Search

QuestingAuthor

One click away from another world…

Category

inspiration

Guide to Mastering the Muse (And the following crash)

  Authors love to complain about why writing is hard and this is a scientific fact. If you’ve ever sat down to write a story in any way, shape, or form, thoughts similar to this one are bound to have come across your head. Often we wake up scared of the possibility that we won’t be able to pay our daily writing quotas. And when we fail to complete these we put ourselves down and slink into an indefinite depression. If these feel like the majority of days that we experience as writers, then that’s because they are. And while the harvest of our craft is enjoyable, the same cannot always be said for the act of sowing it.

But that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. Today our subject is slightly less pessimistic. Slightly.

You’ve probably felt it only in full moons during the Winter Solstice. You probably thought it was what writing would feel like when you first practiced the craft. And to this day you no doubt loathe it for feeding your brain with false promises.

Oh, that’s right, fellas, today we speak about none other than the Muse and a few methods of taming it to work in your favor!

THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO ENSLAVING YOUR MUSE:

1. Make sure that you are aware that the Muse will leave you soon:

Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re excited that you can actually enjoy writing your novel again. And cheers to you for reaching that “high” stage of inspiration. But there’s one caveat  that will be detrimental to your development as a writer if you don’t master it.

The Muse is not going to be around forever.

I know you feel like you’re the King of the World right now and that you can finish writing five novels in one day, but don’t get ahead of yourself. One of the biggest mistakes that we make as writers is to convince ourselves that our work is only worthwhile when we

acceptance-968459_960_720.png
It’s not enough to hesitantly tolerate that the Muse will leave, we must embrace that fact

have the Muse. And at the beginning, it may all seem fine and dandy.

Day after day you’re just pumping out words like rabbits pump out their offspring. Every sentence is finely tuned down to even the smallest letter and the pacing is smoother than even the most expensive brand of butter you could find at your store. Every idea is coming to your mind. You feel as though you’ve finally been able to achieve that image of your story that you’ve had bubbling up in your head since you first started writing. Your characters act in the ways that you desired them to and they develop down the arc that you’d planned in your outline. Your story could never be better than what you are currently writing in this moment! This is the pinnacle of your achievement! But we all know that these stories end tragically…

The next day you wake up and that scene that had you so psyched up previously has gone a bit slower than you remembered it. Perhaps it was nothing, and all you need to do is start writing so the Muse can return to you. But the words just aren’t coming.

You tap to your heart’s content, but nothing in what you’re writing strikes you off as being better than the previous day. When you write that other tragic scene, it feels clunky and cringy when compared to the majesty of a similar scene you crafted before. Your characters start to disobey you and their character arcs begin to stagnate, yet you can’t focus on fixing them. Your mind only drifts to those sublime moments of character development that you had written before.

And this is natural.

We love to take whatever chance we have to criticize our own work. To the point that sometimes I believe writers to be inherently masochistic! Which is why we need to learn that we can’t rely on the Muse to make us happy about our writing. That mindset only ends up destroying us on a mental level.

2. With the previous point in mind, MILK IT, MILK IT, MILK IT, UNTIL THE MUSE DIES

We’ve faced the facts. We don’t know how the long the Muse has come to stay with us. There are occasions when the Muse remains with us for a week, others for a day, and more often than not, it can just stay there for an hour or two. Which is why we need to suck out every ounce of inspiration that we can from the Muse before it leaves us.

It baffles me how often I fail to take advantage of what would seem to be the most valuable guideline on this list. Sure, there are days where the Muse decides to show up and I’m physically unable to write, which is understandable. It would be foolish to assume that every author is in a position that they would be able to write in every single day that they lived. But what’s unforgivable are the days in which I am in my fullest ability to take advantage

Hand_milking_a_cow.jpg
Your Muse is to you as a cow is to a farmer

of the Muse…but I still don’t!

I get that writers are procrastinators and all that, but it’s not like we’re talking about any run-of-the-mill writing session either. The Muse is a luxury that most writers struggle to achieve, and we don’t even try to use it sometimes!

It’s like being handed a sack of gold that you’re allowed to spend only in one day, and despite this, you decide only to sit at home and play video games. The worst part is the realization of all the opportunities that you squandered by ignoring the Muse. You knew it from the first place yet you still ignored it!

The Muse is a chance to at least double your word count! It’s the chance to make scenes that will need so little editing because of how good they already are! So milk that Muse!

