I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have a real solid idea of what I’m doing. I am an expert about as much as the McElroy Brothers are expert advice givers. Although to be fair, they seem much more professional, funny, and better at their jobs than I am, so there is that. They also seem like lovely people and I am not just saying that because I live vicariously through their podcasts.
Counterpoint: necessity is the mother of invention. I am figuring out how to do something that I have never done, so a big portion of my time is spent 1) finding and reading articles written by much more experienced people so that I can get an idea of what I should and should not be doing and 2) interacting with for real writers on Twitter.
It’s 2015 and the Internet is literally everywhere. It makes no sense to not ask for advice or learn from the experiences of others. I am still learning every single day. I am still learning how to mix writing for me and writing for an audience. I am still learning to objectively look at my work in progress THE AUTUMN MAGE and make critical adjustments that will take it from just a story to a novel. And I have a few tips that I have picked up and I want to share them with you this week.
- Set Daily Deadlines.
With my depression and anxiety it is very easy for me to dig a little emotion hole and fall into it. As you may have guessed from earlier posts it is fairly easy for me lose it when I don’t perform as expected. I currently do not have a deadline for finishing THE AUTUMN MAGE. I wanted it done by the end of the year. It is currently the end of the year. It is not finished. It will not be finished by December 31st. And you know what? The world is going to keep spinning.
NOW. I am real bad at procrastinating if the deadline of something is nowhere in sight. I’ll remind myself just how much time I have to *not* do something, and then I’ll do something like, oh I don’t know, buy Star Wars Battlefront and play that for a few hours today instead of writing. I am very good at having a set deadline that is very close to now and working until it is done. So what’s the best way to achieve this? Set daily deadlines. Make little challenges for yourself. Say that you are going to write for X amount of time, or reach X amount of pages or a certain word count for the day. If I stare at my screen and go “there’s no way I’m going to get productive today,” I won’t. If I set a target and try to reach that, I almost always will, if not exceed it. If you do not have a deadline, make one. Stephen King will write at least 2,000 words each day and tries to hit ten pages. That’s intimidating, and you know what? It should be. Because if writing were easy everyone would do it.
Wordsprints really help me. I set the timer on my phone, usually for thirty minutes, and just have at it. Putting that pressure, that little window of time, makes me rush through and I usually at minimum hit 500 words. That’s a fourth of your daily minimum quota right there. Set the timer, sprint, and then go do something else. Lather, rinse, repeat a few times a day and you’re there.
2. Edit More Than You Write.
I know this sounds counterintuitive. “But Chris, I’m a writer, not an editor! Besides, I’m just going to hire one later!” Yes. Yes you are. But here’s the deal: your first draft sucks. I haven’t even read it and I know your first draft is awful. And do you know how I know? Because it’s supposed to be. And now if you finish your first draft and don’t completely shift things around, all you’re doing is spray painting a turd gold. And I know that’s a weird metaphor, but it’s something a childhood friend of mine actually did and I just like working in that little anecdote whenever I can. I’m not asking you to be an editor, I’m just asking you to edit. On my second draft of THE AUTUMN MANGE I discovered that the tone was all wrong. My protagonist wasn’t dark and mean enough. The female characters were too weak and bubbly (which as a feminist I hated. I want strong females dammit!). So I’m winding up scrapping more than I’m saving and you know what? It’s making it stronger. I’ve finding paragraphs where I decided to just explain and I don’t need it. Do you know why I wrote it in the first place? Ego. “Oh look, my little world is so complicated I need to stop the story, take your hand, and teach you what is happening.” 1) No it isn’t and 2) your reader will be able to figure out what’s happening, and if they can’t then you need to rewrite.
3. Ask for Help
The great thing about Twitter is for every jerk that’s on there you’ll meet ten really great people who want to be helpful. And helpful people like to be asked for advice. Do it. Send someone a Tweet to clarify something. Maybe make sure they know what they’re talking about first, but try it. Chances are they’ll respond. I mean, J. K. Rowling answers fan Tweets all the time. Chances are if she will then your favorite indie author will, too.
4. Surround Yourself with Experts.
This ties into #3. Get some writer friends. Join writing groups. Read articles. You would chart out a course before driving cross country, and this is no different. Find out where you should stop, find out where to keep going. Find the cliches you hadn’t thought of. See what the current trends and current things that publishers and editors hate and take it into consideration. You don’t have to know what you’re doing, you just have to know how you’re going to get there.
5. Use the Google Machine.
For someone who learned how to read at an early age and for someone who plans on attempting to make money at selling books, I stare blankly at my screen quite often questioning the spelling of a word. Granted, I am using a computer that is about eight years old and is running Windows Vista with Word ’07. However, if you don’t know if you’re using the right word or the correct spelling, find out. It’s a computer. You know what computers usually have on them? The Internet. It is so easy to go to Google and find out if it is correct or not. Try typing it in the way you think it should be. If there is a homonym, i like to spell it both ways with a “vs” inbetween them. Don’t rely on spell check; case in point, chrome underlined “inbetween” with a red squiggly line and it is, in fact, a word correctly spelled. I checked it. With Google.
6. Be an Idiot.
Don’t expect yourself to be an expert. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. It took multiple tries to get the first airplane up and flying. It is alright to be in the dark and trying to figure it all out. Just don’t fall back on the “sorry it’s my first time” for lazy errors. The one thing I see time and time again from writing groups and from writers on Twitter is “How can this person be charging money for a Kindle ebook when they still have misspelled words?” Be an idiot. But don’t be a moron.
7. You Are the Characters.
I am currently reading the fantastic steampunk fantasy THE CHARISMATICS and the main character, Lady Ambrose, is described as having “dishwater-blond hair” and “a round face”, “bowed lips”, and “eyes are smallish and brown”. Sounds an awful lot like the author. And you know what? It’s fine. I have seen artists on TV say that a lot of them subconsciously paint or sculpt their own face because as humans we see our face a lot more frequently than others, usually from the mirror. And in order to make effective characters you have to write what you know. In The Shining Jack goes crazy after the ghosts of the hotel keep giving him booze; Stephen King has said that he wrote that while struggling with alcohol addiction. I used to have a real problem with anger. My antagonist is a dark, moody, brooding character and you know what? I know what that feels like. Draw from what you know. Add yourself to every character. You are their creator, and as their god you should mold them in your own image.
I hope this post has helped at least one of you. If you enjoy this blog, I do ask that you please like, comment, and share. If there is something that I’m doing maybe not so great please offer some constructive criticism because I love to learn and grow. Feel free to connect with me, I would love to hear your thoughts on whatever is on your mind!
I would like to remind my readers that if you want to see the current progress of THE AUTUMN MAGE head on over to Wattpad. I have the first two chapters of the second draft up and the third will be appearing by the end of the week.
And again, I would like to remind everyone that Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting is offering a 10% off with their referral service. This offer is not going to last much longer and I would highly recommend it. Ashley is a wonderful writer, she’s an even better editor, and if you want your works to be the absolute best it can be you will use her. Let her know Chris Wojcek sent you and she will treat you right. You won’t find a more professional editor who is right there in the writing trenches with you and she is going to make sure your works are living to their full potential.