Reading & Writing

I’ve encountered a conundrum in my quest to be a Writer. Never mind the fact that I write slower than Martin or Rothfuss. It seems that reading and writing are diametrically opposed. At least they are for me. When I’m doing one I’m not doing the other. And I’m not talking about in the same moment, I mean in general.

Since late Jan I’ve been slogging my way through the stack of books that sit below my desk. I finished Abercrombie’s, Half a War. Lawrence’s, Wheel of Osheim. Modesitt’s, Towers of the Sunset. Sanderson’s, Shadows of Self and I’m about to finish Bank’s, State of the Art. (I’ll try and get some short review’s up for these throughout April). What I haven’t done is work on my novel. But working on my novel is why there is a stack of books beneath my desk, because while I was writing last year I wasn’t reading. I kept buying the books as they were released and piling them beneath my desk (They are beneath my desk so my wife doesn’t find out I’m still adding to my library when she told me not to).

Maybe I can only have so much fantasy and I have to resign myself to the fact that if I’m reading I won’t be writing, or vice versa. Maybe at the moment I’m just too busy and that once things calm down I be able to find some balance at the moment however it’s one or the other. The purpose of babbling about this is I’d like to know how everyone deals with this. Have you ever had a similar problem? Is there anything that inhibits your own writing?

Thanks for reading

Now for the dog

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When your done with her nappy do mine

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Distractions

distractions

It seems that my blog rolls in a cycle I talk about goals, targets, what my plans are and how I’m going to achieve them. The next week I’m back making excuses, explaining why nothing came to fruition, accepting failure and doing better the next time. (I swear this time I’ve got a really good one).

Well this month I’m going to talk about distractions, things that keep us from writing. As I see it distractions fall into two categories; Important and Unimportant. Things like spending the time you should be writing trawling through Facebook or watching Netflix are Unimportant distractions. Things like attending work, completing study/school and spending time with family are Important distractions.

My productivity has slowed to a crawl due to an important distraction. My daughter was born at the end of January and has been greedily consuming the time I usually spend writing but that is alright she’s adorable and a distraction I am happy to have.img_1721

The problem with distractions is that not all of them fall into such a clear cut basket of Unimportant or Important or to complicate things even further an Unimportant distraction might be useful or productive while an Important distraction might be counterproductive.

My daughter as important as she is, is a counterproductive distraction. Whilst I’m spending time with her nothing is happening with my writing. Work is a little bit of an in-between it is definitely important, you might argue that that time spent working is counterproductive as you are working rather than writing or you might argue that it’s productive as your generating money you can use to hire editors, cover artists if you are going down the self-publishing route or simply keep the electricity on so your computer with all those hard written/type words stored in its gizzards is a functional device rather than an ornate door stop (I’m not writing this story by hand and while a typewriter is cool I neither have the proficiency or patience to avoid or correct my mistakes). Study/School in my opinion is not only an important distraction but probably a productive one too, no matter what you are learning this is additional information that you can pump into your writing. For instance I’m studying commerce and this inspired a short story about price fixing and alternate markets. Explained like this its dry and boring but the scene was written as four parties around a bargaining table trading veiled threats and offers and I got decent feedback about it.

Unimportant distractions can sit in even more of a grey area. Sure trawling through Facebook or power watching an entire season of a show on Netflix could probably be classed as an Unimportant distraction but occasionally it might be productive. A few of my characters have been inspired by friends or acquaintances and TV, movies and pop-culture probably inspire a few too many of my stories.

Then we have things like word-building, side-stories, and research which might start off being important but when overdone can become unimportant whilst still being productive and if taken to the extremes might even end up being unproductive. Trying to work out where to devote my time is frustrating. So many things to do Important things, Unimportant things, Productive things, Counterproductive things that need to get done how do I choose?

The answer is simple. Do whatever you need to. If you feel you need to run up and down the street screaming at the top of your lungs do it. Definitely do the important things. Feel free to spend time doing the Unimportant things. If you can, try and turn them into productive exercises, but remember it is fine to be unproductive too. The only thing you absolutely have to do if you want to be a writer is write just try and remember that it is okay to do other things too.

