Monday, May 23, 2011

The Anatomy of a Plan

It might be optimistic to plan out an entire summer’s worth of writing, but I need structure if I am going to tackle these massive projects. As I’ve talked about before, I face serious problems with burnout if I focus on a project as a whole. I need to break my workload into a systematic daily routine, otherwise the whole project crumbles. It has taken almost two years to understand my work habits, but I believe they are starting to take shape.

Tools have been a frequent subject on this blog, but this summer I will be utilizing a few new ones. To start, Google Calendar will be used to plan my work hours, days, and writing goals. I’ve set critical deadlines. More than that, I’ve drafted personal notes on how to meet each of these. Documentation is the word here. I’m hoping that by mapping out the process, I can eliminate any uncertainty about my book and other writing projects (like this blog).

Dropping the pantser mentality is difficult, but having a 20,000 word outline is a fine first step. For the next week, I plan to tweak and edit the outline until it shines, then do it again. I’m hoping that this process will smooth out a few plot holes before they happen and ultimately save me time in the end. Knowing what I am going to write the next day is a huge load off of my mind, and should allow me to stay focused.

I have a feeling that this last one is going to hurt me, but I am setting work hours, and they are early. I will be getting a bit more sleep than during my normal day job, which should be helpful, but I can’t trust myself without a schedule. I know myself too well, and it would lead too many late mornings leading into afternoons without anything to show for them. Essentially I will be turning my writing into the full time job it needs to be.

I’m sure many of you have seen these tactics littered around the internet before. I picked them up from blogs and trusted sources on writing. I’m going to document how well it works when a regular Joe tries to be a professional. Structure in my writing life is as much a work in progress as my novel. I’m sure I’ll find things that work and others that do not, but the path is in front of me, and we’ll see where the next three months take me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One Million Words

When I first got into fiction, it was shameful how arrogant I was. Maybe not outwardly, I wasn’t exactly pompous or an elitist to others, but I had this idea that my words were magic. I had a talent for wordsmithing, but not storytelling. No, at that point in the game, I was simply a fantastic bullshitter. I could write a vignette, and I could pound out some solid prose, but I knew nothing about effective fiction, and how the stories come together.

More than anything right now, I just want to get better. I want to make quality fiction. I have no delusions about my work, especially when judged against my peers. I have no misconceptions on my writing’s current status. I have a stack of rejections to show me where I stand, and it has shown me that quality isn’t as subjective as I once thought.

I’ve chosen a sort of arbitrary number. I need to shoot for one million words over the next few months, and likely, years. I want that number to be a benchmark of my hours put in, and the days I’ve spent sitting in this chair. Once I pass that mark, if I have spent my time wisely, I can consider myself a journeyman of the craft. I may be able to say that I am a proficient and dedicated writer.

By that time, I hope that I will have found the discipline to keep writing, even when I doubt in my abilities. Along with that, I hope to have learned the skills that accompany being a good businessman and self-manager, both of which have understated importance in the publishing industry.

This doesn’t mean I am going to trunk everything I work on, but it does mean I will keep a close eye on my ego, especially with the temptations of self-publishing.

I’ve met a lot of fantastic writers over the past few months, both through social media and in normal life. I just wanted to thank you guys for raising the bar. I know I’ll be a better writer having set my standards to the lofty heights the rest of you have shown.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Transition to Full Time

In nine work days, I will be given the chance to write full time while receiving a steady pay check. I had a definite holy shit moment when I received an email about the end of year shutdown to-do list. It just didn’t seem possible before that. Maybe I’m just a slacker who burns out too easily, but damnit, I deserve the break.

When you get down to it though, this really isn’t a break for me. This is an opportunity to set business hours, to do my writing, editing, and to really get some damn work done. More than anything, it is a chance to see how much I have matured with time management and writing ability. I plan on treating writing and reading as a full time job, and see if I can get a full book done this summer.

I have a feeling it will drop from full time to 4 to 6 hours a day. I am pretty well useless after writing 4,000 words, so that will hopefully be the capping point for many afternoons. Kristen Lamb always preaches that writing is an endurance sport; you have to train consistently to reach high word counts.

While it is unfortunate that the summer will come to an end, and I will be back at the full time grind, I don’t think that I could have been afforded a better opportunity. I know many of my writers who are unable to rid themselves of work and family responsibilities for even a few days, so this is a truly rare chance.

