The Power of Staying Organized

I recently bored a poor video chatter to death on google hangouts. We were meeting as a part of a group meet-up, but since there was only one taker we agreed to meet online via video chat. It was my first *cough* video chat session, and I thanked her immensely for introducing me to video chatting as a tool for creative applications. The topic of discussion was ‘The writing process,’ and although I rambled on for an entire hour of non-linear knowledge with her, I hope to keep this rehash brief:

The key to being a successful writer is organization and discipline. This is generic wisdom, I know… but only after I got all of my ideas organized, and set a schedule for myself with deadlines did I begin to get somewhere.

ORGANIZATION!

I have probably mentioned this before, and I will mention it again– I cannot say enough good things about Microsoft One-note. It has completely revolutionized my studies and free-writing, which is now structured and organized into folders, and stored online so I can access it on any device, at any time, and have it all streamlined and organized in one place! All those notebooks, folded up wads of paper, random files, safe-guarded flash drives, and balled-up free writing sessions are now saved and organized into a proper library that is easily accessible when I want to re-visit my past studies or writings.

The other key, as I mentioned, is DISCIPLINE. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. So goes it with everything: my eating habits, work-outs, you name it. If I stop working out I usually start eating poorly, and vice verse, which is unfortunately the trap I’ve fallen into lately. The same goes for my writing. If I am not staying on top of it 24/7 I begin to lose my grasp on it. If I am not scheduling time that I dedicate to myself to write each day, or spend studying writing craft, then I do not every get it accomplished…and I may find myself a week or two down the road wondering when I stopped working on my story. I have to literally be obsessed with it, thinking about it every waking moment…to keep the machine going (which is why my wife hates writing).

Needless to say, it is not that way for everyone. I sincerely hope you are not an all-or-nothing kind of person. But that doesn’t mean a little discipline might do you a lot of good. Look at your schedule this week. Find your pockets of free-time, and go ahead and write in an hour and a half each day that you are going to sit down and work on your writing, whether that is working directly on a project, free-writing, or studying to get better. Then let your significant other know your plans and stick to it. If they have a problem, you may find yourself scheduling them in an hour and a half too…and if you skimp on their scheduled time, you can kiss your writing time good-bye, my friend. So put down the remote and pick up your your pen… computer, whatever.

It’s been a while, but I’m back. Hopefully to stay this time.

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

Status Update

SO… I have not posted for a while, but it’s not like you care, because I have no readership…yet. Maybe I should start working on driving traffic to my site, instead of waiting for people to accidentally land on it? Nods self.

So my studying of the craft and burning of the midnight oil continues on. By day I am still a fast-food manager, and by night a father… and at bedtime a hus… writer (to the dismay of my wife). She is hoping this writing thing is just a phase, only she doesn’t realize I have been doing it for years, and was taking a brief hiatus from it when I met her… sorry!

I have been through a few short audiobooks on craft since we last chatted.

I have also received a very inspirational email from Cathy Yarborough, responding to a cry for help from me. Sad I know. It was just the push I needed in the right direction, though, and she urged me NOT to do what I suggested in the last post, which is to write something just to chase the market. After all, that is not how you write your best.

Since then, I went back to my fantasy story, which I took the ‘epic’ out of…and realized it was more of a sword and sorcery. Even though the market isn’t as strong for that subgenre, that’s ok! The story is one that I love.

And for those of you who love books on craft, check out the Red Sneaker series by William Benhardt. I just finished his book on characterization and it really helped me understand characterization in a new light. I loved him so much, I downloaded the series and dove right into the book on structure (although I felt that one was full of a lot of fluff…and whipped out my old notes on “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks. That is one great book on structure!)

I also continue to learn my writing style by copying well-known authors verbatum, and taking notes on everything I see going on with the sentence structure, grammar, imagery, and anything else that stands out or grabs my attention as I continue my studies. This in itself is an exercise that should have your writing get significantly better in just a few hours. One of my favorites, who was also praised for his prose, is Raymond Chandler.

