Hidden walls and speed bumps

It happens a lot in the writing world: You’re going along at a decent clip, then BAM! you come up upon a brick wall that derails your train of thought or slams the brakes on your progress.

One of the biggest author questions I see on Twitter’s #writingcommunity hashtag is “How do I get past writer’s block?” (or some other version of that question). It’s an age-old question, and there are probably as many answers as there are ways to phrase the question–actually, probably more answers.

Everyone has a different method of breaking writer’s blocks, and no method works for all writers. I, for one, usually take a break, regroup, then come back and reread the previous work to remind myself where I left off and what’s going on. Does it work every time? No, but it’s been somewhat effective so far for me. This time, however, it’s not helping.

What next? Well, I could try any number of things..and that’s kind of the problem. You see, I have too many options here. I could do X, Y, Z, A, Q, W, or even go into the Greek or Cyrillic languages for more letters and still not run out of things to try. I could drink until something comes to me, I could try a writing prompt, I could move on to another WIP and work on it, I could scribble down a nonsense scene to get the creative juices flowing–but which one to do?

Is it possible to have writer’s block block? Because I think that’s a thing now. I can’t think of a viable solution to getting out of this rut.

“Where is Clare right now?” you might ask. “What’s she doing? What can happen to her to move the story forward?” Sure. Ask the easy ones. The ones I’ve already answered to myself, the ones that come first. How about a hard one? Like “What happens next?” or “How does X come to be?” or “Why is X happening?” Because those questions are plaguing me at the moment.

Maybe I’ll “freewrite” here….just let the writer’s block busters flow until something sparks something else.

Should I freewrite a scene? Jump to another spot in the story and come back to the stuck part? Work on another story altogether? Outline more? Should I open a dictionary or thesaurus or something and flip to a random page and close my eyes and point to a word and go from there? Interview my characters? Mind map? Ugh. So many ways to theoretically break through a block–and right now, none of them sound “right.”

At this rate, I’m going to be one slow author. I’ll be in my sixties before this series and the spin-off series are done! And what about other projects? I’d like to do more than one or two series and be done with writing. I want to branch out, write more varied works. I want to grow as an author.

Eh, what am I talking about? I’ll be fine. I just need to breathe. Take it easy. One sentence at a time. Maybe I should skip around. Or outline. Try new styles. Who knows? I could come upon the mystery solution to all writers’ blocks.

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

To boldly go where no pantser has gone before…

Well, here goes nothing. I’m about to venture into uncharted territories. About to head beyond the horizon, beyond the now, beyond the future even.

Where am I going, you ask?

I’m going to do the unthinkable. The unimaginable. Potentially the most frightening thing I’ve ever done.

I’m going to try to mind-map/thought-bubble a rough outline for the fourth book in the Abnormal series–before I’ve written out all of Book 3!

I know, I know. I’m scared, too.

My mind is ticking away, and it needs an outlet. And my brand-spanking-new journal needs filling. Plus, it’s not even 0400 and I’m bored af. So I’m going to try to outline beyond where I’ve written, and I’m going to maybe–maybe–tiptoe into Book 5’s story a bit, too.

You see, I have a long-term plan now, more than just “I’m gonna write a bunch of books with the same characters in the same world.” Now that I’ve decided to go ahead with the YA spin-off series, I need to actually plan stuff. I mean, I have to decide how fast to age the characters in the NA series, where to leave off at the end of the NA series, and where to start the YA series. That means the dreaded planning.

In addition to quasi-plotting out Book 4/possibly Book 5, I also might plan out the titles of the YA books, or at least the first few. I already know what I want to call the series, but I haven’t decided on book titles yet.

Yeah. I’m going to do this.

But I’ve gotta stop talking about it…if I just keep rambling here, I’ll never get it done! Lol

And….Engage!

Bubbly

Normally, I hate outlining. Hate it. With a passion. So why do I have a rough “outline” of Book 3 all ready to go?

It seems the thought-bubble/mind mapping/whatever-you-call-it method of outlining works well for me. I can see where things might need to be beefed up, and I can better see the flow of the story. Does it mean this is a hard outline, not to be deviated from? Not necessarily. I mean, I have had characters take over and rewrite the story their damn selves plenty of times. But it’s a start, and it’s a better start than I had previously. I mean, I’m having to go back and rewrite the train wreck that was the start of my first draft. Oh, it was terrible. So, so terrible.

This go around will have a much better flow. I have a good feeling about it.

It’s weird, this metamorphosis of straight pantser to planner/pantser hybrid (plantser, if you will) to sort-of-planner. I still don’t feel quite like a “real” planner, but I definitely am putting more thought into the future of Book 3 and the future of the series in general.

Ooh! I just had a brainstorm! Now I know how Book 3 will transition into Book 4!

See, even the planning has changes sometimes. I am even more excited to get started now lol

YA on the way?

I must be crazy. I mean, I’m already smack in the middle of a New Adult sci-fi dystopian series… Why would I start up another series?

Because the adults in my series have families… and those families will grow up eventually… which means they’ll be teenagers… So–I guess it’s natural progression?