  3. Milk the Muse, but remember to brace yourself for the crash

It’s a sad fact of life that only keeps getting truer as time goes by, good things don’t last forever. The Muse is going to vanish when you least expect it, and just knowing that it won’t last forever is not enough to

download (10).jpeg
Similar to this. Except that instead of you dying, it’s your inspiration

undo the effects.

You also need to be aware that you will feel like the lowliest and most pathetic excuse for a writer by the time that the Muse is gone. Every word that you utter is going to be pure drivel in the face of your previous mastery of language. And I can spout every single shred of advice that has ever been posted on the internet for dealing with accepting your writing, but you will ALWAYS feel bad. It really is inevitable, and the most that you can do is to mitigate it.

But when I mean mitigate, I don’t mean just placing a band-aid on an old bruise. I mean covering yourself in bubble wrap while inside a full set of plate armor and jumping off of Mount Everest.

The Crash is going to HURT. and it is going to HURT BAD. And the worst part is that you don’t know how long it’s going to last. Maybe it only takes a day for you to recover into your normal writing attitude, perhaps even a week…or two weeks…three? By this point it all becomes a war of attrition and you need to accept that you’re at a disadvantage. But a disadvantage does not mean that you can’t scrape your way out of it.

Those precious memories that you have of enjoying your writing are going to be the key for you to claw out of the ditch that you just fell into. When you tell yourself that what you’re writing is trash, remember those moments in your novel that you loved writing, remember the tips that I’ve given to you, and never slow down your writing.

I know that you’re all bummed out and you feel like not writing that much anymore, but don’t stop. There are only rare occasions that you would need to take a break. And almost every time that your mind says that it wants a break from writing, your mind is trolling you. You must internalize that loathing your work is a part of the writing experience. And once you do that, the bruises that you accumulate after losing the Muse will grow to be less every time. You’ll never escape the crash unscathed, though.

***

   The Muse is a tricky subject to handle, especially when one takes into consideration the almost mystical element that we give to it as writers. But when it gets down to it, we can find distinct patterns in it when we search closely, and the sooner that we recognize these, the sooner we can master the ways of the Muse. This has been the QuestingAuthor, and as always, keep writing.

This is an older post of mine that I personally feel didn’t reach as many people as it should have. I’ve always liked this post, and would go as far as saying that it confounds me on how it didn’t gain that much traction at first. However, with my new followers, I feel there are some tips here you’d like to see. I hope you find something you like!

My next post will also be a recycled one from the past, mainly because I’ll be out camping this weekend. Afterwards, we’ll resume with our usual routine of “witty” humor and snarky writing advice. Toodles!

– A certain QuestingAuthor

 

 

 

3 Guidelines on How to Manage Inspiration

A rare event has happened. And by rare event, I truly do mean rare in the most sincere sense. So rare that I have no doubt in my mind that the stars are realigning themselves as we speak. But what is this rare event you ask? Well, it’s just so happens I’ve fallen in love with my book again.

Now, now, I’ll do you all the favor of toning myself down a bit. Chances are, this state of being won’t last for too long. That’s just the nature of the Muse.

But nonetheless, it goes without saying that I am in a state of ecstasy. And knowing that this state of ecstasy is as fleeting as it is, I’ve scrambled toward my laptop to compile an article for you motley crew of wonderful degenerates. 😀

Getting back to the subject at hand, being able to love the book again is a sensation that a writer scarcely comes across more than a few times in the process of drafting. Wordsmiths can be so pessimistic at times that they aren’t aware of the numerous opportunities that they ought to be taking advantage of while in this state. Just think about it!

Fellow writers tell us that the most important realization we could ever make about our hobby is that we’ll end up hating the book we’re making at one point or another. They tell us to brace ourselves, to be willing to write garbage, and to force our posteriors down on our seats even when we really just want to be done with it all. And there is much truth in this advice.

The hardest part about writing is certainly those long periods of time were you dread the thought of even seeing your manuscript. And it goes without saying that much–if not most– of the advice that we dispense should be focused on getting prospective authors through this road block.

But due to the excessive focus we have on the worst parts of writing, I find that we are at a loss when we actually feel confident about out work. The days we start typing up our manuscripts and find words coming into our minds that were originally not there or plot holes being sown together with ease, we are left dumbstruck. Sure, we’re all happy and giddy that things are going well for us, but we don’t know what to make of it.