Just a few tips and tricks from the unsuccessful writer. Hopefully I’ll be successful one day, and this rise to success will become like a stepping ladder for all you new writers out there who are grasping for straws like I do on a daily basis. I think one of the keys is to keep at it, no matter what. If you don’t enjoy it, it will be near impossible. I love doing it, although I have to admit that it was a task at first to persuade myself that learning writing craft and writing a novel was more fun than some of the immediate things out there that give instant pleasure, like video-games, movies and t.v. to name a few time-wasters. Replace these things with writing and you will begin to super-charge your progress. It’s a lot easier to write all the time if you love it. It’s all about the attitude. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, find something else productive that is related; read a book, scour the internet for websites related to writing, join a writing community, research publishing, do something productive!

Figure out fun ways to stimulate your creativity. It’s always easier to write good stuff when you are in the mood, and being ‘in the mood’ is not a luxury you can afford to be without, so figure out how to get in the mood. I found that after a stressful day, watching funny clips on the internet…something, anything to make me laugh… would help get me in the zone. You can’t create in a stressful, worker’s mindset. You must be in the mindset of a child at play.

Check out this awesome video on getting in the creative mindset:

From John Cleese http://vimeo.com/89936101 on creativity

Thanks for stopping by.

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

Addressing the Market

It has been brought to my attention again and again that writing is a competitive industry and I have finally bent to the pressure of marketability. I have to readdress my goals, and those include being able to make a living so that I can continue to do what I love and free myself from the chains of fast food management. That being said, I have to take a real look at the market and determine if what I am writing is going to actually sell, and to what degree.

So I have determined the that YA market is very strong, specifically age 9-18, tend to eat up books voraciously. Another trend that everyone has been talking about is fantasy dominating that market. So if those are most of the readers, and that genre is where it’s at, it’s a safe bet to say that if I want to have a shot at making a living I should go where the money is…follow the money.

Thankfully, I already wanted to write fantasy. But to my dismay, epic fantasy is only a fraction of the popularity of things like ‘urban fantasy,’ ‘paranormal fantasy,’ and contemporary settings. Therefore, my love for things medieval will have to wait until everyone is obsessed with historical settings; maybe something to file away in a cabinet until that becomes popular?

In the meantime I will be subjecting myself to the whims of teenage girls, who are apparently driving the market, which means more vampires, werewolves, and other magical entities that represent ‘forbidden love’ and are the perfect fit for the social outcasts that teenage girls have labeled themselves as. Maybe all this repressed sexuality is because of the stigma if being gay, or of not having traditional partners or only allowing traditional sexual tastes which aren’t spoken about. Maybe if I were to write a novel featuring a strong female lead (something the readership has asked for more of) who is a lesbian, I might be getting somewhere. Maybe she is bi. That would include both camps of girls. Do I really have to have a magical love affair? Lesbian girl falls for mermaid? I mean where can this really go…

When I was reading about the urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy genres and the popularized stories that I have ignored over the past few years, I was stunned at the plots. Then again, I’m not a teenage girl, and getting in the head of one, or figuring out what has caused this interest psychologically is beyond my abilities. I do know this: if they want paranormal relationships, that’s what I’m going to give them.

Maybe it’s the lack of attention, or the feeling of not being loved, that has driven them to abandon their human counterparts for an undying, immortal love from someone (or something) who gives them all the attention they need–FOREVER.

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

Thoughts for the day

‘If reality was less boring I wouldn’t be a writer.’

‘Writing is for those of us that need an escape from people like you.’

‘Family is great, work sucks, life is ok, but writing is to be God.’

Here is the score: after a severe backlash at home and at work during NaNoWriMo, I have dropped out through no fault of my own. And when I say ‘backlash,’ I don’t mean I just gave up. I mean my bosses threatened multiple times to fire me if I didn’t bring my focus back to work, and my pregnant wife held a lighter to my manuscripts I have squirreled away, and took the scissors to my new NaNoWriMo hoodie. At least my ‘Writer’ mugs are sturdy when thrown against the wall. They are the only thing that survived the onslaught.