I’m not even going to bother to update my progress for my yearly goals. I got nothing (very little) done. The year is off to a great start and that’s fine I’ve got other things to do but I will write. I promise. I will find the time. I’ll do it today.

Thanks for reading

And now for the dog

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2017 Goals

what are your goals?

I’ve spent the past few posts ranting, writing and raving about goals, failures and being realistic with your targets. It just so happens that I had possibly chosen a fortuitous time to be discussing such a thing. The stars are in alignment or just possibly the dates, anyhoo. One thing that happens every time a New Year eve rolls around is that people make huge possibly unrealistic promises to themselves about what they are going to accomplish with in the New Year.

We reset in January and say this year is going to be better, I’m going to do so much and I’m going to accomplish this. I had a number for my list this year, lose weight and drink less, the usual stuff. I’ve already failed the second of those.

I did have one other possibly unrealistic resolution to add to that list. Finish my Novel. At least finish the draft. Considering the progress I’ve made this would seem like an effort in futility. And it might be but it gives me something to strive for.

Edwin Locke in the 1960’s proposed the Goal Setting Theory of Motivation (And I think we could always use more motivation) which is a complex and tedious way of saying, goals indicate and give direction about what needs to be done and how much effort is required to be put in.

Goals need to be specific and clear (Finish my novel, I don’t think I can get clearer than that), realistic and challenging (Not entirely sure about realistic but it will definitely be challenging). The individual (in this case me) must display Self-efficiency (I need to believe that I can do this) and Goal Commitment (I need to want to do this).

So I tick all the boxes (mostly) Alright I’ve got a yearly goal. Now I need to break that down into manageable portions. Months, Weeks and Days. Smaller goals are easier to achieve and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside after I’ve beaten them (Preferably with a large stick).

 

Year (I’m throwing in a few more minor goals too).

  1. Finish Novel (0/1) (I think about 24 Chapter will get me to the end)
  1. Finish Novella (0/1) (Probably about 15,000 words left)
  1. Write 3 short stories (0/3) (2,000 – 5,000 words each)
  1. My reading has slowed right down so, Read at least 24 Books in the year (0/24)
  1. Provide feedback to other authors that I have a critique exchange going with (I’ve been very slack)

 

So now I’ll break these down into what I consider to be manageable chunks and set monthly, weekly and daily goals. Small is always easier and It will also let me track how I’m progressing and when I need to put in a little (or a lot) more effort.

 

Month

  1. Write 2 Chapters a Month (0/2)
  1. Read 2 Books (0/2)
  1. Review 4 Chapters (0/4)

 

Week

  1. Write minimum 3,000 words per week (I’m estimating 156,000 words should get all my projects complete) (0/3000)
  1. Read ½ Book
  1. 1 Chapter Review (0/1)

 

Days (Some things are a little harder to break down into days so only one thing)

  1. Write 600 word s per day (this unfortunately doesn’t count) (0/600)

 

 

I think this is a big ask but I’ll at least be able to track how I’m going. Not well on the daily word count I can tell you that, but now that I’ve set my goal nothing is going to stop me.  (I’ll be writing a retraction momentarily). Anyway I would love to hear about everyone’s writing goals. Are your unrealistic? Are they manageable?

My dogs goal for 2017 seems to be sleep on the bed as much as possible

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What do you mean  your spot?

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ZERO

zeroJust thought I would throw out an update (Mainly because it is relevant to my last two posts) On Monday aiming for my target of 500 words I wrote the magnificent figure of zero. Yes you did read correctly  I wrote zero words. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Sweet fanny Adams. I failed, but today though I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep writing. I’m not upping my target to make up for it, I’ve learnt from previous failures that probably isn’t going to work. I’m being realistic, I was busy I didn’t write anything. I’ll reset my target and try again.