So I thought I’d compile three pointers as to what you’d expect to try to do on those scarce occasions that you find yourself enjoying your writing.

1. Try to Exceed your daily goals

Now, I know that this seems contradictory when you take into account my previous post, but I never said that word counts were entirely bad. I just felt that they shouldn’t be held to that almost religious standard that many writers hold them to and the same should be said for all daily writing goals.

That being said…

You should really consider writing just a tad bit more than you’re used to. And I don’t mean to imply that you’re a lazy writer (that would just be me projecting my own faults on to you). But let’s be honest. Most of the time, since we hate our novels, we just want to be done with our sessions.

This could be for countless reasons. Maybe you’re sick, maybe you’re tired, maybe you’re emotional on that day, or as far more usual, you’d rather partake in the constructive act of scrolling through your social media. But in the case of regular days, this is understandable.

It’s very easy to get burnt up when we’re not so hype about our books. After all, why would you bother to put yourself through the mental agony of writing when you could just be lounging on a sofa and doing something fun!

But the paradigm shifts when it turns out that you’re getting the muse. For the first time in forever, you feel like you could actually have fun during a writing sessions, and by all means, have AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE.

Think about it. It might another month or so before you get an opportunity like this again! So while you have the mental capacity, force yourself to do more!

2. Experiment when you were afraid to do so

Chances are, that ideas are cascading out of your mind faster than you can even keep track of them. Plot points, plot twists, character revelations, tidbits of world-building, new characters, a piece of prose, and countless others will start assailing your mind for space in your story. And if there was ever a time for you to unleash these ideas, it would be now.

Who knows if you’ll have the willpower to go with the idea that you’re thinking about without the muse? Who knows if you’ll even remember the idea once the Muse has left you? Your creative juices are coursing through your veins at this point!

It’s your duty to give them an outlet!

Let those brimming ideas pour into your novel, because even if they sound ridiculous or might change the structure of the story, they might end up becoming key elements during revision. And if you’re afraid that they’ll just end up as a garbled mess, then don’t be afraid! This is only the first of many drafts–hell, you could do this same thing by the seventh draft for all I care!

So let the words flow from your fingers, and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up coming up with a gem like no other.

3. Read this article

Yeah, yeah, shameless self-promotion. Believe me, I know. But this is an old article of mine that I feel is very relevant to the subject matter. It concerns three basic truths on how the Muse works with you.

In there, I go into more detail about what i mean by the Muse, but the most important part is when I talk about accepting that the Muse will go away. I think it’s a good fit with what I’m trying to convey here, so I’d urge all of you to give it a looksie.

***

In short, the Muse is the most mystical element of the writing process. It comes rarely, and when it does come, it could go away in just the blink of an eye. So if you find yourself feeling pumped about your book for true reason, then keep in mind the pointers I gave you in this post.

So what about you guys? Have you felt the Muse come to you? How do you feel about your novel while you read this post? Do you love it? Hate it? Is it a Love-Hate relationship? Feel free to type down in the comments below!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Writing under Candlelight

Greetings, readers! I’ve returned to my computer after having experienced two days of an electrical blackout on my island! It’s been a rough few days, and save for being able to catch up with my current reading, there was very little of anything that occurred within the span of those days.

Being the freak that I am, I spent much of the day brooding within the dark solace of my room, as my computer had run out of charge and I’d been suffering from Manuscript Separation Anxiety (MSA). It was a very severe case. My fingers itched to get back to their usual round of typing and the story arcs I’d been so anxious to write had slowly begun to erode like a thin mist within the realm of my imagination.

Suffice to say, I was miserable.

A part of me had hoped to finish up the next fragment of “A Price for Dead Men” (“A Price for Dead Men” Part 1“A Price for Dead Men” Part 2) but I was unable to access the internet for a period of time longer than five minutes.

And so there I was, the miserable little wretch that I am, writhing upon the floor of my dwelling while my creative juices drowned me due to not being released on the canvas of a Word document. In due time, I’d lost all hope in my writing–I thought I’d lose track of all the content I had planned for the week (Which to a certain extent, was what happened), but then it hit me. For the first time in a few months, I was reminded that there were other avenues for writing than my laptop. So having no other options, I scoured through the drawers for a notebook so I could write in the same way I had started my first novel.

By hand.

My posterior firmly planted on my chair, I thought on what kind of story that I wanted to write, and when the idea came to me, the words flowed from my hand. My stylus waved around in curling patterns as I formed the letters of the words that made up my story. The sentences came to me with a clarity that I had not felt for months since I’d started work on my main WIP, but it felt natural.