Despite all this, I have continued my writing, though at a slower pace (a thousand or so words every few days), and have taken to sneaking peaks at writing magazines and studying Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’ while pretending to read it. What’s the difference spending time doing this stuff and writing? According to my wife, writing is my mistress.

(Keep writing…even in the bathroom if you have to)

p.s.- the dedication is going to be to myself

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

On Muses and inspiration, and immediate gratification…

What is a good muse? I had a half-naked fairy figurine that I liked once but she didn’t help me write any better, even though I kept her on the dashboard of my car and smiled at her every day. Did she keep me thinking about writing? Maybe. The bitch up and left me, though. Disappeared one day. So I’m in the market for a new muse, as it were. Here are some suggestions I have come across:

1. Rhinoceros… I mean, do I have to explain this one? The little figurine just looks pissed if you aren’t writing…and if you are, so there are a lot of mixed messages, but I get the feeling that if I stop writing he might maul me.

2. Faeries… is it just me or does anyone else have trouble thinking when they see too much cleavage?

3. Some other stupid variation of a magic creature or entity

My question is, why are we putting muses into physical form? Was it a popularized notion of some idiotic film? Why do we seem to think that sitting a tiny figurine on our desk is going to move and inspire us?

Muses should not be seen as physical entities, but rather as sources of inspiration: the things we care about, things that drive us, move us, provoke us, and most importantly, motivate us.

For me, I realized that I need…and emphasis on the word ‘need’– immediate satisfaction. It is a sad thing, I know, to need immediate payment for something I accomplished, when all great things pay off only after a long time of working towards it… however, it has been said over and over that we live in a world of immediate gratification. If writing isn’t making me happy anymore because it is hard and frustrating, I don’t look further down the road at the huge rewards of learning the craft over time, but rather, I set the work down and go ‘play.’ I do something that gives me an immediate sense of satisfaction, immediate reward for little or no work. Why work towards anything when we have immediate gratification?

The sad thing is, the things that make us immediately happy often wear off and leave us wanting for something greater in the near future, making us wish we hadn’t spent all those hours that added up to days that added up to years playing video games, or eating junk food that made us feel good at that moment.

So, how do you get immediate satisfaction out of something that many would consider work? It’s all about attitude.

I like watching movies, but I have not allowed myself to watch them. I forced myself to adopt the attitude that I WANT to read, I want to write, I want to craft stories above all else…and the thing that helped the most with this is that I have no free time. I feel like I don’t even have a chance of being a successful writer, because to find the time I have to starve myself of sleep and sneak away to the basement and write in the dark; I have to stay up late and wake up early and skip church with the family, and let the house get filthy nasty because I skipped sweeping and mopping this week in favor of hitting my word quoto.

To make yourself want something that is productive, try the following attitude adjustment (it worked for me wonderfully):

“Forbid us something, and that thing we desire.” – Geoffrey Chaucer

In other words, it is a good thing when your wife tries to burn your manuscript and tries to break your ‘writer’ mug because you haven’t spent any time with her; it is a GREAT thing when she tries to cut up your brand new NaNoWriMo hoody with scissors if you don’t promise to stop writing this month, or quit your job, one or the other. Which brings me to my next point:

I have to find a way, because everything tells me I don’t have time for writing. Everyone thinks I will never be a successful writer, even if they don’t say it. It is these things that empower me. I will prove them wrong, and I will dedicate the book to myself (lol!). Well, probably not. I will probably have to dedicate it to my wife for putting up with me if she is still here.

I will succeed in the face of impossible odds, working overtime as a restaurant manager, in a stressful environment that often leaves me angry or depressed. That is my other motivation: escaping the fast food industry. I will succeed. I will survive. I have to. Sometimes I think back to Chaucer’s character in “The Knight’s Tale,” yes that stupid movie, where chaucer’s character is walking naked down the road and whipping himself on the back, to motivate himself to rise above the hell that he has put himself in. I often like to think that I purposely put myself here to motivate my writing, though I am not sure which truly came first, the hell that motivates me to find an escape or the need for motivation.