It’ll be a while before I can start. I still have two and a half more books on the docket for the Abnormal series, not counting the one that’s in its second round of edits. But in my head I can see those little babies and kids as full-blown characters in their own right. It’s just the way the stories seem to be headed.

Of course, now I have to step it up on the writing of Book 3’s draft. If I plan on having these characters grow up, I need to let them be kids a bit first.

I’m kind of excited for this potential new series. I have gone from thinking I’d never have more than a single standalone book in me to not just one but two series. It’s blowing my mind.

Well, off to bed. Early to bed, early to rise, or something. Gotta get shit done.

Book 3, Take 2

So Take 3 of Book 2 is done (translation: I finished the first official round of revisions on Escape the Light, which is technically the third draft because I had to redraft the first draft after I finished Abnormal), which means I should probably get cracking on the train wreck of a draft that is Book 3.

I know that “The first draft of anything is shit.” (Credited to Hemingway, according to the interwebs.) I know that. But so far, Book 3’s first draft is a special kind of shit. The kind that makes me want to burn it and bury the ashes (and it’s mostly a digital file–there are a few handwritten pages, but can’t exactly burn a digital file).

It starts off…okay. Then, through a series of poorly-written events, it derails and ends up circling back around on itself in an endless loop of crap. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

There are debates in the writing community about whether one should write a draft straight through and edit later or whether it’s okay to edit-as-you-go. I’m of the latter group, especially having rewritten most of Escape the Light to get it to match up with the revised ending of Abnormal. Rewriting an entire draft sucks. It’s a pain in the ass, and it’s obnoxious. So I’d rather go back on Book 3 while it’s still a baby draft and rewrite the first five chapters, as opposed to rewriting twenty-something after I finish this steaming pile.

Don’t get me wrong; when I’m done, Book 3 will be amazing. I know where I want to go with it, I just can’t seem to get the train on the right track. Once I get back in the groove of things, it’ll fly along like usual. My hope is to finish the first draft before Escape the Light is published. With all the embroidery projects I have ahead of me I’m not sure if I’ll make that goal, but I’m keeping hopeful.

I think the hardest thing will be writing the things that I don’t know. How fast do babies grow? What are their milestones? What’s war like? How would a battle in a decimated wasteland play out? What’s postpartum depression like? Postpartum psychosis? What’s the difference? So many questions to ask, so much research to do. I have a feeling I’ll be bugging friends and family members with some of this. Sure, I can go to the Google and search a bunch of crap, but as far as first-hand accounts of combat versus academic articles–Well, c’mon, it’s a no-brainer. I have to be careful, though, because asking questions like that can trigger bad PTSD moments. So I also have to tiptoe. Don’t want to alienate everyone just for the sake of authenticity.

This post is obviously a stalling tactic. If I’m writing the post about writing, then I don’t have to write, right?

All eyes on me?

It’s Marketing Time again in my publisher’s writing group, so I spent this morning tweaking and posting some graphics on various social media sites to try to generate sales/interest for Abnormal. I need to screenshot my current insights, I suppose, to have a comparison to make.

Marketing has been by far the biggest challenge to my writing career. I just don’t understand it. Some posts I make have a huge impact with a lot of interactions, and some (that I personally think are more interesting or entertaining) get zip. It’s just something I can’t wrap my head around.

It scares me a bit. I mean, I’m the one most responsible for getting my book out there and seen/read by more people. So why can’t I seem to get the hang of it?

Who knows. I tried contacting bookstores in the state–almost no response. I tried contacting libraries–zip. I tried several blogs/podcasts/book review sites–crickets. I just don’t know what I’m doing/not doing that’s so wrong.

In person I can sell the book just fine. I can talk it up and get people interested and even get them to buy it. Granted, it’s mostly friends/family/coworkers that are buying when I do this, but I have managed to convince several strangers to give it a shot, too. So it’s not that I’m not capable of selling my book. I just can’t seem to translate the in-person pitch to a post or tweet. Which is weird, given that I have severe social anxiety and tend to stammer when I get nervous–which is just about any time someone asks me about my book. You’d think that I’d do better from behind a phone or computer screen.

So I posted a few graphics today, and I’ll keep an eye on the analytics/insights to see what-all worked and what didn’t. Here are the things I posted today, minus any hashtags and the like:

This was my Facebook page post
This one went on Twitter
My Instagram feed post
And finally, my Instagram story

Apparently there’s a way to put up a story on Instagram and allow comments, but I couldn’t figure it out. Oh, well. They’re out on the Web now, so time and analytics will tell if these graphics help me out or not.

I’m trying. I really am. I just get so overwhelmed with all there is to do to market a book. It’s not just throwing it out into the ether and waiting for the income. It doesn’t work that way. But hopefully, with the help of my publisher, I’ll get some traction.

Tinkering away

So I was messing around with settings on this site the other day when I noticed something: There’s a freaking way to add Kindle links to the site!!!

Yeah, I’m late to the party, but you can now buy either of my novels on Kindle through this website. Pretty snazzy, eh? While I was doing that, I updated some of the graphics I had on there to make them more eye-catching (and to take off the bit about fencing in my brief bio at the bottom–Until I lose some of this weight, I don’t feel right claiming I fence when I haven’t in months).

