Mindset

One of the harder things for me to get around is my current mindset. I live in the negatives of life, always watching out for things to go wrong or for people to do me wrong. I am constantly considering what I have done wrong and how I could do things better. Rarely to I look at the positive sides of things, and when I do, I’m usually doing it in response to giving others critique or support. I’m also quick to forgive others, but I rarely forgive myself nor do I believe others will be quick to forgive me. After all I don’t deserve their forgiveness especially when all I can see is how wrong I’ve been.

Let me tell you that’s a shit way to live.

In my writing journey I have gotten to the point where I have my eye on the prize. It is a little terrifying, but if I can just keep my eye on the prize, and keep marching step by step toward it, I’ll get there. Yet somewhere deep inside, I keep telling myself, I don’t deserve the prize.

That’s bullshit. If I don’t deserve the prize then no one does, and I don’t mean that like I am the most deserving person in the world so much as the “prize” is there for whomever endeavors to strive for it.Things like education and titles don’t make one more deserving. These things may make a person more prepared or more confident, but no more deserving than anyone else. The single most skilled writer on the planet does not deserve the ‘prize’ if they never do what it takes to get it.

Or at least that’s how I see things.

Anyway, I hope you would agree with me that my general mindset is pretty shite. It’s the one thing that I have found that I need to work on right now. In Write Like a Boss by Honoree Corder and Ben Hale, they focus a significant amount of the book on Mindset. Honoree’s world and profession seem to revolve around having the right mindset in fact. During the 2018 Smarter Artists Summit in Austin, Texas earlier this year, hers was the first presentation and for me it was the most impactful. I’m still a few months from putting my marketing in motion, and I think I’ve learned everything that I can regarding writing until I practice for a while, but mindset? I’m so far behind that I seriously have to focus on that as much or more than my writing. This was emphasized to me when I read Chris Fox’s 5000 Words Per Hour. His last chapter is dedicated to mindset and almost seemed like it existed in the book just for me.

So yeah, that’s where I am right now. I’m working on book 3’s rough draft and trying to remember every day to say my new mantra, “So many people love my stories that I support my family on my writing alone.” It’s not true yet, but by making that personal mantra current, it helps set my mindset. Yes I am good enough. Yes I can do this full time.

Instead of thinking about who I want to me, I am going to start being who I can be.

Who do you want to be? Why not start being that person today? Decide on who you want to be and tell yourself every day, every hour, that is who you are. You will begin to act like that person. You will start to make decisions that person would make. Soon you will start seeing opportunities open up for you to allow you to fulfill your current dreams, not because you thought maybe one day it might, but because you said it would happen.

No go forth and create something new.

© 2018, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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Words Per Hour and Quality

Hey folks. In my last post I said that I would soon post an example of my words per hour when I’m writing at 2000 words per hour versus 3750 words per hour. The difference is quite comical, I can assure you. Both of these examples will eventually have to be re-written or even discarded based on what happens during revision. The idea here is to illustrate that while the 2000 words per hour sample is much better in almost every sense, the 3750 words per hour example does something significant. It gets the story out faster and more pure.

So here’s my first sample. This is completely unedited from my original discovery draft of my third novel. Charlotte’s best friend has just woken her up as she sat with a pile of papers surrounding her. I’m trying to ramp up some mystery.

“Sorry,” I said wiping a small bit of very un-ladylike drool from the side of my mouth. I sat up in my chair and began shuffling the papers together. I hadn’t been able to tell what was what and couldn’t draw anything more than some vague ideas of what might be related to what, so I simply scooped those piles up together and then stacked the piles on top of one another.

“Oh Char,” Sophie said in the manner that always told me that she was about to lovingly reprimand me. “You need to get some sleep now that you are human again. And you need to eat right. Eggs and toast will not due anymore. You need fruits and vegetables too. And some proper meat on occasion.”

I winced when she said meat. I’ve eaten enough meat in the last couple years to last me several years, but I knew that she spoke the truth from a place of love. That did not make the fact any more easy to swallow.

“I know. I know,” I said. “I had gotten so used to never needing to sleep unless I was hurt. I feel like I’m sleeping my life away.”

Sophie gave me a look. “Yes my love. I know. Yet you only sleep about four hours a day, unless I count all of the minutes that you fall asleep sewing.”

I nodded.

“Or eating,” she continued.

I nodded some more.

“Or on the privy.”

“Hey!” I objected. “That only happened the one time.”

Sophie laughed. “I thought I had lost you. You had been gone for almost an hour.”

“It was some of the best sleep I have gotten in days.”

“The most disgusting too.”