To learn how to write I have found that you have to’ just do it,’ like Nike says. You get experience by doing things, so stop the excuses and find a way to enjoy writing. Pick something you like, and write. When you don’t feel like writing, read about writing. Read a blog, or a book, or learn something about the craft. Get excited about writing if you aren’t already. If you are, you are in a good place. Stay there! When you don’t feel like learning, and just want to write something, write whatever scene it is you feel like writing and file it away under ‘random free-writing.’ It comes in handy sometimes when you have random action or love scenes and you wrote a random snippet of genius that was incomplete by itself, but works beautifully into your now-understood structure of a real story, with real characters.

On closing, I will end with a final idea for your muse:

“You should write as fast as the gingerbread man runs…” -Stephen King

In favor NaNoWriMo style–writing as fast as you can to get the story down and only coming back to rewrite and edit once you are done–my adaptation of King’s words are transformed into a suggested daily mantra:

“Write, write, as fast as you can, or you won’t catch me– I’m your inspiration man.”

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

On One-note and Audio Books and p.s., ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King

I have a guilty pleasure and that is dumping money all at once on tons of books all at the same time, putting up to 15 newly-purchased books in my reading list at a time, usually all on the craft of writing.

My latest guilty pleasure has been audio books, as I have found them particularly suited to my auditory style of learning, much like a lecture in a classroom, only covering material that I am actually interested in. I also find it easy to multi-task while I listen, knocking out household chores, driving to and from work, or even using the bathroom. The only thing that sucks is when I feel the need to take notes and can’t type fast enough, having to hit the pause button every few seconds. I know, I know. It’s a hard life.

I have also found onenote to be particularly useful for categorizing everything, and I have finally been tricked by microsoft into actually paying for some of their software for the first time since 2003. The worst part was, I found my office 2003 suite cd after I had already become addicted to microsoft office 2013 and the cloud. At first I was scared to put all of my work online through the cloud, but soon became hopelessly addicted as I found myself able to work inside of onenote on all of my devices. I don’t even have to save. It saves automatically whenever there is a change to the document. And the program lets me file things in a very organized way, like scrivner did back in the day, only this time I think I can save it as a document? Maybe not. Too lazy to figure that out at the moment, but needless to say that it is an extremely awesome tool for writing a book and staying organized. I have begun to organize all of my research into tabs labeled ‘on characterization,’ ‘on plotting’ ‘on prose,’ ‘on conflict,’ etc., and listing the sources within the document instead of having a million and one documents filed by the sources, only to find out later that I really only have one page of material from a certain source that I put down after ten pages of research. Now I won’t lose my research because it saves automatically and is there ON EVERY DEVICE, WHENEVER I OPEN MY EYES, OMG!

Walking around in the airport I find myself typing on my phone and still able to plow onward, constantly working on my novel and jotting down ideas in the ‘random ass ideas’ section, so as not to clog up my other sections. Organization is key, young grasshopper. Now it’s time to assimilate your writer’s toolbox. If you don’t know what that is, go download ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King or ‘Writing Tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer.’ You can even listen to it while you’re on the pot.

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing

p.s. ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King is awesome. There is a lot of narrative about his life but a lot to learn on writing craft as well, so approach it as a mix between pain and pleasure…and a great way to learn new material.

Slow but steady

I am not giving up. Life has gotten crazy but I continue to plow on. I think the main thing is that I keep thinking about my story. I must keep it in my head, and knowing all that I know about writing, I must maintain my confidence and just continue onward. I think the turning point in all of this was when I realized that I have to write the story I want to write, in the genre I want to write…not something that I think will be marketable, not something that I think I’m good at…the story I WANT to write. That is key for my inspiration. I will just have to make it marketable and bring my skills to the table in THIS story. November 1st I’m no longer accepting excuses from myself. 1650 words a day. Period. If I miss a day for an emergency, that means 3300 words the next day. Every day. Until the end of NaNoWriMo. The end.

Habits are easier said than done…

DJ Perry ~ Keep Writing