Writing Tip Wednesday: Think Less, Do More

As most of you may recall, I recently took part in Clarion West Write-a-thon, for which I committed to adding 500 words per day onto the rough draft of my next novel, “Working the Dead.” And I succeeded — above and beyond, in fact. At 70 pages/almost 40K words, I found myself chuffed to bits over it. Tickled pink. Overjoyed.

How did I do it?

I stopped thinking about it.

Before the Write-a-thon, I had been going through a horrible bout of blockage. If they had prune juice for writers, I would have probably taken out stock in it. Instead, I loaded up on self-help books, articles and every spiel I could find to make me feel better about myself. “Everybody gets blocks!” they said. “You should take up yoga! Or deep-sea welding!”

It was only when I finally stopped looking up TED talks and motivational conglomerations that I was able to open that Word document and get to work.

I started accepting certain truths I think most writers should consider:

– Rough drafts should be just that. You’re not going to show it to anyone (for fear of gelato-binging heartbreak).

– If you’re getting stopped by the fact that something isn’t perfect, you’ll never do anything new.

– The sooner you stop saying to yourself, “I can’t do this, I’m a failure, this is not going to go well,” the sooner you’ll get to work.

– You’re not the awful writer you think you are. You deserve the faith in yourself that you should always have at hand.

So the next time you find yourself dreading the intimidating horrors of the blank page, just throw yourself at it. Make the smallest commitment you absolutely know you will do and do that. You’ll be glad you did.

Trundling

I’ve started walking again. I’m trying to do it every day. And it’s awesome, actually. The animals I’ve seen on my treks around my neighborhood have included:

– A bunny
– Groundhogs — I startled one today as I was walking on the sidewalk, and as I was passing a bush I heard this rustling…I thought it was a cat. Big guy was running off into a meadow. No, not running. Trundling. A wibbly, wobbly badump badump badump, his long body trying to slink along but having such stumpy legs that it can’t happen. Do I look like that, out here?
– Several deer — these are my favorite. Last week I saw a doe with her fawn and I swear I felt like I won the lottery.
– Dogs
– Many cute sparrows

Some days, it doesn’t feel like much. The ritual of getting dressed in clothes you don’t mind sweating in, finding socks that won’t get eaten in your shoe, lacing the shoes so you won’t get blisters…it can feel like eternity just making it to the other side of the front door.

As I’m sure you’ve read I have started my 500 words per day for the Clarion Write-a-thon. I wrote on Twitter a few minutes ago:

Aiming at 500 words per day is like rehab. But it’s something, though, and it feels good. Every night is a little easier.

Walking and writing: they go hand in hand. It’s all a matter of not thinking, not letting those crippling thoughts stop you from just showing up. It’s simple to give in to gravity, to not fight against it, but at the end of that mile, at the end of the night, the feeling of being so alive is worth the baby steps.

It’s not a marathon…yet.

It’s not a book…yet.

But it all adds up.

Clarion Write-a-thon 2014! And reblog challenge!

So this year, I will once again be taking part in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. That was the fun time we had last summer, with the stories from the Black Carnival.

This time, we’re doing something a bit different. From my profile, which can be found here:

This year, I’m starting a new novel. Working Title: Working the Dead. I wrote part of a version of it a while back, but unlike then I actually have an idea where this is going.

Here’s the test jacket:

When Daisy died, she wasn’t expecting clouds or choirs of angels or even brimstone. But she also wasn’t expecting this.

Living in the Thenatopolis – Dead City, everyone calls it, one of many names – could just seem like L.A. or New York. But there is magic here. And rules.

Everyone is still getting judged by some higher power – who is He or She? Wouldn’t you like to know.

But what Daisy knows is that something bad happened between her and someone she loved before she died. Now she’s going to find out what, and not even miles of eternity are going to stop her.

My goal for the Write-a-thon is 500 words per day. I can definitely go over that, but this is something I know I can commit to. I mean, 500 words is just a really, really long tweet. Or a bunch of tweets. Or a fantastic email.

It’s the summer of love, people! Let’s do this!

As you may recall, the Write-a-thon aims at raising money for the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Pretty awesome, right? As incentive, for every $10 donated to me, I will post a complete chapter of Working the Dead. For every $50, I will complete a piece of digital artwork, such as a sketch of one of the characters, a scene from the story, etc. This is in addition to all the normal stuff I will be posting here about my writing process.

Here’s the exciting bit: anyone who reblogs this post between now and June 30th at 11:59PM EST to encourage folks over to my Clarion West Write-a-thon Profile will be entered into a random drawing. One July 1, I will pick one name. That person will appear in Working the Dead as either themselves, a character, etc. I will work with you to create an interesting story of your (dead) character who will interact with the other denizens in the Dead City.

Awesome, right?!

So get reblogging, and I’ll see you all on the 22nd!

I CAN DO ZAT: The Clarion West Write-a-thon

Guys, real talk for a second. Recently, I’ve been having a hard time relaxing. All week, I was looking forward to the opportunity to just sit for a while and lose myself in nothing. That didn’t happen. I would sink into my chair and then jolt so hard I thought I might panic. Then I realized it was just a voice in my head saying, “You know, you could clear off that shelf. Or put away those things in that other place.”

Today marks the start of the Clarion West Write-a-thon for me (and many others, I’m sure, but whose blog is this? THAT’S RIGHT. MINE.). You can check out my page here which is also where you can donate. And you should donate.

As you can see, my goal for this write-a-thon is to release stories that will be compiled into a collection of Black Carnival tales. Now, some of you may be just going, “Huh, that sounds neat.” Other of you know that this is truly very, very exciting.

The Black Carnival is a modern magical realism setting I’ve been using in short stories for the past several years. The world is reminiscent of late 19th/early 20th century traveling circuses but with the added element that the Black Carnival travels through present-day America. It blends human conflict with fantastical creatures, portrays the personal spirit with magic and wonder. It’s pretty cool; trust me.

So, starting this week, please keep an eye out here as I release these stories. Let me know what you think, what you would like to see. I’m wide open, and I hope you will be too.

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Great News, Everyone! or, Five Awesome Things You Should Know Are Happening

1. I just returned from crossing off one of the biggest items on my Life List: a cross-country trip from Pittsburgh to Seattle. We stopped in Chicago and saw the Bean, rode rollercoasters at the Mall of America, witnessed the largest carousel in the world at the House on the Rock, came face-to-face with wild buffalo in Yellowstone…just to name a few. Photos coming. It was a life-changing experience, and I think everyone should do it. Right now.

2. My previously unpublished short story, “Reborn,” will be featured in the next issue of Fireside Magazine. Of nearly 600 pieces, mine was one of 25 selected for publication. Links to the magazine when it is available will be forthcoming in late June/early July.

3. I have just signed up for 2013 Clarion West Write-a-thon. You will have the chance to donate money to Clarion as I meet my writing goals. I specifically plan on taking this opportunity to publish stories about the Black Carnival, a setting some of you may already be familiar with. You should sign up for it too!

4. I am currently writing pieces for the next Gadchick┬ámagazine on how to write and self-publish a novel. So if you have questions…now is the time to ask and maybe I can address what you want to see? Maybe?

5. My Dad is coming up to visit me in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of different from all the stuff listed above, but awesome all the same.

What are you all up to?