For a good few hours I remained on my seat as the story unfolded before me, and the first bars of darkness started to creep into my room from the windows. Writing from the notebook meant that there was no shine coming from a monitor to tell me what was being written, instead I only had the faint flickers of a candle I’d set on my desk to guide me. Shadows danced along the lines of my paper, and the lead tip of my pencil was obscured in a darkness that had soon engulfed my room. Yet I continued to write.

A sentence here, dialogue there, and a little rhyme to add spice to the story, sthis was how I labored onwards. I had to squint my eyes every-so-often, but I was enjoying myself. It shouldn’t have been any different from the days that I write on my laptop while being able to see everything clearly, yet there was something in the atmosphere of my room that made writing different. I was like a monk copying down an old historical tome with a quill, while tempests and thunderstorms roared from outside the walls of my monastery.

It only goes to show the effect that the place you write in has on you. I can tell you for certain that It’ll be a while–and I mean a while before I have an experience like that ever again. So if it doesn’t interrupt your schedule, I’d recommend all of you to write on a notebook every now and then, and maybe set the mood with a candle or two while you’re at it.

The story in question is in the form of a small fable, and also one of the few tales I’ve written in first person. I plan on releasing it on this blog with my next post, after revising it over the course of the weekend. I hope you had fun listening to this little anecdote of mine, but that only begs the question…have you ever had a “magical” writing experience?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Go Out and Live

For the writer, it can often feel that the very novels that they write are limiting. As wonderful and whimsical as being transported to that world inside of your mind can be, we have to admit that it can stunt out creativity at times. Just think about it, you, entering your own pocket dimension of creativity that only you know and that only you are able to comprehend despite it’s chaos. It’s a whole journey we have to take on, while we’re alone! And being the brave adventurers that we are, we just love venturing into these unknowns that reside within our minds and trying to decipher them. Trying to piece together that puzzle we like to call our imagination.

We wade deep into it. Trudging through bogs of uncertainty and flailing our arms to keep away that mist that’s blinding us. On occasion, we manage to  clamber out of these 1024px-mount_olympusswamplands and into the pinnacle of greatness. We’re lifted up to a summit whose crags pierce through hazy clouds into a pure blue sky. We soar in our glory, until we reach the dwelling of the powers that be, only to be given gifts of ambrosia and a banquet to our names. We laugh, we cheer, we dance, we sing, and we gorge ourselves with the fruits of our perilous journey.

Yet this is rarely the case.

Instead, we often lose our footing and our legs are swallowed by the filth of the marsh. The sloshing mud turns our boots into anvils that we can barely lift an inch off the ground, and the mist turns to steamy vapors that burn our eyes and leave us blind to whatever path we have. Unbeknownst to us, we begin to lose the drive to move forward. That mystery that can only be solved by our minds begins to bore us while we stumble in the marshes. What had once been a journey meant to change your life has now turned into a chore.

Where you had once seen progress, where you had once seen innovation, where you had once seen change, there now lies the exact opposite. Instead of progress you have regress, instead of innovation you have stagnation, and instead of change you see only decadence. The kind that fails to fdownload-37inish its journey and the kind that wallows in the dredges of the marshlands. Us.

Who else could there be to blame save for ourselves? After all, we’re the ones that chose to undertake the journey. And we’re the same fools that were convinced they could actually finish it. We might as well stop now–there’s no use in continuing after all, so why bother? And so we let ourselves sink further down into those lonely marshes, where no one would ever be able to find our bodies…

Writing should not be like this. I’ve spoken about detachment to our worlds in the form of The Creative Schism, but there is such a thing as being too attached to our books. And this can be just as dangerous.

Our worlds, as detailed as they might be, can get just as mundane as good old Earth can feel like on occasion. When we cram ourselves inside of it for too long, we lose that sense of uniqueness and even the integrity of the worlds that we create. And before we know it, they’re just as bland as that world around us can seem to be. We lose the “magic” or the “pizzaz” that got us writing in the first place.

Which is why we need to learn to detach ourselves from our books to a certain extent. To keep half of ourselves in the real world and the other half within our stories. When the world of our books loses its flavor, feel free to take a walk, or maybe go out somewhere. Remember, the experiences that we write are always downstreamed from experiences we’ve had ourselves or that we’ve seen others go through. The sentences we craft do not exist in a vacuum from reality, in fact, each of them has a direct link to our world that we need to acknowledge.

