How do you keep writing?

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moderntimes
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Re: How do you keep writing?

Post by moderntimes » 21 Apr 2014, 14:49

I tend to be a bit venal-sounding regarding my writing. I know that I'm going against the grain of many here, and I don't wish to imply that their writing is not important, so please don't infer this.

But... I firmly believe that you (whomever enjoys writing) should always have the objective of selling your work. Now of course there are exceptions -- I have myself written unpaid essays and articles for church and other charitable publications. Principally however I write to get paid. And this sounds harsh but until you have a check that says "Pay to the order of..." for what you've written, you're not really a writer.

Does this mean that you sell everything you write? Of course not. I've got a bunch of essays and short stories and 3 screenplays that I've been unable to sell. But nevertheless my goal (among other goals, such as self satisfaction) is to be paid. In my later years I've been concentrating on my series of modern American private detective novels, and thus far I've written two, sold both -- having been paid real money, and yes they've been published "for real" -- trade paperback as well as e-format. I've had book signings and received pretty decent reviews.

Believe me, and I think others here who've been published can attest to this, it's a huge delight to see your name in print on the cover of a real book that's sitting in a real bookstore. And it's also pretty keen to get royalty checks! In years past I worked for a newspaper and also strung for the AP, and although my writing was assigned by my editors, still, to see your name on a real newspaper article? Wow! I've also sold articles to magazines and the feeling is the same, your name in print, nothing like it.

Reason I'm saying this is that some here have problems with energizing themselves or focusing or committing the time requisite to write, or at least write well. And my suggestion is that in some cases, you simply don't have a tenable goal. Your goal is instead rather nebulous and ill-defined. And that dampens the writing energies.

This morning, for example, I re-read the first 25,000 words of my new novel, making an occasional tweak here and there. I'll continue writing, too, and also repeat myself by returning to previous chapters and ensuring that the words are just right, as right as I can make them.

Why? Because when my new 3rd novel in the mystery series is finished, target mid-year, I'll have a very marketable novel to hawk to a big publisher. My first 2 novels were sold, yes, but for modest amounts, but they were indeed sold and published, and have received generous reviews. This is incentive for me, incentive for me to excel in my 3rd book and hopefully shove it down the gullet of an eager publisher, ha ha.

My recommendation to some of you who find it difficult to get moving with your writing is to set genuine, marketable goals. Write with love and passion, of course. But also, write with an eye on the market and write your book to sell. Goals like this help, believe me.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible..."

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Post by sammi8764 » 23 May 2014, 22:27

Whenever I get a writer's block with the book I'm writing, I'll leave it be for a few days/weeks. I'll just not write anything for a day or two, then I'll use writing prompts to help me get back into the mood and get my juices flowing again.
You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.

- C. S. Lewis

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Post by moderntimes » 24 May 2014, 04:38

For whatever reason, I never have writer's block or any other sort of impediment to writing per se. Of course I do have times that I'm simply tired or have other things on my mind -- I don't live in a vacuum -- I've got a live-in girlfriend and we are always doing things together, etc.

Interesting however that in my previous post I mentioned 25000 words I'd written. Just this past week I actually finished the novel, 60k plus words, and I also have reviewed and edited it completely.

No way I had any slowing down here! Now It's forward for the agent.
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Post by Vimtuous » 14 Jul 2014, 12:46

I think one of the most valuable concepts I've learned is the "Sh*tty First Draft." No one just writes their story in gold ink and has it perfect on the first try. Revision is essential for good writing. It makes it easier for me to write if i can tell myself that what I'm writing right now is only the first step towards getting better.
Also, just sitting down and writing for an amount of time is a good way to get going. It can be as little as 5-10 min at a time. Your brain is a muscle and just like any other muscle you're going to have to build up stamina. Start with smaller increments and eventually work your way up to longer times. Just like any habit you'll have to work at it for a while before it get easier.

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Post by SidnayC » 14 Jul 2014, 13:29

I have been writing since I was ten but I have never managed to finish a book. Plus I just don't have the time with my masters degree and other things. I also get a 'shiny new' idea and just completely need to change everything I'm writing about. I think I'm just a perfectionist and want my completed book to be incredible. But recently I have started writing a book (6 months ago) and I am so in love with it... I've got the furthest I have ever gone with writing. So I say find a story your completely in love with and writing won't feel like a task it will just be fun. But it doesn't work for everyone
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you - Maya Angelou

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Post by moderntimes » 14 Jul 2014, 15:04

The "bad first draft" is indeed a good lesson, Vim. We learn by doing (partly) and to set unreasonable goals (perfection on the first pass, hint, Sidnay, ha ha) is often an excuse we provide ourselves to stop and give up.

