Enthusiastic Productivity

rachel aaron 10kI recently read a post by Rachel Aaron on how she manages to write 10,000 words a day. That’s approximately 25 pages in 5-6 hours. Approximately. Shoot, even if my estimate is off by an hour or ten pages, that’s still amazing!

Rachel has a cool triangle with time, enthusiasm, and knowledge at the three points. Knowledge is knowing what you want to write before you start typing and time is carving out chunks of time to write because it takes a while to get into your groove and you want to stay in said groove as long as possible.

Enthusiasm was my favorite triangle point. The more excited you are about what you’re doing, the faster and better you’ll do it. Rachel recommends taking five minutes before you start your task to get yourself excited about it. For example, if you’re going to write a scene that is necessary plot-wise, but a bit of a yawner, then brainstorm ways to make it interesting: symbolism, unspoken communication between characters, a bit of humor, and so forth. Your “boring” scene will be better and you’ll get through it more quickly.

Rachel writes novels, but I believe her triangle applies to nonfiction as well. For example, I love blogging, but there are times when a blog post is “due” (because I said I would post weekly on Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating, and bimonthly here and by golly, I will), but I’m just not feeling it. I sit and the computer and whine: I don’t feel funny. I want to work on my novel instead. I want a nap. If I take a few minutes to get my creative juices flowing, though, writing becomes fun again. Enthusiasm is my favorite because it not only helps me write faster, but helps me write better.

What Will You Write Contest

This is for a contest run by I Read Encyclopedias For Fun.  He gave us the intro 2 paragraphs and we had to finish the scene in 500 words.  Hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it!

 

Conrad opened his eyes to a view of a massive blue globe.  He jerked back and twisted around in the microgravity.  He touched something solid in front of him.  A window.

He pushed against the window and turned around.  Conrad scanned the small room, no larger than a public bathroom stall, and empty except for an EV spacesuit and door.  He studied the view through the window.  Neptune, he thought.  How did I get here?

Conrad pulled off the cryosleep nasal tubes and chest monitors, then slipped into the EV spacesuit and pushed off the wall with his feet. In microgravity, the push got him to the door quickly and he slapped his palm against the door’s scanner. A small hatch slid open on the wall and Conrad checked the cage inside: she was still in stasis.

Cage in hand, he opened the door to the hallway and hit the floor jogging. There were only a handful of other passengers in the hallway. The spacecraft had left Earth full to capacity but most passengers had had enough sense to get off before Neptune.

Conrad slowed as he approached the cockpit. The Captain was standing at the open door, his hands clasped behind his back. A sign on the right read “Shuttle line forms here”.

Behind the Captain, Conrad could see Neptune’s surface docking station on the cockpit’s large screen. It was crawling with officials carrying visa verifiers and contraband scanners. She would be considered contraband here.

“Captain, I was supposed to get off on Saturn.” Conrad could hear the rising panic in his voice and he took deep breaths of the thin air to calm himself.

“You programmed your own cryosleep computer,” said the Captain, shifting his feet slightly.

“But I know I programmed it for Saturn and Saturn is what it says on my ticket. Don’t you have a list of which passengers are getting off where?”

The Captain shrugged. “If you don’t want to get off on Neptune, you’re welcome to stay aboard until we reach Alpha Centauri, turn around, and pass back this way. Should only take a few months.”

Conrad studied the Captain’s expressionless face. Surely he knew Conrad couldn’t do that; the outer reaches of space made the Wild West look tame. There was no law, limited resources, and little food. Conrad was not a fighter, he was a history professor, and now he would be late starting his job at the University of Saturn.

“There’s a passenger craft coming through in a week or two that’s headed the right direction if you want to stay on Neptune,” said the Captain.

A soft mew came from the cage. Conrad poked a few of his fingers through the bars and his cat purred against them.

Neptune had a strict policy against bringing alien life to the planet. It was a world of benign plants and squishy animals that made it a popular tourist destination for those willing to travel the distance, but predatory animals such as cats were absolutely forbidden. If he brought her into the docking station, she would be put down immediately. He considered taking the Captain up on his Alpha Centauri detour. But there had been rumors – too many rumors to ignore completely – about the price of meat on Alpha Centauri. A cat would fetch a high price. A history professor would fetch a higher one.

The Captain arched one eyebrow. “Will you be staying aboard?”

Write What You Love Or Write What Sells?

2014 blog 006Should you write what you love or write what sells?

After eight years of writing novels, I still don’t know the answer to that question. I wish I did.

I love science fiction and fantasy and the first novel I wrote was a fantasy, but when I went to sell it six years ago, I heard the same thing over and over from Christian publishers: “Hmm, you write pretty well, but we don’t do fantasy. Do you have any romance novels?”

So I started writing romance novels.

With the exception of Jane Austin, I’ve never been a big fan of the genre, but I started reading my way through the romance gauntlet: contemporary, historical, Amish, suspense. I tried to analyze why I liked or didn’t like each book and used that information to write romance novels that I enjoy. I like writing romance, but I’m still waiting to see if my take on the genre will attract a publisher.

