Writers: Big Blocks vs. Legos

I played with Legos as a kid. Along with baseball cards, Legos were pretty much my favorite toy. As a younger boy (back when swallowing a Lego might have meant I’d perish) I played with bigger blocks, building towers and gleefully knocking them down.

When it comes to time management, though, I think the block of time you need for writing something may have something to do with the end result length of what you’re writing. For writing a novel I like big blocks. Blocks of time allow me to immerse in the fictional universe. The big blocks also allow me to complete larger chunks of the tower that is to become my novel. If you ever tried to build a tall tower with Legos, you know that they don’t have the integrity that large blocks of wood have. This is why we build actual houses out of wood blocks called too-buh-fawers.

For writing non-fiction, I prefer Legos, er, I mean short blocks of time. The non-fiction world is something I’m already immersed in, and it’s not as much fun to write about. Also the length of what I’m writing is much shorter, like this blog for example. Hmm. I thought of a comparison. I threw the idea out there. This is how I believe nonfiction should go. Tell the idea. Then, the piece is over.

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Writer’s Thursday… on Saturday?

Why not move Writer’s Thursday to Saturday when I feel like it? I know we’re supposed to be consistent, but I had another issue I wanted to talk about on the 31st. So I did.

Everyone else is writing about resolutions, but we often don’t take time to celebrate our accomplishments. The last day of the year is a great time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished over the last 365 days. I want to hear from you what you did!

As for myself, beginning at the very end of April, up until today, I’ve posted over 100 blogs on this site. That’s almost one every two days!

At the end of November my second book was published by a traditional publishing house. That means I wrote a book proposal and put well over 70,000 words through the editing gauntlet with an editor as well. (Lest you think that all that writing is in addition to all the blogs I just mentioned, not so. Many of the blogs were used as the rough draft material for the book.)

My next novel(s) now have some 95,000 words. I expect this series to close in on 200,000 by the end of next year. I also think there’s a good possibility I’ll be taking all the Intentional Community blogs and fashioning a book out of them as well, perhaps by the end of 2016. ¬†But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here. I really got a lot written this year and hit some pretty significant milestones! Hooray!

If you wrote a lot this year, or achieved some other milestone, make a note in the comments! Or, if you consider yourself a writer but feel that you don’t have much to show from this year, now may be the time to join a writer’s group. Luckily for you, I lead one, and you can join it! Two of the guys in our group will be finishing their first novel’s rough drafts within the next few weeks, and the group works because we’re accountable to produce every month! If you want to join, the cost is only $30 per month and you can just reach out to me via email: adam.fleming.lifecoach@gmail.com and I will get you the relevant information. Not sure? Check out the videos in the Writer’s Group page on this blog and get to know me and Justin a bit better.

Want to write down some Resolutions? We’ll help you make those attainable and help hold you accountable to getting it done, so that next year, when I post a similar blog, you’ll have something to celebrate too!

 

Writers keep on a writin’

Hey writers, it’s writing Thursday again here on my blog, and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Motivated New Year (not just January or November, either).

In our writer’s group last Thursday night (meets monthly for accountability and support) we talked about setup. Here’s our video on the topic.

Knowing your basic setup is great, but how do you maintain disciplines of writing (if you write daily or even once or twice a week) or really disciplines of any kind (how many calories you consume) when your normal setup gets upset by holiday travel?

Maybe you’re hosting people, maybe you’re with relatives, but usually a holiday week means somethin’s gotta give, and there’s a good chance your normal setup will suffer.

My main tip here is pretty simple: have a plan. You may know what your situation is going to look like, and there’s always Uncle Harv who arrives at the last minute throwing everything off kilter again.

The second tip is that you may have to squeeze it in the cracks instead of having a nice three hour block.

The third thing is, to avoid discouragements, appropriately adjust your expectations. Maybe you usually write 10,000 words a month, adjust that to a lower number. Or, if you’re like Justin, you have two weeks off school and you actually have more time. Find space to push yourself, either way. That’s how you get it done!

Again, everybody have a wonderful holiday and keep on a-writin’.

Writing: The X Factor

There’s this thing called the X-Factor. It’s what makes your writing sing.

This is the fifth in a five part series on writing.

The X Factor is this is the unteachable element.

If something’s unteachable, you have to tack. Tacking is a technique sailors use when they want to take a sailboat directly into the wind. Well, you can’t do it. So you go at a 45 degree angle, sideways. Then, to stay on course, you go into the wind sideways the other direction for a while.

How do you tack when it comes to growing in the X-factor?

