Cutting hurts

We are cutting down trees today.

My heart is hammering and I feel sick.

I love trees, but unfortunately the person who planted these trees didn’t think before they planted.  One is under the powerlines.  One hovers over the power and phone lines into the house.  One is right up against a window.

So they have to go.  But I hate doing it.  I hate destroying something so beautiful.

I console myself with the thought that as soon as they are gone I will plant more, in the right place this time. Trees carefully chosen for height and shape and location.  Trees that will glow with beauty, attract birds and bees, form a shelter for fauna and privacy for us.

I console myself with this and try not to cry while the trees come down.

Okay, so maybe I cried a bit.

But they had to come down.  Sometimes you make hard decisions, and then you grieve, and then you pick yourself up and move forward.

In life, and in writing.

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Building your writer’s tribe

I was reminded the other day (after a massive bout of self-doubt) of the importance of surrounding yourself with other writers.  Aside from the companionship and understanding angle, a strong writer’s tribe can really help you move forward in your writing.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses as writers and people, but we can’t always see that.  Having someone there to not only look over your work, but to be a sounding board for problems and possibly a font of advice is a great help.

Build your writer’s tribe with care.  Find people who you like and whose work you like, and who like you and your work in turn.  It is important that your tribe likes what you do.  They don’t have to love it; in fact, blind love can do more harm than good.  But they should at least be on the same page as you.

Here are four essential members of your writer’s tribe.  You can certainly have more, but try and find at least one of each of these types.  Having all of one type of tribe member isn’t good for you.  Balance is the key.

The Overachiever is everything you would like to be.

The Overachiever

This is the person we all wish we could be.  She’s sold so many stories.  She has a novel out to agents and is just cranking out another one.  She’s driven and dedicated and sometimes she just bloody drives you nuts.  She’s perfectly nice but you can’t help but feel inadequate when faced with her productivity and success.

Knowing an Overachiever is good for you.  This person has done the things that you are just coming up to, and her experience could save you a lot of time and pain.  She’s also good as evidence of all you can achieve if you really work at it.  Reading her work should make you want to work harder, should inspire you to tackle something a bit tougher than you normally do.

Beware of the Overachiever who comes with an ego.  If they are constantly rubbing their success in your face, it can be demoralising.

The Nurturer will always be there for you.

The Nurturer

The Nurturer loves everything that you write.  They can see the promise in even the worst draft.  They listen to your woes with patience, and tell you that yes, it is okay to write a shitty first draft.  Above all, they tell you to keep writing, because you will get there someday.

Nurturers are wonderful people.  They may not even be writers.  They may be friends who read your work and love it.  They may be your mother.  Either way, they are your support crew when the whole writing gig becomes overwhelmingly difficult and you cannot seem to write a cohesive sentence.

Nurturers are important.  You have to have someone who loves your work, who sees your talent.  However beware of surrounding yourself only with nurturers.  While it’s lovely to have so much affirmation, you need a cold dose of reality now and then.  Otherwise if you do hit a setback and you have only Nurturers around you, you may be tempted to blame everything except your writing.  Critical analysis is as important as support.

The Lawyer has read every writing book known to man.

The Lawyer

Rules, rules, rules.  This person knows grammar and writing and structure like the back of their hand.  They know how to structure a query letter.  They know what agents like.  They know the hero’s journey AND all the variations.  They can tell you what should happen in each Act of your story.  They have read every writing book known to man, and can recite important passages to you on demand.

Lawyers are very useful people.  They can tell you what standard manuscript format is.  They can help you to understand what theme and motif are.  They are a veritable encyclopedia, and save you a lot of time and research.

The problem with the Lawyer is that he is often paralysed by all these rules, to the point where his creativity suffers.  Be grateful for their guidance, but don’t be afraid to step outside the boundaries in your quest for a good story.

The Destroyer will find the weakness in your story and kill it with fire.

