Sunday, May 15, 2011

Focus on Now

I hadn't planned on blogging more than once a week, given that I'm so new to the self-pubbing world. And someone who's still in the process of learning should not be shelling out tons of advice. But whatever. I've never been one to sit quietly. So my message to you today, you brilliant writer you, is to stop focusing on the future.

Stop it!

I'll level with you: the only well I can draw from to give you advice is from my own well of failure. Yeah, that's right: well of failure. Hey, I like that. Well of Failure. Hmmmm. That could be the name of my band's next album. Not that I have a band, I'd have to learn to play the guitar before I put one together, but...Heck, I might even call the band Well of Failure! That would get the labels' attention. It's got a nice electric punk/funk feel to it and--wait! See? This is what I do. I spin off the rails so often that if I were an amusement park, the board of safety would've shut me down by now.

Focus. Focus focus focus focus. This is what I lack. But at least I realize it. And I'm taking steps to remedy it, which, if you're anything like me, you might find helpful.

1. Set aside a certain specific amount of time to write every day

And when I say every day, I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY. Setting a reasonable goal to accomplish every day will help you to focus. And I'm not talking about one continuous hour: if you can get one continuous hour of writing in, that's great--but if not, cobble together the time as best you can. Listen: Rome wasn't built in a day. It's a cliche that also happens to be true. I looked into it. Shoot, it even takes the guys at Extreme Makeover Home Edition nearly a full day just to put up one house (and I'm sure these rush jobs end up having tons of issues, like leaky roofs, busted water pipes, etc.).

My point is that unless you write every single day (or darn near to it), there are so many distractions in life that you will go off track. I've given myself a seemingly modest goal: write for one hour every single day. I work a full time job and have a family, so this is manageable. But manageable does not mean easy. I try as hard as possible to write every single day. You'd be surprised how hard that is. Don't believe me? Try it yourself, smart guy.

2. No complaining

As J.A. Konrath says, and I'm paraphrasing, try as hard as you can to quit being a writer. If you can't quit, then shut up and stop complaining--you chose this life. I would argue a little with the "chose" part of this advice, since I truly believe that being a writer chooses you, not the other way around, for why would someone willingly submit themselves to the torture that often attends writing? Oops. See that? I just complained. Don't be like me.

3. Don't edit yourself until the editing stage

This may be the most controversial part of my humble advice. Lots of people will tell you to edit yourself, at least somewhat, as you write. I know a guy who--talk about torture--reads what he's written from the beginning up to the place where he stopped writing the day before. He literally does this every time he writes. Talk about gag city. He's a good writer and it works for him, so kudos to him. I don't know about you, but I cannot do this. I have to keep pushing forward or I'll bail. Simple as that.

I mean, at the end of the day, who cares if you mess up some points of continuity in the first draft? Who cares if your main character goes from being named Gail in the first fifty pages to being named Gemma in the next fifty? Some people will say, "Um, these characters are supposed to be real. People don't just spontaneously go from being Gail to Gemma in real life, do they?" No they don't (unless they petition the government and pay a $39.95 fee, that is). But that's what the editing process is for. Just keep pushing ahead and do NOT look back (except to reference facts, keep your timeline of events relatively on track, etc.).

Anyway, those are just three things that I do every day. I was going to add a fourth--outlining--but to be honest, I suck at the whole outlining thing. I outlined the novel I'm writing now, but I've already gone so far off-script, that the outline has become more just a modest, curtseying set of suggestions. And I can barely read my own writing, so it becomes an exercise in mass insanity just looking at it.

At any rate, good luck to you and don't get overwhelmed; writing is hard but, in the end, fun. If you have a second, let me know your approaches to writing!

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