing with what caused it is another thing altogether.

I haven’t done any real work in quite a while now. I’ve entertained dozens of distractions – some of them constructive, some of them highly enjoyable – but, at the end of the day, they are exactly that: distractions from the real task. Ways to get around doing writing.

I could say that I’m stuck, & that wouldn’t be entirely untrue. It is a fact that I’m not sure how to connect where I’m up to with where I want to go, but I already have a favourite way to deal with that.

The real problem is one of motivation.

Whether it is self-doubt or procrastination or just the lack of discipline, the heart of the matter is that I could be working, I just haven’t been. I really do enjoy writing. I just wish I was better at making myself do it.

And Then They did What?

If you want to experience the next-closest thing to lucid dreaming, try being a writer. Non-writers generally don’t believe me when I say that I don’t always have control over what my characters do, or what happens to them, but a common refrain amongst writers is “I didn’t expect that”.

Imagination is an amazing thing, as is the process of creation. Telling a story often begins with the seed of an idea that you germinate into a majestic tree, full of life and colour. And like a growing tree, you can’t always account for the actions of the weather and the other life around you. Perhaps the weather turns bad, or there is a bushfire, your tree becomes dormant and damaged. On the other hand, sometimes the weather is good, too good, and you end up with wild overgrowth that needs to be hacked away into something more manageable and attractive.

Some writers are planners. Their ideas are more like bonsai, shaped and influenced from the very beginning. They usually have a pretty good sense of what will happen when, but even if you plan or things to go a certain way, you might not get what you want. When I was writing Speak for the Dead, I saw a way for my characters to get together. I had put them in the same room, all I needed to do was write the dialogue between them & have them end up in bed together. However, at the end of the conversation, one party walked out – it simply felt more natural for that to happen.

It’s hard to explain the process of writing, of drawing ideas from your mind and committing them to paper. I’m doing it right now, words are coming out of my brain & after I think them, I type them for you to read. It kinda just happens. Writers often attribute their ideas to their characters for no better reason than “where else could the idea have come from?”

A long time ago, someone shared this link with me, a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing your creative side. The entire video is 20 minutes long &, if you can spare the time, please do, because it is one of the most beautiful & moving things I have ever watched. In her speech, Ms Gilbert discusses the idea that genius is not something you ARE, but something you HAVE. Having always felt that writing was something that moved through me, rather than coming from me, it was an idea that I could especially relate to.

So, if you hear voices in your head, you might not be crazy, you might just be a writer.