Secrets of increasing writing output: goal 100

This kitten's name is Little Stranger since his birth mother abandoned him and he was raised by another mother cat who had 5 tortoiseshell kittens (all girls). Little Stranger is now a grown up tomcat.

Little Stranger

My poetry is stored by files based on the year the poem was written. Currently that means both a physical file with paper and a file on a Scrivener project. Recently I was sorting through and organizing my 2015 poems. I decided to add a page with a list of all the poems in the file to simplify searching for a given poem. And so I discovered I wrote 37 poems last year.

That’s not a lot— but it is a good output compared to some years. My problem is my Aspie disorganization. Some days, weeks and months I write poems regularly— and then I get distracted by the many other goals and don’t write poems at all.

Recently I read a book called The Miracle Morning for Writers and was inspired to put together a morning ritual which includes certain activities (like exercise on my elliptical) and leads to a session of writing. This seems to be working if only I can keep it up.

So I’m setting a goal for my poetry writing this year. I want to make it to one hundred poems this year. I currently have only 16— but this morning I wrote three. OK, one was a senryu (haiku) that I’ve already tweeted under #2Apoems (Second Amendment poems), but I got it done.

How does your writing output look? If you feel you are not getting enough done, here are some things to help you do more.

  • Monitor your output. Make a chart or a list or something to make it easier to see how many writing projects — poems, short stories, novels— you have finished each week, month or year.
  • Set a reasonable goal for yourself this year— something that’s a challenge for you, but not something you feel is impossible, like writing 20 novels in a year when you have never finished even one.
  • Don’t just beat yourself up for the times you haven’t finished enough writing projects. Praise yourself for the times when you’ve done a lot. Perhaps set up an awards system— when you have finished 10 poems or three short stories, you can buy yourself a new ebook. Or chocolate. Or go to a movie.
  • Think about your work habits. When do you write? What triggers a writing session? If you only write when you feel like it, what things/circumstances tend to make you feel like it?
  • If finishing things is a major problem as it is for a lot of people with Asperger’s/autism, try shorter projects— poems, flash fiction, short stories. Things you can finish.
  • Create a ritual for a daily writing session, ideally in the morning, connected to your daily habits. For example, you might decide that right after breakfast you will sit down and work on your writing until you have finished one poem, or 2 haiku, or one work of flash fiction.
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“Knitting patterns” for creating fiction #writing #AtoZChallenge

KWhen I was a child, a kind neighbor, Mrs. Young, taught me to knit. Later, when I was a bit older, I bought some how-to-knit booklets from Kmart’s yard department (they had one back then.)

That’s how I learned to follow knitting patterns— sets of instructions on how to knit a certain garment in a certain size. If you followed the instructions to the letter, even an inexperienced knitter could do good work. And the more experienced could adapt the pattern and be creative.

Fiction writing has its own ‘knitting patterns.’ One from the past is the Lester Dent Master Formula, which pulp author Lester Dent used to write short stories which sold. Another is the more modern Snowflake method, which is usually used to plot novels.

A fiction pattern is ‘borrowed structure’ for a novel or short story. All fiction needs structure. ‘Plotter’ authors do it by writing an outline, ‘pantsers’ do it all in their head. The formula simplifies the process for creating a story with structure for either type of writers.

“But won’t using a formula make my story formulaic?” No. “Formulaic” stories are dull, tired, predictable stories made by would-be authors who just grab at trite, done-to-death plot elements when they don’t know what to do. Such fiction can come into being with or without the use of a formula, an outline, or the three-act structure.

Using a pattern thoughtfully can help you to create a more original story. The secret is to not take any part of the pattern as Gospel.

For example, working on my ‘space western’ novel, the Snowflake method, Step 3, would have me write in the three-act structure. But I’m not sure I know the ending for sure yet. Or even the middle. I’m more of a ‘pantser’ than an outliner. So I just put SOMETHING sketchy down, and worry about the middle and ending when I get to it.

As a writer with Asperger Syndrome, I suffer from something similar to ADHD, and thus I find it difficult to write anything longer than a poem without the aid of a ‘knitting pattern’ for writing. It’s a way of working smarter, not harder.

I am experimenting with using the Lester Dent formula to write a 6000 word short story. I will be sharing more about that project here as I go through the steps.

Lester Dent Fiction Formula: http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html
Snowflake Method: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/

This is a post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Yes, I’m behind and I’m doing the wrong letter today. But I’m still doing it. Go figure.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

Have You Eaten Your Frog This Morning?

frogIn the book 5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox, he makes a rather startling recommendation. It’s about eating a frog.

It doesn’t mean for you to sample an exotic low-carb cuisine, however. It’s about your writing— or about any other tasks you have to d0.

