Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hard Times

In Hamlet, Claudius tells his wife "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." That often seems true in real life.

Within the last two weeks I have lost a friend and a family member. That makes writing difficult. You may have such times of sorrow, too - maybe not caused by deaths, but by discouragement and bad news: a rejected manuscript, loss of a job, illness, accident.

There's a lot lurking out there to ambush us, folks. So do you quit writing? Well, sometimes you have to take a pause. However, rather than just getting completely away from it, I prefer to keep a foot in the door.

So instead of writing new material, I take the moments I have (and sometimes there are very few of them) to read back over and tweak a small section of manuscript. Often I will note troublesome parts, bits that I worked over and still was not satisfied with. Those are the ones I revisit.

It helps. It helps take my mind off my troubles, and it helps the manuscript a little. Maybe it will or will not work for you, but it's worth a try. If nothing else, it's a time when I can read over my outline (no chapter is outlined at greater length than about half a page, single-spaced) and just let what is already done ferment a little in my mind and plant the chapter to come a little more firmly.

It's something to try as you fend off those battalions of sorrows that now and then attack us all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gary Kim Hayes, 1952-2013

Gary Kim Hayes, martial artist, husband of Linda, father of Heather and Zach, died on Tuesday from a sudden heart attack. He was a writer whose e-books in the Sleag's Quest series were doing well on Amazon, a helpful advisor on fight scenes, and an old and good friend of mine. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Long Slow Climb

You know, once in a while lightning strikes. Stephen King has often told of how, struggling to survive with a low-paying teaching job as well as part-time jobs, he was writing a book called Carrie, got discouraged with it, and trashed it.

His wife Tabitha fished it out, read it, and insisted that he finish it and submit it. At that point King had had no success at all trying to sell novels, though he was placing short stories in mostly low-paying magazines. This time, lightning struck: he sold the novel in hardcover, had an immediate and lucrative paperback sale, and it soon sold to the movies.

But, alas, Zeus withholds the bolts from most of us. The alternate route is the long, slow climb. You build a wall brick by brick. You build a career book by book. For those of us who like series, this means writing a book in a series, then writing the next, and the next....

First book will sell lousy. Most of the time, anyway. Second book will goose the sales of the first. Third will goose the sales of the first and second. And your career gains momentum.

It's hard, though, to slog through until the scale tips. It would be nice to get some of that juice from Olympus. If it doesn't come, then put another brick in the wall. Sooner or later, you'll be surprised at how momentum begins to build. And in the end, if you're persistent, you will find your audience.

Keep at it. Excelsior!

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Happens to all writers now and then. You sit down to get some work done...and can't think of the next scene. Or paragraph. Or sentence. Or,dang it all, the next word.

Writer's block they call it. What to do, what to do?

Well, I think you have to let the tanks fill up, for one thing. But don't let the time go to waste. Read what you have so far. Tweak it here and there. When you get to the section before you were stricken, read it once. Then go back and read it faster -

And jump!

You may launch yourself right back into the story.

However, don't confuse uncertainty with writer's block. Even if you've outlined your story (and I'm a compulsive outliner), you may not be sure that you're on the right track with your plot. If everything hangs up on you, your subconscious may be tugging on your elbow to suggest you may need to strike off in a new direction.

I often find that after a tough patch, one of the characters suddenly lights up for me. A minor player all of a sudden gets a break and becomes a star. Someone I'd been planning to kill off miraculously escapes. Or the opposite - someone I'm relying on to be in the last paragraph of the book suddenly drops dead and cannot be resuscitated.

At such times, go with the flow. Forget the outline. You may be on a better track now. And if you're not, if eventually you junk it and come back to the outline, you've got an interesting new character and maybe a good scene.

Worst comes to worst, sit there for an hour. Retype the last sentence you wrote. Do it again. And again. Fill the screen.

Finally, sheer boredom will break you out of the funk if nothing else will.