“When do you find time to read and write?” A question I get asked a lot and it is one that doesn’t bother me all that much. I prefer that question to the statement I typically get which is “I could write a book, but I just don’t have the time.” I get that one a lot, and that one makes me mad.
Time is an odd thing, and while sometimes it appears to go by fast and others it seems to move slow, we all have the same amount of time. We each get 24 hours a day to spend pursuing whatever we want to. I know I have stated several times before that I am married with children and both my wife and I work. I am a full-time student as well as a writer and avid reader. This means that with our lifestyle we are forced to have order and some structure. For example, this morning I got up before my family did and went to work. I came home 12 hours later, kissed my family and came down to my office to do work while my two kids play in the room beside my office. This gives my wife a break from the tornados we created and gives me time to work. This is how most nights go. We work and keep up the house, we take time for each other as well as give time to each other to be alone. We have gotten into this structured lifestyle out of necessity, not because we wanted to.
This also means that those memes we see where writers say they spend half of their time searching the web and watching videos and they can spend 3 hours in front of a pc and get 0 writing done, this is not an option for me. It might take me a week to get a solid three hours of writing time, so I have to be able to jump right into it. When my pc gets turned on, and my word document opened its time to put some words on the paper and fast. This forces me to stay focused on what I am writing and to be ready to write and continue the story. When I read about a lot of the great writers and writers that can spit out 2 or 3 books a year, I notice that many of them we forced to work after their families had fallen asleep or after work. The made the most out of what little time they had so when they got more time they just got more done instead of slowing down.
Enough about me though, let's talk about you. I am willing to bet you have free time, and plenty of it, it just happens to be tied up somewhere. First thing I did was cut out TV, not entirely but I get about 30 min a day as I am laying in bed, falling asleep and usually reading while “watching.” I ended up quitting video games simply because I enjoyed writing and reading more. If you want to read, but you also want to watch TV, you have to decide which you want to do more. Its ok to not write every single day. It's not ok to stop writing for six months if you want to be a writer. If you want to read you will find time to read. You might and most likely will have to sacrifice the time from something else but if reading is important to you, make the time.
If you were in a relationship and you wanted it to work out, you would find the time to spend with them. Reading and especially writing is a relationship. You have to set aside a little time for you and your craft.
I don’t have any more time than anyone else. I just try to make the most out of what I have. I don’t always succeed but the more I fight for it, the better I get at it.
For those of you who don’t know, I am coming up to the end of undergrad for my Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. I will graduate here in just a few months. With studying writing and literature, I have taken many classes on Literary Theory. If you have never studied this particular topic, it is essentially like those cheap toys you get in kids meals. The toys that are the little red and blue lens and a tiny little picture that looks like a mess of blue and red. When you look through the blue lens, you see one picture, and the red gives you another. These theories are the same as the lenses. We look at one work of literature through different lenses to see different things. It is very interesting, but I recently found myself, over the last few months, having a hard time reading for fun. I pick up a book, and I just can’t get into it, or I can’t read more than a few pages at a time without utilizing one of the lenses to dissect it. This has removed the fun out of reading for me to some extent.
I told a friend about this issue I was having, and they told me a quote, forgive me I can’t cite it I am not sure where on earth it came from. But they a writer was in college trying to learn more about their craft, get a different angle if you will. Their own novel was the topic of a debate, and the teacher had them discussing what the author had meant when they wrote that the sky was blue. Different students gave different analytical answers that sounded very smart but then the author, the one who wrote the very story, raised their hand. The unknowing teacher called upon them, and the author replied: “The sky was blue, the color of the sky was blue.”
We might laugh at that, but it reminded me that I enjoy reading for a reason. It allows me to follow a story and leave the world behind. It is entertainment and sometimes thought-provoking. I was missing the fun and overthinking the entire art of reading. I am working on getting that passion back but refraining from allowing my mind to follow the rabbit's trail and getting lost in my own thoughts. I will simply enjoy the words on the pages as the writer intended.
As an avid book collector and overall lover of the written word, my view points on personalizing books, to mean altering them, are quite complicated. Firstly, I must say that the view points I am about to express are entirely my own so please don’t get mad if you disagree with me.
So, what do I mean when I say personalizing? It can be anything from bending the pages, writing in the margins and underlining/highlighting to the more extravagant rebinding and custom covers.