I’ve been feeling really “stuck” to my WIPS and even this blog for that matter. It can be hard to write about anything if you don’t go out and do some living. And don’t just do it for the sake of your writing, do it for your sake as well.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Do some living, my friends.

 

Take That Risk

What is that one scene you’ve thought about adding that could end up throwing the story out of whack? What’s that one conversation that could alter the very core of one of the most important characters in your book? What’s that one chapter where everything breaks apart at the seams? If this reminds you of any moment in your book that has yet to be written, then why haven’t you done it yet?

It’s the very dilemma that confronts all kinds of writers that have stumbled on to a road block of sorts. We often want to decide between being bogged down with our novels, or taking a risk that could potentially send the First Draft swerving in the wrong direction. When you write, it can feel like you’re on one of the most boring road trips in the whole of your existence. It can feel like you’re sitting in a car for hours upon hours while that annoying cousin of yours keeps bugging you to play road trip games with him. It feels like that grating sensation that stabs at your ears when someone tries to get everyone into singing a song inside of the car. All the while, you’re just looking out of the dirty window of your van, as a featureless desert scrolls past you.

But what if you’ve been thinking about it from the wrong perspective all this time?

What if you weren’t taking an extended road trip? What if your cousin wasn’t even riding with you? What if you realize that it’s not even another person that’s in control of the steering wheel–rather the person in control is you. And what if I told you that you weren’t even on a road trip to begin with?

Your eyes are poking out of the tunneled vision of a helmet, and your gloved hands wrap themselves around a decorated steering wheel. You look down at your attire and realize that you’re being sponsored by all kinds of restaurants, drinks, perfumes, colognes, and corporations. Your heart skips a beat when three blurs zoom past you at speeds that you can’t make out upon their exit.

Lowering the window of your car, you gaze out to find that you’re in the middle of a massive race track, and a dozen others cars swing past you at a moment’s notice. You’re a race car driver, and you’re about to lose the Grand Prix.

You had started the race without any qualms and you had no issues with leaving the rest of your rivals to bite the dust. But for some reason, you decided to slow down, and now they’re gaining up on you. You’re on cusp of reaching the finish line, but a choice looms over you. Will you continue at your current speed, hoping that your close distance will account for your lacking velocity? Or will you press your foot against the pedal, risking an accident or two in your attempts to get to the end?

You, and only you, are in control of your story. No one will tell you at what rate you should be writing, and no one will direct your course or tell you which path is safe. It’s your choice alone. Will there be bumps on the way? Don’t even kid yourself–of course there’s going to be. Hell, not even bumps. Fractures and gashes are the least you’ll be getting out of your mistakes. It’s not an easy choice, but one you need to make right now, as you read this post.

Will you play it safe until you hate everything about your novel? Or will you take a risk and venture forth into the unknown?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Embrace Your Trash

Here at QuestingAuthor, we enjoy reminding all those aspiring novelists that their first work is going to be trash. We have mentioned it countless times in our past articles with regards to bringing inspiration and aid to those that seek to venture into the trenches of the writing process. We try to get across the message that your first draft will probably feel like a pile of horse dung, we even diagnosed a disease that has to do with this.

But the question may yet linger in the minds of some of you. Why do I insist on being so cruel and unrelenting to you?

Do I secretly relish in the fact that you agonize over the quality of your work on a daily basis? Do I seek revenge to have other people feel what I feel when I sit down to write? Do I wish to stomp out the competition by discouraging an entire generation of young writers, only to grow a monopoly in the publishing industry? While all of these questions may

Radio_copyright_problem_cartoon_-_Radio_News_May_1925.png
I am the smug aristocrat, that enjoys watching commoners like you in suffering

share in a fragment of truth every now and then, my main reasoning for this is leagues beyond in complexity.

I’m not the first person to tell you that it is important to accept that your writing will be trash. In fact, there’s a huge chance that you’ve read, heard, or seen multiple other people who have told you the exact same thing. Many of these individuals would paint the trudge and struggle of the first draft as being an inevitable tragedy that one must tolerate in order to complete their works. And to a certain extent, they have a point.

The first draft is certainly a massive struggle and can be profoundly tragic at times. With the rollercoaster of emotions that one feels during the writing process, I wouldn’t blame a novice for regretting all of their choices instantly. The first draft, like all writing, is an uphill battle. And also as with all writing, you are at an embarrassing disadvantage. This grants the experience of writing a first draft a bit of a melancholic underpinning to it, that could understandibly be something that we dread as wordsmiths.