Last year at a writers conference I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were several Christian publishers looking at fantasy! Romance is still King, but the other genres are starting to grow.

So do I write what I love and hope it sells? Or do I write what sells in a way I love?

Have any of you answered this question? What conclusions did you come to and why/how?

Use A Logline To Pitch Your Work

logs2A logline is a ONE sentence description of your work and its power is in its brevity. Writing loglines is new to me, and so far I’m loving it.

Does anyone else tend to panic a little when asked “What’s your book about?” How do I cram a fabulous plot, intriguing characters, and genius subplots into a thirty second spiel? (And all with appropriate humility, right?) wizardlogline No matter how I try to sum up my work, I always feel like I’m doing it wrong.  My “elevator pitch” feels more like a stab in the dark.  I hone it as close to perfection as I know how and memorize it, but when the moment comes, I’m a bundle of nerves.  I think I’ve been trying to provide too much information about the book all at once; I need informational increments.

loglinedefinedThat’s why loglines are so great: they’re short. When my nerves are bundled, a logline is easy to spit out. And while my listener is digesting the one liner, I can take a deep breath and be ready with the slightly longer “back of the book” type spiel.  Informational increments!  Another plus: if my listener isn’t interested in hearing more about my work, at least our encounter was short and sweet.  If I leave my listener bored or confused, what will s/he assume about my writing?

There’s an excellent explanation of loglines here. It includes lots of examples that I found helpful in writing loglines for my own work.

What have you found to be most helpful when pitching to an editor/agent or simply telling a friend about your writing?

Writing Tips From A Gardener

P1020974The more comparisons I draw between writing and gardening, the more appreciative I become of the creative process.  Here are a few of the ways growing plants and growing ideas are similar and what I’ve learned about both.

1. Waiting is essential and if you’re patient, you’ll enjoy the experience.  In the garden you plant, you weed, you water…and then you have to wait.  You can’t speed up the growing process.  You can’t speed up the writing process either.  (I’ve tried begging, pep talks, persuasion – on both plants and keyboards – and it does’t work.)  You get a good idea, develop it, put words on paper…and then you wait.  You wait a few weeks before you edit so you have fresh eyes, you wait while a few trusted friends read your work and give you feedback, and after you finally submit, you wait forever and a day.  Thankfully, it’s worth the wait.

P10101172. The weather is not always pleasant, but the diligent worker reaps a harvest.  Some writing days feel like it’s 60 degrees and sunny: the words flow, the muses are singing your song, and you could go on forever.  But to reap a harvest worth sharing, you also need to weed and water when it’s 100 degrees and humid; when it feels like work.

3. You must weed.  If it doesn’t belong in the story, pull it out.  This applies to poor wording, cheesy similes, beloved but useless characters,and  stagnant plot points, but it can apply to great writing as well. A rose can be a weed if your garden’s focus is vegetables. Plant the rose elsewhere.

P10103704. Harvest time is magic.  It’s a special joy to see the fruit of your hard work. Blogging is like planting radishes: you put it out there and get almost instantaneous feedback.  A book is more like a fruit tree: it can take years to harvest that produce.  I greatly enjoy my radishes, but I’m taking good care of my trees as well: here’s hoping that my fruit harvest comes in soon.

What’s worse for you: the weeding or the waiting?

Book Proposals: A Necessary Evil

downloadI hate it, I hate it, I hate it.  That was my mantra this afternoon as I worked on a cover letter for the proposal for my latest novel.

I love writing fiction.  L. O. V. E. it.  (That’s Loads Of Vigorous Enthusiasm)  But a synopsis, a biography, and a sell sheet are right up there with pulling teeth.  Why do I have to write a proposal in the first place?  Can’t an editor just pick it up and start in chapter one like the (eventual) reader will?

Ah, but the reader doesn’t do that, do they?  Not really.  Think about the last time you were in a book store or online shopping for a book.  Before you started chapter one, what did you do?  Browse your favorite genre.  Pay extra attention to the books that a sign said are similar to books by your favorite author.  Read the blurb on the back to see if it catches your attention.

writinghardworkThat’s what the proposal is: it tells an editor or agent how to sell your book.  What is it about?  To which books is it similar?  Who is the intended audience?  How is it unique?

These are not always easy questions; sometimes the answer is hard to put into words and other times the answer is boringly obvious and you feel stupid saying it.  (Um, my romance novel’s intended audience is women who like romance novels.)

But the truth is that there are thousands upon thousands of people writing books and editors and agents receive hundreds of book offers per day, so if you aren’t willing to do the work of the proposal, someone else will, and since they made it easier on the editor/agent, they win. It’s not fun and it doesn’t feel fair, but it’s how the system works.

If you believe in your work, suck it up and write the best proposal you can.  Even if you have to chant a mantra while you work.  “Evil synopsis, evil synopsis, evil synopsis”.

Question for discussion: What are the benefits of a book proposal for the author?inspiration-station