Tack left: engage the arts. Read. Read challenging things. Read the great Russian writers. See good art at museums or fine art galleries. Watch interesting films with plots. I prefer foreign films, they’re less predictable. Listen to music you don’t normally gravitate to.

Tack right: work on the basics again. Do the four exercises from the previous four weeks. Grow in all four of the other areas, tack towards the muse, and you’ll grow in this area too. You’ll learn to recognize it, for one thing, when it happens to you.

The last thing you have to do is keep consulting the compass as a good sailor would to make sure you’re still headed where you want to go. This means getting feedback from writers you respect, and taking them seriously.

I’m still tacking a lot. My two books are The Art of Motivational Listening (2015) and White Buffalo Gold (2012). See the bookstore for how to order.

Writers Thursday #4 in series

Last week we discussed how to improve both your micro and macro levels of language, from vocabulary to speaking in a particular context.

This week I’m suggesting exercises for increasing your originality.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your characters, setting, or plot. As long as you know the rules and understand why you’re breaking them, you can do some original work and break some new ground, but you may need a boost.

Here’s a five minute game or exercise: take twenty of your favorite novels. Make some slips of paper with the following categories:

Location/ Setting

Era

Main Character

Supporting Character

Plot driver (a wedding, breakup, death, attack, murder, birth)

 

For example let’s take classic Romance lit Jane Eyre.

  1. Thornfield Hall
  2. mid 19th century
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. Mr. Rochester
  5. Finds out there’s a mad lady in the attic

Drop the slip with your Location into one bag, Era in the next bag, and so on; repeat with 19 other novels or movies of various genres.

Draw one slip from each bag, so that you end up with something like this:

  1. Setting: Tatooine (Star Wars)
  2. Era: Prehistoric/ Stone Age (Clan of the Cave Bear)
  3. Main Character: Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of …)
  4. Supporting Character: Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre)
  5. Plot element: All the land is sold to corporate farms and the sharecroppers are evicted (Grapes of Wrath)

Now, sketch the plot of a book. Write a few paragraphs: How does it open and how does it end? This exercise should help you break out of any originality ruts and may even help you develop a ground-breaking novel that crosses over two genres. You may not end up writing any books that you came up with during the exercise, but it can help you break out of your ways of thinking.

 

Writer’s Group: I can do it on my own. Really?

Writing is a solitary existence. The best advice-givers, like Steven King in his book “On Writing” suggest that for a certain amount of time in the course of your manuscript you need to work alone, without allowing other people to see, read or influence what you’re doing.

That’s true, which is part of the reason our writer’s group doesn’t do critiquing. We don’t want to interrupt the flow.

On the other hand, you have to be highly motivated to keep plowing ahead. It’s so easy to just surf the net or go for a long walk rather than write. That’s why we get together for accountability. You set your goal for the month, and you’ve got to deliver.

My goal this past month was 15,000 words. My total was closer to 20,000. If I didn’t have a group I was committing to for that kind of production, it wouldn’t happen.

How many words are you writing this month? What’s your goal? Who’s holding you to it?

Writer’s Group: Setting a really great goal

What sort of goal pushes you but is attainable? That’s what Justin and I have decided to push ourselves and our group toward, so that each one is making headway in writing their book.

I’m setting this blog up a few days in advance. I committed to 15,000 words this month and I have just over a thousand left, two days to go. I’ll attain my goal. I’ll push for that last amount partly because I’m leading and it would be poor leadership if I don’t lead by example, and partly because I’m serious about meeting my goals anyway. And partly because I’m committing to it once again, with 51 hours to go.

We fully expect that the writers in our group will publish their books sooner, more frequently, and with more quality than if they were not in the group.

Yesterday I sent my editor my final comments on the first round of corrections for the full draft. In less than two weeks, my goal is to finalize all the copy and send it to press. I’m ambitiously shooting for publication, for books in my hands, by December 1.

Set your goals just low enough that you can attain them every month, and just high enough that it will take effort. Both of these are important. You MUST attain your goal each month, otherwise you become discouraged. You must also set it high enough that you have to work for it. Otherwise it’s not a goal. Think of it this way: if you say “my goal is to eat three square meals a day” but you already do that anyway, as sort of a natural course of events, it’s not really a “Goal,” is it? But if you change the goal to something like this: “I will eat small portions including hard boiled eggs and carrot sticks six times a day, making sure to chew my food completely, and cut out sweets for the next eight weeks” there is a pretty good chance you can do it, and a pretty good chance it will take some conscious effort. Just like health and fitness goals, writing goals must be attainable to keep up your enthusiasm and courage, and hard enough to let you know there’s effort involved. Best of luck in November, when many people write short novels … but you could be writing novels every month with just a little more regular discipline and accountability!