I could only nod again.

OK. I can’t say that’s my best writing in the world, but it’s pretty clean for me. Now below is a sample from book two. This is from a bit that I was doing for NaNoWriMo. Charlotte and Edmound have broken into a merchant’s home and are looking for incriminating evidence or trade secrets, the like. Everything seemed to be going well enough until they are discovered.

I had 2 days to write 15000 words and it only took me about 4 hours … plus some change as the first hour or so I waffled on if I was going to be able to do this or not. Needless to say I could. My message here is that you can too if you get out of your own way. Now be prepared because this is pretty hard to read, even for me. And I wrote it.

There’s a pounding at the door and the knob begins to jiggle. Edmound is all “OH SHIT” Charlotte is all darn. Let’s move the desk in front of the door. Good thinking. Wait it weights a ton? What? No it doesn’t but it is heavier than I can move. Push man push! Edmound begins to push and then Charlotte starts to push in truth. She pushes just hard enough to allow Edmound to do all the work he can. He’s sweating and his sweat is getting on some of the documents causing the ink to run. They slide the desk over to the door just as the lock clicks and the door starts to open. Something gets in the door, a sword blade wide and keeps the door from closing, but the big old desk is all in the way. Charlotte and Edmound begin gathering papers and the things the decide to steal. Charlotte is all “how are we going to carry all this?” And Edmound is all our I brought bags and she’s all out? And he pulls out a pair of tightly woven cloth bags, like sail material and all double stitched. Where did you put this? In the back of my jacket. The bags have a pair of straps. Charlotte fills hers – she still has some space. Edmound fills his. Banging on door intensifies. So the tow are all ok now what the fuck. Charlotte is all, idk but I’m grabbing some of these books. What they’ll only weight you down? I’m stronger than I look. It’ll be fine. Whatever. Charlotte packs her back full of books. They kick open a window. It’s a long way down. Shit. But it isn’ very far up? Charlotte is all, I can climb that bitch. Bitches love to be climbed. So she climbs out the window, and climbs right up the side of the building to the top of what is the tower. There she finds some well placed rope which she dangles down to the window. Edmound climbs. The door is being chopped in two as Edmound climbs out of the building. Charlotte pulls him up as quickly as he can climb. When he gets over the lip of the roof, a crossbow bolt flies up nearly striking him. Shit. They got guns …l sort of .

Now, there’s some right comedy in there, because that’s how my brain thinks at high speed. In memes and swears. I can clean that up pretty well in revision. Granted some of it is almost golden in its own way, but that’s not the kind of story I’m looking to tell. Not this time at least.

In both instances, I got the story OUT. If you remember my insistence from the prior post, then that will sound familiar. GET THE STORY OUT. A blank page is potential and in a lot of ways perfect, much like the idea of a child. But if you really want to HAVE CHILDREN then you are going to have to realize you’re going to have to do some really nasty things in the beginning. The kids will almost never be exactly as you imagine them. And you might really f’k up a time or two. But that’s ok. That’s what editing … um … psychiatrists are for. Regardless, you’ll probably find that you’re having a lot of fun in the process. Especially in the beginning. 😉

Now I’ve revealed to you my shame. Look at those examples. So much editing needed. But that’s fine. I like editing my stuff. Revision is fun … at first at least 😀

No you go out and create something new.

© 2018, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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Writing Process

Hey folks. I know it has been a while since I last posted, so I thought I would post something hopefully kinda funny and a little informative.

If you’re just starting out like I am, then like me you may not have a ton of skills. Building new skills is a constant pursuit of mine. Well it is at least when I’m not procrastinating, fighting depression, or stuck deep in some mindless pursuit. I’m constantly trying to get myself into a consistent schedule. I’m starting to come around, but it is tough at times.

One of my original problems was thinking too much about what I was writing. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to write and the words just pour out of me. Other times I sort of know the gist of what I want to write about, but I don’t know how to get there. In those instances – which are far more common than I’d like – I worry and fret about what to write. I’ll often remove entire paragraphs or even pages of text because I decided to go another direction or it just didn’t “feel” right.

What I’ve come to discover however, was that I’m just doing this all wrong. The goal is simply to get the story out. As Ann Lamott says so eloquently in her book, Bird by Bird, “All first drafts are shit.” I’m probably paraphrasing because I don’t want to reach over the three feet it would take to pick up my copy of the book and find the actual entry, but I got the spirit of quote if not it exactly. That stuff that comes out of your fingers either by pen, pencil, keyboard, or maybe if you’re 10000 years old, a clay tablet, that stuff is all shit. You are going to have to re-write it. All of it. Maybe many, many times.