The destroyer

No matter how small the flaw is, this person can see it and will point it out.  They’re not being malicious; they just have a sharp eye for things that feel off, and aren’t afraid to tell you.  They will take your perfect final draft and reduce it to a sea of red scribbles.  They may, on occasion, make you cry.

Agonising as it is to get a really critical review of your manuscript, it is the best thing you can do to yourself, at the right time.  At the wrong time, it can be a confidence breaker of epic proportions.  But at the right time, the Destroyer can really help you find the hidden problems in your manuscript.  They can help you to see where the story could be sharper, tighter, stronger, better.  They are an invaluable resource, mostly because they will always be truthful with you.

The important thing with a Destroyer in your tribe is that they still like your writing.  A Destroyer who doesn’t enjoy what you write, or one who is trying to rewrite your story they way they would write it is very damaging.  Find the right critical partner for you.

The Neophyte’s enthusiasm is contagious.

The neophyte

This person may be just starting out on their writing journey, or they may have just made the decision to submit stories, or they may have decided that they are going to take things seriously now and really learn the craft.  Either way, they are setting out on a magical journey and their enthusiasm is wonderful and infectious and inspiring.  They might look up to you as an Overachiever or just as someone else who is on this wonderful journey.

Don’t squash their enthusiasm.  The realities of the writing life will hit eventually.  Encourage them, enthuse with them, assist them when they ask for help.  It’s lovely to have a Neophyte in the group, to enjoy that precious innocence and joy, to remind you why you started writing in the first place.

And sometimes, it’s also nice to look back and see how far you have come.  The important thing is to guide them without trying to make them write like you, to recognise their talent as valid and different from yours.  To have the pleasure of watching that talent develop.

Your Tribe

You may not have five people who fit this exact mould.  You may have a couple of people in your tribe who take on multiple roles.  You may find some of these roles outside your personal writing tribe. You may have just one writing partner who is all of these things and more.

And don’t forget, you will be performing one or more of these roles for someone else.  Be aware of how you fit into your writer’s tribe.  Build lasting, long-term relationships and you will be happier writers.

Do you have a writing tribe? Are you missing any of these roles?  Can you think of another role you find valuable?

100 words for 100 days

I missed the end of 100 x 100.  Hell, I missed the last half thanks to my family’s and my own health issues.

But it was a glorious ride.  I wrote a phenomenal amount in the first half, 45,000 words in 50 days.  If I’d managed to finish, I would have been close to 100,000 words.  That, my friends, is an entire novel.

Kerryn and Matt both wrote summaries of their experiences, which I think you will find interesting.

Distractions are my writing kryptonite. Whenever I tried to write, even with a timer, surrounded by other people or the TV I couldn’t sink into the story and the words would be stilted and slow. I tried blocking the distractions out with music and sitting with my back to the TV but still my super-human hearing caught onto the other storyline. I have to physically remove myself from distractions so it’s just me, my story and my timer.

Kerryn Angel – 100 x 100 – Thank you

Before I did this challenge, I was aiming to write every day, but I just couldn’t manage it. This challenge really made me accountable, and I quickly got into the habit of writing every day without fail. If you have trouble writing daily, get a friend to keep you accountable. I found that it only took me a couple of weeks to get into the right habit.

Matthew Dodwell – 100 x 100: Lessons Learnt

Drop in and see what other lessons they have to share.

So, will I run 100 x 100 again?  I’m not sure.  If there’s interest out there I might.  Otherwise I will add it to the list of tools-that-have-helped-me-write, which also includes the Novel Push Initiative (NPI) and 750 Words.

5 cures for Writer’s Block

To begin with, let me be clear that I do not think that writer’s block is some psychological malaise that strikes creative people.  Writer’s block is just a symptom of a larger cause. Whether it’s a personal issue (stress, exhaustion, grief, depression) or a story issue (no strong conflict, weak characters, no idea of the destination), if you cure the cause, you cure the block.