January_Suchodolski,_Bitwa_pod_Somosierrą.jpg
Yes, I know it’s the tenth time I’ve used the uphill battle metaphor. And no, I’ve no intentions to stop  

But that’s only one way to look at it.

You could choose this way of thinking and still go on with this writing life of yours like it was nobody’s business. Or you could choose to adopt an alternative, and conversely, more optimistic perspective with regards to your trashy draft. Namely, my perspective.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. A good chunk of the sentences that you spent hours typing away are going to cut out of the final product. Yes, we obviously know that you’re going to end up fixing most of the description throughout your unpolished manuscripts. Of course, we know that your characters are not as compelling as you would have wanted them to be. All of these things are truths that should be basic to us. But we shouldn’t view these with dread, sorrow, or misery. We should approach these with a brimming smile on our faces, and the determination to move forward.

Just think of all those cringy scenes that you made in the original text. Think of those awkward pieces of dialogue that were more suited to an erotic novel than your work of fantasy literature. Think of those redundant metaphors and similes that you recycle whenever you run out of things to say. Think of those combat scenes that were as

download (2).jpeg
Think of all those bad scenes as a diary you updated in your youth. Sure, it’s angsty as all hell, but it’s an undeniable part of yourself

engaging as a random encounter in Final Fantasy. Think of those villains that were too hammy, those protagonists that were bland, those generic places you wrote, and the list goes on! You can choose to look at these in shame. You could make the choice to scold yourself for lacking in creativity. Or you could whip out your manuscript, face that novel you’ve been working on and…

Laugh.

Laugh at those cringy moments, that suggestive dialogue, those pretentious uses of figurative language, those boring combat scenes, and everything else. Just laugh at them. Laugh and smile when you see them.

Because at the end of the day, a part of you is going to end up missing all those poorly written scenes. Those are scenes that are going to end up as memories that you can look back on with a smile. I would endorse you to start having fun while you write these bad scenes! Because that’s the beauty of your very first draft. The first draft is the purest expression of your artistic desires placed on paper, your trashy first draft is the manifestation of your raw potential, and that trashy first draft can be pimped out into something that’s worth reading. But that first draft is free of any expectations that may have been placed upon you, any restrictions that a publisher might give you, and the only

couple-872390_960_720.jpg
Learn to love that trash

time that your mind will be entirely free when you write your books.

At the end of the day, you might see it fit to cast aside that trashy first draft and send it to the darkest recesses of hell. But before you would take that course of action, I’d have one thing that I’d like you to understand. That first draft might be garbage, but it’s your garbage. And no one will ever be able to take that away from you, save for yourself.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

BONUS MESSAGE:

“Psst, hey kid. I hear ya like books? I’m right now aren’t I? Well, if ya like books, why not head down and check out the first chapter of the QuestingAuthor’s fantasy novel, The Swordsinger. It’s a classic fantasy tale, just the kinda thing that a loser like you would be into.” The old hobo’s breath smells like he just downed five bottles of beer, but you find yourself attracted to the prospect of fine, classical literature.

You nod and accept his offer.

With a sickly cough the hobo smiles a toothless grin “That’s a good boy. I knew you had it in ya. Now just gimme a moment.”

He rummages through the torn pockets in his coat, and hands you a document that has the backside facing you. You utter an awkward chuckle, surprised that you weren’t offered an illegal drug in the place of a novel excerpt “Thank you, sir.”

“No…thank you…” with his stench following him, the hobo slinks back into the shroud of darkness that clings to the alley he chose as his home.

Ignoring the peculiar exchange, you let your eyes drift back to the document. You flip it over and it reads Prelude.

 

Manuscript Separation Anxiety (MSA)

So you made the brave choice of going on vacation for two weeks. That angry demon called Writer’s Block had been present during all of your recent writing sessions, causing you to assume that perhaps you’d spent too much time with your manuscript. So what better way to get back into the groove of writing than taking a break? I mean, what harm could there possibly be from taking an extended break period?

Oh wait…there are plenty of problems. But hey, it’s not like you can’t work around them or anything. That’s why you pride yourself as a writer, because of your perseverance!

