Nov 29

Fear and Loathing at the End of the Line

Tuesday – 350 words
Wednesday – Nothing. Life intervened in a vicious manner. It’s all OK now.
Today – 250 words

I do not like the way this story is going to end. I do not like it at all. Something is going to happen that is an inevitable outgrowth of everything that has come before, and I DO NOT WANT IT TO HAPPEN!!! A major sub-theme in this story is betrayal, and John is going to have to make a choice before the end of this week that is a Kobayashi Maru, a no-win scenario. And he can’t cheat.

Now matter what he decides will be a betrayal of two people he loves dearly. And me, as well. My mind has planned this all along, and now, I hate the developing action. It hurts me to have to write this. It hurts bad. But I can’t change it without calling on Deus Ex Machina, and that I will not do. I just have to suck it up. I’ve been in this situation before with this novel and wrote through it. Now it’s time to do it again. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

This new (to my conscious mind) development is the real crisis of the story, the real convergence of all the different themes and threads in one sharp, biting (heh) moment. I had thought that tomorrow’s action would be the end, but this scene (probably on Saturday) is the real deal. I better break out the Kleenex.

Nov 26

Outlines, Outlines, and More Outlines

Thursday – 350 words
Friday – 190 words
Saturday – Took a day off to think about a knotty plot problem
Sunday – 450 words
Today – 400 words

I can’t remember how many outlines I have made for this novel. From the time it was no more than an idea to today, nearing the end, I have made outlines and made outlines and made outlines. Paper, note cards, mind maps, I’ve made them all. In the end, though, the finishing product resembles all of them and follows none of them slavishly.

The problem, if you wish to call it that (I don’t), is that my mind works better when I’m writing than when I’m planning. The ideas and plot twists that force themselves out onto the screen as I write as far better than anything I can come up with in an outline.

So, the big question: were all those outlines wasted effort? A lot of wasted note cards, to be sure, but wasted effort not at all. All of those outlines gave me some vague hints about what I wanted to happen and how. They all helped clarify my thinking about the characters and the themes I am writing about. They all helped keep my mind focused on the important things: plot, character, and theme.

Other people, many of them much better and more accomplished writers than I, have commented that there is no such thing as wasted writing. I am coming to believe that more and more. Words matter. Words count.

Nov 21

The Downward Spiral

Sunday – 350 words
Monday – 210 words
Tuesday – 240 words
Wednesday – 440 words

The accelerating slide toward the finish is continuing. Every day I get another surprise. The rewrite is going to be Hell, trying to work all this in. I have one entire sub-plot to go back and weave in. That being said, I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve been thinking about how to handle the rewrite, and I’ve decided to use a variation on
Holly’s Line-ForScene technique. The variation is: for the first revision pass, I will use different colored index cards for each sub-plot. This way I can keep easily keep track of which ones need more work. I can immediately see and fine-tune the structure.

The excitement continues to build as I realize that I can actually finish this Beast. It is possible. Wow.


As a variation on today’s title, I went hypoglycemic last night. My blood sugar went to 61. Entirely too low for my comfort. In more ways than one.

This is also an accelerating trend. I don’t know whether to be worried or glad. My blood sugars have been way too high the past 6 months while I have worked out how to deal with Bipolar II Disorder. Now I’m using Byetta in addition to the Novolin, and the combination sometimes works too well.

It’s damned hard to balance medication and diet to get just that perfect combination. Practice, practice, practice. In the meantime, eternal vigilance.

Nov 20

Beat Writer’s Block is Now Available

Disclaimer: If you buy any of these products from these links, I will make a few bucks. On the other hand, I am an independent-minded SOB, and I refuse to endorse a product that I am not completely satisfied with. I don’t usually flog products on this blog, but I believe in these products. They work for me, and I believe they will work for you.

Most writers suffer from writer’s block at one time or another. The others are scared to death that they will. I’m not the King of Writer’s Block, but I am certainly a high-ranking prince. I have been blocked off and on for years.

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Holly Lisle’s How to Beat Writer’s Block (and Have FUN Writing From Now On) downloadable audio course is my ticket out of writer’s block. Forever.