Once the webcast gets underway, I’ll add links to the episodes on the Muses and Murderers page on this site. As of right now, my co-host Angelique Jordonna and I have a brief “intro” episode planned to give viewers an idea of what to expect from the show–and to give me a chance to get used to editing and such after we record. Lol Seeing as how I have zero experience with that, I felt it was a necessity.

Basically, keep your eyes peeled, ladies and gents and nonbinaries. I plan on keeping my site as up-to-date as possible, and my hope is that I’ll have a new Kindle link to add by early next year. Speaking of which, I’d better get cracking on those revisions! They’re not going to do themselves. Lol

Something old, something new, someone wicked, someone blue

I love when I get unstuck in a WIP that I’ve been stalled on for months.

Here’s what happened: I was doing a streaming podcast called “Writer Imperfect” (www.twitch.tv/roberstonwrites), and the discussion turned to a subject that kind of jump-started the ol’ brain into motion. Now, I haven’t written anything new yet, but soon I’ll be opening that file and getting down to business.

I knew that Book 3 was falling flat, big-time, and I knew I needed to shake things up somehow while still fitting with the story. Then that conversation got my gears moving, and I know now how to change the story to fit what now is going to happen.

First off, I have to go back and find where to make the shift. Then, I have to rewrite the parts that need it. Then I have to weave those rewritten parts into the existing parts to make it all fit. It’s doable, and I think it’ll make the story richer when it’s done. I just have to, y’know, do the work. Lol

Having a new direction for the story is a great feeling, especially when I was stagnant for so long. I had a major depressive episode that affected pretty much all aspects of my life, and I’m only just now crawling up out of the muck to get situated and reorient myself to being on an even keel. I’m posting on Instagram more, interacting more on Twitter, and trying to get myself balanced before I dive into anything more involved.

I know my publisher is probably ready to strangle me for not marketing/branding like she wants me to. I just…can’t right now. Every time I even look at their marketing plan posts I get anxiety, and that’s no way to live. I’m trying to get myself out of the ditch, not dig myself deeper.

For now, though, I need to rest. Spent the morning cleaning house for a guest who ended up not coming over, so I am a little tired. Also, I can’t remember if I took my pills this morning and don’t want to take too many, so I guess I won’t fight the nap. Lol When I wake up, though–it’s on!

Patience is a virtue…. and forgive me, but I’ve sinned

They say it’s good to be patient. Patience builds character or something. All good things are worth the wait. Except…

Except I am highly disappointed that I can’t move forward on Escape the Light yet. I know my publisher is busy, I know they’ve got it on the docket, and I know that, once done, I’ll appreciate the time that is spent on it. Unfortunately, knowing something intellectually and accepting that thing are two different animals.

I’m getting bored in the mornings, which is my best writing time. I’m dying to see what changes they want made and to move forward with those changes. I’m restless.

I’d work more on Book 3, but I have come to a wall of sorts. On the one hand, the more I get written the less I’ll have to write later. On the other hand, if I get too far in and they want me to make sweeping changes to Escape the Light, I will have royally screwed myself.

To proceed or not to proceed? That’s my question lately. I don’t want to do the work only to have to undo it… but if I don’t do the work, it won’t get done.

Decisions, decisions….

Maybe I’ll ask my publisher what they think. To boldly go or to wait my turn?

(gr)Attitude

They say to count your blessings, right? I think I kinda forgot that for a bit.

Here’s what the deal is: my publisher is on this marketing/branding/selling kick lately, and with me already working a full-time job plus having other “non-writing life” obligations, it’s stressful how much they’re pushing it. Like, I already try to spend any waking non-work/non-SCA/non-sleeping hours writing, being active on Twitter, making Instagram posts, sharing links, etc., and for them to pushpushpush like they are, it’s getting to me. Can’t get blood from a turnip or something, right?

But I forgot. Sorry.

I mean, yeah, it’s stressful, but I guess in their own way they’re trying to help. My brain just isn’t wired to accept the pushing for the nudging and encouragement it’s meant to be. My whole life, whenever I’ve been pushed I’ve “pushed back” in the form of passive resistance. Basically, you push me, I dig in and shut down. My personality doesn’t dig it.

I know I should be grateful. I should be thanking the Gods that my publisher came to me and said they wanted to publish Abnormal. They saw potential, and I shouldn’t take that for granted.

But damn, I just keep forgetting.

Now, I’m not saying that for them to push in the way they are is okay by my book, but I do need to slow my roll on the bitching and get over the initial knee-jerk reaction that I have to it. They’re trying to teach strategies; my learning style just doesn’t jive with their teaching style, and I think I need to have a (level-headed) talk with one or more of them about how I would best benefit from what they have to teach. I’m sure that we can put our heads together and figure out the method of encouragement that would work best for me.

Yeah. That’s what I need to do. Talk. Not bitch. Count my blessings. Show gratitude, not attitude. (Cheesy, I know, but it is what it is.)

Epiphanies are strange.