Saturday, February 14, 2009

Getting started

I have days when I find it impossible to get started on my work. The very act of opening the file on the computer in which my story or novel is contained is more than I can manage.

It may be that I am tired from my other work, or worried about whether I will be able to write as well as I want to on that day. But try as I might, I keep getting distracted by news stories, opinion pieces, Internet forums and Facebook discussions. When I've had my fill of perusing those and answered all my emails, I may decide it’s time to update my website, or do the grocery shopping, or clean the oven.

All day long I hope that at any moment I am going to open the file on my desktop and get to work, but also all day long I also fear that I will not. As suppertime approaches and then passes, I begin to accept that this day has been shot and that, for reasons I do not clearly understand, I am the one who shot it.

I have recently discovered that when such a situation arises, there is something I can do to make the day change direction in my favour. Actually, I have two options, at least. (You may have others -- please feel free to add them in the Comments section.)
  • I can unplug the laptop and take it to a public place such as a coffee shop where the Internet is more difficult to obtain than it is at home. I open my fiction file while the barista is still making my Double Shot CafĂ© Americano, and I get to work. After an hour or so of this, and always leaving at the start a new thought, I am able to take my laptop back home and continue with the story.
  • Another course of action that works effectively for me is even less disruptive. I print out the last few pages of whatever fiction project I am working on and take it with pen and a pad of lined paper to a corner of the house (such as the dining room table) where I can comfortably write by hand. I usually start by writing revisions on the printout, and before I know it I have covered most of the print-out page with handwritten notes and moved on to the lined paper. Within half an hour, I am usually ready to return to work on the computer but I stay where I am for at least another fifteen minutes. By then the writing has become more interesting to me than any of the distractions that earlier so thoroughly intrigued me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

discussion question #1

I recently responded with enthusiasm to a friend on FaceBook who said he was about to teach a course in creative non-fiction. I asked him if he would be talking about creative non-fiction markets, which can be hard to find.

A friend of his, who is also a widely published writer of creative non-fiction, responded to my comment by saying, "Serious writing is not about markets."

What do you think? Can you be a serious writer and still concern yourself with who is going to be buying, selling or reading your stories, essays, novels or poems? Does an eye on audience affect your writing--either negatively or positively?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Use competitons as deadlines

Find short-story, flash fiction or even novel competitions and commit to entering them. They provide invaluable deadlines and offer the additional advantage of keeping the manuscript you have submitted off your desk for weeks or even months.

By the time you learn that you didn't win the competition, you will be ready to revisit your submission with a fresh eye. Your edits will improve it, and you will have a piece of fiction ready for submission elsewhere.

And if you do win... well, that is always a nice thing, too.

Note: Many writing competitions now include entry fees. If these fees seem to be appropriate -- a reasonable sum to cover administration costs and an honorarium for judges--don't let them discourage you from entering. More and more literary journals are using such contests to help defray operating costs, which makes good sense. In most cases the fee will cover a copy of the journal or a one-year subscription in addition to the opportunity to enter. The key word here is "appropriate." Some competitions charge excessively and their only purpose is to make money for the organizers. Caveat emptor.