If the toughest thing you will have to do all day is eat a frog, Fox says, do that first.

For many writers, getting that butt in that seat to do your daily word count is the toughest. Burning the midnight oil may make you feel like a writer, but as far as getting things done it’s often best to get up  earlier to fit your writing time in there. I’ve been a morning writer for a long time now, and it works better than any other time of day for me.

But sometimes your eat-a-frog task is something else. Today, my first-level frog is getting a blog post out in the morning which is the time most likely for my posts to find readers.

My second-level frog is major housecleaning in my kitchen. Since I live alone and have much to do and little energy with which to do it, things can get out of place. I need my kitchen in tip-top shape because I am on a strict ketogenic (low-carb) diet for my health, which means I have to cook almost everything I eat from scratch. Once I get the kitchen in line, I can do some major cooking and freeze individual portions. That way when I am not feeling like cooking, I have options.

Other chores include my writing sprints, a book review that must be written, and sorting out my chickens— the chickens willing to actually lay eggs right now will be granted comfy housing and better food while the ones who won’t lay at all will be finding new homes. Some of them in soup pots, I imagine.

I am a highly disorganized person due to my Asperger’s Syndrome, and so the eat-a-frog concept is really helping me to set priorities. Maybe it will help others, too. So the big question I have for you, blog reader, is: Have you eaten your frog this morning?

The Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven is today. Have a blessed one.

The Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven is today. Have a blessed one.

IWSG: Chronic Writer’s Block, Nuclear Armageddon Level

writers_block

This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. Visit the site and join up!

My entire writing life it seems I have been plague by writer’s block. The times when I am NOT too blocked to get anything written are far rarer than the times I am.

Writer’s block is a real condition that has been the subject of scientific study. You can read the Wikipedia article about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer%27s_block    Unless they’ve replaced the text with more rainbow flags and intimidation by now.

My writer’s block is like this: I may be working on a novel project and somewhere about page 50, I wake up unable to write one more word on the project. Which makes me avoid even trying after a certain point. Which leads to a period of time when I avoid even starting up my word processor because I’m paralyzed by guilt from not-writing.

The 50-page mark was when it normally hit me 20 years ago. These days the most common thing is that I get blocked the second day on the project. On a project that goes on for a longer period of time, I tend to go back to the story beginning and change all my plans for the novel in question, which leads to a story with five different first chapters and no ending. I’ve tried outlining to prevent this, using several methods, but as a dedicated ‘pantser’ (like Stephen King) I just can’t work that way. A completed outline kills the project for me.

Sometimes I believe the severity of my problem is linked to my Asperger’s Syndrome. This condition has included with it something called ‘executive function deficit’ which is pretty much the same thing as AD/HD. Makes it very difficult to be organized in the complex project of writing a novel.  But then again, a number of writers of the past, including Herman Melville, have been alleged to have Asperger’s Syndrome and they got novels finished.

My writer’s block problem does not seem to affect the writing of short poetry, or at least not very much. A number of times I’ve resolved to write a new poem every day, and I am able to do this. I haven’t continued the poem-every-day thing forever-and-ever, but that may just be because sometimes my mind needs a break. And of course the fact that for a long time I thought writing poems was counterproductive, even shameful.

I’ve embraced my poet-self recently. And after a time of writing poems every morning, I also managed to complete a short story called ‘The Skin Shirt’. It will be made available in ebook form at some point in the future. I’ve also started a second story, which sort of has a ‘parable’ feel to it. I’m optimistic about finishing this one as well.

So, that’s how writer’s block has affected me. Have you ever experienced writer’s block? How have you dealt with it?


A request.

Could one or two of the blog readers who pass through here do me a little favor? I would like you to download my very short poetry ebook, ‘surly petunia’, and write a brief review. It doesn’t need to be a 5-star review full of praise. I’m thrilled with 3 and 4 star reviews, and even 2 stars are better than nothing. It doesn’t need to be a fancy review full of literary terms, just a few brief sentences telling what you liked, or didn’t like, about the book.  I could use reviews at Goodreads & Amazon.com, and perhaps one at Smashwords as well.

You can download the book from here:
Smashwords (free download): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237
Amazon.com (they charge 99 cents, not my idea): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NZ96EYE

 Thanks!