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Targets

target

This one is going to be super quick. I’ve stumbled over (been shown) an important consideration for any perspective writer, freelancer, storyteller, blogger or any other creative person. I’ve rambled on about setting goals and how they help me. I’ve talked about making them manageable, dealing with failure, overcoming blocks and a host of other concerns. So far though I’ve thrown out monthly goals, finish this chapter, plot this, have this organised. If you are struggling (see me last month) the best thing that I can advise you to do is to set a small goal, a word target for the next day. I’m going to write 100 words or similar. Make it manageable. Up the target for the following day. Don’t get carried away with one day of solid writing, build slowly. Don’t start at 2k words per day build up to it. Once you have some momentum find a target your happy to keep hitting. For me I’m happy with 500 words a day, every weekday. If I can keep that up it will be a miracle. Remember that it is alright to fail (read my last post). Keep a log, record your progress. Build a habit of writing.

This little piece of advice/process has gotten me out of a funk. I can’t take credit for it though. The thanks goes to Arisillion from www.fantasy-writers.org He made a forum post asking everyone to post their targets. I love targets and goals and I was doing badly so thought I would start slowly. Here is my progress

06/12/2016 104
07/12/2016 192
08/12/2016 199
09/12/2016 437
10/12/2016
11/12/2016
12/12/2016 650
13/12/2016 516
14/12/2016 540
15/12/2016 536
16/12/2016 512

And I’m not even counting this blog. It might not seem like a lot but it’s over 2,500 of words this week and since I’ve started keeping track and setting daily targets I’ve written twelve times as many words as I wrote in the entirety of last month. I’ve made more progress on my novel than I have in ages. I’m almost finished chapter 10 and that’s while also writing a short story, dealing with university assignments, prepping for Christmas, taking time off to see the midnight premier of Star Wars: Rogue One (It’s awesome. Highly recommend everyone sees it) and today being super distracted by Mario Run (I so did not need an addictive plumber on my iPhone) so I’m feeling good. I’m taking the weekend off but on Monday I’m aiming for another 500 word and I’ll try and keep it going every business day until the end of the month. I’ll be back with more updates on my progress after the holidays and hopefully by then I will have thought of something interesting to talk/write about.

Thanks for reading. Obligatory picture of dog below.

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woof. nailed it.

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A BIG FAT F

So how did I do with the remainder of NaNoWriMo? (The title may have given it away). Not well, to put it delicately. In fact it was my least productive month of writing for the entire year. I had goals, targets, plots, characters, I had four stories I wanted to write and I wrote absolutely none of them. I think in total I put down roughly 300 or so words for the month. That’s abysmal. Now I could spout of a list of excuses, I was busy, I was on holidays, assignments were due, work got hectic, but it doesn’t matter what I say it won’t change the fact that I failed. And do you know what, I don’t particularly like failing.

Anything I would say would be an attempt to absolve myself of the responsibility and that’s not helpful. While I might not like it, failing is a part of life. If you expect to always win, always complete your goals, achieve everything you set your thoughts too then you are going to be disappointed. If you’re reading this and thinking well I’ve never failed at something I call bullshit.

Our society seems to want to treat failure as an all-consuming negative. People don’t want to identify with a failure. It’s swept into the corner and ignored, not talked about. Children are given participation medals, they don’t score their sporting matches saying that they’re just for fun, and there are no winners and losers.

But failing/losing can teach you things. It can teach you what you did not do well, what can be improved, what you can work on. In life you are going to fail, it might be a small failure, it might be big failure but I can guarantee it is going to happen.

I will let you in on a secret though. It is perhaps the most important thing that I have ever learned in my life. It is something that my failures have taught me and trust me there have been a lot of them. I won’t go through the entire list but let’s just highlight a few. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo four times and not once completed it. I have three half-finished novels, not counting the one I’m currently working on. I was kicked out of university twice. My wife refused to go on a second date with me.

So what’s the secret? It’s really very simple. No matter how many times or how badly you fail, what really matters is what you do afterwards. Just to clarify by afterwards I don’t mean immediately after you fail, I mean in the future. Will you learn and grow from you losses and failures? Will you let them teach you? Or will you sweep them into a corner, ignore them and pretend that they never happened.

