Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SM Johnson ~ Writing when life keeps happening ~ (subtitle: The Big Shrug)

Funny thing, this life. Not as much funny ha-ha as funny-weird - ya'll know what I mean. Things start rolling along rather nicely and then... GLITCH.

It can be a roadblock, or a detour, or a wayside rest. An alternate route, a hiatus, a moment to regroup. You know what I mean - the unexpected happens.

Everyone has them - these are the bumpy cobblestones on our life's journey: the loss of a lover, the break-up with a best friend, a pregnancy with crazy hormones and the resulting infant that sucks the life out of you changes your life in wondrous and amazing ways... it's leaving a job and having to spend all your energy looking for a new one, it's the terminal illness and death of one parent, and the subsequent widowhood of another. It's learning how to deal with and coping with the status of our own health changing.

Stuff and nonsense, I call it sometimes. Mine at the moment happens to be an increase in the frequency and duration of migraine headaches, and the resulting need to try medications that make sleep feel like the best thing ever invented for the human mind and body. Which is less than productive.

I really, really, really, really wanted to release the "revamped" edition of DeVante's Children this months. And when I say really, really, really - what I mean is I wanted it with all the fierce determination of staying up late and getting up early, with eyes gritty from sleep deprivation, manic because I'd be running on pure adrenaline, astonishing you with the flair of a magician in his red satin-lined cape, filling ya'll with amazement and delight.

But so it goes, the best laid schemes o' mice an' men, and all that.

DeVante's Children still needs some work before it can become the beautiful and amazing gem that I want to present to the world in its glorified third edition, so I need to relax about my personal deadline and give myself a break. Because a very wise and wonderful and trusted friend asked me this: Do you want it done FAST or do you want it done RIGHT?

Okay, then. He knows me quite well enough to know my answer. I want it the way I want it, and if that means slowing down the release, so be it. There are a lot of great books out there to read, and I recommend ya'll go find some of them (feel free to start with my 2014 or 2015 readings lists).

This is merely a heads up post. I'm not complaining or whining or looking for sympathy. In fact, I am surrounded by people I care about a lot who are dealing with bigger and scarier nonsense.

I have a lot of great things planned for 2015. I'm just going to have a slower start than I expected. But hey, life is messy.

So what does a writer do when life intervenes? How do you write, or what can you do when you can't write? Because you can't stay awake, or you can't sit still, or you can't concentra - SQUIRREL!

#1 - EDIT.

In fits and spurts and short bursts of time, you can actually do a good bit of editing on a prior project. And sometimes editing feels like less pressure than writing new materiel.

#2 - DAYDREAM

Imagine the upcoming really intense scene, the one you really want to make sure you nail every gesture and every word exactly right. Daydream it while you wash the dishes that is the one chore that absolutely must get done today, or sorting and folding laundry so your family doesn't go to work and school naked. Memorize it. And when you do have the energy to bang it out out on the keyboard, it's right there waiting for you (like a Richard Marx song).

(confession)

Sometimes instead of daydreaming the NEXT scene, I end up daydreaming the first scenes of a whole new book. Not exactly productive to the current project, but hey, I'm not going to complain. And sometimes, to completely tell you the exact opposite of #1 (EDIT) writing brand new materiel in rough draft form is the least stressful form of writing.

(that's the thing with writing - most of the "rules" are completely variable)

#3 - DESIGN COVERS

Author branding, update blogs, etc. I'm pretty slow at graphic design, and it's a tedious process for me of 800 tiny tweaks in a row, so one thing that makes it a lot more fun is to load up a favorite movie or TV series and devote a whole day to graphic design. Having something to watch helps me not get too frustrated.

#4 - BRAINSTORM

...a bunch of fun tweets, or blog post ideas, marketing ideas, yanno - all of that tricky marketing stuff

#5 - BROWSE

Check out other writers in your genre - look at their cover images, fonts, book blurbs, web sites, blogs. Do they have street teams? Do they have active Facebook pages? Browse Amazon, or browse membership lists like Romance Writers of America, which usually have tons of author links. Look at how other authors brand themselves, what their author bios say... find new people to follow on Twitter, start new conversations. Look up people you admired twenty years ago and find out what they're doing today.

#6 - WORLDBUILD

If you have paranormal or psychic or sci-fi elements in your story and you've never really thought about creating hard and fast rules, it can be fun to make some lists and do some brainstorming about details and limitations. And what about religion and politics in your world. Again, something that can be done in short bursts of energy and time.

#7 - GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS

Ever write a list of "100 things" about a character? It's a fun way to get to know and develop and deepen your characters. You can go deeper than "favorite color" and "favorite food" and into "happy or unhappy childhood", loving or distant parents. Did they go to college? Did they want to? What did people write in their yearbook? What kinds of jobs did they have? If they had a pet, what would it be? If you sat in their living room and looked around, what would you see? (for a hint, look at your own, then think about your mom's living room, your best friends, someone you admire, someone you don't think is very successful). The more you know about your story people, the more alive they become.

Hope you have a fun and safe weekend, my dear Darklings. Since my February is going to be overtaken by the trip of a lifetime (did I mention I expect great things in 2015?) I'm now looking at March for release of DeVante's Children. Thanks for hanging out with me.

~SM

PS - Let me introduce our newest addition... Elliot. (Or Alice, as we are suspecting the case may be).
This is a young bearded dragon, and let me tell you, after the initial duress of getting the lighting set up correctly, this is a pretty darn enjoyable lizard and a reasonably easy pet. They're not nocturnal - and they bask WAY more than they hide (ours never hides), and are alert and quite interested in everything going on in the room. (I apologize to iPhone readers for this picture being upside down - yet another glitch)




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