So why not just … get it out?

Get it out as quickly as possible. Just write whatever your stupid fingers tell you you want to write, and then later your sober, rational brain can read it and say “WTF was I trying to say here? Damn, you fingers write some real shit.” And then maybe you scratch that part out, or maybe you look at little more and go, “Oh wait, I was wrong. This is actually quite brilliant once you wash the shit off of it. I just need to re-write this part like … so …” and suddenly that part will be better than your first draft. As a side bonus, it will exist, which is what it will most likely NOT do if you fret about it unendingly.

For me the first draft is like pulling mud from a creek to try to make a dish or a pot. There’s a lot of mess and quite a bit of waste, but I’m new to this so I’m not going to kick myself in the ass anymore about it not being immediately perfect. I’m just going to do it. One day I may be able to do it without quite as much mess or waste, but it’s still mud. There’s no getting around that part. Hell even when I get my clay to the wheel, I still don’t know the exact shape of what I’m about to build, but I do have a good idea. Once the base shape is formed, I can modify that to my heart’s content. The fact remains that even at this step, it’s still really just mud, nicely shaped mud. There’s still more to do. So the process must be followed step by step in the proper order until one day someone is going to be eating out of the bowl or pot or whatever I made and they’ll never see, never even consider that at one point in time that thing they are eating from was once simple mud.

How freaking cool is that?

In my next post, I’ll provide some sample text from some sprints I’ve done recently. My average words per hour during the sprints was just over 2000. At the end of last NaNoWriMo, I wrote 15,000 words in about 4 hours over two days – so about 3750 words per hour. The difference in quality of my writing from 2000 to 3700 WPH is comical, but I DID get the story out with those 3750 words per hour. I probably would not have won NaNo 2018 had I wrote at 2000 WPH. Getting the story out is the most important, supreme number one, first bullet point thing period!!!!!11!11!11!!!!! (Was that emphasized enough?) 😀

No go forth and create something new.

© 2018, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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Questions

At what point does one throw in the towel? To admit defeat and move on? To simply quit?

As of this writing, I have 49000+ words written on my novel Charlotte. This isn’t my first attempt at a novel, but it is my most successful. And it is a total failure. Complete rubbish.

Well maybe not complete rubbish. I still like the basic premise, and Charlotte herself is mildly interesting. I also have a few secondary characters that are just starting to become more interesting. I have hints of a backstory for my heroine and a constant turmoil that she must endure as she simply seeks for a normal life. But the story so far simply lacks a plot. It is a day in the life sort of story told episodically through diary entries.

I like it, my wife likes it, my friends kind of like it … but it’s horrible. Just horrible. None of us would finish the book if we found it lying on the seat next to us on the train one day. Not unless we had a macabre desire for nightmares before bedtime. Currently I can’t even back that one up. In all honesty the reader would more likely drift off to Slumberland due to boredom. We would all wonder how it was that we came to be on a train however, as none of use live anywhere that train travel is readily available, but I digress.

My lead has no major flaws other than the inability to face her past. She’s only mildly proactive. Mostly she goes out looking for work each day and tries not to eat people. Kind of interesting, but not really. Right now my half developed secondary characters are more interesting: a roguish young man who seems rebellious but who is loved by the tenement children because he cares for them; a foreigner shopkeeper who has hunted vampires, was almost burned at the stake, and who is currently a mercenary spy; a manservant with a grinding voice who does vile work for monsters, yet gives his victims honest advice in what few words he speaks.  The most interesting thing my heroine has done is set her own compound fracture. Ouch, but yeah … that’s it. Oh and my villain? Meh! Right now he is a vague outline of a man who wields a whip while wearing a beaver top hat and has a thuggish toady to do his underhanded bidding. And maybe he had an affair with the heroine’s mother … and maybe he’s her biological father. Other than that though … nothing!

So I’ve determined that I have to restart. It is inevitable. I need to make an actual plot, and I have an idea. I will make my heroine more flawed and start before she becomes a monster. She will have a purpose but no ability to follow through. Then she’ll take a “job” that will kill her and begin the process of making her a monster. She’ll wake from her death and fight that transformation. At this point she will have power, power to follow through on her purpose, but she will find that she doesn’t have the skill to use the power. Enter the mentor who will guide her and become like family until his inevitable death. There, on the cusp of accomplishing her purpose, my heroine will now be cast down once more. Her descent will lead her to fully become the monster, but just before she does the one thing that will ensure her monstrous transformation, she pulls back from the brink with help from her friends. Her purpose largely fulfilled, she reasserts herself to a new purpose, one that will be far lasting and potentially redeeming (possibly ensuring future stories / serialization).

