Notes From the Wasteland No. 46 ‘I Haven’t Written a Word for Five Days’

I haven’t written a word for five days now. Well, technically, that’s not quite accurate. I have been writing these words, and others, for the blog. I have been writing work words and even they don’t count, they do count, if you see what I mean. But I haven’t written any novel words, or words for my novels for five days now. Nor any script words. Not that I’m counting. Much.

200 Words a Day

I normally write 200 words per day. Or at least try to. That’s my goal. Those of you who have been following my journey will remember that I first developed this habit whilst completing my doctorate. 200 words a day. Of course, this comes with a safety net. I sometimes write more. I sometimes write less. I am able enough to manage with the times when I don’t achieve this ideal, that’s the point of the ideal, after all. This morning I’m fine with not writing. Luckily, I learned a long time ago not to be too hard on myself when I wasn’t writing. But I do prefer to writing all the same.

That Lovely Place Between Words

When this happens to me I imagine that I am in that lovely place between words. That quiet gentle space where things form and other things fade as their need to form is not needed. We are all in this place. Or have been. Or will be. Sometimes we are here for a while. Other times, not so long. The time it takes to finish a sentence. Or weld three sentences to form a paragraph. For eight paragraphs to become that final chapter. Other times the time it takes for the words to begin again.

I have been in this lovely place for five days now. I am fine with this. I am simply waiting for that next …

Are you there too?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 43 ‘Two Writing Tips for Starting the Week’

It is the start of another new week. The first before the next and the one after the last. It is time to reset and start again. Last week is gone now. It went well or not so well, depending on your point of view. But that doesn’t matter because this week is this week and that means a lot. It means that we can focus all our energy on the week ahead. We can clearly the days as they lay before and calculate, in our minds at least, what we need to do each day to make this week the week we want it to be.

The first thing I like to do is to sweep all my current projects and evaluate which ones need my attention. I’m sure like me you have more than one fish currently frying and so I like to start by seeing where I am and where I want to be. Some are more time sensitive than others and so those must obviously be correctly assessed but I also like to think that having more than one thing on the go at the same time helps to keep me fresh and active.

Is this what you do?

Secondly, I like to keep my drip tank refreshed. This is a document where I like to keep all my thoughts and plans and lines and words and titles and anything else I think it is useful to record. Some of these things come to nothing but others develop a life of their own and make it out of the drip tank and onto their own page. Book One of the VIRO series started life as a paragraph I found in the drip tank. I knew I had written it (obviously) but I didn’t remember writing it but there was something about the paragraph that encouraged me and so I took the plunge and set about writing VIRO. Four books and one hundred and twenty thousand words later, I’m glad I took the time to dredge the drip tank. VIRO has hovered around the top of an Amazon chart almost since the day it was published and spent a considerable amount of time firmly lodged at Number One. If you are curious and want to know more then why not click the book cover image beside this post and get your free ebook today?

I’d be very interested to know what you think?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 29 ‘Does Anybody Really Like Editing?’

What does editing mean to you? Is it pleasure or pain? Does the thought of going back over what you’ve written fill you with dread? Do you resent the effort required to reread and rewrite? Does your heart sink at the thought of having to go back through the words you wrote yesterday, last week, last month, three years ago, or even just ten minutes before?

Does anybody really like editing?

There are schools of thought that say we should just go with the first things we write, leaving our words gasping on the page like newly-landed fish. The idea being that we live with the spontaneous, the fresh, the newly-caught. But my words are fragile and not yet fully formed; they buckle and break sometimes, not firm enough yet to solidify into suitable sentences and I know that if left them to their own devices they would just wither, perishing like forced fruit in the frost.

I don’t subscribe to this approach. I have spent too long planting my words, hoping that that the shoots of my ideas will take hold in the soil of the page and develop at a healthy rate. This is always my hope. The reality is often different but like plants of any kind it is necessary to trim and prune and shape and guide long before there is even a hint of flowers. In any case, I love to edit. I adore the process, the pausing and pondering, the planning, the deletion and correction. I’ll say it again.

I love to edit.

To me there is just something wonderful about the opportunity to spend more time with my words, they are mine, after all. I found them and thought of them. I placed them on the page, one after the other. I gave them a home when perhaps no one else would want them. They are mine, after all, in all their ugly splendour, however happy or sad or right or wrong or even if they are not actually going somewhere, anywhere. Whatever the case, these words are mine and they deserve my utmost care and attention. This is true whether they are the final words of a novel or the first words of a post. My words are just that, and like anything else I hold dear, I couldn’t have it any other way, I will lavish my time and attention on them. All of my time and attention, even if that means I put these words away and come back to them another time. They know I will. I always do.

Always.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 28 ‘What Do You Do When You Can’t Write?’

It happens. It really does. It happens to all of us. Now and again. Once in a while. Every day. All the time. There are just times when we can’t write. Just can’t find the words. Or write a sentence and then delete it. A paragraph? A page? Entire sections.

We. Can’t. Write.