In just one hour (1 hour!), How to Beat Writer’s Block guided me out of the forest and into the light of day. Using a ‘tough love’ attitude and a variety of techniques, Holly can kickstart your writing again, too.

Sixty bucks for one hour’s work? Isn’t that pretty steep? The thing is: I can pull this course out again any time I feel a block coming on. I never have to be afraid again. The $59.95 price is for a limited time. Even after the special price runs out, it’s still worth it.

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I can’t vouch for these techniques personally, as I haven’t tried them yet, but they worked for Holly, and they are certainly some straightforward, common-sense ways to get your writing life back, even when your real life has spiralled down the tubes.

Finally, a very special deal for a limited time only.

The How to Beat Writer’s Block audio course and ALL 4 of the highly-acclaimed Plot Clinics for $79.90. That’s a savings of nearly $20. The Plot Clinics I CAN vouch for personally. These are wonderfully practical guides to building compelling characters and plots and believable languages and cultures. All I can say is: if you don’t have ’em, get ’em

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Nov 18

Fear and the Blocked Writer

Yesterday, in comments, tambo asked about what I had learned about fear as it relates to writer’s block. I thought about that all night and decided to answer in a post, since this is going to take a while.

Writer’s block is based in fear. 100% of the time. I know this in my capacity as the Crown Prince of fear and the Duke of Writer’s Block. Scratch a block, and you’ll find fear. Sometimes you might have to even dig a little, but you will discover fear at the foundation of every block every writer ever suffers.

This fear is actually two-fold: fear of the words and fear of the block. What if the words are no good? What if they aren’t as good as the last ones I wrote? If I fail to write perfectly, then I’m worse than pond scum. And what if this block never lifts? What if I can never write worth a shit ever again?

First of all, they’re just words. Nobody but me ever has to see them. The there’s revision. If they’re no good the first time, I can fix them on revision, and I can revise as much as I want to. I can revise until the words say what I want them to say. They’re just words.

Relaxation is really the key to getting over the fear of words. I am developing a routine of realxation visualization every time I sit down to write. This allows the two parts of my mind to work together. The Rational Prick and the Wild Man together make a powerful force for writing. Instead of fighting over everything, they work together to produce something worth my while.

Just relax and let the words flow. Fix them on the rewrite. That works for me. They’re my words, I can revise them as many times as I want.

But what if the block never lifts? What if I’m never able to write again? What if everything I ever write again is just pure, unrecoverable shit?

It won’t be. I know that now. The reason is that I have found a tool that works for me: Holly Lisle’s upcoming (to be realeased tomorrow) How to Beat Writer’s Block audio course.

I was lucky enough to be a beta-tester for this course, and I consider it the best investment I ever made in my writing. It only takes about 1 hour to go through the entire course. 1 hour and a commitment to breaking open your writer’s block. This course was exactly what I needed to break things loose, to get across to myself that writing is about commitment.

If (WHEN!!) my commitment falters, I know the course is there, a tool that stays sharp, that I can use to blow my block out of the water.

The realization that the words I write are not permanent, the commitment I have made to write words (no matter how crappy), the constant availability of a crutch I can lean on in trying times — these are my shield against the ever-present fear. The trick is not to try to conquer fear, that’s a war you can never win, but to mis-direct it, to hide from it behind routine, to convince myself that I can have courage. Even though I know that’s a lie, I can still hide behind it and keep the fear at arm’s length.

Commit to writing, even when the words are shit. Relax and just let words come out, find a crutch to lean on. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you, too. I hope so.

Nov 17

Does Time of Day Matter?

260 words yesterday. Nearly 400 so far today. The denouement is fast approaching; the threads are converging.

Many writers have a favorite time of day for writing. Many have a particular time, usually in the morning, when when the words will come. They just can’t write at any other time of day. I don’t seem to have that problem as much. I write when I can scratch a few minutes together. Morning, noon, night, whenever. It doesn’t seem to matter.

Early on, I did my best writing between midnight and 3am. Unfortunately, that is just not an option anymore. So I adjust. Any time is writing time. The important thing is to get the words out, on the screen. Anyting that interferes with that is just a distraction for me. An excuse. A reason not to write.

I have to turn that around, and I am. Now I’m looking for reasons and excuses TO write. That makes all the difference.