I think that my feeling towards personalizing books depends on what kind of books they are. For example, I just recently came into a German book collection from a friend at work. These books are mostly pre-1970’s and were in a personal book collection where the owner wrote in each of the books. Some of these books are fiction while others are history books about Germany pre-WWII. Typically, with these kinds of older, some even leather bound, books I wouldn’t want them to have writing in them. But, I realized that he had numbered them in his collection as well as wrote who gave them to him if they were a gift and a brief description of who the person was in relations to them. I now know how much he loved his brother and his brother loved him. I got to see into his life in a unique way that in my eyes added to the collection. It makes it special.
I also have a collection of Bibles and educational books that have notes in them and I like that because I get to learn about the previous owners. Now with that said if a kid grabbed the book and went to town coloring it and made it impossible to read the book I would not be happy about that. I think of books as works of art, like paintings. I want them to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.
When it comes to covers I am a big fan of customizing the covers if it improves them. I am working on rebinding an older paperback copy of Eragon and I want to use leather for the new cover. The reason being it was my first copy of the book and it was me who destroyed it from reading it fifteen times, so I would like to rebind and make it my own. When people do that I think it is neat and makes them unique.
I really think we as stewards of the written word should make them our own but most importantly we must preserve the words contained within. A book is nothing if it can’t be read. The cover and gilding are used to look nice on the shelf and a few notes add character and personality, but the book must be readable.
When people use old books for art projects that’s ok to retire a book in that fashion. To me it’s better than throwing them away. I myself used a nearly destroyed copy of one of the Wheel of Time books to cover my bookshelves in pages. Half the book was missing as was the cover so instead of throwing it away I used it. I think that kind of stuff is, again, art.
But. When it comes to folding pages. Those people are animals. I can not think of any reason to bend and fold pages of a book. I see people doing that all the time and it takes a tremendous amount of self-control not to ask them to stop doing that. I don’t use book marks, I have gotten to where I just memorize the page I left off at in each book I am reading but I hate buying a book and finding out that there are twenty or so creases in the book where previous owners bent the pages and closed the book for long periods of time. It takes me a while to fix that and it’s just not right.
Personalize the books you own, show them the love you feel for them. Rebind them, write notes in them about parts you love. Just don’t bend the pages please. Please.
Another week has past and with it, time. For this weeks post, I wanted to talk about something that I think is relevant and possibly helpful to those writing. As writers, we are filled with ideas and it is our job to sort them out and put them to paper in a way that people will want to read them and hopefully have some sort of emotional reaction that ends with them liking the work. The problem a lot of writers that I know, myself included, is that the ideas can get jumbled up or out of order. What I mean by that is right now I am writing my fourth novel in The Dragon Riders of Arvain series while also editing book three in the same series. My mind is engrossed in the land of Arvain right now but yesterday a random thought came to my mind. An idea for a new book, if you will. With most ideas, I tend to follow them to see where they lead and if there is anything worth working on. Most of the ideas are cast to the side for later thought or to be ignored completely but this one stuck. I think it is a rather good idea and will be fun to write. Within about thirty minutes I had a plot, a setting, a theme, and characters. I had the most basic of storyboards in my head for how the book would go. All this is great and I could really get into the story, I already have to some extent, but the problem is I am in the middle of another project right now. What do I do?
This is something that I have seen happen to a lot of my friends and fellow writers. They will bring me chapters of their work to read and go over and then about a month or two later they will bring me more but it will be an entirely different story. I will ask what happened to the last story I was reading and they will shrug it off and say something to the effect of they had a new idea and wanted to follow it.
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer that can be said to every situation. As I stated above most of my ideas are garbage in my mind so I don’t follow through with them but the ones I like I do. Now, I am working on The Dragon Riders of Arvain and that is where my focus will stay until the series is finished. Mainly because I love the world but also because I hate it when I have been waiting years for a new book to come out and the author is messing around writing random stand-alone novels. Not cool authors, not cool. So what do I do with all these ideas? I do what any writer does and I write them down. I have dozens of notebooks in my office filled with ideas. The idea for the story I got yesterday I wrote down and I wrote a few pages of ideas for it. While the iron is hot you strike. Once I was finished I moved back to Arvain and continued on. Sometimes the ideas stay on a page or two while others have twenty or thirty pages of ideas for one story. Once TDRA is finished I will go through the notebooks and see what I want to write next.
Don’t push aside great ideas for your current work but you need to listen to your heart and to your readers. I love Arvain and so do my readers. So I will continue working on it until it is done. But I am not locking my self away from good ideas for future novels. Good luck out there, keep your pencils shard and notebooks handy.