And so what do we do? What do you do? Me? I dig deep. I recall and remember those other times when I felt like this, when my words wouldn’t come. No matter how hard I tried. I picture those other times when I couldn’t get the words to form sentences. It used to happen a lot to me. I used to find it quite distressing, putting undue pressure on myself and then feeling like I had failed. But when it happens now I think about three things:

  1. A sentence today is a paragraph tomorrow. I can write. I have written before. I will write again. I will be satisfied with anything I can manage, even a single sentence. I will do everything I can to stop feeling bad about my (apparent) lack of progress. And then try again tomorrow.
  2. Sometimes you just can’t stop. We’ve all been there, in the flow, words forming sentences forming paragraphs. And when we’re in the flow it feels like we will never stop again. And when I can’t write I picture this flow and remember the warmth of the rush.
  3. My house was built brick by brick. In most situations, once the foundations are in place, building a house means laying brick upon brick upon brick. Writing is the same. Only in very rare circumstances do people complete novels in one go. Most of the time, we build our stories and our worlds brick by brick. This way, we can focus on the wall in front of us and not the roof that isn’t there yet.

What do you do when you can’t write?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 26 ‘Can You Write 200 Words a Day?’

I have spent enough years working with enough people to know that when it comes to self-directed research projects it is normally the fear of the total that causes the most distress to people. I should know, the distress I see in others was once the same distress I once saw in myself. It was during the first year of my doctorate and I wasn’t writing anything worth writing. The first year is often like this and so I imagined that I was roughly on the right track. I told myself that it was a good idea to be working through the things I didn’t want to write about in order to get to that which I did want to write about. But somehow, it just wasn’t working.

I soon realised that I had no real project.

I had managed to get a full doctoral scholarship based a research proposal that clearly promised enough to get the award but the problem was that the research itself was not going to sustain a doctoral-length study. It was too vague and not formed enough. You sometimes expect projects to sharpen their focus as you go through the early stages but this one was not going to work. Fortunately, very fortunately, I was able to come up with a convincing enough alternative (as well as being lucky enough to meet a new supervisor) and so I started afresh, this time with new purpose. With the problem of the topic resolved I now faced something far more pressing; how would I get the project completed within the time frame of my scholarship. For a wide range of real reasons, I really needed to finish as soon as I could.

But I was now facing the reality of writing – the reality of constructing eighty, ninety, or a hundred thousand words to make an original contribution to the body of knowledge.

These numbers hit me and haunted me. They loomed over me like skyscrapers, casting long dark deep shadows. I. Was. Paralysed. This was it. I had no more excuses. I had no more time. All I had was the pressing need for words, thousands and thousands of them. Thousands. Everything was predicated one me finding these words from somewhere. Anywhere. Thousands and thousands of them. And so I started writing. I wrote a paragraph. A small paragraph. It was probably one hundred words, give or take. I remember staring at this paragraph, expecting it to need deleting like the countless other paragraphs I had written and erased, written and erased. But this one stared back at me. It felt different to the others. It felt more convincing, more suitable for saving and that was what I did. I saved the paragraph and closed the document. I went away and left the paragraph alone. The next day I opened the document and the paragraph was still there. It still seemed suitable. In fact, overnight, the paragraph had somehow acquired a new tone, one I hadn’t noticed previously. It sounded formal, admittedly, but also also balanced and ready. When I read the paragraph it also felt connected to something, to an idea, a direction. Surprised but encouraged, I wrote the next paragraph. It was about the same number of words as the one it followed and that was the key, it followed. It wasn’t separate, it was connected. It lead somewhere. I saved the two paragraphs, closed the document and went away again. The next day, they were both there and when I read them I realised that I was so bothered by the total number of words I was expected to produce that I had lost sight of the fact that actually the total didn’t need to be my focus. That was too big and too abstract and just too much. I needed to focus on the way I was able to make a paragraph join another paragraph.

It was a small thing, a tiny thought, but central to everything that followed.

From then on I stopped thinking about the total and started thinking about the words themselves, their succession and connection, the way they flowed and fill the page. And so I resolved to write two hundred words a day and be happy with that. If I wrote more then that would fine, a bonus, a reward. If I wrote less, that would be fine too. When it happened I would save the document and walk away, confident that when I came back the next day I could start again. And I did. And I could. And so I did. Until the day arrived when I didn’t need to any more. Because I had finished. And my two hundred words had become ninety-six thousand words. Each one connected to the next. And the next. And the next.

And what a day that was.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 23 ‘Who wants to see my raindrop?’

I write every day. Every. Single. Day. This is a simple statement of fact. Most of us. We face the day with a blank page and watch the cursor as it blinks, waiting for the words to work once more. It is hard to write every day, especially when our days are filled with the endlessness fo other things, important things, trivial things, meaningful and meaningless, both and all with little distinction. Even still, I write every day. In part this is from fear. I worry that if. don’t write then ambitions will suffer and I won’t achieve the things I want to achieve; the thing, I should say, which is to let my words support me. I receive a thousand emails a day telling me about courses and workshops and tips and tricks and income streams and other opportunities that only require me to sign up to see that my writing can be a career. Most mean well and are clearly from people who have achieved my aim, and when I read the emails and updates I really feel that success from my words is possible, even if I’m not sure which email to keep whilst deleting all the others. I have self-published six novels, some of which have spent a considerable time at the top of various online charts and ranks. They are well received and well-liked by those who read them, which is, of course, in the grand scheme fo things, not as many people as I would like. I’m very close to finishing a television proposal for one of my book series, including a pilot episode script I have completed using Final Draft. I have a second television series proposal close to completion, complete with another pilot episode and based on a new novel that I am currently working on. But I guess the question that stalks my writing, haunting it like a face at the window, is who can get to find my words and read them? Who can I show them to? Who wants to see them? I don’t ask these questions because I feel desperate or disappointed. I am writing anyway, for myself, because that is all I know. I am asking these questions out of genuine interest. The world is drowning in written words, drenched like an endless deluge, so I suppose I am wondering how it is that I can find someone to show my particular raindrop to.