Just out of curiosity, how many of you work full time non-writing jobs?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ain't Found a Way to Kill Me Yet

Tonight, you’ll find me huddled over a desk, drink in hand, forcing the words to come despite myself. I’ve trudged through a lot of bullshit this week, and though it got better toward the end, it doesn’t change the fact that my life is irreparably fluctuating. Right now it’s for the worse, but the coming weeks will show if I am the type that perseveres.

So, self-confidence destroyed, morale shaken, and my former life entering the halls of memory, I will keep typing. I’m not always sure what brings me back to the keyboard when life is harsh, but I often feel that I have no choice. If I am using it as some sort of escapism, this is probably not the healthiest thing considering I write horror.

More likely it is that this is the only aspiration I have true control over. I can toil over my imaginings, add and subtract to my heart’s content. I am master over these stories, rather than the surf I feel I am in life. Now, let’s not get too melodramatic. I have a good job. Probably have a good job, tax revenues might decide otherwise. In this world though, I am restricted, bound by etiquette and obligations. In my writing, I can work and succeed, or at least work and get better. I can craft books which may be my livelihood, or I can watch reruns of Deadliest Warrior until I become a bitter and ragged old man.

I’m not sure that writing is an option anymore. Not a waking hour goes by that I am not thinking on a new story, or wanting to add to my other projects. Sometimes I falter under the magnitude of my work in progress, or waste my free time on less worthy endeavors, but I’m still here, hacking away. I’ll rebuild that confidence with each passage, and drive toward that ultimate goal of a publishable book. Toward the dream of a career that doesn’t require pants and is fueled by bacon and moderately priced whiskey. Something tells me my focus is a bit off on those last two sentences, but hey, it’s my dream.

Now, I pose the question. What is your solution to busted confidence? Do you power through it or do you just roll with it?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zen and the Art of Spondylitis Warfare

This is a repost from a recent awareness campaign set up through I really enjoyed writing it, and I feel like the post has some long lasting value. For posterity's sake, I will let it have a home here.

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a drawn out and cowardly enemy. One who deceives us with limitations, and assaults us with its tedious and persistent attack. Make no mistake about it; our bodies are now in a perpetual state of civil war. We may not be able to win every battle, but with the right tools, we can give ourselves a fighting chance at life.
Know thyself, know thy enemy.
Diagnosis clears the path to enlightenment. In doctor’s offices, online, and in the libraries, we learn the basic mechanics of this disease. The vocabulary behind the problem is constructed, and terms like immunosuppression and NSAIDs take on a wholly new and relevant meaning.
It is not enough, however, to know the common vernacular behind the disease; to read the Wikipedia articles and several forums. No, we must get to know ourselves, and understand our actual limitations. We have to know, not fear, that certain actions in our life are going to leave us in pain. We have to prepare and accept the consequences of our activities, while also understanding their essential nature in our lives.
He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.
When the disease is in full attack, and the inflammation throbs between our joints, our options can seem quite limited. We often recede from our families and friends. We seek a quiet and calm place to be alone in our pain, and rest our aching bodies. Over time, the habits we form in these dark places seep into the rest of our lives. The fear of another hurtful day keeps us from living on our own terms. We opt out of a movie with friends, or a night of dancing at a club. We stop ourselves from a day hike or even a trip to the store for some essentials.
It took me a while to realize this, but the fear wrought from the worst moments is unnecessary. We may wake up sore the next day, but we can do so with a smile on our face. We must learn to know, and accept, that regardless of what comes tomorrow, we may be in pain regardless of our choices the day before. We can’t hesitate to do what we love. To keep ourselves isolated, and to procure false limitations is one of the worst mistakes AS patients can make. Live well, accept the pain when it comes, and know that you are stronger than you can imagine; you can take it for the sake of really living.
There is a passage in the Hagakure, one of the essential books on bushido and the way of the samurai that says this: “There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
The key to living with AS is maintaining the proper perspective. Mental and physical struggles will persist, but when we understand and accept the nature of the disease, we begin to overcome it.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Our rheumatologists and other doctors are our greatest allies in this lifelong battle. They provide the weapons, but we must supply the action. Their plans must be carried out with vigor and consistency; otherwise it’s just wasted time and money
As a young man who struggles with this disease every day, I can say that these tactics work. Keeping a realistic perspective helps me to find hope each day. I’ve taken the skills taught by my Doctor, and with the support of my friends and family, have seized the life I was content to lose. I’ve enabled myself through my online friends, who remind me that I am not alone. I’d like to thank all of you for letting me share this, and I hope that it might help others in their walk with AS.
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