The new year brings with it a few months of me scribbling out 2017 as I sign things. The Dream of Shadows, book three in The Dragon Riders of Arvain is coming along swimmingly. That is if I were swimming in lava filled with fire sharks. I detest editing and that is what I am taking my time doing. Going over each chapter to make sure that it is as close to perfect as can be before another’s eyes must gaze upon it.
School is coming to a temporary end as this is my final year before I am given my BA in Creative Writing. At which point I will continue my education and strive for my Master’s degree. School has given me time to sharpen my skills and hone my craft as a writer and content creator. At, least I hope so.
Other than that it is writing and working as usual.
Well, hello readers. I hope you are having a wonderful day today, I know I am. We are going to sit back and have a fun relaxing talk about your writing. That’s right, your writing, not mine. Now I should have mentioned that when you read that I would like you to read it with your best Bob Ross voice, it makes the writing that much more epic.
For those of you who don’t know, I am in my senior year of college for my BA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction and a double minor in English Literature and Professional Writing. I am getting my education on and the getting is good. In the last few years, I have gotten a chance to meet a few writers that were in the same genre as myself and we have gotten to talk and even work together on a few projects. This has given me a chance to have an outsider’s look at a writer in their natural habitat. Here is what I have learned.
1. Don’t be so focused on your work that you can’t see past it. You need to be able to take a step back and see it for what it is. I met a writer that wanted to work with me on a project he had. I was all for it, I love writing until he told me the idea. The idea was for a group of mystery-solving teens who get locked in an abandoned mansion that they think is haunted and have to figure out if it really is haunted and find a way out. When I saw the pitch I jokingly asked if the teens could have a dog with them and he said that was a great idea. See where I am going with this?
2. There is a fine line between giving what the readers want (selling out) and doing whatever it is you want (screw the readers, what do they know about writing?). It’s at the fine line that you want to live. You want your readers to enjoy your writing and inevitably buy your work and tell others about it. You also want to keep the integrity of your work in tacked so as not to write the next Twilight. When readers give you feedback listen to them, hear what they have to say and if you hear it a lot and from many different sources then maybe take it to heart. Some of the writers I met were so closed off to ideas and critique that the stories had obvious flaws that could have been fixed.
3. The final point, and might I add that all these are for myself as well, is have faith in your work and in your craft. Don’t be afraid to stand by it. I recently gave a copy of my books to a friend and I was nervous for him to read them when he told me the caliber of reading he did. He named off some greats and I threw my book in there. I spent the next 24 hours nervously awaiting his text that would tell me how horrible my writing was. Instead, he fell in love with the series and read straight few the first few chapters. If you are a writer and you put your heart and soul into your work, stand behind it.
Getting one’s life back in order is hard work and to be honest mine is far from in order. I am however able to take a break from the chaos and do a little work which feels great. Really great. I actually was forced to take yet another break from reading and writing sadly. This force was brought on by life. I already have a post about how life can sometimes suck, this is not one of those times, but man did it get close.
Enough about the dark times let us move on to the good times happening now and about to happen. School is going well but we are nearing the end of the journey, or at least the BA portion on the journey. Book three, The Dream of Shadows is coming to an end as well.
Whenever a book or novel comes to an end it is both an amazing feeling and a horrible feeling. It’s great to have worked on something for so long, dedicating so much thought and effort and frustration and joy into it. You love and hate the thing at times and you become invested in it. I hope that when it comes out it will be as well received as the others have been and I hope everyone enjoys it.
Well I finally got a second to sit down and take a break from the million other things I have to do to write this post out. I feel that I wright more posts that say something along the lines of I am sorry that I am not getting to posts more often than I do actually writing posts. Odd how that happens.
Anyways how is everyone doing? Great I hope. So let’s get right into today’s topic. Let’s get political, political. Bah Bah Bah. Not sure why that reminds me of that song but it does. But let us not stop there with the awkward topics that make people cringe, let’s throw religion in there as well.
Now I know what most of you are going to think, why are we talking about such serious and controversial topics? Well actually we aren’t. I want to talk about not talking about those topics. Not sure if you guys have ever noticed but I don’t talk about those topics here or in books, at all. The reason for that is my goal has always been and will always be creating escapes from reality. That’s what I do and that’s what I love. So when I go online and start reading an Indie story where the main characters must fight an evil overlord named Trump, didn’t even bother trying to change the name, it loses its magic. You break rent the veil between reality and imagination. I don’t care about your personal believes when I am reading your book, I care about your characters believe and the world they live in. If you want underline parts of the story with similarities to our world and things going on around us ok do it tastefully to where the reader says hey that reminds me of this or that. Don’t spell it out where it pulls the reader out of the world you have created and makes them go dang how did this get in here? I see so much junk about who is lying about this or that everywhere I look. One website says things are great while another says things are about to blow up. I see enough of that when I pick up a fantasy novel I shouldn’t see that exact same thing plastered on the pages with the same names. I feel like if you want to write about how you feel about these topics then write about that, start a blog about those topics that you find important. Don’t trick readers into thinking I am going to see knights fighting a dragon only to find out the dragon is being ridden by the 45 president.