Nov 15

Time Is On My Side

210 words yesterday. 200 more this morning.

In order to keep meeting my commitment, I am developing a new life-habit of writing every morning. I drink my second cup of coffee sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 each morning. That is the perfect time to write. Coffee and words just go together, for some reason. If I get some extra time in the evening, that’s just a plus.

Weekends are usually good, as well. I can steal a few minutes here and a few minutes there, and they add up. My 2500-word day on Monday was a great morale-booster, but I can’t depend on that very often. If I can depend on 1400 words per week and sometimes get 3000, that’s good enough. Time is on my side.

WITB is currently at around 35k. I anticipate finishing this first run-through at around 45k. Way short, I know, but there are two major plot lines I have to fill in, and a lot of other minor points. 90-100k for a final version is certainly within reach.

Nov 13

Praying for Rain

Our Governor is holding a prayer service this morning to pray for rain. I won’t comment on how many ways this violates the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions. Coincidentally, rain is predicted for tomorrow.

We really need the rain. We as in my wife and I. Our well is way down. I measured it the other day at less than 6 feet of water. We usually have 15 feet or more. Needless to say, we are under severe rationing at our house.

I set out yesterday with a goal of 1000 words. I made almost 2500. That’s called busting a goal. As I got into a roll, I went ahead and tackled a difficult scene, one of those gut-wrenchers that goes along with a story like this. It was tough, but I feel good about getting it down.

Got another 350 this morning an the next scene, the cool-down scene. Now I have to get the “normal” characters through the rest of a day. The show-down comes the coming night. Several of these characters won’t survive. I’m still not entirely sure about John.

Nov 12

Goals Versus Commitments

I have made a goal of writing 1000 words today. I have made a commitment to finishing the main plot of Washed in the Blood on or before December 31, 2007.

What’s the difference? If I don’t writer 1000 words today, I’ll be OK with that. I’ve already made my 200 words. If I don’t finish WITB, I will NOT be OK with that. On the other hand, I have satisfied my commitment to write 200 words per day for today. That’s a “Hell or high water” condition. A commitment.

When you stand in fornt of the preacher (or Justice of the Peace, or whatever) and say “I do”, you’re making a commitment. Come Hell of high water, you will love, honor, and cherish your partner.

When you say “I’m going to lose ten pounds”, that’s a goal. You intend to lose ten pounds, but life may intervene and keep you from it.

I am no longer setting goals, I am making commitments to my writing. It’s the only way I’ll ever be more than a pretender. I will finish a rough draft (VERY ROUGH!!!) of WITB before the end of this year. I will have it ready to submit by the end of 2008. I will. No excuses.

Are you ready to make a commitment to your writing? Are you willing to stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say “I commit to…”? Are you willing to put that in writing and put it up where you will see it every day?

Make a commitment. Make a vow. Make it happen. The Universe wants you to succeed. Now just do your part.

Nov 10

Progress and Stupidity

Close to 1000 words this morning. It’s hard to resist the temptation to try to sit down and dash off 10,000 words. I know that that road leads to exhaustion and frustration. 1000 is great. I’ll go with that.

In terms of plot developments, Beth has made her move. Now the chase begins over the mountains to try to find her and Alyssa (Deborah’s daughter, John’s granddaughter). At the end of the chase are Thomas, Doris, and Armaeddon.

Now I know why people really write novels. All the grunt work, all the sweating blood and slogging, all the crashing through brambles is worth it when you crest the mountaintop and start the wild slide down the other side. The ehxhiliaration is unbelievable as everything finally locks neatly into place and the story careens to its inevitable conclusion.

A strange mixture of joy and creeping sadness moves in as I anticipate finishing this oh-so-shitty first draft.

And now for the stupidity:

I installed our new stove this morning, while my wife read the instruction book. She kept stopping me to read me the cautions. Among them:

Do not sit, stand, or climb on the oven door.


The oven walls may be hot.

There’s even a kit included to screw the damned thing to the wall so it won’t tip over if some dumbass decides to ignore the first warning above. Has anybody besides me ever read the story “The Marching Morons”? I think it’s by either Damon Knight or E.M. Kornbluth. I often think I’m living in it.