You walk into your house, you rummage through your pockets until you find your keys, and then the door to your home creaks open. You take a whiff of the air, coughing up the dense layer of dust that had built up while you were gone. There’s a bad feeling wedging itself in your heart, but you shrug it off and head down to your room. You see the black case inside of which rests your laptop, untouched by anyone for an ungodly amount of time.

You take a deep breath “All I need to do is sit down…all I need to do is sit down…” you mouth the words to yourself, grasping at whatever traces of comfort they lend to you. But that nausea that you felt when you first whiffed the air of your house is still present. That sense of foreboding that won’t exit your system.

It’s probably nothing. You toss it off as that typical fear you have when you are faced with a blank page and decide to boot up your computer. All you need to do is start working again, right? The word processing software loads, clearing up from a hazy mess of black smudges to legible sentences and paragraphs. You search for the last chapter that you were working on. You don’t remember if it was 15 or 16, so you start poking through your files.

Apparently, there was a great deal that you had written before going on your trip. Mr. Hero killed at least 50 baddies, the girl was saved, the hero’s father died, you introduced a new magical ability, you introduced a cool new weapon, you brought in five new characters, the

confusion-311388_960_720.png
Where was this story going again?

villain turned out to be a good guy, the love interest died, and…

You fingers freeze as they just barely graze the keys of the laptop. Your eyes widen while your mind is too busy trying to recall all the information it had processed earlier. You’d felt writer’s block when you’d last written, but at least then you were able to keep up your routine. But now…just touching a key on your computer feels unnatural.

How were you even able to write 2000 words a day!? You can’t even finish half a page! Who are these characters that you’ve created? And why is it so hard to give them personality again!?

You shut the lid on your laptop, as though you’d just been fooled into watching a screamer.You grind your teeth, frustrated at not being able to continue with your masterpiece. Where did it all go wrong? What the hell have you even been writing all this time?

My dear reader, if this anecdote is similar to your experience, then you have no need to fear. No, you have not lost the “spark” and, no, this does not mean that you need another break.

This is only another tragic case of Manuscript Separation Anxiety (MSA)

***

So if you actually bothered to read my last post, you would know that I was off camping for a whole week. While I enjoyed myself, I was not able to write so much as a short story during my time there. It was a whole week of being separated from my writing, which I’d been able to keep up as a routine for the past few months.

But now I’ve returned (whether you like it or not) and my fingers have been tingling for another session of manic typing. But lo and behold, as fate would have it, I have no idea in which direction my story was going. And perhaps a year ago this would have left me confounded, but in my experience, I can tell that this is not some random event that can easily be fixed by forcing yourself into routine. So let me try and put this into perspective for you.

The old saying goes: “Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”

Hard_at_work_(8028708713).jpg
Even a hard-working blacksmith knows the importance of placing passion into what they forge

 

Now, in no way do I mean to devalue this statement. In fact, if you’re a novice writer, this is the single best piece of advice that anyone can give you. But sometimes I feel that writers give just a tinge too much credit to the perspiration aspect of writing. Seasoned veterans of writing see inspiration as a little sprinkling of sugar that only comes once a year on a full moon during a midnight writing session.

Which is to say that we think inspiration is good to have, but not something we should rely on. After all, routine forms the bulk of what we write. But is inspiration really as random as it appears?

You do a lot more during your writing sessions than just force yourself to sit down for an hour. Each writing session that you take also increases the inner understanding that you have of your story by tiny increments. For example, tone, inspiration, and style, in my opinion, are not aspects of one’s writing that just appear out of the blue. Most of the time, they are cultivated slowly until you reach what one would call the Muse state. Which is when the words are flowing from your fingers.

The way to cultivate these muses is by forcing yourself to a routine in which you spend more time with your tale. The more you do your routine, the closer you are to the heart of the story. This is because of how much of a consistent, frequent, and determined lot of your time is given to your novel.

A book is much like a person. You can’t read a manual on a human to understand what

unnamed
Think of writing sessions as conversations with your book. Of course, some conversations end in arguments.

 

they are, you have to spend time with them. You have to grow  with them. Sure, at first it’s awkward getting to know the guy, but after a while, it all just comes naturally. There are ups and downs to the relationship you have with the person, but as long as you don’t separate from them, you’ll have a core understanding of how they act.

The same can be said for tone and style. A story’s tone only really begins to set in (f0r most people) when they’ve already gotten a decent chunk of it done through a routine. This is why themes tend to cement themselves into your work later on in the book rather than at the very beginning. And the more consistent time you allot to the book, the more you’ll grasp the tones and themes that you’re aiming for.