I might have never completed NaNo but it is not going to stop me trying again next year, I’ve already identified a few ways to improve my chances and things to work on (More detailed chapter summaries and less obsessing over each line). I might have been kicked out of University twice; it might have taken five years to decide to re-enrol, but I’m studying again and this time I’m actually enjoying it and doing well. My wife might have refused to go on that second date with me but hey she is my wife. I might have a growing collection of half-finished novels but I’m not going to let that stop me writing, each of those stories taught me something and one day I’ll get back to them.

So what did my failure last month teach me? Well firstly I need to have a better plan in place, between work, study, family and everything else going on I need to allocate some time for writing, at least once a week or even better once a day. If I want to be serious about this there is not point setting goals and targets if I don’t give myself a chance of completing them. I need to be better prepared; my NiP is drifting a little at the moment. I know where I’m going but the details of how I’m getting there are being discovered in the process of writing, that’s slowing me down. It might be time to go back to the planning stage and flesh out a few of the coming chapters, I’ve had too many additional characters appear along the way, I need to sort things out. There has been way too much staring at the screen and thinking what happens next. I’ve also got to celebrate the little things, for instance in this post I’ve already doubled last month’s word count, go me!

Alright with this in mind here are my goals and targets until the New Year.

  1. Finish Chapter 10
  2. Start plotting in detail the next 5 chapters (or however many will get me to the next major plot point)
  3. Write for at least 1 hour on 4 days of each week
  4. Accept that I might fail at my goals but try and learn something from them and do better next time

Obligatory dog photo

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Just because I have failed to get some food with does not mean i’ll stop trying

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More Than I Can Chew

All right this is going to be a short one. So first up how did I do on my monthly goal? Am I writing chapter 10. Yes I am. Unfortunately for me when writing the previous post I mislabelled the chapters. I was already writing chapter 10 and I was supposed to be in chapter 11 by this month. That said I’ve made some solid progress in the chapter and I have a feeling it will be a big one.

Last time I mentioned I might be attempting NaNoWriMo. November has just kicked off so let’s check in and see how I’m doing. I’ve written 153 words for the month. To reach the 50,000 mark I should be writing 1,666 words per day. Of course that’s if I’m writing every day. Which I’m not. If you’ve got time to do this I envy you. I also wonder how you pay your bills and when you interact with other people. So how many days am I writing? Well November 1st to 3rd was worth 150 words so I can pretty much eliminate them. I don’t write on weekends and I’m about to go on overseas on holiday for a week (lookout New Zealand) I’m not taking my laptop so doubt I’ll be writing very much there. So what do I have left? Well I’ve got today and the last two and a half weeks, excluding weekends to vomit out those 50k words. That’s 14 days. If I subtract my measly 150 words from the target 50,000 Ive still got a long way to go. In fact I’ll have to write about 3,561 words per day. I’m sure many would baulk at the task and I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or that I’m going to be able to do it but I’m going to give it a go.

To make things a little easier on myself I’m going to say that anything I write will count towards my 50k. That way if I get distracted by a short story I’ll still count it. So I’m spreading the love between my Novel, my novella, last year’s NaNo project and the short story that I know will derail me (I’ve already got the idea). I’m even going to count the 500 or so words for the blog.

On top of all that I’m starting a summer semester of uni and I’m trying to finalise plans to renovate my house. Oh and don’t forget work. I still have to eat and pay the mortgage after all.

Hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to share with you next month. I doubt it but I can always hope.

I may have bitten of more than I can chew this week but hey better too much to do than not enough.

Best of luck to everyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year

Obligatory dog photo

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I swear I was sleeping the whole time

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Writer with Benifits

Alright I’m a couple of days late. I said I would post on the 8th but for me that was a Saturday and I don’t write on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are for spending time with family and socialising with friends and generally catching up on all the chores that working Monday to Friday precludes.

That doesn’t mean I’m completely unproductive with regards to my writing it just means that I generally do not have the time to sit myself in front of a keyboard and work on a story. That being the case whilst I’m cleaning the house or doing the food shopping I’m also generally working out plot details, character motivation and the additional details in my head so that when I do sit myself in front of a keyboard on Monday I’m able to dive straight into the writing.

