A week in the life of S.C. Barrus – Construction, Construction, Construction

This week got away from me fast. Recently I bought a house from the sixties, a ‘real fixer upper’ my four-year-old son calls it. It’s a great little house with a room for my office and a library. For real, I’m going to be able to tell people, “I’ll meet you in the library”, and it won’t be ironic :D.

But it is a real fixer upper. Over the last few weeks, I’ve torn out the kitchen, covered the ceiling in 1/4″ drywall, and managed a collection of contractors, cabinet and hardware companies, and dealt unfavorably with Lowes on more than a couple of occasions. I think it’s official, I’m a Home Depot man. First time those words ever came out of my… I was going to say mouth, but fingers I guess.

Luckily I have the help of a super knowledgable father-in-law and a kick ass brother-in-law who can do all the things. They’re each teaching me a ton. Not that I didn’t know nothin’. I was a laborer for a local custom home company called Boitano Homes for a few years and I know my way around a hammer — I did eight years ago anyway. Now I’m learning again.

This past week I’ve spent roughly ten hours sanding sheet rock, which I tell ya is a real pain in the eyes. I wear glasses, and something about the air flow around glasses sucks all the dust straight into my eyes. I tried goggles, I ain’t no dummy, but they quickly fog so you can’t see what you’re doing. So dust in the eyes it is. Yay!

Library, office. Library, office, remember that! You almost have it, you just need to build it. And maybe a place to hang my punching bag, and a pump track in the back yard…

Anyway, all of that to say that I’m behind on blog posts so I’m writing this off the cuff. I have two posts written, but I need to go through them before I post. First one will be on all of my writing progress in the past month and will feature an excerpt from my current chapter in progress.

The second one is more for reference. It’s on Editors, Beta Readers and what I call Alpha Readers. It’s pretty straight forward and on the nose, not meant to just be read for fun. Instead, when I talk about this awesome collection of people, I’ll reference this post for anyone who’s not in the know.

Last thing. Grim Curio is still making progress, but the work on the house is taking its toll there too. I think I wrote 14,000 words last month, so progress is probably around the medium mark. Nothing to feel bad about, but not super stellar either. I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want to finish drafting by end of November.

Creativity Juice: A Writers Playlist – 19 Hours of Great Writing Music

I’ve been building a killer writing playlist on Spotify for a year. I somehow created a 19 hour behemoth of music I can reliably count on whenever I need to get into the writing mood. Shuffle play, and instantly I get pulled into a more contemplative piece of mind.

It’s a mix of chill out, down tempo electronic, psychedelic post-rock, and movie and video game soundtracks. Almost all of the songs have a steady but relaxing beet and trance inducing rhythms. Few have any singing, and those that do feature the kind of vocals that blend with the music rather than drive it.

Below is the playlist. I called it Creativity Juice – A Writers Playlist. Look down further for a sample of some of the artists included. And if that doesn’t float your boat, scroll way down past that where I share some of my playlist creation wizardry tips. So good.

Listen to The Playlist

The artists include:

Want to give this playlist a test drive? Check out some of the artists.

Bonobo

Emancipator

Little People

Massive Attack

Efterklang

The Album Leaf

Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Interstellar

The Fountain

The Witcher

Bastion

Pyre

And Many, Many More.

What if you hate my taste in writing music?

Make it yourself! Below are some thing’s I’ve learned building a the perfect writing playlist for me. Feel free to give it a shot and before you know it, you’re going to be rocking your own masterpiece.

Add Songs Liberally

I like to add liberally. I start by picking an artist I like, listen to an album or two and add a song to the playlist every time I’m compelled to. Usually my criteria is to answer “will I ever like to hear this again while writing?” with maybe or greater. This builds your playlist quick, especially in the beginning.

Remove Songs Liberally

Once you’re listening to your playlist, you’ll quickly find that some of the songs that you thought would work just don’t strike the tone you want. Cut it as soon as you notice. Nothing is worse than listening to a playlist and skipping every other track. If you ever feel like skipping, just remove it instead. If you want, you can add it to another track later.

Utilize Recommended Artists

Once you’ve had your fill of any one artist, jump on a few of the related artists. I’ll generally give an artist I’ve never heard before a three song test. If I only skip one out of three songs in a row (adding songs I liked along the way), I’ll pick an album and listen to it from the beginning, otherwise I go back and pick again. Don’t just listen to their most popular tracks. Instead, pick an album and start from the beginning, adding songs you like as you go.

Listen While Your Not Writing

When you’re writing, the last thing you want to do is stop writing to manage a playlist. If a song comes on that you want to skip, if you’re like me you’ll just suffer through it unless it’s really grating. Instead, listen to your writing playlist when you’re not writing and remove the songs that aren’t working.

That’s all I’ve got. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a method that works for me. So what do you think of the playlist? If you listen to it during a drafting session, let me know how it went in the comments. If you’ve created your own writing playlist, feel free to share a link.

Eyes on the Future – Two Years of Writing & Publishing Goals

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

You can’t get far in life without a plan. Well, maybe you can, but I’ve never had much luck without it. When I try to pants my life, things tend to get missed along the way. Over the past five years, I’ve become more of a planner, plotting out points I want to hit in order to reach my goals.

After a few months of thought, I’ve created a series of goals for both the writing and publishing side of things and now I want to share these plans with you. The idea is: 1) as a reader of mine, you can have a clear view of what to look forward to in the future (yay!), 2) if you’re an emerging writer, you might be able to draw a bit of inspiration from my goals and learn from my mistakes to inform your own career.

Writing Goals

The following all center around projects I plan to begin and finish within the next two years. Let’s dive in.

1. Output – Write a book per year

First a soft goal. Many writers I follow have mentioned this magic number for building a career out of publishing, both trad and indie (read traditional publishing and self publishing). Most recently, Brandon Sanderson mentioned this goal in his Fantasy/Sci-fi college course which I highly recommend both for readers and writers.

This is a goal I think I can hit, as my writing output has increased dramatically since the first stage of my writing career. This might not be readily apparent to you, my reader, but give it a year and you’ll start to see the fruits of my labors as the books start hitting shelves with a regular cadence.

2. Complete Grim Curio by November

I plan on finishing a complete draft of Grim Curio soon. I wrote 35,000 words in 4 months, and that included a massive rewrite that halted progress for a full month and a half. Given my current output, I think November is a tight but realistic goal to hit, and I’ll keep you posted on this as we get closer.

Once the draft is done, I’ll do a full revision to make sure it’s as good as it can be on my own, and then I’ll send it out to beta readers (which will hopefully include you 😍). While Grim Curio is being shredded to pieces by you lot, I’ll start looking for the right literary agent while drafting my next project. Which leads us too…

3. Write The Gin Thief: Episode 2 by February 2018

The Gin Thief was the follow up to Discovering Aberration an episodic series of novellas I pitched via Kickstarter a couple years ago. It got funded to the tune of $500. Shortly after I published the first episode. A few weeks later stuff happened in my life, and as a result I stopped writing for two years.

The Gin Thief was the main casualty of this upheaval… apart from losing my entire marketing funnel and all the good will I’d built up with my reader base. Sorry about that. I’m working hard on fixing it as best I can.

For a long time, The Gin Thief has had this emotional brick attached to it that really weighed down my efforts to pick it up again, but I’ve finally worked past that. Now I’m ready to jump back in. I’ll write Episode 2 by end of February, and hopefully publish before summer of the same year.

From there, I plan on immediately finishing the series and publishing episodes regularly.

4. Write Discovering Aberration 2 by mid 2019

This goal is a year or two in the future, and things might change by then. Maybe Grim Curio takes off, and I have a larger Science Fiction fan base than a Steampunk one. In that case I’ll likely jump on another sci-fi work before revisiting DA2. So, while this goal may pivot at some point, the current plan is to follow up TGT with DA2.

After this, we’ll have to see. I have another story I’ve been thinking about writing which I think is technically categorized as Dream Punk (so many punk genres), but 2019 is a ways off, so other ideas might surface.

Publishing Career Goals

This section is for all the things I need to do that relate to my writing career, but aren’t directly writing novels. Mostly it involves communicating with my readers, and building an active reader base to launch future books to. In the end, you guys are what make what I enjoy doing possible.

1. Write a formal letter of apology to The Gin Thief kick started backers

Wow, it’s hard to publicly mess up and recover. Nobody has been after me about TGT stalling, no one is breaking down the door or anything, but I still feel terrible about the debacle. When I set out to launch TGT kickstarter campaign, I didn’t foresee the upheaval my life was about to go through, nor did I imagine that anything would stop me from writing.

Anyway, I’ve put this off long enough. It’s time to repair the damage. My next step before I do anything else is to write a letter of apology, update my backers on my plan, and then deliver. TGT will be completed, and I think I’ll be able to write a better series now than I could have before. Fingers crossed my backers take it well.

2. Rebuild my marketing funnel before Summer 2017

I used to be really good about building my mailing list which in turn did a great job of spreading the word of new releases and book promotional events. I had specific methods for readers to sign up for my mailing list from by website, blog, social networks, live events and book back matter. This was my funnel, and in the past couple years it’s fallen apart.

So it’s time to rebuild. In the coming months I’m going to:

  • Rebuild the website so its more than just a blog. On it I’ll include easy to discover links to my mailing list and a page dedicated to my books. It’ll look great, and be focused.
  • Update the back matter in all of my currently published ebooks.
  • Refocus my social media efforts to connect with readers and direct them to my site or mailing list.

Basically I’m going to take my online presences and revamp it one thing at a time.

2. Get back into the convention game

Back when I was at my most active, I would rent booths at three or four conventions a year, meet people, sell books, and build my mailing list. It was awesome, and I’d gotten pretty good at it. My goal is to get back into conventions in the Pacific NW (USA and maybe Canada) Summer of 2017.

Summer 2017 will be when I really start focusing on spreading the word, and a lot of that work will be around conventions. I need to have The Gin Thief: Episode 2 published before I do another convention for a few reasons:

  1. I won’t do another convention with just one novel to sell. I’ve done plenty of those, and they went fine, but for my next conventions I want at least three novels, plus some swag.
  2. I don’t feel right about pushing TGTuntil TGT2 is finally released. It’s been too long between episodes, and I don’t want people to feel swindled.
  3. Finally, more books to sell just equals better convention for lots of reasons. If someone doesn’t like the sound of one book, I can pitch the other. Also, there’s the chance that someone buy’s all three. When they do that, it’s easier to break even on the costs of renting a booth, getting a hotel, and traveling. Breaking even (and spreading the word) is my goal, making a profit is just icing.

3. Explore Traditional Publishing

I’ve done the indie thing a few times now, and I’m pleased with what I’ve done. I still plan to continue indie publishing TGT and possibly DA2. But I also want to see what the grass is like on the other side of the fence. That’s why I’m not planning on publishing Grim Curio myself.

There’s a few reasons for this. The idea of being a hybrid suites me. I’ll enjoy having other people take on some of the work, and I’d like to see my books have the opportunity to be more widely distributed. I also think that once this happens, my indie books and my traditional ones will build on each other, possibly cross pollinating two different groups of readers. Lots of eggs in lots of baskets feels like the way to go for me.

Conclusion

So that’s my plan in a nutshell. Stick with me through this crazy publishing journey and you’ll see all these things come to fruition. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but that’s ok. In the end, I’ll have more books published, more readers reading them, and more fun as I streamline my approach. I hope you stick around for the long term. If you see me falter, feel free to point it out either here on my blog, or on any of my social networks.

Until next time, keep on keeping on.

Building the Plot & Structure of Grim Curio

It’s been radio silence on my end for the past few weeks, which isn’t cool at all. So today I’m jumping back into the game, filling you in on what’s been going on in my world, and update you the production of Grim Curio.

Mo’ House, Mo’ Problems

Last month I bought my first house. Woohoo! It’s a bit of a fixer upper, and I’ve been doing a fair share of the work myself as well as juggling contractors, suppliers, and getting the whole furniture situation worked out.

This effectively destroyed all of my blogging and social media time which is why there’s been little coming from me lately. Worry not. My actual writing progress has been as good as ever despite the work. Setting aside two hours a day four or five days a week has become an ingrained habit. Social media and blogging, isn’t on that level yet. Maybe one day.

Grim Curio Progress

You may remember the major rewrite I undertook about two months ago. It was an attempt to better establish the setting, as well as shift from first to third person perspective and from past tense to present tense. That work has finally been 100% completed!

On top of that, there used to be quite a bit of stuff I’d written that I realized would never make it to the final version, but I held on to it for a long while. All the dead text has been stripped away. I ended up cutting around 15,000 words and adding around 20,000.

The result is a tighter, more immediate story that can effortlessly shift perspectives and weave an intricate plot. There multiple perspectives and several storylines that affect each other, subtly at first then more pronounced as the story progresses, and these changes made that structure much more natural feeling.

Plotting

When I first started writing Grim Curio I had beginning, middle, and ending scenes in mind, but nothing outlined. I simply started writing by aiming the plot in the direction of the middle scene, building future scenes in my mind as I went. Some writers call this method “pantsing it” or “discovery writing”, and it’s the way I wrote Discovering Aberration.

This worked fine for Grim Curio so far, in fact I think it’s the best thing I’ve written. But sometimes it’s nice to have a better idea of a slightly more granular view of where things are going.

Recently I read about one of Brandon Sanderson’s plotting techniques (then quickly began watching his writing course on YouTube). Basically he writes a list of his most important scenes, then adds bullet points as to how the characters will “earn” each of those scenes. The bullets points are then turned into their own scenes, and boom, he has a plot.

I’ve never been a fan of traditional storyboarding, but this method sounded great to me, so I gave it a shot. The result is the fully plotted story structure of Grim Curio. I have to say that I really like this method so far, we’ll see if that holds true as I continue to try it out.

Structure

Now that this plotting exercise is complete, I have somewhere between 40-50% of the story written. What’s done is the first act (which is generally the longest act in most stories). Act 1 is mostly a self contained story with a side plot which will build into the meat of act 2.

Act 2 introduces new characters (Tannea and Simon, two scientists experimenting with parallel universes) and a new conflict which will permeate the rest of the novel. James will be drawn into this conflict in a much different way than he was drawn into the conflict of act 1.

However, Nat (antagonist who’s had the second most screen time of all the minor characters) will be incorporated into this conflict as well, but her screen time will be shared by the newly introduced characters as well as the rest of the Sisterhood.

Act 3 will be a doozy. By act 3 I think we’ll have the final set of secondary characters established (namely the government officials who’s actions drive much of the conflict of the final act). The conflict will build on what came before in act 2, but the stakes will be much higher than at any other point in the story (as might be expected from the climax). I even have an idea of what the last few sentences of the novel might be.

Stay tuned for more.

Hopefully that gives you a peek into my progress without giving too much away. But there’s more I’ve been preparing aside from Grim Curio. Recently I’ve been thinking about my publishing career as a whole and what I can do to right the wrongs I’ve done in the past (ie. not finishing The Gin Thief). There’s a lot I have on my mind, and a lot of planning that needs to happen, all of which I’ll address in the near future. Till then, you all keep reading!

Themes of Grim Curio – Nihilism, The Absurd, and The Sacred is Dead

Themes are the underlying identity of a piece of fiction. In fairy tales, the prevailing theme is usually summed up in the final paragraph of the story. But in most fiction the theme is more of an underlying current, directing the reader to focus their attention of certain details.

Ambitious works may use their themes to try and persuade the reader to accept new ideas while others may seek to hide their themes in subtext.

I never set out to write with a message in mind. I have a story to tell, and a way I want to tell it, and themes arise naturally through the process. When these themes show their ugly head, I’m often caught off guard by where my themes land. But once I discover a theme, then I’ll hone it without judgement.

Discovering the Themes

There are a few themes surfacing in Grim Curio, and today I’m going to talk about one. Namely nihilism, the absurd, and the sacred is dead. Believe me, the prevalence of these themes kind of took me by surprise, as these are not topics I tend to dwell on, nor are the necessarily deep held beliefs of mine.

You might suspect that I’ve read lots of Friedrich Nietzsche (the dude who claimed God was dead), but in reality I haven’t. I’m aware of his philosophies enough to hold a conversation about them, but that’s it. Honestly, I don’t care about philosophy enough to study any viewpoint, I tend to fall in the ‘it’s a waist of time’ camp. BUT, when I write philosophy has a way of sneaking in, and all of a sudden I’m a part of the conversation. I’m going to touch on a couple of those themes. Let’s get started.

Nihilism, The Absurd, The Sacred is Dead

In a recently written scene, James (the protagonist) sneaks into a villagers house. A professor who’s been studying these villagers for years tells him not to enter the rear rooms, they are sacred to the villagers. To this James remarks, “All that’s sacred died centuries ago. All this (referring to the rooms and the hedonistic village ceremonies) is simply absurd.”

Grim Curio takes place during humanities last days on earth, and what remains is a constant struggle to maintain order despite the meaninglessness of simply surviving. There are varying degrees of this nihilism, from James’ simple uncaring to Nat’s (antagonist) outright disregard for human life.

Since The Calamity, a series of cataclysmic events (water, fire, radiation), religion as we know it has died. What remains are the beliefs in order, in a return to nature, in the progression of science, and in giving in to the end of the world and just dying already.

In order to maintain stability and allow the human race to survive a little longer, those who cling to the new warped version of nature live in ‘the fringes’, the edge of livable space, and their bodies have evolved to deal with their new environment. And those who strive for scientific progress believe that technology will eventually save humanity, despite the fact that it was technology that led to humanities destruction in the first place.

So what we’re left with is the absurd world of Grim Curio where everyone is right, everyone is wrong, and no one can see the other side’s point of view. Hey, kind of sounds like the 21st century to me. And then there are the hardline opposites, the nihilists, who delight in the end of the world and the eventual removal of humanity from the earth.

Conclusion

So that’s it for today. There are of course other themes that are showing themselves: man vs. nature, order vs. chaos, but they aren’t nearly as interesting to talk about as the ones above. If you enjoy these peeks behind the scenes of Grim Curio, I would love to see you share them. This blog is only a few months old, and readership is growing slowly but steadily. If we could give it a shot in the arm, that would be super duper. But if you hate these posts (and why are you still reading? weirdo) then don’t share, and go sit on a tack or something.

Grim Curio Writing Goals – A Deep Dive into the Ideas Behind The Process

When writing any work, it’s a good idea to establish goals. Some authors may focus their efforts on exploring the entire life of a character in a compelling way (Patrick Rothfuss and Name of the Wind). Another may focus on terse, expressive sentences and a relationship between father and son (Cormac McCarthy and The Road). Another may focus on exploring an interesting city and all the varied inhabitants therein (John Berendt and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).

Of course I can only guess if those goals were established by their authors. I haven’t talked to them about this or anything, but Pat, if you want some free coffee or beer, hit me up and I will gladly buy 😉. Either way, it’s a safe bet that these authors followed guidelines set up by themselves at some point during the creative process.

3 Novels Inspiring Grim Curio by S.C. Barrus

What are my goals while writing Grim Curio?

I’ve been considering my goals for Grim Curio for quite some time, and I have a pretty solid idea of what I want out of the book, at least in this stage of the process. Things may change, and that’s ok, but for now these are the driving So let’s dive in.

Minimalist style

A post apocalyptic world is a barren, caustic place, so the sentences should match.

Discovering Aberration by S.C. BarrusMy writing style morphs a bit from work to work. While writing Discovering Aberration my goal was to write as though I were a steampunk Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson love-child. I wonder what those two would think of that sentence. I believe form should match content. A post apocalyptic world is a barren, caustic place, so the sentences should match. This doesn’t mean writing as many three word sentences as possible, but I do like the occasional one or two word fragments for emphasis. The trick is not overdoing it.

The final thing I enjoy about minimalism is the rhythm. By the time I get to a third or forth rewrite, the rhythm and flow gets really established. It’s fun to establish a series of short and medium length sentences, then subvert that with a long, flowing thing that builds the scenes and expands the action. Then short again.

Relatable Antagonists

Like many disenchanted teenagers, Nat deals with harsh reality by destroying things.

One thing I loved about the novel The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson was the eventual relatability of the villain. There’s something special about a story where even the bad dudes give you the feels. I want that in Grim Curio, but in my own way. There are a few antagonists in Grim Curio, but one of the major ones, who is introduced in the second chapter, is Nat. She is a sixteen year old girl who’s still figuring out the world she lives in. Like many disenchanted teenagers, Nat deals with harsh reality by destroying things. It starts small, smashing windows, but what happens when she’s adopted by an extremist group?

If I do my job right, you’ll love her and hate her. You’ll want to give her a hug, or wish someone would shoot her. The same goes for my other, secondary antagonists, but in different ways. Each should be understandable, relatable, even when they’re doing something terrible.

Perdido Street Station by China MievilleStrange but familiar

All of the fantasy elements are grounded in an in-world science.

I’m a huge fan of weird fiction, like Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. I love the effect of making the strange feel familiar. Now I’m not attempting to dive as deep into the strange rabbit hole as Mieville. Rather I’m drawing heavy inspiration from how fantasy is portrayed in the anime (and manga I suppose, though I’ve not read it) MushiShi.

So how is fantasy incorporated into MushiShi? Very naturally. All of the fantasy elements are grounded in an in-world science. The Mushi themselves feel like an extension of our own reality, like slightly more fantastic bacteria, strange sentient swamps, or parasites that grant supernatural hearing that drives people to madness.

If you’ve read any of my snippets, you’ve probably seen similar things. Namely the disease in Clayton that afflicts children, causing them to scream in the sunlight, slowly eating away at their consciousness. I want these fantasy elements to feel like an extension of reality, strange but familiar.

Great things from small beginnings

James motivations are often selfish, but when the time comes will he abandon those selfish desires, or will he give in to nihilism and abandon meaning in life, abandon the will to continually struggle to survive?

There is a type of story where the protagonist begins with a relatively small task, and from that is sucked into an epic adventure. One example of this is the movie China Town (and many other film noir or hardboiled novels). In China Town the detective begins with a relatively small case that expands as he uncovers… why don’t you just watch the film, it gets intense.

In these stories, an often reluctant hero must escape his/her comfort zone and rise up to the challenge, otherwise the results could be disastrous. Grim Curio will take on a version of this. What begins for our protagonist, James, as a small case in an inconsequential village will escalate into a story of survival for the last city on earth and the entire human race. James motivations are often selfish, but when the time comes will he abandon those selfish desires, or will he give in to nihilism and abandon meaning in life, abandon the will to continually struggle to survive?

Conclusion

So those are my goals for Grim Curio as I see them now. They may expand or morph over time. Writing is an iterative process, and what seems to work in concept doesn’t always pan out in execution. So I suppose a last goal is more of a process one: to have the ability to roll with the creative punches, to abandon any goal that isn’t working for the story’s benefit.

That’s it for now. What do you think of these goals? Let me know in the comments, and we can continue the discussion there.

New Chapter – Read the Latest from Grim Curio

As of today, nine scenes now are available to read from my novel in progress Grim Curio. Read from the beginning, or start at this weeks new scenes. Ready to read the best dystopian novel of all time? Skip it and read Grim Curio instead!

Blurb

The world never ended. 500 years after three cataclysmic events, the last city on earth struggles to survive. Now it’s time to find a new home, on another planet or in another dimension, before humanity is gone for good.

The Pain! How a Surprise Root Canal Derailed My Week

What a week. How much writing did I scribe? None. Ok, maybe 300 words. It’s a terrible feeling when life gets in the way of producing art. I read that Friedrich Nietzsche was so sick near the end of his life that he couldn’t write for years. Imagine that. Terrible.

I didn’t write because of the pain in my jaw. I suffered for a week, losing sleep, staring off in a daze. When I sat to write, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the scenes. I’d type a few words, then drift into the pain again.

Finally I went to the dentist. Turns out a nerve in my molar was trying to resign from S.C. Barrus LLC. It wanted it’s benefits, so it complained until I let it go.

So I won’t have much to say this week. In fact, this is it. All the time I would usually spend blogging or scheduling my social network quips will be spent writing to make up for lost time. That’s all for today, I hope you’re week went better than mine. Till we meet again.

On Motivation: How to Keep On Writing No Matter What

When I talk about writing, the most common question I’m asked is, ‘How do you stay motivated enough to finish a novel?’  That’s a tough question, especially when talking to new writers.

Until recently, I never really thought about it, it was just something I did. But over the last month, I’ve been hyper aware of what keeps me going. This blog post is the result.

We create because we are driven to create.

So if you’ve lit the fire inside, if you need to create something great but find your mind drifting to other things, this post is dedicated to you. Hopefully a few of these points will help instill in you the drive to keep going no matter what. Don’t worry, we’ll have some fun along the way 😉

Passion

Passionate Gif

You’ve heard this before, but that’s because it’s true. If you’re not passionate about what you’re creating, how can you stay motivated? There are ways of course, maybe you’re guaranteed a fat paycheck, but for most of us that’s not the case.

The driving force

We create because we are driven to create. So before you dive head first into a project, find a way to check your passion barometer to make sure it’s something you could spend a year or two working on without sticking a fork in your eye.

You’re going to spend a lot of time writing this sucker, you might as well enjoy it.

Measure your passion

For my latest novel, I spent six month doing this. I had three novel ideas:

  1. a science fiction novel about a terminally ill man becoming the first true cyborg and the existential crises that follows
  2. a thriller where an estranged father kidnaps his son and the mother must track him down in the woods of the Pacific Northwest
  3. a post post apocalyptic novel of a man in the last city on earth who researches the unravelling of the universe.

Three very different books, three very different writing experiences, but each seemed equally interesting for me. So I devoted a couple of months to writing the opening to each of these ideas. When six months passed, I mulled over which writing experience I was most passionate about and landed on number 3 (you can read it here).

You don’t need to do this exact exercise for you’re next creative project, but I recommend seriously considering whether you’re idea will remain compelling to you six months, a year, maybe two or three years down the road. You’re going to spend a lot of time writing this sucker, you might as well enjoy it.

Temptation Bundling

Cookie Gif
Save those cookie til after you’re done writing.

Passion is important, but it’ll only get you so far. If you’re like me, then you’re human. As humans, we get easily distracted by shiny things like social events, entertainment, work, video games, chores, this whole internet thing, pick your poison.

Pick a temptation and regulate it so that you only partake during or after you’ve worked on your project.

So we get distracted for a day or two, and that stretches to a week, a month. Suddenly our passion project has become a task because we lost momentum. Our tour de force has become another chore. Time to get some psychology on our side.

Harness your temptations

Creative work can be hard and thankless for long periods of time. When the going get’s tough, you need a way to pull yourself back in. One technique I use is called Temptation Bundling, a trick I learned from the Freakonomics podcast.

The gist of it is: there are things you love to do. Video games, reading, podcasts, food, TV, etc. These hobbies can either overwhelm your creative energy, or empower it. Pick a temptation and regulate it so that you only partake during or after you’ve worked on your project.

Geralt from The Witcher Gif

For me, I love The Witcher 3. At the end of the day there’s little I’d rather do than dive into The Witcher‘s world and slay some monsters. But I don’t allow myself to do this unless I’ve sat down and spent some time writing.

Let the things you enjoy motivate you

Some days when I don’t feel inspired, I sit in front of the computer, write maybe 100 words, then turn around and dive into my monster killin’. Other days I get sucked into the story I’m crafting and The Witcher remains untouched. Either way, at least I’ve done something.

Recognition

Recognition Gif

I don’t know about you, but I thrive on recognition. I have a hard time writing in a vacuum. There are a few reasons for this. First, the feedback I get is invaluable to the quality of my writing.

Even when someone doesn’t know any literary techniques, they can still gauge when you’re story is interesting, when your characters are compelling, or when your writing is stilted or meandering.

Beyond this, just the knowledge of people reading my work is enough for me to get a little extra oomph in my motivation reserve. Harness this social desire to have your work recognized as a factor in your drive to create.

Get eyes on your work

There are lots of ways to get others to read and respond to your writing. Let’s explore a few of these methods to get you started.

/r/DestructiveReaders

I’ve written about the Destructive Readers sub-reddit before in my post .

This is a community of writers putting their work out there with the express intention of receiving a brutally honest critique. Nothing is as eye opening on the quality of your work as honest feedback from complete strangers. I find learning my weaknesses helps me improve my writing as I go, rather than when the piece is complete. Highly recommended.

Visit the sub-reddit here.

Accountabilibuddy, Butters from South Park
Hopefully your Accountabilibuddy experience doesn’t go as poorly as Butters did.

Accountabilibuddy

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend willing to read over drafts and drafts of your work for a year+, then take advantage of that as much as you can.

This is a tricky relationship to maintain, especially if it’s with someone you see on a regular basis. You don’t want to pressure anyone to read your work, because that can strain a friendship.

Still, accountabilibuddies can offer you motivation by telling you what works, what doesn’t, and by asking about your progress regularly.

For me, I like to spread this relationship around. I’ll share my writing with anyone who shows an interest, and then I’ll lay off and let them read it in their own time. Some people get back to me right away, others may take a month or two. Either way, be patient and understanding that they have a life.

When they do get back to you, gauge their enthusiasm. Try to see if they are holding back for fear of hurting your feelings, or see if their excited for the next part. Either way, you’ll know if you need to make changes, or keep on the path.

Wattpad

Wattpad is a website for writers to share their works. It tends to be serialized pieces and the audience skews pretty young. The pieces you share on Wattpad must start at the beginning and go through the novel in order, not so for the last two options. Finally, on Wattpad readers expect your work to be fairly polished, so this isn’t a good option for the early stages of writing.

Even given all this, Wattpad can be a nice place to get eyes on your work in progress. Readers often comment, and you can glean valuable insights into how your work is affecting them. Of the three ideas I’m sharing here, this is probably the least effective for motivation, but it works and it may build your audience too.

Visit Wattpad here

Moving on.

Substances

Boozing Gif

Ooooo. Controversial territory here. I used to drink while I wrote. I’d by a six pack of beer or a bottle of gin and dive in. I found my mind less encumbered, the barrier in my brain that might say, ‘don’t write that, it’s stupid’ would shut off. A sure fire win, right?

Making these things an integral part of your creative process will eventually end with you relying on it.

Unfortunately this led to me drinking whenever I wrote, and during extended writing sessions I’d drink a lot. Sometimes I’d get drunk and have to stop because I could no longer concentrate on the work. And I gained weight. And I’d feel like shit the next day. And soon the law of diminishing returns caught up with me.

The issues with substances as motivation

When drinking or pot or whatever is part of your motivation, dependency happens. Sometimes the substances begin to outweigh the writing, and your ritual devolves from writing with a glass of wine to drinking every night, to alcoholism.

There’s this image of the alcoholic (or drug addicted) writer, singer, artist that is romanticized in our culture. But in the long run, it doesn’t leads to better motivation, better work, or a better life. Don’t let drugs or alcohol become part of your routine as a writer, it won’t be worth it in the long run.

You don’t have to be a prude about it

Don’t get me wrong, I still drink on occasion, and have no issue with someone smoking weed. It’s legal in Washington state after all, and even before then I didn’t give a shit. But making these things an integral part of your creative process will eventually end with you relying on it. That’s bad news bears.

Next thing.

Writing/Life Balance

Weekends Rule

If you spend all your time writing, your writing will suffer.

Here’s the last bit, and maybe you weren’t expecting it. If you want to stay motivated as a writer, then ensure you’re still living. Don’t spend all of your time writing. You’ll burn out. You’ll miss out on the many awesome things life has to offer. You’ll lose the opportunities life provides to instill you with deep inspiration. If you spend all your time writing, your writing will suffer.

Great writers live full lives

Maintaining a balance in your life will not only keep you from burning out as a writer, but it will give you happiness and inspiration to boot.

I’ve heard some writers say that they need to write every single day without a day off. Maybe that works for them, but not for me. Don’t be afraid to take a night off every now and then.

I tend to remove the requirement of writing on the weekends. I may end up writing anyway, but it’s not something I’m setting out to accomplish. Instead I’ll be with my family, go out to Seattle, go mountain biking, exercise, practice Muay Thai, watch anime, read books, swing by coffee shops, take my kid to the park, life stuff.

Ok, so not entirely true. I write all my blog posts on the weekend too. So you caught me, I’m still writing, but the subject material is different.

Make room for inspiration to strike

Twin Peaks gif

Maintaining a balance in your life will not only keep you from burning out as a writer, but it will give you happiness and inspiration to boot.

Inspiration rarely strikes in front of the computer. It hits in the quiet moments of solitude when your mind is free to wander on its own. Inspiration sprouts while walking in the park, showering, laying in bed, driving, meditating, or just staring off into space.

Structure your weekends so that these moments are plentiful. Be lazy, enjoy the feeling of grass on your toes, watch the way leaves dance in the wind, or the way shadows fall. When you do this, you’ll find explosions of insight into your work will become an regular occurrence.

Participate in activities you can draw on

Do you know what it feels like to get shot? No? Yeah, me either. But I’ve dropped a knife on my foot (by accident) and I can draw on that experience when describing something different but related.

You can draw on these experiences and add a sense of realism to the things you’ve never gone through.

There are so many safe, fun, and controlled activities you can do that you can later draw on in your writing. Make sure you work these into your life, and while you do, contemplate on your experiences.

I’ve used the feeling of hiking off trail to inspire descriptions of exploring a jungle in my novel Discovering AberrationI used the experience of playing music at open mic nights to inspire characters in my unpublished novel Everything Else by the Wayside.

Do I know what it feels like to be chased by someone trying to kill me? No, but I do know how it feels to spare with trained fighter, get beat up, smacked around, and still come up on my own two feet.

I know what it feels like to ride jumps on my bike that I’m not sure I can land, and how it feels to unexpectedly crash.

I know what it feels like to be physically strained through strength conditioning classes. You can draw on these experiences and add a sense of realism to the things you’ve never gone through.

Make room for inspiration

Life provides inspiration in countless beautiful ways, from nervousness to love to pride and beyond. How can you write about those things if you haven’t lived them? Find the activities that speak to you, get out there and do cool shit, focus on the experience, and later distill it into words.

Closing Remarks

I hope you found this piece helpful. The topic of motivation has been on my mind for a while now, and I have more to say on the topic. If you want more, or if you have motivational strategies of your own, please let me know in the comments. And if you found this piece interesting, helpful, or just a little entertaining, please share on your favorite social network. Until next time.

Grim Curio – Two New Scenes Just For You

If you haven’t had a change to dive into my work in progress, Grim Cuiro, now’s your opportunity. Three scenes are up on Wattpad. Stop on by and leave a comment 🗨. Read it here.

About Grim Curio:

The world never ended. 500 years after three cataclysmic events, the last city on earth struggles to survive. Now it’s time to find a new home, on another planet or in another dimension, before humanity is gone for good.