Does A Change In Seasons Change Your Writing Habits?

blur branches depth of field dry leaves

Does a change in seasons bring changes in your writing habits?

I’m voting yes on my ballot. As the daylight fades and it starts getting darker earlier, I find myself planted in my chair a little more, pecking away at my projects. But for me, it’s just because I’m an outside kind of person. I spend more time outside during the summer season which just leaves less time inside at my desk, translating into a less productive time of year for me.

I know what you’re all saying. Why not write outside?

Yeah, I see all you writerly types posting outdoor Instagram photos of yourself and a laptop, perfectly perched on a quaint table or sandy beach near a softly rolling ocean, picturesque lake, rippling stream, or overlooking a valley or scenic mountain range.

My office for the day. The view from my workspace today.

But are you really writing? Are or you doing what I would be doing, staring out into that beautiful setting, mesmerized by nature and trying to remember where your fishing pole is while keeping your laptop open to check social media?

Hey, if you can write like that, more power to you. For me, a setting like that would be the reward for getting my writing completed, because I surely wouldn’t want to be staring at my laptop screen while all that great scenery is within my view, just begging for attention. “How am I supposed to write with all these distractions. ” is what the caption of my Instagram photo would read. Hashtag not writing, haha.

I do find inspiration in the views, though. I can easily see how a little outdoor time can refresh oneself while providing new insights and a clean brain slate, so to speak. In fact, a good walk has helped me further my writing numerous times, whether I’m stuck on a particular scene or just looking for the right words or phrases to convey my intended message.

Nevertheless, for whatever reasons, as the days get shorter you are way more likely to find me right here, butt in the chair, painfully reminded of the fact that I still haven’t purchased that comfortable office chair.

But, as professional writers, I suppose this is where we all should be anyway, right?

Have a great writing day!

 

Fool Me Once: Authors, Don’t Do This To Your Readers

actor adult business cards

I’ve been duped. Duped I tell ya, duped.

And I’m not happy about it. And you shouldn’t be either.

I picked up a book by an author because of a couple of positive reviews it received. “I’ll give it a shot,” I said. “I’m always looking for new reads, and I’m always happy to find new, or let’s just say, lesser-publicized authors to read.”

I got home with the thinner than expected book, which folks are now calling novels. These shorter length books used to be called novellas, maybe, but they’re nowhere near the number of words I associate with a novel. But that’s neither here nor there. A good story is a good story, no matter what you call it. And this was right up my alley, a “dark psychological thriller”, the jacket boasted. “You won’t believe the twisted ending”.

Yeah, I didn’t believe the ending all right. But not because of the dark psychological twist.

Oh no.

I didn’t believe the ending because I WAS DUPED. Duped by the author. And I was always taught that that’s a big no-no in a fiction book.

The beginning started out interesting, and then the characters started picking up steam in their own, quirky way.

Good deal, I thought.

The tension was slowly building, in a creepy sort of way. I’m invested at this point and reading on. About halfway through the book, a couple of things happened without explanation that would’ve raised questions from anyone following along. But they were never addressed, passed over as normal or coincidence, maybe. Then more, and more.

The ending came in fast and furious fashion, containing the aforementioned twist and unbelievable finale. It also, however, was narrated around some serious gear switching, an abrupt reversal of the previous storyline, and then, one simple explanation.

“What you’ve been reading is a story from a twisted mind that may have made up facts, encounters, and situations based on what they perceive as reality. Oh yeah, and this packet of papers that you just read, (meaning the book), was, in fact, his sick mind’s way of leaving a suicide note.”

What? WHAT? Are you freakin’ serious?

Twisted reality I can get behind but made up just to carry the story through? And “perceived” by the author?

This is akin to having a dream sequence erasing the validity of the whole previous storyline. An easy way out when you paint yourself into a corner: A way to bring back a favorite character after the outrage of killing them off.

C’mon man.

Fool me once, but I do still possess somewhat of a memory, and believe this fact. Next time I see that author’s name on an interesting looking cover, I will likely move on to another author’s work. And that’s not just a perceived reality.

Authors, don’t do that to your regular or future readers.

We deserve better.

 

Writers Are Always Working, Even When We’re Not

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Well, it’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

With the writing I mean. Your WIP. More specifically, with my WIP, actually.

All I can say is that life happens, you know?

Family matters, when serious enough, must take precedence and get priority treatment, of course. Mix that in with the deadlines of the paying job, and before you know it, your WIP, well, mine anyway, has a fine layer of dust on top of it and a couple of scenes that we can barely remember, right?

Right…

So once things calm down and get back to a more manageable, routine pace, those undeniable urges to get back to your writing passion return to haunt and taunt you, making you feel guilty about the neglect, and even making you doubt yourself again. The hot writing streak has ended, and you’re left slouched in the chair trying to stay awake by thinking about everything except the details of your story in progress.