I know I will get some slack for this post about how it’s their right as the author to express their feelings. I agree it is their right, I am not saying it’s not. All I am saying is that if you are going to write where it is that obvious you should not sell it as a completely original fantasy series. You shouldn’t put the disclaimer in the front that says any likeness to people alive or dead is completely blah blah blah. Not if your villain is described as someone we all know to a T and you didn’t even bother changing their name. It ruined the story for me, not because of how I feel about the current state of politics but because I wanted a made-up world with made up people and made up problems. That’s what I was promised when I read the bio, that’s what I wanted. I felt like I was cheated and it makes the writer look bad because it makes me doubt their ability as a fiction writer. It makes me wonder if they don’t have the talent to come up with their own ideas. If they do and they did this on purpose, then they should put it on the stupid cover or bio. Hey guys this is a fantasy world with a play on US. Politics as evil emperor Trump tries to build a wall around his castle to keep the peasants out. Then I would know what I am reading and I would know if I wanted to buy it or spend my time reading it. In a nut shell, properly label your genre and what your book is about, that is all.
This post we are kind of getting a little personal I know but that's ok, that's the point of the internet I guess. But what I wanted to talk about was does anyone else ever feel like giving up or quitting? In writing or in some other field. Not sure if you guys do but I know that I do, and sadly it comes fairly often.
Not sure if its just a human thing or just a me thing but there are a lot of trials and struggles, both in my writing and out of my writing. Sometimes it just feels like not only is the struggle real but that is all I seem to be doing, struggling. With a full time job, full time student and trying to get a writing career off the ground it leaves little time for my family and other activities such as church. Then when the pay out is less then glamorous or at least less then expected it can just add to the struggle and stress. Has anyone ever felt that? If so how do you personally beat it or overcome it? If you don't feel that way why do you think that is?
Now I know that this post seems a little down in the dumps, a little dark even but there are times when things get a little dark in our lives. In my experience its not always sunshine and rainbows, there has to be parts where the rollercoaster of life takes a plunge. What I do to help me is I focus and gravitate towards the good things in life. I don't get a lot of time where I can break away from my grind to smell the roses so when I do get those chances I try to enjoy it as much as possible. Then when I go back to the grind I hold on to those moments until others come by that I can grab on to. Its hard, there is no getting around that. Its a very hard life that takes a lot of work but its a good life and a very blessed life.
This is a question that I get from a lot of first time writers. They have a written book that they have worked over for some time and they are proud of it, as they should be, but they don't know what the next step is. To be honest I don't know the next step, at least not for everyone. Every writers journey is different. There will always be writers who don't make it, sorry but that's reality, and then there are writers who struggle some where in the middle of making it and not making it. Then there are those that defy normality and shoot to the top, passing even their own dreams and expectations. So when you finish your book there is a number of steps you could take.
I would suggest, as I learned the hard way, to go back over your book a few times. Clean it up and then let a few people read it and have them give you HONEST input. Don't hand it to someone who doesn't read your genre and expect a true review of the novel, they don't have the experience in the field to give you a good idea of the strengths and faults in your work. After that its all up to you. If you want to try the traditional publishing route their are outlets for that, finding an agent ect. ect. Its really easy to google that and find a list of agents who are looking for potential writers. I would recommend that if you decide to go that route do your homework. Figure out how to properly write a query letter and find agents who are looking for you. I have seen so many writers get discouraged because they get 20 rejection letters in the mail but they are sending their religious inspiration novel to agents who represent erotica. Of course they are going to reject you. Do your homework and go at it properly, you will only get out of it what you put in it.
If you are wanting to go the route of an indie writer or self publisher then that route branches off to hundreds of other routes because now the work that would be done by an entire team of professionals now has to be handled and done by you and you alone in most cases, unless you pay a couple of thousand dollars to have a similar team work on it. Again the key to success in that field is to do your homework. Put the time and effort into a website, a blog, the COVER of your book. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.
There is so much more in this that I could write pages about this topic. If you have any direct questions please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will be sure to get back with you.