Mother’s Day Poem

LilStrangerShared on Poetry Pantry #251

Mother’s Day Poem

Is not the little fishing hut
fishing hut
fishing hut
Is not the little fishing hut
that swims along the shore

I torched the little fishing hut
fishing hut
fishing hut
I torched the little fishing hut
that now will swim no more

Is not the crumbling cancer truck
cancer truck
cancer truck
Is not the crumbling cancer truck
that dances with a door

I crushed the crumbling cancer truck
cancer truck
cancer truck
I crushed the crumbling cancer truck
that now will dance no more

Is not the dictionary’s child
nary’s child
nary’s child
Is not the dictionary’s child
that holds a can of war

I stabbed the dictionary’s child
nary’s child
nary’s child
I stabbed the dictionary’s child
and then her mother ripped
me into forty-seven bloody chunks.

True story
Don’t mess with mothers

Sep. 25, 2013

About the poem

It’s longer than what I usually write these days when I tend more toward the sijo or haiku form. It uses repetition and rhythm to a much greater extent than I normally do. But the mayhem and absurdity are quite within my usual style. I look on the poem as a tale for mad people to read to their mad children. If they don’t mind the violent bit.

The message the poem sent to me on the issue of poetry-writing is this: don’t ignore the words buzzing around in your head. Write them down! They may be nothing, or they may be the seed to writing a poem that’s interestingly different from what had gone before.

My mother—- she didn’t understand the poem, of course. Though she reads any poem I write and says encouraging things, because that’s what mothers do. And I do need the encouragement. Because no matter how many times I’ve had a successful moment in my writing, I still have this inner feeling that everything I write is dreck (excuse the language) because I’m substandard— a person with Asperger Syndrome, diagnosed late in life (before my correct diagnosis I was diagnosed as ‘having mental problems’ or ‘being a bad, uncooperative child’) who can’t do the things that every normal person can supposedly do. My mom never understood what was wrong with me, until the diagnosis anyway, but she always went out of her way to make me feel I was a person with potential. No matter how illogical that seemed sometimes. So, thanks, mom, & I love you.

Poets United is a good blog for poets and would-be poets. It has a weekly event on Sundays called The Poetry Pantry. Anyone may put up a link to a poem they’ve blogged on their linky. Then you have the fun of visiting the other poets on the linky list. I try to visit as many as I can on weeks when I participate.

surly petunia: a chapbook of explosively eccentric poetry is available from Amazon.com at 99 cents. It would really help me out if someone would read it and give it a review— even if you only rate it 3 stars or less, that’s fine. I don’t trust those 5-star reviews anyway, it’s usually written by the author’s mother or something. (I’m hoping to get a few Amazon.com sales and at least one review before I publish my next poetry chapbook, which I have started to assemble recently. That one, called Waiting for the Poison Shot, will have a good sampling of my most recent poetry as well as a bonus short story.)

Poets: got a chapbook or poetry book out? You may link to it in your comment. (One link only, please.)

IWSG: Novels as Patchwork Quilts

bhg-under-stars-quilt-planIt’s that time! The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop is today! It’s not too late to sign up, post your IWSG post, and visit blogs, comment, and get a bunch of new visitors to your blog. Remember, the heart of a blog hop is to visit loads of blogs!

Announcing a brand-new blog hop

I’ve started a sci-fi and fantasy themed blog hop called These Are The Voyages. Can you guess where I got the name? If you love sci-fi and fantasy enough to be willing to blog about it once a month, join up! (Sorry, erotica/’erotic romance’ and other family-unfriendly blogs can’t participate in order to allow young people and people’s grandmothers to participate.)

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

IWSG: Writing a novel is like making a patchwork quilt

Perhaps it’s using the writing software ‘Scrivener’ (and before that, YWriter, which is free), but my writing is more based in scenes now. Or at least, that’s how I think of my work.

Each scene is like a single patch in a patchwork quilt. Each patch in a quilt has to be properly crafted according to the quilt design being used. Each piece has to be cut to the right size, and sewn together with other pieces to make up the patch.

A single patch doesn’t have to be stunningly gorgeous all by itself. It it is only made properly and to the right pattern, once you sew it into the large quilt, you will have something beautiful. But some of the patches in some quilt designs are rather plain. They just serve their own purpose in the design of the quilt as a whole.

One cause of insecurity in writers is the sheer size of the novel (or the novella, for that matter). You can’t hold it all in your head at once. But you can hold one ‘patch’ of your novel— a single scene— in your head.

Possibly because I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), I tend to work on several scenes at once. Right now, working on Expedition to Erileth, I have one scene in which Space Force officer Niko Alden, awaking from stasis, imagines he’d been put in stasis as a punishment, that his homosexual affair with a man suspected of being an enemy agent has been discovered. Another scene details the journey of young Prince Tsirdan into exile, and his stop to see a mushroom-house, a living dwelling made from a giant mushroom-tree. Another scene shows Niko Alden, now aware that he’s still an interplanetary hero, coping with a less-than-ideal landing on the planet Erileth which has killed some ship’s officers and injured the captain, leaving him in charge of setting up the new base and spaceport.