Few of us are Mozartian (nearly perfect on the first draft). And in some ways, that lying movie "Amadeus" did have a bit of truth, in that Mozart's manuscripts contain few corrections. Another of those was JS Bach. His manuscripts look like a printed page. How they did it, nobody knows.

But look instead at a Beethoven score. Tons of ripouts and changes, scribbles in the margins, revisions galore. That's how most of us work, writers included.

The late Robert B. Parker (creator of private detective Spenser) had a goal of 5 complete pages per day. That's a fair pace. I'm lucky to average 3 pages on a good sprint of energy. But I keep plugging away.

Sidnay, incidentally I also have an MS (applied physics) and I totally realize that in the heat of that endeavor, there's not a lot of free time for writing. So be it. But after getting that MS and after a proper celebration, start your writing creative spirits again and keep plugging away. Don't set unrealistic Sysiphean [sp?] dreams of perfection. That's why they make erasers (or MS-Word, ha ha).

A little hint that helps me keep writing my novels (3 completed, the first 2 published, the 3rd now looking for an agent) plus my 4th novel in progress: Write, say, Chapter 8. Keep your chapter short, maybe 5-8 pages. Save the file as "ch 8a.doc" and start on Chapter 9, okay?

Now let's say you give it some thought and reconsider that you didn't achieve perfection in Chapter 8. Well, make some changes and then save it as "ch 8b.doc" and then go forward. Each time you make a fairly big revision, save the chapter under subsequent sub-letters, such as "8c" or "14b" and so on. Eventually you'll find your rhythm and your muse and you'll make good progress, and find that you will need to revise less and less (we learn by doing).

Right now I will be sitting in my chair, lying in bed, taking a shower, whatever, and I'll think of a word or phrase in my just-completed novel that I want to tweak. Or at least, take another look at, maybe it's okay, maybe a word needs to be changed. Fine. I'm down with that, because I know up front that my novel is NEVER going to be perfect. Nevertheless I keep plugging away, and hopefully I'll soon find a new agent for that 3rd (and 4th) novel.

Just keep on keepin' on, and don't erect false barriers (it's got to be perfect). Neither of us is Mozart or Bach. Or Shakespeare or Joyce.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible..."

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Post by CrescentMoon » 15 Jul 2014, 18:06

One of the things I love about writing is that it's a really good way for me to express myself. Whenever I have really strong feelings about something, I need to write things down and it really helps me relieve stress. I'm a pretty emotional person, so I usually find motivation to write just from my own feelings.

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Post by moderntimes » 15 Jul 2014, 19:17

Crescent, a great deal of my personal experience and innate feelings make their way into my fiction. As most here know, I've been writing for years, articles, book reviews, short stories (most published) but the last few years, focusing on my "Mitch King Mysteries" -- a series of modern American private detective novels. People have asked me "Are you Mitch?" to which I reply "Thankfully no!" because his head is a mass of confusion and anguish.

But a portion of his makeup is loaned from me, and some in part, my personal opinions about things, politics, modern life in general, crime & its aspects, and also some of my feelings end up in other major characters. Or, conversely, things with which I disagree, too.

So there's an occasional informal debate throughout my books, and I often use these to vent. So my emotions get onto the page, just like you do, Crescent.

Of course, my books are fiction and and meant to entertain, not instruct. So I'm not writing philosophy, and if my books didn't have gunfights, cursing, bloody murders, and similar "fun and games" my audience would likely shrink. Nevertheless I do manage to invoke a degree of personal emotions and inner thoughts into the books. I however try to avoid lecturing.
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Post by floradanton » 16 Jul 2014, 00:45

SidnayC wrote:I have been writing since I was ten but I have never managed to finish a book. Plus I just don't have the time with my masters degree and other things. I also get a 'shiny new' idea and just completely need to change everything I'm writing about. I think I'm just a perfectionist and want my completed book to be incredible. But recently I have started writing a book (6 months ago) and I am so in love with it... I've got the furthest I have ever gone with writing. So I say find a story your completely in love with and writing won't feel like a task it will just be fun. But it doesn't work for everyone
I find that, when I have several stories that simply do not want to close, I can compile them into one other story. Have you ever tried this? It could be that your stories are never willing to end because they are more chapters of a larger one.

-- 16 Jul 2014, 07:50 --
WriterBLAlley wrote:I had that problem with my first novel. At 7500 words, I became overwhelmed by the prospect of writing an entire novel, and wasn't sure the story was worthy of the effort. (This will sound very familiar to anyone who reads my bio)

What opened the door again was a new perspective. Rather than focusing on writing a novel, I chose to focus on telling the story. Once I accepted the possibility of my idea being okay as a short story, I was able to proceed. The funny thing is, with that distant and intimidating goal removed I quickly reached 40k words. I continued my new approach, and eventually my story exceeded 130k. Now, that may not happen every time, but that's the point. When running a marathon don't focus on the finish line. Just run.
This is one of the best piece of advice I have read so far. Thank you!

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Post by moderntimes » 16 Jul 2014, 08:44

Interesting, flora, and spot on.

Several years ago I would have scoffed at writing a "whole novel" and would have said "No way!"

But when I started my first detective short story, the text just started to grow and lengthen, apparently of its own will, and eventually I had 4-5 chapters of a burgeoning novel. I kept plugging away and there it was. Now I've got 3 novels under my belt and I'm starting the 4th in the series, as well as writing another novel on a totally different subject.

So... folks, you'll surprise yourselves if you just let go and start writing, letting the words come onto the page (screen) without any prior restrictions.

Precisely like that marathon analogy (thanks WriterB) and a good object lesson. Heck, if I can do it, anybody with a reasonable command of the language and a bit of spare time can do it, too. Just start! Okay? And we'll all meet at the finish line.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible..."

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Post by Amagine » 27 Mar 2017, 11:15

I haven't been writing much either but when I do, I keep writing by either watching a show or documentary about another writer or by reading a book similar to the one I'm writing. I dont know why but these seem to do the trick of keeping me focused.
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Post by ollesternberg » 17 Apr 2017, 04:11

AmandaR wrote:I don't know if I should be writing this, because I honestly am in the same boat. I do not write much because it always ends in this vicious cycle of low self-esteem concerning my work. It is so true that you are your own worst critic. On the days that I do conquer the "self-loathing", it usually comes about when I just view it as an art. The second I begin thinking about publishing or others reading my work, I stop. The pen literally never touches the same page again. Maybe I begin another story later, but the first story is forever unfinished. Just like you said though, writing can be the most fulfilling work of expression. It is a beautiful art form. If it is viewed as an expression, instead of a daunting task, I often get more work done. Maybe it would help to simply remind yourself of why you are writing. Is it a passion for the words coming through your pen/keyboard to your page/screen, or is it a money-making novel written for all the world to critique?
I am not sure if that will help at all, or even if it is right. But that is how I feel about it. :-)

Right, it's a passion. <3

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Post by Rebecca Henderson » 17 Apr 2017, 21:03

Vimtuous wrote:I think one of the most valuable concepts I've learned is the "Sh*tty First Draft." No one just writes their story in gold ink and has it perfect on the first try. Revision is essential for good writing. It makes it easier for me to write if i can tell myself that what I'm writing right now is only the first step towards getting better.
Also, just sitting down and writing for an amount of time is a good way to get going. It can be as little as 5-10 min at a time. Your brain is a muscle and just like any other muscle you're going to have to build up stamina. Start with smaller increments and eventually work your way up to longer times. Just like any habit you'll have to work at it for a while before it get easier.
True words of wisdom! I've yet to get over the "Perfect First Draft" phase and just accept the phase you mentioned, but my inner OCD self is working on it. :) I think as writers we visualize the story coming to us "whole," as if it doesn't evolve over time. I keep writing because I want to get better at polishing my stories and teaching myself that first drafts are much like the skeleton of a house. You have to rough things in one at a time before you can live within the walls.

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Post by marre5 » 25 Apr 2017, 14:04

I totally relate to all of the above. I stopped writing for ten years, too caught up in career, single parenthood, etc. Then I dug up that novel in the drawer and finished it upon retirement. During the non-creative years, I started reviewing books for an online magazine, reviewing movies. That kept my name out there and allowed me to think I was still a writer. Now, at work on the second novel, there are days I am just too antsy to sit down and type. I try to get exercise every day, even if it's just a walk around the track. When I can't stomach the idea of the novel, I divert myself by writing short stories that I send out for publication in literary journals, etc.

Don't let 10 years go by. Trick yourself into writing. It usually works for me. Just sit down at the computer and edit a page you've already written. Often you'll find you just keep going. Good luck. Low self-esteem and doubts about talent seem to come with the territory.

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Post by katiestardis » 27 Apr 2017, 11:37

I find a good support system is great to have. Find a few good friends to discuss your ideas and struggles with. When I feel like what I'm writing is garbage, I get a second opinion from them. You are usually your own worst critic.

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