novel writing

Full tilt into 2016 (and the dilemma of ego and resistance)

Two new contracts. Since I’ve taken up the Ray Bradbury short-story challenge, I took a contract writing short stories. I’m contracted to do one a week, so that should get me in the habit early-on.

Second contract was a feather in my Upwork cap. They’ve established a new policy where Upwork assigns an assistant to a new client. The assistant then helps them to find a contractor whom they believe will give the client a positive first-time experience. I was recently chosen as “that contractor,” and garnered a $3000 contract from it. Considering my total expenses for the month are under $500, you can see how this contract is a real boon. I will be ghostwriting a biography.

I finished my 22nd novella two nights ago, and as I said in my last post, that’s my last novella for hire. No more romances, no more cozy mysteries. If I return to those genres it will be because I have my own ideas for my own stories written under my own name.

New inspiration. After spending the last year and a half writing 30 – 40,000 word novellas, I realized I was quite unprepared to try to cram a story into 7000 words. So, I’ve begun reading short story collections in order to remind myself just how that’s done. I discovered eastoftheweb.com and was richly rewarded with stories which drew me in immediately.

I also bought the book, The Plot Machine: Design Better Stories Faster by Dale Kutzera yesterday. I haven’t delved into it yet, but the reviews convinced me it was just what I need.

The dilemma of ego and resistance. One of my writing dilemmas is that it is difficult for me to come up with ideas. Yet when I was writing for hire, I rarely liked ideas I was provided with. That can make it difficult. It could take me weeks to incubate a story, especially if it was something I was resisting.

My motto for several years now has been something Krishna said to Arjuna: “Resist what resists in you; become yourself.” I try to recognize when I’m resisting something and work to break that resistance. This last novella I did for hire was like that. It was one of those Billionaire Bride romances (my first and last), and I had such contempt for the subject matter. I finally was able to negotiate a plot I could live with, but I still procrastinated forever. I wrote the first 10,000 words haltingly. The second 10,000 came easier because I began to inhabit the story. I became those characters as I wrote.

I swear my ego can make things really difficult for me. I was so condescending about the story, that I realized I was subconsciously telling myself I couldn’t “lower myself” to write it. Once I realized that was what I was doing, I was able to overcome it.

I could barely believe it myself when I turned out the third 10K just a day and a half after the second. It took me about ten days to finish writing the remainder because I had character dilemmas to work out.

It’s done, and I think I learned more about myself as a writer during that last experience than ever before.

Resist what resists in you; become yourself.     Krishna

Taking up the Bradbury Challenge

From my personal blog: http://juliandeagreene.com/2015/03/26/learning-to-write-after-a-lifetime-of-writing/

Image courtesy of thaikrit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Little Known Factors that Can Affect Your Motivation

This has been a revolutionary year for me in terms of “writing my way out,” and 2015 will be a banner year. I want to speak to those of you who desperately want to write your way out, but you are so full of feelings of failure, remorse, self-recrimination, comparison to others, etc. that you are terrified that you won’t do it, and even more terrified that you will.

These “little known factors” are actually quite prevalent factors in modern society, but too often go personally unrecognized. We feel justified in our self-recrimination and self-flagellation, so we stay where we are, bound and unable to move forward.

This is NOT A PEP TALKI’m not going to give you 10 ways to motivate yourself or 14 ways to start over in the New Year, or even how New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. David Cain already did the latter in his Raptitude article, The Myth of New Years:
http://www.raptitude.com/2014/12/the-myth-of-new-years/
(P.S. He gives you a better solution than resolutions.)

Nope, this is going to be ripped from today’s headlines of my own life.

I began January 2014 with one desperate goal–to do something about my lifelong depression that had paralyzed me for far too many years. I was so psychologically crippled by it that I even applied for disability. Luckily, I was refused.

I went to my care provider and requested a mental-health appointment. My primary care provider had simply been giving me the same solution for over 20 years, and it just didn’t work for me. It took months–getting appointments, testing, evaluations, but, at last I had found someone who would listen to me. My first discovery was that the medicine I had been on and off of for more than 20 years was exactly the wrong medication, and that it actually exacerbated the problem instead of fixing it.