What I do is I work on a scene for a while, then shift to another. If I’m discouraged by one scene and feel like it’s dreck (pardon my Yiddish), then I just work on some other scene for a while.

Come to think of it, I quilt and sew like that too. I’ll work on one patch or piece of a project, then move on to another piece, and then later finish off the first. (It’s an Aspie thing. Neurotypicals wouldn’t understand— unless they are scatterbrained neurotypicals.)

OpiumCactus

Where the Opium Cactus Grows

I was checking up on my self-published poetry book today. It has still sold only the 8 copies, but on Amazon.com there is one used copy available at $29.46. The list price on the book is $6.98, and I bet that seller plans to BUY a copy at that price if he happens to sell one.

I really wish some more people would buy the book. It would make a great gift for your dentist. He could put it in his waiting room. I mean, the book is POETRY, but it’s less painful than root canal. And it’s got explosions in it. http://www.amazon.com/Where-The-Opium-Cactus-Grows/dp/055793913

#CSFF blog tour 2: Writing a Book Review – The Existential Horror

MerlinsNightmare

How do you write a book review when you can’t see the forest for the trees? That’s a question that pops into my mind every time I do the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy blog tour.

Some people have this gift: they can read through a book and write a paragraph about it that sums it up exactly. And when I read it, even if I’ve read the book myself a dozen times, I say to myself, ‘so that’s what the book is about.’

Maybe it’s my Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), but I just can’t see books like that. (Perhaps having Asperger Syndrome means I’m doomed to artistic failure— you know, like aspies Herman Melville and Vincent van Gogh were.) And so I have to find another way to do reviews. Because I won’t take the easy way out and cut-and-paste the official book description from Amazon.com on this blog— that seems like cheating, and since the blog tourers visit more than one blog, Everyone Will Know. So here are some alternatives:

  1. Use a quote from the book. “Morgana scowled at King Gorlas’s back as he dug into the grave.” (That’s from the Prologue of Merlin’s Nightmare. You can use a more extensive quote as well. Let the author do the work for you!
  2. Tell something interesting about the author. For example: Robert Treskillard is descended from a Cornish blacksmith and knows how to make swords.
  3. If you can’t see the forest, describe a good tree— some detail that caught your attention. Example: Ganieda, Merlin’s nine-year-old half-sister. A little sister is someone that you are expected to protect. But Ganieda, also called Morgana, goes over to the dark side…
  4. Kvetch about something. It can be something big, or something trivial. In the description of Ganieda, it says she has an ‘affinaty’ for wolves’. At least, the Kindle version says that. Should be ‘affinity’.
  5. Rate the book on some scale you create. For the Christian reader that might be on the degree and correctness of the Christian content. For the secular reader, it might be whether the Christian content was intrusive to the story. You might rate the degree of violence or of ‘edgy’ content. Or the presence or absence of zombies. Whatever’s important to you.
  6. Give your personal reaction. Did it catch your attention so you couldn’t put it down to make dinner? After you finished, did you find the book so delightful that you immediately read it again? Try to be very specific. Avoid the words ‘nice’ or ‘interesting’. Don’t call it a ‘page-turner’. Example: I’ve only read the Kindle sample as yet, but am attracted enough to the story that I just bought the book even though I’m low-income and really shouldn’t buy books— or anything else that isn’t food, electricity or property tax.
  7. Compare to another similar or dissimilar book— I did that yesterday, in comparing the Merlin Spiral with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. (As you may know, I’m an obsessed MZB fan, though ‘Avalon’ didn’t wear well with me.)

So there are my suggestions. I hope that helps the ‘book review impaired’. Do give some suggestions of your own in a comment if you have them!

Tomorrow: an actual review of the book. Which I have to read before tomorrow morning. There go my plans to fix the pasture fence today!

 

Robert Treskillard’s web site: http://www.KingArthur.org.uk

There is a contest going on there. You could win Excalibur! Or a Kindle!

View/Buy the book on Amazon.com ($5.12 on Kindle):  http://www.amazon.com/Merlins-Nightmare-Merlin-Spiral-Treskillard/dp/0310735092/

Touring the Blog Tour Blogs:

I visited every single blog on the blog tour list (given below) and I commented on the ones that had their blog tour posts up already. There were a lot of good posts. And a lot of posts by bloggers who could use some encouragement— perhaps from YOU. I hope that everyone reading these words will accept the challenge and go down the list, visiting all the blogs and commenting. Today I am going to be revisiting some or all of the blogs, depending on how far I get in reading Merlin’s Nightmare.
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams