Monthly Archives: January 2016

On the waiting for tales

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George R. R. Martin apologizes to fans for the delay of his latest books.

I recall the furor when one of the previous books in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series was delayed: people act as if books spring from the writer’s mind fully-formed, and flow out onto the page (or computer) perfectly, the first time, and are immediately ready to be printed and shipped.

That isn’t how it works.

Even if the writer has been thinking about the work for years, and has scenes clearly defined in their mind (ahem, me), it still takes the effort of getting it all down, properly, logically, and coherently. It takes effort to revise it to make it the best it can be. Then it takes more time for whoever the team is (agent, editor, writer, etc.) to get it finally prepped and released.

I understand the frustration of waiting for an author’s next book. But I also understand that something I can read in a couple of hours – or, in GRRM’s case, four to six hours – takes months or even years for the work to be written in the first place.

For myself, I prefer to stick with a general rule that a first draft should take three to four months, tops. This seems to me to be the best length to ensure a good product but also to avoid getting so sick of the thing that you might drop it and switch to some shiny new idea. While I may have been thinking of all these tales in my head for years, I do not believe spending those same years in actually writing them will improve them in any significant form, and may result in them never being done at all.

So where does this leave me, the writer who has not yet started writing anything? Finally realizing that like all the other things in my life that I do as a “job” (for which I get paid currently or not) this has to be treated the same way. I had decided Monday that Tuesday was going to be the start, but alas, wound up so sick on Tuesday and into Wednesday that I barely did anything at all on or for any of them.  I believe that most of that was due to even less sleep than my usual insomia allows over the past four days or so, as sleep deprivation can have an impact on a number of things, health-wise. I slept most of Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, and today is a vast improvement over yesterday.

Since life requires that we remain flexible, I took it easy today, and I will reset the begin date to tomorrow. Thursday will be the day I finally decide that getting all this out of my head is better than dismissing it all as not worth the effort, because who wants to be haunted by all the things they might have done, that were in their power to do, based on an underlying fear that is likely unwarranted and may very well be a falsely and maliciously provided narrative by a hateful person from earlier in their life? I may decide to talk about that later, but for now, it’s time to kick those particular demons to the curb and get them out of the way.


The importance of reading

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Writers are not just writers: they need to be readers, too, both of material in their genre and out of it. Actually, everyone should be a reader, but that is a topic for another day.

Amazon has a list of 100 mysteries and thrillers to read in a lifetime – or, rather, at this point in any given lifetime, since of course it cannot list books yet to come that may be must-reads. I looked over the list and just as a guess, I’ve probably read half of these at least. As with any list like this one, people will disagree with inclusions or exclusions, but how about we just make it a goal to read as widely as possible, across all types of work, as is humanly possible? There are tons of books out there, so if you don’t like a book on a list like this or any other, or can’t get into it – Sue Grafton is a raging success with her alphabet series, but I just cannot get into them, for instance, having tried A-D – swap it out for something else that entices you.

And now we are renewed

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Another year, another life. Or part of a life, each day a new one, keeping us moving along.

Nothing wrong with that!

New years always come with new resolutions. People want to write more, lose weight, exercise more, clean out clutter, save money, eat better, read more, spend more time with their families, and on and on and on. Most people fail to keep those resolutions, and the reasoning or rationalization for that is usually always the same: not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy. Part of the problem with these is that they are far too vague to be meaningful. If you want to exercise more, how much is “more”? For someone not getting any regular exercise at all, a simple walk around the block every day would be more. What does “eat better” really mean? What’s the “more” in “write more”, and is that time or words or pages?

A better way, I think, is not to make resolutions. Instead, make these goals “I wills”, and make them meaningful. Instead of a resolution to read more, make it “I will read one book per month.” Instead of a resolution to write more, make it “I will write at least 500 words per day.” The goal should be concrete and doable. Don’t be the person who hasn’t regularly exercised in years showing up at the gym on January 1 to work out for three hours, only to find the next day they can’t move. If you are easing back into something – working out, changing eating habits, writing – it’s perfectly fine, and almost necessary, to take small steps and work up to something larger. Maybe your “I will” is “I will write 2,000 words a day.” That is a lot of output if you have not been habitually writing at all. Break it into smaller steps: “I will write 500 words every day for three weeks, then 1,000 words every day for three weeks, then 1,500 words for three weeks, and then write 2,000 words every day from there forward.”

It is possible to get from point A to point B. But you need a map of some kind to get there. Make your map. Plan your route. Reach your goals.