The above plot is significantly different than my current rough draft. There are scenes I can keep from my current work, but I feel like I should complete my current work before restarting. On the other hand I have a very difficult time telling myself to write something I know is going to be completely removed from the next draft. So how do I progress?

Options before me:

  1. Continue writing my current rough draft and just plow through with my original idea. I might be able to save something somewhere.
  2. Stop immediately, create a structured draft of the new story, and start again.
  3. Combine the two – sort of. Continue with the current rough draft but write as if I’m halfway through already.
  4. Delete everything. Get rid of it all, pull the hard drives and drill holes through them then pass the platters through some industrial shredder, delete all of my social media accounts, take online hypnosis classes and hypnotize my friends and family into forgetting I ever thought about writing, and then silently weep at night when no one is around until the pain goes away.

Options 1-3 are all pretty close in my mind, but currently 4 has the lead.

Does anyone that’s ever done this before have any advice?

 

© 2016, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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Back in the Swing of Things

I’ve been dormant for several months. There are reasons. The reasons don’t matter to my writing, but they exist. The real problem is that I’ve gone cold. It isn’t that I have writer’s block so much as I have writer’s don’t-give-a-fuck. I’m not sure, but I think that’s worse. Anyway, deep down inside I know that this is a temporary thing. I just want to ensure that it is more temporary than not, so I’m trying to force things along.

My new writing routine will be slow at first. What I’m aiming for is that each day I do two of the following:

  • Read Something
  • Journal Something
  • Write Something
  • Learn Something

I’d like to do each of those everyday, and I hope that eventually I will.

I’ve also decided that I have to do some writing prompts, if nothing else, on my writing days. I’ve resisted those for a while because I felt like, “If I’m not going to try to publish it, why would I ever write it in the first place?” But now I think I see that I’m just being foolish. I need to be able to write some throw-away stuff. Hell my entire first few years of writing is likely to be thrown away, so why worry about what it is? Additionally, maybe there will be some scraps of awesome in those throw away items that I’ll reuse later, or maybe I’ll get inspired by a throw away item to work on my novels or short stories. Who knows? I surely won’t if I don’t at least try.

© 2016, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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I Ain’t Skeerd (Actually I’m Terrified)

One of the things I tend to do with this whole writing business is to make decisions based on the level of fear it invokes in me. The more terrifying I find the potential for something, the harder I dig into myself to actually do it. So as I mentioned in my previous post, I mentioned writing a short story for the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon in 2014. What I didn’t mention is how close I came to not doing it in the first place.

The idea of writing something and reading it in front of a group of unknown people was terrifying. I remember looking over the schedule of events for the symposium and wondering if I could do that. No, no I’d never be able to do that. I was certain of it, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.

At the time I didn’t know any other writers closely enough to feel confident to ask them to read my stuff, so I mostly asked friends and family who historically gave me high praise. But I knew I needed more. I needed someone to tear me down – in a good way. I needed someone who would be able to separate the bullshit from the Shinola and help me become better in my craft.

I don’t want to be overly critical of my alpha readers, they’ve been wonderful in helping me grow and develop. They’ve encouraged me and pointed out some fatal flaws. For all of that I’m desperately grateful. But they weren’t industry insiders. They weren’t people who did this for a living or even as a hobby. I needed that next step in critique, and that’s why I kept coming back to the idea of writing something and having it critiqued by actual strangers.

It was terrifying to consider. I shook visibly as I reached for the button to reserve my spot. My guts twisted, pushing acid into my stomach higher and higher until I could almost taste it. I salivated nervously and licked my lips before swallowing several times.

Then I pressed the button.

Instantly I felt relief. My guts unwound, and my salivation returned to normal. I still trembled slightly, but it was over. Finished. Complete.

Except it wasn’t. Now I had to write something to read in front of four editors. Fuck.

I went with an idea I had about a young lady being led through a tunnel and into a room where ghouls dined. I didn’t have much more than that, and I wrote it up pretty quickly. That first version was around twelve hundred words. I revised it four or five times after getting input from my readers and ended up with something I’m rather proud of.

When I attended the event at GenCon I was trembling once again. The panelists were really funny and interesting people. They all seemed to know each other and talked and talked and talked and OH MY GOD STOP TALKING I’M DYING HERE!

And talked.

Ooo! I found my notes. The panelists were Jason Schmetzer, Kerrie L Hughes, Dylan Birtolo, and John Helfers. They seemed really cool in all honesty. But I was full of anxiety and ready to go. I mean that literally and figuratively. I wanted to flee, to give up my spot at the table I had secured for myself and go away. It was a terrible idea in the first place. Why did I even consider doing this very, very bad thing?

AND THEY’RE STILL TALKING! HA! HA! HA! HA! THAT WAS FUNNY CAN I DO THIS THING NOW?! AAGH! STILL THE TALKING!

It may not seem like it, but I knew it was only my anxiety being a dick, and it was on point with its dickishness too. I had made a pact with myself, however. I’d worked hard to polish my turd into something I thought was good or at least good enough, and damn it, I was going to see the ordeal through to the end.

Once they FINALLY started, they asked for volunteers. I didn’t want to be first, but I did want to get things over quickly, so I ended up going second or third. They were pretty nice to me I think. They had a range of items with my piece including: The pacing was wrong for someone who’s nervous. Who was this person escorting her? Surely they knew each other somehow for her to go with him. Apparently I gave too many details (sight, sound, texture) too often.

There was more, but I forgot half the things they said almost as soon as my turn was over. All in all, it was a good experience for me. I mean, I wrote a horror story – something I don’t even read very often – and they didn’t laugh me out of the building. Well, maybe they would have had they been assholes, but they didn’t which told me the writing world has some good guys in it. It also told me to keep trying, to keep going, and to get better because there may one day be a place for me – eventually, maybe.

So that has become my model. If I consider doing something and it scares me, I do it.

My latest adventure is to take the Writer’s Digest University class “Worldbuilding in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing” taught by Philip Athans. I haven’t done an online class like this before, and I’m really interested in how it goes. I really didn’t want to spend the money, but so far every time I’ve considered something and did it despite the cost in time and money, I’ve later looked back on the experience and thanked myself and God that I did it. Each thing I have done has helped me grow in my craft, and I am thankful for it all.

So I implore you. If there’s something scary about your art – not dangerous scary, but stupid anxiety scary – and you hear yourself saying “if only …” please, please, please make that jump. Do it. Swallow that stomach acid. Take slow and steady breaths. And press the button. You’ll be glad you did, because at the very least you won’t be sitting around one day and think “if only …”

© 2016, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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Weird

Several years ago, the ex-husband of a friend of mine, let’s just call him X, mentioned that he hung out once with The Enigma. You may have seen him referenced as The Human Jigsaw. I’d seen images of The Enigma before so I knew who X was describing. For those that were not aware, X explained the detail of The Enigma’s tattoos as well as the various body modifications he has had. My only comment was, “that’s weird.” 

I can’t say exactly why, but X was inclined to defend The Enigma and stated how he was a real nice and interesting guy, as if “weird” were a negative adjective. For some, maybe it is, but not for me.

Let’s set some groundwork before I continue. The Enigma is weird. The Merrian-Webster dictionary (online edition) defines weird as “of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic.” There are other definitions, but this is the one that I think is most used in American culture and certainly my intent when describing The Enigma. To this day I think the description is spot on. I mean his appearance and the lengths he went to achieve them are certainly “odd” and possess “strange or extraordinary character.”

So The Enigma is weird.

But I don’t count weird as a pejorative. It may not be as neutral as “tall” or “red,” but without going into how even those simple adjectives could be described as insulting by some, I group weird as a part of a set of word that are not negative in connotation. After all, I count myself as weird (though not as weird as The Enigma).

I grew up in a small town in North Mississippi. I was a Roman Catholic born in Ohio. So I spoke funny, looked a little funny (due to my Portuguese heritage and squinty eyes), was the wrong religion, didn’t like or follow sports or hunting, and was apparently from a family of carpetbaggers. I started off weird. My natural shyness didn’t help, nor did my gregarious dual nature once I was comfortable with a group. Then add on top of that my love of all thing monsters, and I just got weirder. THEN add on top of that my later discovery and love of all things magical … and well let’s just say I really didn’t fit in. I was weird. I didn’t look terribly weird – assuming I wasn’t wearing bell bottom jeans, or sweat pants pulled up to my chest, or really, really big hair. OK, maybe I looked a little out of place too.

Eventually I just got used to being different, then I came to embrace it. Weird is cool. Weird is good. Weird is individual, unique, and different. Weird people do things that other people don’t even imagine doing until years later. Weird people create art and games. Weird people design things that set other people to scratching their heads in wonder. Weird people are awesome.

If I ever call you or someone you know as weird, just know it isn’t a pejorative. It isn’t an insult. Hell if anything it’s a complement. Now if I call you normal …

© 2015, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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