I have long been an alternative medicine person; I eat right, I take care of myself, but no matter what, or how many herbal alternatives I tried, nothing worked for my depression for very long. I tried so many therapies–positive thinking, positive affirmations, talk therapy. I was adamantly opposed to psychoactive meds, but my doctor finally got through to me and asked me to just try what he prescribed.

The diagnosis was ADHD and atypical bipolar (instead of huge highs and lows that would last for months on end, I cycled between high and low every few days, sometimes even every few hours). It was crippling me to the point where I couldn’t write. I couldn’t take on new clients or contracts because there would be days at a time where I was completely unable to work.

They were able to show evidence of my having had ADHD as a child. Since I grew up in the 60s, doctors weren’t diagnosing kids with ADHD then. Because of the way school was structured, and because I had an innate thirst for knowledge, I did pretty well in school, but there were other telltale signs of my childhood ADHD in my actions and lack thereof. This year they started me out on Wellbutrin which quickly helped concentration issues, but I was still my same irritable, anxious, completely unmotivated person. Well, I shouldn’t say completely unmotivated — I was typically motivated to begin several projects and then immediately would become totally overwhelmed and unable to do anything. That’s not a good thing when one’s livelihood depends on handling multiple projects at once.

By the time I went to the doctor last January, I was nearly in despair. Things got so low that by May I was no longer able to pay rent on my apartment, and I moved out in July, two months in arrears. Luckily, that’s just as the meds were kicking in. By July, the clouds lifted, the cobwebs blew away, and I felt “normal,” for perhaps the first time — well, maybe in my entire adult life.

The happy outcome of the mitigated depression this year was that I was able to fulfill a goal I had created when graduating from high school 40 years earlier — to write my first novel. My concentration and daily motivation soared, and in the last 6 months of 2014, I wrote 13 novellas: two romance trilogies, one five-volume set of mysteries, and two other romance novellas.

My writing goals for 2015 are to try out various genres. I have committed to writing a sci-fi story a week for a year (that’s right–52 stories). I also have some serious novels in my head, one historical, one literary, and one mystical, along with several novella series.

I have garnered better paying contracts as a result of my new-found wave of productivity, and my life circumstances have radically improved. With these contracts, I actually have time to do the paid work for living expenses, etc., yet I also have the time to work on my own stuff which I will market on Amazon.

I feel like I have it all: I’m living the minimalist, location-independent life I desire, following my bliss, and I’m healthy and happy.

Tell me of your own similar struggles and how you approached them, or how you think you might.

Letting Go: The 90 Day Turnabout

Good grief. It’s been 3 1/2 months since I’ve posted. Well, I, uh, have been writing. But I’m excited to share with you because I have found a new niche and ramped up my earnings to a livable standard. I’ve become a hack writer.

What? You’ve prostituted yourself, you ask. (That’s how several writers reacted today when I told them what I was doing.) But hey, there are no end to the authors in the literary canon who have made their living the same way.

I’m ghostwriting contemporary romances and cozy mysteries. So, my current earnings have just ramped up from $800 a month to $1400 a month, which is a good thing considering my monthly expenses are about $1200.

Several writers sniffed and turned away. But you know what? I got a frightening dose of reality a year ago when I went into a Walmart in an unnamed small town in Northern California. Every-single-store-clerk was about my age. The looks on their faces told the real story–not a single one of them was enjoying what he or she was doing.

I remember having this sick feeling and wondering if I would ever have to do that. But I would guess that the $1400 a month I’m making equals or is more than a single one of them are making at Walmart. And my quality of life has vastly improved.

I wake slowly in the morning, lie in bed for probably an hour before I get up, just feeling the cool breeze and listening to the birds outside my window and other, more distant farm sounds. I slip into my clothes and put on a pot of coffee. Then I go out and feed my goats. I do some weeding, gather the morning’s bounty of purple beans and tomatoes, offer the weeds to the goats. By the time I get back in, the coffee is almost ready. (Yes, my coffee pot is old and slow, like me.) My partner gets up and we spend about an hour talking about our dreams, rehash a movie we might have seen the night before, or discuss the latest headlines. Then we discuss our writing plans for the day and get started.

I love the feel of the day stretching out before me–nowhere to go, no one expecting me, no “job” to dread. I get to spend as many hours as I want that day — sometimes as few as 2 or as many as 12 — writing. The only stricture I put on myself is a strict deadline for my writing. If I don’t have one, I will dawdle terribly. But having had ADHD all my life, I’ve come to enjoy deadlines.

Yes, we’re living in a 5th wheel. No big deal. I’m a minimalist anyway. Once I found out how freeing it was to not have “stuff,” I wanted to downsize even more. Right now, a move takes 2 carloads. Our goal is for it to be a single carload the next time around. (If there is a next time.)

Right now I can’t imagine being here for an entire year, only because I’ve never lived an entire year anywhere in the last 6 years. We keep trying to find our perfect paradise. I think we have at last realized that paradise doesn’t have to be perfect. We are on 4 acres. The owner has told us that the front two acres are ours to do with as we want. That’s why we’re here. The last place we lived was 5 acres, but only about 1/4 acre was usable, and that 1/4 acre was completely bare. Nothing. We were surrounded by saguaros and chaparral and the most gorgeous of Arizona sunsets. But when I tried to imagine becoming self-sustaining there, I was desultory.

I know it is done (I’m familiar with creatio ex nihilo), but it is largely done through modern conveniences and technology. When people first started to settle in Arizona, whether you want to talk about the Native Americans or the early white settlers, they settled along rivers. They didn’t expect to go out into the middle of the waterless 110 degree desert landscape and survive. That’s why there were very few people here before the invention of cooling systems.

But now we live where there is lush grass and 65′ trees. I’m a mile from the San Pedro River. There are already animal shelters on the property to which the owner has told me I could help myself. I want chickens, and milk goats, and permaculture. There are many inconveniences here. I’m finding out just how far my idealism goes. Let me rephrase that: there are many challenges here. But heck. When I was fuming the other day after blowing a fuse, my partner clucked his tongue and said, “What would the pioneers have done?” ‘Nuff said.

Okay. I’m getting WAY off topic. I want to tell you how I came upon my good fortune. We got our feet wet a few months back when we took on the re-writing of an existing published series and the writing of the final book in the trilogy. We discovered that we CAN do more than business writing.

Then my partner got a contract offer to write a contemporary romance. The money was good and we were in need, so he snatched it up. A moment later he turned to me and said, “What the hell was I thinking? I just agreed to write a 30,000 word novella in 14 days, and a contemporary romance at that! HELLLLLLLP!!!”

At first we were going to collaborate on it, but since he is still finishing the last of the aforementioned trilogy, he didn’t see how he could do both. So I agreed to do it. What was I thinking? I had never written more than a few fiction scenes, other than the unfinished novel I wrote for my MFA (30 years ago), and I’m not a fan of pulp romance.

So, here’s the cold hard truth. Three months ago, I came to the conclusion that I just didn’t have what it took to write a novel. I envied my novel-writing friends, but contented myself with the thought that I was really good at the writing I did, and there seemed to be a demand.

As so many other times in my life, I found that when I completely let go of something, that’s when the thing I really want happens. But it seems it can’t just be a nod toward letting go. I have to come fully to the realization that it’s okay that it’s not going to happen.

Then suddenly, a novel project was dropped in my lap. Well, no time like the present to get to work, and no better motivator than needing to eat and pay rent. (I say “no better” because there certainly are more noble motives, but none quite as insistent.)

And that was it. I wrote the first book, she accepted it and hired me (er, rather, my partner) to write two more books in the series. When I completed that, she hired me/him for a second series, and now she’s hired me for a different type of series.

I have never been happier with what I do in my entire life. Beckett, Faulkner, London, Kerouac and many more besides made their living doing hack work to stay afloat while working on their own works as well. I’m in very good company.