Or are you?

I found that there is a shining light at the end of this long, seemingly endless tunnel. And it’s right there in my own head.

Strangely enough, I noticed that even though it was difficult to get the time and space to sit down and get involved with the ongoing plotting and writing of my story, my brain apparently never quit working on it, even if it had to wait until it was in the subconscious mode to get to it.  I would wake up sometimes thinking about certain scenes, characters, and plotlines even though I hadn’t given it any thought on that particular day. Of course, then I tried to immediately jot something down resembling keywords in the hopes of later triggering my memory to retrieve those thoughts or risk losing them for good (See examples of this behavior here). Unfortunately, some of my hastily written notes look more like hieroglyphics than keywords, and no, my WIP has nothing to do with Egypt or the carvings and etchings that they used.

What I’m saying is, not all writing is putting letters down on paper or making tapping noises on your keyboard. We’re still working when we’re thinking. We’re still working when we’re playing out different scenarios and plotlines in our head. We’re still working when we’re sitting there silently looking out of the window into an open space. We’re not working, however, when we’re sitting there silently looking out of the window into an open space with our forehead leaning against the window attached to a smooshed, stretched face that’s stuck to the window because of the moderate amount of drool escaping our half-open mouth.

But then again, maybe we are. Subconsciously. Maybe we really are.

In that case, we writers are really working twenty-four hours a day, so if you would be so kind as to excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.

I’m exhausted.

 

A Word Is A Word, And It Counts

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Yep, that’s what I tell myself. A word is a word, no matter if it’s one of one or one of thousands. And it counts the same, so if you’re tight on time and you just jot down that first word of a chapter, paragraph or conversation, it’s one more word than you’ve had before, and it counts, baby. It counts.

This little pick-me-up speech comes courtesy of a recent busy schedule, but busy in a good way. A little more contracted work meant more time devoted to that work, which happened to require a little more research this go around coupled with a client requested change on the morning of my deadline, but hey, all good, right?

Sure, except for making any real progress in my personal, creative, fun type of writing. And I missed it, big time. So that’s when I decided to just do microbursts of writing in short little drive-by type of sessions, running through the office, opening up my laptop and typing a sentence or three or five, then closing up and going back to regularly scheduled duties and responsibilities.

And it wasn’t bad. It began to feel more like a game or a contest, which obviously I would win no matter what because hey, it was a game with myself, and I made the rules up, which for the record is the best type of game to be in, amirite?

But it worked, in a sort of flash fiction way where all the passages are related and depend on each other. I’ve enjoyed being in previous writing exercises that had a number of writers involved, each creating a one hundred word passage in a story, then passing it on to the next writer to continue the story with their hundred-word passage, then passing it along to the next, and so forth. All passages must be related and continue the story from where the previous writer had left off. It’s a very cool and fun exercise and can be timed if you like, turning it into a writing version of improv.

The best thing is, not only does it count, it adds up. Those short little microbursts of writing can add up to significant words by the end of the day, elevating your WIP with dedicated ideas and thoughts that can be filled in and expanded on later, you know, when you do get the time to sit your butt in that chair and do what we all want to do-write more.

Happy Writing

Regaining Writing Momentum After The Holi-daze

person sitting on bench under tree

So that big push in November for writing more, especially if you participated in NaNoWriMo, led to a giant “sigh” in December, flowing right into the holidays, after which we skated into the new year.

Before you knew it, you might not have written anything constructive for a couple of weeks.

Sound familiar?

I myself felt like I was treading water, and I can’t swim!

The creative writing part of me just kind of remained stuck in the mud, not moving backward, but certainly not moving forward either.

So how do I jumpstart myself out of this little funk? 

It happened to be a combination of things, the first of which was putting the behind back into the chair. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. I read fiction by authors I enjoy and nonfiction works on the craft of writing. I read blogs and comments on writing techniques. I attended our local writing guild’s workshop.

And then I read my own work.

I read my wip, from the start to where I left off, which consequently left me hanging without any type of closure to the story, because well, there was no ending written for this story, now was there?

No, there wasn’t, and you know what? There is only one person that can write that ending, and that’s the one sitting in my chair. So there’s your motivation. You are the only one that can write your story, and write it well.

So get that behind in the chair, at home or at one of your favorite inspiring locations, plug into your favorite music to create with (just please tell me it’s not that creative mood channel on Spotify-please, please) and start writing. Anything. Anything at all. Just write. And you’ll get back into that groove that you had started before being interrupted by those pesky holi-daze.

Good writing!

