Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 8 -- BURNOUT

Writing goals are essential to getting anything completed. The main reason aspiring and frustrated writers fail is because they cannot find or make time to write, or if they can, they do not have a viable goal to reach for other than the concept of having an idea for the story and wanting to write it. Now wanting to write something is awesome but that's the easiest part, having an idea is even better but it's still kinda easy to have an idea. What matters is getting that damn thing completed!

There's nothing more fulfilling than just getting that beginning in and introducing your awesome character (you know, that scene at the beginning of your manuscript where the character has a long look at themselves in the mirror and you get to describe their hair color, skin type, bone structure, and what gemstone their eyes match). After that, you get to set the plot rolling by writing the catalyst scene that throws your character into turmoil and jeopardy and might even introduce them to the dreamy love interest or some other important character who is quirky, or cool, or tortured, or terrifying. There is such a RUSH in being able to breathe life into those scenes you've been rolling over in your head and at that point you can't stop writing!

The words just flow from your fingers. You find yourself laughing as you write or smiling smugly at your words. YOU ARE A MASTER OF WORDS and you get such a thrill at knowing how everyone is going to read this story and... and then...

The feeling leaves. It starts with hitting scenes that just don't excite you. They're important scenes but they don't feel right. You know you can come back and fix them later because of the rule of NO EDITING the first draft. Still, they're not as exciting as the scenes you can't wait to write.

So then you leave it a few days and then try coming back to work on more interesting scenes hoping to fill in the less interesting scenes later. That works for a short time but then even that loses it's luster. Writing becomes less and less every day, and what once was a torrent of words has become a drought. The manuscript gets put away and nothing more gets written.

That's burnout... fizzle out.... whatever you want to call it.

A good way of fighting burnout is by setting wordcount goals and making sure to meet the wordcount every day. It locks you into moving forward and even if the writing is bad the urge to turn back and delete or edit is curbed because you need to keep those precious words on the page so you can meet wordcount. It's the whole reason why National Novel Writing Month is so successful.

Sometimes, though, you even reach wordcount burnout! D: D: D: It's like, that goal of 2000 words becomes a goal of 1500 which becomes a skipped day which becomes a weekend off. Then it gets depressing when you find you haven't reached your weekly wordcount and it becomes easier to declare oneself defeated.

The only remedy I can see for this, if one does not want to abandon the story that is, is accepting the dwindling wordcount as a victory over writer's block rather than a failure to meet the self imposed standard. Writer's are naturally skittish creatures and it does no good to feel inadequate and depressed over something like the number of words written per day. Feeling like a failure only encourages giving up.

It's better to suffer a week or two, or even a month of writing days where only 200-600 words are written and trudging towards a second wind of epic writing than it is to become frustrated and give up completely on a manuscript when a daily wordcount of 1000-2000 is not met. Accepting the tiny wordcount results in a constant movement forward. The alternative of feeling inadequate and abandoning the manuscript only ends up in ashes and broken dreams.

I know they say "don't force it" but if you are really serious about finishing a longform manuscript I think you should force it when you've hit the wall. Squeeze out 200 painful words every day, even if they're words you are ultimately gonna overhaul or delete. Nothing about writing is easy, and pushing yourself to your limits even if your brain is tired, can only serve to toughen you up and prep you for sitting with a manuscript for the long haul.

Moribund Tales by Erik Hofstatter

Moribund TalesMoribund Tales by Erik Hofstatter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Children are never safe, neither are expectant fathers or philandering girlfriends in this devilish collection of short fiction from author Erik Hofstatter.

The tales collected in this slim volume range from revenge and comeuppance fables to the horrifying and harrowing. There is a consistent theme of how violent the emotions dredged up by jilted love or infidelity can make an unstable person, and there are also tales gleefully turning upside down any notion that children or babies have any safe spot in this world.

The prose is very poetic minded and descriptive, and although some might call that "flowery" , I rather liked it because it made me think of early Anne Rice or writers like Edgar Allen Poe. There is a lot of Victorian influence to the style of writing and the subjects, and the bleeding heart of the collection is very romantic minded.

I will note that there is one story that literally made my drop my kindle and gasp! But I will not say which one as I do not want to give away any spoilers.

I heartily recommend this book! Download it now!

View all my reviews

You can purchase Moribund Tales on Kindle for 2.99.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 7-- Clashing Storylines

One of the strangest thing about the manuscript I'm working on, (for all those keeping track it's my cracked out modern hockey rewrite of "Dangerous Liaisons"), is the schizoid differences between the various storylines of over a dozen characters.

Ideally, I outlined and intended to do a tongue in cheek rewrite just using the templates for the major characters, Valmont, Merteuil, Cecile, and Madame Tourvel. I really wanted to pay homage to the novel I am such a fan of, but also, I wanted to add a little bit of fun and humor to it, while also paying note to my rabid love of professional ice hockey. Even at THIS point it's already gone too far haha.

As the draft moved along though, weirder stuff began to pop up--like the talking goalposts, and a weird secret society that has its roots all the way up to the Vatican, and the appearance of a living saint! Truthfully, a lot of those storylines have a lot to do with my adolescent adoration for Anne Rice and the original "Dark Shadows" TV series. *salutes them*.

The storyline that surprised me the most, however, was how deeply I began immersing into the lives of the children of the characters. Initially they were just to be background fodder, only brought forward when needed as an excuse to bring character A (a nanny or parent) into a situation where they could interact with character B (another parent). Or they could pop forward with a cute scene or a reason to give a typically "bad" character a "see, she really has heart!" moment.

I couldn't bring myself to stay so distant though. Argh! I began to probe into the lives of the kids and spin tales for them. While the adults in this story are busy plotting, and seducing, and being seduced, what could the kids possibly be going through? Kids aren't stupid, even if things aren't spelled out for them they still notice when things are off. What sort of effect does all this craziness have on them?

And just like that, a door opened. Things in this reality are so weird that I began to write story-lines for the children that open doorways for them to other realities. A world where cursed mummies attack, flying monkeys descend, evil doppelgangers threaten, and magical scepters can transport them to different times and places! And this is not stuff just in the children's heads, this is REALLY happening to them right under their parents' noses and NO ONE notices.

Now the fun of it, is that none of these adventures are completely experienced upfront for the reader. The reader sees only slightly more than the parent sees, but not the whole picture. It'll just be a tease of the world that is mostly hidden from adults but is present and perfect for the children to escape into while the authority figures in their lives prance around their own soap opera.

Will any of this work? DOES THIS WORK?


We'll see. The point is, I get to put in a mummy's curse. Woo!