Alright so excuses out of the way how did I do with my goal? I wanted to be writing chapter nine by this time. So am I? The short answer is no. The long answer? More excuses you guessed it. I wrote another short story. A university assignment and I did manage to do some work on my novel so felt I was productive. I’m so close to finishing chapter eight but it is getting longer and longer with each day. I’m also having trouble finding the cut over into the next chapter. I think I’m almost there but it might be further ahead or I might have already passed it. I’m going to worry about that when I finally manage to get to an editing stage.

So was I productive? Yes. Did I complete my goal? No. Alright so what now? Now I set a revise my goal for the month and try again. I’ve mentioned before that I work better with deadlines whilst I didn’t get to where I wanted I still feel I did more than I would have if I just said I’m going to do some writing.

So my goal for the… (Check my calendar to make sure the 8th November is not a weekend. It’s not but I’m going to be on holiday and out of the country. Revise my target date.) 4th November is to be writing chapter ten. That’s right an entire chapter. The pressure is on.

 

Alright so with my excuses out of the way this month I’m going to ramble a little bit about some of the benefits I have found from being a writer. Unfortunately at the moment I cannot add financial success, international fame and legions of adoring fans to the list. Maybe one day, but there have been a few occasions when my chosen avocation has been handy.

Most recently I decided I would return to university. It has been seven years since I last attended a university (I’m studying online so I’m not technically attending the university but I am enrolled in one of its courses) and this time around I’m doing quite well – yes as opposed to last time where I did not do quite well. One of the main differences is that seven years ago I was dabbling with being a writer I wrote a couple of short stories and I had a novel that I was working on (It’s is still listed as in progress I’ll get back to it one day).

That sounds similar to what you talk about now you say?  Well it is and it isn’t. True I’m still working on a novel although it is a different one and yes I’ve written a couple of short stories in fact I’ve written plenty of short stories and with each one I feel I get a little better. But I’ve also edited those short stories. I’ve submitted a few of those stories with the hope of being published (Still no luck). I’ve participated with other authors in a critique exchange.

What difference has this made you ask? Well is seems to have made quite a lot. Thinking about grammar and being critical of my literary writing has made my academic writing much more polished. My sentence structure is stronger. My spelling whilst still appalling is better. My paragraphs flow well and the feedback I’ve been receiving from my lectures is that everything is extremely well written (You can wipe the mocking smiles off your faces I’m not editing this and just hammering it out and posting.)

Also it has made me revise my thoughts/expectations with regards to word counts. I remember when I first attended university getting my fist assignment and thinking ‘they want me to write how many words’. Now I look at a word count and think well I try and write at least 500 words a day for my novel, if I do that for the assignment I will be finished inside a week, easy.

So that is a concrete benefit I’ve recently experienced being a writer. It probably a little stupid and obvious but the more I do something the better I become at it. The good thing is that it is measurable. I’m graded for my academic work. I receive feedback. But this has also had a flow on effect with the rest of my life. The letters and emails I compose during work tend to be better formulated and presented. Also when I stop and think before I talk I tend to express myself in a more comprehensible and eloquent manner.

So what are a few other benefits of being a writer? (I’ll try and keep this short as I’ve rambled far too long)

  1. I’ve done some interesting research I probably would not have if I had not been looking up something for one of my stories. Do you know why mountain goats can climb like they do? I do. It’s because of the formation of their hooves. Believe it or not this came up in a short story I wrote.

 

  1. I’ve made internet friends by sharing and posting in a writer’s forum. Thank you FWo (fantasy-writers.org) Being a novelist can be quite isolating especially when none of you real world friends share the same interest. I can here you saying being isolated is not a benefit neither is making creepy internet friends. Well I’m sure not all of them are creepy. The benefit is that Ive connected with people that I ordinarily wouldn’t and these people cover an entire gamut of countries, perspectives, ethnic diversities and so on. I’m then able to pick their brain on things. In fact the next point was suggested by a member of the site.