I’ve spoken before about writer’s block, and there’s a great guest post in my archives by Emma Newman on the same topic.  So today’s post is going to be quick and simple; 5 cures for writer’s block.

5. Get some rest

Seriously.  If you’re staring at the page and trying to keep your eyes open, don’t expect amazing words to flow from your fingers in a glorious rush of creativity.  Close the computer, go to bed an hour earlier.  Then tomorrow, come to the page early and fresh, and see what a difference it makes.

4. Work out your issues

Whatever it is that’s keeping you from your creativity, work it out.   Sometimes it just takes a good mental talking-to.  Sometimes you need to vent to a friend and get some reassurance.  Sometimes it’s more serious, and you just need time to get through it.  Do whatever works.  But while you are doing this, stop thinking about writing.  Stop trying to write.  Concentrate on your issue.

If you are really meant to write, the drive will come back.  But it won’t do that until you are ready.

3. Do some outlining or freewriting

If it’s a story issue, then it might be time to get out the pen and paper, or the index cards, or the spreadsheet, and start working out a map.  Work out your destination, spend time thinking about your story and you will get that spark of an idea that sends you running back to the page.

If you’re a pantser and you don’t outline, then pull out some paper, find a comfy chair and do some exploratory writing.

2. Have a shower or go for a walk

I get so many, many fantastic ideas in the shower.  Or walking (on my own, without the distraction of conversation) or, unfortunately, driving, which can be terribly distracting in traffic.  So if you’re stuck and not sure what you’re doing, hop in the shower, get the water nice and warm and just think.  Let your mind wander in the direction of the story.  It’s all about helping the subconscious come up with the next great idea.

1. Write

The number 1, always successful way to work through writer’s block.  Sit down in front of the page, and write.  Set yourself a goal of a good thousand words, and don’t get up until you’re done.  Fight with the story.  Never give up.  The first few hundred words will be excruciatingly painful, but then the dam will break and you will hit your target before you know it.

This requires some tenacity and stubbornness, but those are good traits for a writer anyway, so you might as well cultivate them.

Go hard.  Break that block.  Never give up, never surrender!*

*Kudos if you can name that movie :)

Life Rolls: When the World Tries to Kill Your Writing :: Shimmer

Life is kind of like the ocean, it’s huge and can seriously knock you for a loop. You can try to stand tough against it, but it’s going to hit you hard. When dealing with life, we need to be flexible. We can make all the solid plans we like, but something is going to go wrong sometime, count on it. If we’re going to keep writing through our Life Rolls, we have to learn how to surf.

Read more at: Life Rolls: When the World Tries to Kill Your Writing :: Shimmer.

Lifestyle changes

This challenge, by the pure length of it, is more like a lifestyle. You can’t put your life on hold for a third of the year like you can for a month. With all challenges it’s not just a word count or finished story you end up with but writing lessons and life lessons.

via No Excuses. Just Write.: 100 x 100 – Progress Post #3.

Kerryn makes an excellent point here.  The end result of a challenge like 100×100 is not words, it is a better understanding of yourself.

I’ve learned more about how I can fit writing into my new life.  I’ve learned when I am most likely to struggle and, more importantly, I’ve learned how I can overcome it.  I’ve learned that if I just sit down to write 100 words, exhaustion, stress, distractions just fall away.  I get into the moment and before you know it, the words are done.

I’ve also found that it takes me a lot less time than I thought to write 1,000 words.  I’ve been tracking my progress over at 750 Words.  Turns out that 1,000 words takes me about 40 minutes.  Which is nothing in the scope of an entire day.

If I can’t find 40 minutes a day to write, then I might as well stop writing.

There are 4 of us embarking on this challenge at the moment, and it’s been great to see the wordcounts grow from 100 a day to up to 1,000 as people hit their stride.

Want to challenge yourself?  Sign up and join in.