Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marathon Writing

Earlier this month I did a marathon writing session. It was a lot of fun. I put in the hours and effort and in a week (yes, 7 days,) I did a 40,000 word novel. Some people say that is writing fast. It is not. I wrote every hour at my usual pace. I simply put in 3 to 4 times the usual hours and writing deep into the night until exhaustion forced me to stop. The writing pace was the same. My dedication to the words and story was the same. (Which is why I don’t understand why critics say NaNo is bad for writing. All NaNo asks is you put in more hours to get the minimum word count every day.)

My fellow writing buddy Christina E. Pilz
was there to give me encouragement and inspire me to keep it up. She’s a wonderful writer herself (check out her blog.) She and I have different ways of approaching writing (pantser vs. plotter; everyone who knows me knows I’m allergic to outlines,) but when we do the work we have similar mindsets and work ethics and we find we can share and understand frustrations and achievements. So while writing is a lonely game, having an email friend on the same page is priceless when you need a breath of air or an outside voice that says, “I get it.”

Another helpful voice in my sidelines is my ever-present partner, Della Van Hise, also a great writer. (Check out her blog.) Della is also the driving force in my cover designs and getting my books up on Amazon. Without her I would be so much less.

Things I noted while doing this self-made challenge:

  1. I really do enjoy being in the writing mode and in the middle of a project. It’s just damn fun. A lot of writers like the feeling of “having written” but not the actual writing part of it. I am the opposite. After I finish I feel a high followed sometimes by some amount of grief. This grief comes when I have had so much fun playing in my universe that when I’m done I am almost reminded of when I was a child and my mom called me in for the night after a day of fun playtime. End of playtime means back to a routine. Ho hum.

  1. I was writing so much every day that I had the time and was able to write everything that came flooding into my mind from the deepest thoughts (which often occur at just the right moment with no amount of planning on my part) to quick dialog. I didn’t have to wait until I “found some spare time” to write a scene or a line or a note. Everything just went into it. Some scenes and lines came out of order but that was fine because they quickly found their order. Because I was able to get everything in my mind into the novel quickly, without losing energy and momentum and the original muse for the thought, I felt my writing became brighter and more emotional and authentic.

  1. Even though I do this for fun and for myself nowadays, I still have darker thoughts, just like anyone. I will think I am wasting my time. I will ponder that the genres I choose to write in (science fiction, vampire, gay romance) are still considered “gutter” genres by and large. Forget the fact that Anne Rice can write, back to back, “Prince Lestat” (dandified vampires) and “Beauty’s Kingdom” (b/d, bisexual explicit erotica) and make the NYT Bestseller’s list. Even though I would categorize my stuff as closer to her ilk than any other bestseller writer I can think of, and I am no amateur, my mind keeps reminding me I am unread, unloved even though those who have read my stuff come away loving it. But when I sell only 1 to 10 books a month (across all my titles) it does feel as if I am running in place. So I wrestle with the dark thoughts, set them aside and keep going because once, years ago, I did stop writing for 9 years, and stopping guarantees a no-win. All this did occur to me during the marathon but I successfully squelched the thoughts and focused only on the fun of writing.

Writing ups and downs always occur. Disappointments seem legion. But in the end I have such a good time, and this is my heart talking. How can I deny my heart?

I do have real life work to pay the bills, but when I have the time again, I will do another marathon writing week or month. Mark my words!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Writing Updates and My Views on Writing for NaNo

Spring and summer are my busiest seasons for my business. I travel a lot and it's so hard to write while I am away from home.

And yet, I have still gotten a lot of writing done in-between running around.

I just finished my fairy-vampire novel, the first in a trilogy. The novel is called "Lace" and came in at just over 65,000 words. Camp NaNo (like November's NaNoWriMo wherein you write every day for a month) in April helped me finally get the damned thing done! I'm thinking of the subtitle, "Book One: The Fairy-Vampire Trilogy." But why limit myself? It could be a "series" and then I can write 2 or 10 books in that universe. Still thinking.

I wrote lots of new poetry in April as well.

A wonderful review came out for my latest novel: The Lostling.

Another wonderful review just came out for my brand new poetry book: Turn Left at November.

I also sold a poem to Asimov's SF Magazine called "Build a Rocketship Contest: Alternative Class A Instructions and Suggestions."

More about Camp NaNo: I love these challenges because I think it's so important for a writer to write every day if they can. I don't do that myself (because of the traveling and such) but I believe in it, and even without writing every day, I do an awful lot of it when I am home and in my off-seasons (I finished one novel in Dec. and one in April NOT writing every day.) Writing every day for a month during the NaNo challenges teaches that it can be done and the writing does not have to suffer for it. In fact, the writing becomes better and better as you push through blocks and hurdles to get it done. It's simple: you just write the next sentence. And then one more. And then one more. A daily pushing through various humps along the novel road is the answer to so many writerly troubles, and I have found that "writer's block" is just a myth, an excuse, a whine-time, something I did not know when I was a much younger writer who believed in all the writer myths and used them as excuses.

I never do messy writing or messy first drafts, though a lot of critics say NaNo is the worst thing for writers because it concentrates on word count and therefore quality MUST suffer. Others who approve of NaNo still say, "Allow yourself to write badly. Make a bad first draft file." Uh, no. I feel that's a total waste of time and there is no reason for that attitude! I am the kind of person who does my best as I go while daring myself to go out on limbs and take chances, but I never start out to "write badly." Not ever. Good writing or bad writing, either way, it's just a matter of sitting in the chair and typing and having a fun time. Why not sit there and do it the best you possibly can?

I have had days of over 2000 words of some of my best writing ever, so there is another myth squashed: that writing slow produces better writing. In fact, slow writing allows way too much of the critic's voice to come into play, and that is the great destroyer of the muse, as any artist in any field from singing to acting to painting can tell you. The critical voice inside every writer wants that writer to fail even if it's saying "rewrite so you can be better." Don't listen! This is a critical lie and it destroys internal "voice" and stunts all natural storytelling. The critical voice wants to browbeat you until you give up, and then it can say, "I told you so; you're not good enough." This critical voice must be bound and gagged and sent off to a deep, dark dungeon.

I research on the fly so everything is new and fresh and stimulating. That's just me. Others do it differently. There is no right way. But for me, I have a ton of experience, so it's fairly easy to trust that my subconscious mind knows what it wants to do and how to do it. I let it loose to play and that works for me amazingly well in ways I could not see when I was so young. Trusting the subconscious mind to know what it's doing might sound crazy, but seriously, it produces the best results. It does not ever let me down. Maybe I can do it without qualms because I write so much poetry, and poetry is for me like dreaming, but I honestly think it's a method that can work for anyone. Staunch the critical voice and let go. It's like fairy magic!

So my first drafts come out pretty polished. Thus, writing every day only hones my skills. I do not turn out fluff just for word count. I concentrate and work hard and do my best writing this way. Goofing off, playing around, writing just one paragraph for the day-- that's when my writing suffers. So I do recommend this course of action. Of course, these are just suggestions! Everyone is different.

I leave off with a new poem for today.

in the middle of the night road
a swaying lantern
but no ghost

-- Wendy  Rathbone