 

  1. I’m also generally more observant of the people and world around me (Credit to Zmunkz). You never know when you will need a little inspiration for the next story and the crazy man walking down the street might be it. The way the shopping clerk flicks her hair might be exactly what you need for a female character. Personally when I’m more observant I’m paying more attention and I tend to remember things better. I’m absolutely awful at remembering people’s names but I think being a writer has helped as I’m paying more attention to the person and associating characteristic with names.

 

  1. When I’m at parties or social gatherings and people ask me what I do I always have the option of saying I’m a writer. This can lead to some awkward conversations but it’s better than saying I’m the operations manager in a law firm. All in all I think being a writer makes me more interesting.

 

These are a few benefits to being a writer that I could think of off the top of my head. There are definitely disadvantages too (especially with number 4 if you’ve ever had the ‘really’ or ‘when are you being published’ conversation.). For now though I’ll focus on the good stuff.

If anyone has anything they’d like to contribute I would love to hear it? Positive or negative. What do you think are some of the benefits or disadvantages of being a writer?

Thanks for reading I’ll catch you again on the 5th of November hopefully I’ll be writing chapter ten. Oh and probably doing NaNoWriMo (Maybe I’ll talk about this next time).

Obligatory dog photo

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The Cat is so Confused

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An update

Okay so mini rant time. I wrote my last post about blocks and my personal strategies to overcome them, I powered through the chapter I was working on, get halfway through the next and…drum-roll please…nothing. Damn you karma why must you afflict me so when I don’t believe in you.

Anyway I thought I would check in and get something up. Writing something/anything was one of my solutions to breaking a block and if it wasn’t it should have been, so maybe this will help me get back to working on my novel.

To be completely honest though this block or lack of progress has more to do with being time poor than with being stuck. I know what I want to write (kind of) I just need to find the words and time to write it. (Damn it. That’s a block isn’t it?)

I’m time poor due to a combination of circumstances. Work has been busy, add to that my decision to return to university (I hate study), family commitments and over-committing myself.

So my solution (I’ve just now realised how stupid this might be) is to commit myself to even more. I think I mentioned in my last post that deadlines/schedules and things of this nature tend to work for me (if I didn’t assume I did. I’m time poor remember I don’t have time to go back and check). So on the 8th of every month I’m going to post on this blog an update of my progress with writing my novel.

I’m not terribly computer savvy so it probably won’t be presented in any kind of fancy slider, bar or graphic just a note along the line of chapter 3 done, 9000 words total. Scratch that I’ve found a bar and how it works.

Feel free to berate, cajole and threaten me if I haven’t made any progress.

On that note I’m currently in chapter 8, 31,729 word into my novel (I have no idea how long this is going to be, but more on that later. I’ve put down 300,000 but who knows ) I’m going to start off easy and say that next month I’ll be writing chapter 9.

 

 

31729 / 300000 words. 11% done!

Wish me luck.

For those of you just hanging around for picture of my dog

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If I got her a bandolier she could  co-pilot the falcon

 

 

 

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Block, Apathy and Distractions Part 2: Getting Over It

In this post I’m going to talk about some of the things that have helped me and continue to help me push forward and continue writing when I feel blocked, apathetic or distracted. These are things that in my personal experience have helped me when I have been stuck and unable to write. Not every solution will work for every person, not every solution works 100% of the time and some may even have the opposite effect for you. That said my first piece of advice is to find strategies that do work for you. For everyone it will be different. Find a few things that help (so you have a backup if plan A fails) and don’t be afraid to try something different. So anyway here are a few things that have helped me.

 

  1. Writing Garbage

 

Now by this I don’t mean itemising the contents of your bin. I mean spewing forth any words to create poorly formed sentences and crummy paragraphs in order to continue writing and driving the story forward. The best thing I can do is to just keep writing, push through the block, ignore the distraction and just keep putting words on the page. It doesn’t matter that the sentences are terrible, that there is a complete lack grammar and that the punctuation is awful. I’m moving the story forward, I’m making progress. I can come back and edit it latter. The important thing is I keep putting words down. I would happily trade the two best lines I have written for the two worst pages I’ve written. Especially when I’m writing a draft. Quantity is much preferred to quality. When I slow down and consider if a certain line was the best way to phrase something or reflect on grammar and structure I often stagnate the story. Hindsight is also a kicker. Ever written down that line that you thought was absolutely fantastic, you polish it and primp it and then when you come back and read it a few days later and you can’t help thinking what idiot wrote this? Well that works in the opposite direction too. You might be on a role and the prose and lyricism just start to flow suddenly your garbage is gold. So my first piece of advice for pushing through those block is don’t slow down just keep writing even if it is garbage. Write first polish later