But what happens when life decides to send everything crashing down?

Maybe you have to go somewhere with a friend for an extended period of time or maybe you just feel like taking a break. You have your little respite from your story, which can be a good thing, but when you return, something strange happens. It feels like you just came back to square one, despite all the hours of work that you poured into writing before. Well, there’s an easy answer to all this.

When you leave a garden untended, all of your fruits and veggies are going to rot. The quality of your produce is also going to be unsavory. A WIP is much like a garden.

When you take a break from writing, you are also undertaking the risk of alienating yourself from the tone, theme, style, and meaning of your story. This is a good thing for revision but it can be a hassle during the writing process. You’ve spent so much time with your tale that just abandoning it for a week has left you in quite the stump. One’s relationship with another human being is usually more resilient and less prone to rot. It could take a person years to feel alienated from a close friend. But with a story, the numbers tend to be much lower.

What was once intended to be a break now feels like you’d just given up on the novel altogether. And now you’re back to step one when it comes to writing. You find that

rock-climbing-403484_960_720
Writing is an uphill battle, but once you reach the tip of that mountain, it will be one of the greatest moments in your life.

you have to readjust your routine, get to know the characters again, have another look at the outline, and do all the things you thought you’d never have to do again once you took off.

But there’s good news, Author. Like the rotting produce of a garden, all that one needs to do is plant new seeds in place of the ones that had gone to waste. Sure, those first few days of getting back to writing are going to be an awful pain, and sometimes they might even last a whole week! But you’ll find that just after a few days of writing, your original vision will start clearing up once again.

Slowly but surely, you’ll begin to ascend the mountains of tone, style, theme, and plot until you get back into your old routine. There will be many scrapes along the way, and you might lose a part of yourself while climbing, but for all you care, that part can be grown back. And before you know it, you’ll be loving that story just like the day you first thought of it.

This has been the QuestingAuthor, announcing his proud return. And as always, keep writing, my friends.

How are you still Writing!?

You take time out of each and every one of your days to stare at a laptop and type at some keys for about an hour. Your eyes probably grow sore with all the radiation you’re taking in from the monitor and your fingers probably ache to all hell. Your head is also spinning with a stream of ideas that you discard, reevaluate, discard, and reevaluate as an endless cycle. Most people would have just given up on your hobby. But here you are.

Years later you’re still typing away like it’s nobody’s business. You know that this an industry that’s nigh impossible to break into, but you don’t care. You know that by the time you finish that manuscript of yours, you’ll probably be turned down by countless people, but you still don’t care. The only friends with similar interests to you that you’ve been able to find are on the internet, and they’re also in that same stressful situation as you. All the people that surround you on a daily basis inquire to no end on when they’ll get the chance to read your work, yet you know that most of them would never bother. But you still keep writing.

You wake up everyday, afraid that it’s going to be one of those days that you hate what you’ve been working on. And then it turns out to be the just that day.

But you still keep writing.

Your typing slows down, you hate your characters, you hate your story, you hate everything you’ve written, you’re about to give up on your dreams! But the sound of typing has yet to stop, and you don’t why, but your fingers just keep moving on their own. You’ll pollute your mind with self-loathing if you don’t write at least 2,000 words on any given day. You’ll bash your head against the tiles of your bathroom floor for not having written more than your minimum amount when you have hours of free time. And the times you feel like writing most are the days that you can barely afford to sit down and open your laptop. But you still keep writing.

Everyone tells you that if you work hard enough, you’ll be able to make this your dream job. People fill your mind with wild flights of fancy, telling you how talented you have the potential to be! Yet none of them bother to read your work. But you still keep writing.

There are days were you wish you’d never chosen to become a novelist! Days were you hate that very craft you’ve poured your soul into honing! Days that every word that you put down on screen is meaningless drivel, days were your story is uncannily similar to those of the past, days were you use cliches and mock yourself for it, days were you can barely manage to make 500 words! But, somehow, you keep writing.

Then you wake up on the next day, relaxed after all that you’ve gone through. You look out the window and see that no one is out on the streets that day. That old lady that insists on screaming at her sons to leave her house is sleeping, that man that seems to mow his lawn every single day decided to leave the neighborhood, and there are no Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at your door. You glance at the computer on your desk, you sigh and boot it up. When you click on your word processing software, a realization dawns upon you.

You will always keep writing.

 

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