 

Keep Your WIP Moving With Secrets And Motivation

 

www.gldlubala.com

Keeping plot, action, and dialogue fresh can be a challenge. but Sol Stein can help you with that.

Who is Sol Stein, you ask?

He’s the writer of a great book on craft techniques and strategies, both fiction and nonfiction, and beyond. It’s titled, Stein On Writing. And why wouldn’t it be?

He suggests to spice up your drama, dialogue and plot, maybe give each participant a unique secret, kind of a whisper in their ear. Something that relates to the story, yet only is known by the person speaking. It may be a motive for a particular action, a desire for a specific result, a reason for having a lively conversation in the first place, etc. Provide something unique to each person that only they know to fuel their actions, motive and personal stance within your WIP. And no two characters get the same information at the same time. Intriguing for sure.

But it makes total sense, doesn’t it?

I mean, isn’t that what happens in real life? We take the bits and pieces of available information that specifically pertains to us and use that as our motivation in our conversations and dealings with people. Now, whether any of that information is accurate is a totally different story, but nonetheless, it affects us in everything we think and do.

From his book, Sol Stein says:

“That’s what happens in life. Each of us enters into a conversation with another person with a script that is different from the other person’s script. The frequent result is disagreement and conflict–disagreeable in life and invaluable in writing, for conflict is the ingredient that makes action dramatic. When we get involved with other people, the chances of a clash are present even with people we love because we do not have the same scripts in our heads. And the tension is even greater when we are involved with an antagonist.”

So there ya go, the secret to keeping your dialogue and plot action-oriented and full of drama.

Just like we want it to be.

 

#AmWriting

 

 

All The Words – NaNoWriMo

person holding white paper and typewriter

Every November, we get deluged by the NaNoWriMo craze. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a craze, because it is a thing, and well, sometimes we writers need a good ol’ kick in the posterior to keep things moving along, right?

Many proudly proclaim on social media that they are “doing it” this year, meaning writing 50,000 words toward their novel in just 30 days. They register on the NaNoWriMo website, where they’ll be tracked and held accountable. A great feat indeed,  if done properly.

Wait a minute, I said properly, didn’t’ I?

What, did you detect that sarcasm in my typing?

Weelllll, that may be because I’ve already heard the “plans” of some on how to achieve this task, and it seems to me that they’re perhaps more interested in the achievement rather than the actual purpose. And I mean that they’re gonna get those 50,000 words no matter what, because if they get a little hesitant in their storyline, they plan to just start typing random things, like a grocery list, a to-do list, or maybe a blog post. You know, things that aren’t necessarily related to their WIP, but are valid words nonetheless, and when plugged into that word tracker, count towards their 50,000-word goal.

Hmmm…

That’s when my eyes tend to want to roll a bit and a whisper of Whatever! flies through my head. I just don’t see the point of that.

But, I’ve never officially signed up for NaNoWriMo so I may play the same game if I was to put myself in that pressure situation. I can be realistic enough to realize that with everything else going on in my life right now, there is a very good chance that I would not be able to average the 1667 words a day needed to complete this challenge. Oh, I can likely get the words alright, but they would not all be written for a single novel, in the true sense and purpose of the challenge.

That being said, with all the hype that goes along with NaNoWriMo, I do renew and increase my commitment to write more regularly, with more frequency, and be more productive with my writing time, to build better habits if nothing else.  If I happen to hit that 50,000-word benchmark, then good for me. But otherwise, maybe I can start a National Writing Productivity Month, you know, NaWriProMo.

Anybody with me?

PS: If you’ve signed up and are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you doing reading blog posts. Get to writing! 😎

Hello New, Old Friend. I Think I’ve Missed You.

view of tunnel

Hello there old friend. Why, those are some attractive accessories you’re sporting these days, and may I say you’re looking sleek and confident. Have you lost weight? Indeed, it shows. Come, let’s sit, talk, and get reacquainted, shall we?

Ah, nothing like getting used to a new piece of equipment after your old one just decides to die, right in front of you, leaving you hurt, angry, speechless, and also wordless, which some clients don’t always like to hear. But it happens, and we must move on, learning yet another, newer, and supposedly better way of doing things, even though the old ways were perfectly fine, dammit!

Back from the depths of technology hell, where glitches are said to be caused by outdated operating systems, leading to operating system updates that lead to bigger glitches, system crashes, damaged hardware, and well, you can figure out the rest, I suppose.

But when new, out of the box equipment starts acting up, and technicians on the phone explain it away calling it yet another glitch, I start really, really hating the word glitch and move on to frequently using a new word, aggravation. So two days and two marathon phone conversations later, after that innocent little glitch renders a new laptop unusable, I returned the laptop to its rightful owner, the store where I purchased it, and came home with another, again all bright and shiny computer with again, promises of a beautiful relationship experience.