 

  1. Alcohol

 

This one is really a double edged sword. For me a drink or two makes the above suggestion easier, the garbage just flows. This one doesn’t work for everyone. A drink or two might make you feel sleepy if so it’s probably not a good idea. The problem with this is two drinks, becomes three, three becomes four and suddenly the bottle of scotch is empty and I’m still typing but it’s not in English anymore.

 

  1. Taking a break

 

Taking a break from whatever your writing can also help. Focusing on something else can allow you to reset and come back and look at it with fresh eyes. I personally find that the best thing to do is something that is mindless. That way I can still think about my writing without actually having the pressure of actually having to write. Mowing the lawn works well for me, I’ve had some of my best ideas while meandering up and down my backyard.

 

  1. Secondary Projects

 

If I’m really stuck on a story and no matter what I try it doesn’t work sometimes I just try writing something else. I like to have a few minor projects on the go that I can switch to. That way I’m still writing, still honing my craft and being productive. I tend to stick to short stories, as a second novel might unnecessarily divide my focus. A piece of flash fiction can be hammered out in an hour or two (without editing) and then you can get back to the main piece of work. This of course can go badly. I have what was a minor project which is edging toward a novella and still not close to the ending I envisaged.

 

  1. Deadlines And Goals

 

The other thing which has given me the power to plough through blocks, ignore distractions and helped motivate me to write are deadlines. If I know that something has to be finished at a certain time I generally pull my finger out and get it done. That said for me it has to be an enforceable deadline. Meaning that if I don’t have the piece done I’m going to miss out on something, like entering a competition or a submissions window. The deadline also has to be a hard deadline. This piece needs to be finished by a particular date at a particular time. I tried a vague deadline for my novel (One chapter every month) and I’m a little ambivalent with it. I know that if I fail to meet it I’m not missing anything, I reach the end of the month and think to myself well there’s not that much more to go, a week won’t make much of a difference, before I know it a chapter has stretched over three months, I’m still not finished and I’m now two chapters behind were I thought I would be. I’m about to give my novel plan a revision and reset hard deadlines for when I want everything done. Hopefully this will mean I’m a lot more productive. To assist with this I’m going to give myself a daily word count goal and track my progress. (I will provide an update on how I go)

 

  1. Scheduling Time

 

Another thing which has helped me immensely is scheduling a time for writing. Everyone is busy, balancing work, a social life and family can be a tricky, adding writing in on top of that can make things seem overwhelming. Finding a time when you free and preferably alone can make things seem much more manageable. Now I’m not telling you to lock yourself in a room and shut out all distractions, but to find a certain time during your day when you might be able to do some writing. For myself this means instead of getting up from my desk at lunch time, I eat at my desk and work on my novel. I get an hour ever week day where I can do some work on my story. On the days I take public transport I also try and do some work on the bus ride. Smart phones have made the mobile writing idea so much easier I can type without hauling a laptop around with me.

 

  1. The Last Thing

 

The last one is the most important one for me. I mentioned in my previous post that I was blocked for a long time. I couldn’t seem to write and I wasn’t productive. When I tried I’d end up with a half-finished paragraph and another addition to the failure folder. The thing that changed between now and then is a simple but huge thing. I got happy. I went from being someone who thought they were happy to being someone who was actually happy and the words and ideas just came back. I started working a job I enjoy and I met a beautiful girl who is now my wife. For me this made everything better. I’m not telling you to quit your job or start dating the first girl you come across, those things might not make you happy. What I am saying is that if you find yourself completely blocked, with no desire to write it might be time to examine the things in your life that may be stopping you.