We are celebrating a couple of months together now, and while catching up with work, moving a website to a new server, drinking to ease the pain of moving a website to a new server, and the setting up of this machine to my liking, I can say that we’ve already been through a lot of aggravation, turmoil, but also some relatively good times and none of those pesky glitches. Still, as much as I need technology to do what I do, I sometimes hate this technology that I need to do what I do.

But, because the assumption is that opposites attract, I can only conclude that this machine and I are indeed made for each other, as things are now getting done on time, with little interruption.

And, I really do believe that I’m starting to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless, well, you know.

 

Hey! Who Is Gonna Take Care Of That Fictional Dog You Just Put Into Your Story?

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It was an easy decision at the time.

I’ll add a cute dog in my fiction. Who doesn’t like dogs, right? It’ll be a great secondary-type character to add to the story, one that will pal around and help show the emotions, attitudes and thoughts of my characters.

A dog will coexist perfectly with the characters, their personalities, where they live, how they live, and so on. It’ll be that little extra that adds another layer of reality to my story.

But then another reality hit me, and while looking around, I shouted, mostly to myself, “Hey! Who the heck is gonna take care of this thing?”

The more I started thinking and writing, the more I realized that I had to account for this fictitious, yet needy canine companion. The characters have to consider the dog when they do things, when they go places, and the length of their absences. It’s going to be there in the evening and overnight. It’s going to be hungry in the morning, and well, it will have to go outside and do it’s thing, which means somebody has to clean up after it does that thing.

My make believe dog is beginning to be just as time-consuming as the real thing, so now I’m wondering if its even a good thing to do, meaning adding a fictional dog to your story. Will there be fictional slobber in my shoes? Will there be fictional chew marks on our fictional furniture? Do I have to spend a couple of hours to find a fictional vet for my fictional dog? Just who is going to take care of this dog? And for crying out loud, what is his name?

As I turned away from writing this, I thought about that old cardboard box graveyard of old, dead Tamagotchis, GigaPets, and Nanos that we once had, way back when, and I feel a sudden, irrational fear and anxiety that my fictional, yet unnamed dog may suffer a similar fate, caused by inattention or just plain forgetfulness later in my manuscript.

Should I adopt this dog, even in a fictional world?

These decisions about getting pets are tough, even in a make-believe world.

He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags Are Killers

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So I finally worked up the nerve to have the first 3000 words of my WIP read out loud and critiqued at a writing conference.

Gasp!

Yeah, I know, but there I was, in the crowd, waiting for my page to be drawn and read out loud by an actual publishing person, and then judged by other prominent publishers, writers, and agents. And I’m talking about a couple of heavy hitters in the room, recognizable by face as well as name. When I heard my working title read, I tensed, trying to not look too guilty of being the creator of this passage, even though I may have noticeably readied myself a bit more for taking notes. I’ve hesitated to do this in the past, but after revising it a few times based on other classes and advice I had gotten from reading and researching, I felt pretty good about letting this one be judged. Hey, we need to get used to being judged in public settings anyway, right? Why not here, where the learning, and the help, is readily available?

The instructions from the reader to the panel were to listen and read along, and raise their hands when running across anything that would make them stop reading, things like poor flow, bad grammar or vocabulary choice, a boring scene, non believable actions or situations, etc. If during the read, the panel showed three raised hands, the reading was stopped and then discussed. If the reading was allowed to finish, the panelists all took turns critiquing the work, both for what they enjoyed and where the improvements could be made.

Gulp!

My words were read out loud, and I could feel myself silently reciting the chapter with the reader. One hand went up. My eyes caught the motion of a hand being raised. I hoped for an instant that they just had an itch on their head, but no such luck. I panicked a little and started scanning the panel and hoping that there would be no more. The judges remained looking down at their copies of the transcript, intently reading along. No hands seemed ready to bolt up, and as the read was completed, they all seemed intent to listen to more. A big sigh escaped my chest.

But…

Something wasn’t right. While having someone else read my words out loud, I noticed it. So did the judges, by the way, who were all in agreement. Dialogue tags. Too many dialogue tags. The story was good, and the setting built the level of suspense that I had hoped. But the story read choppy, because of all the “he said, she saids” I had inserted. They were killing my pacing while adding extra, unnecessary words to the chapter. I had two people conversing in the entire scene, so there was no need to keep telling the reader who said what. I can achieve that through voice and proper dialogue, which I was glad to discover and learn in a separately offered class within this same conference.

But if it wasn’t for hearing a professional in the writing industry read my words for a set of equally professional judges and experts, I may not have caught this fault until further down the path in my WIP, and that wouldn’t have been good news for writer or reader.

He said it, she said it, they all said it. And I listened.

Good writing!