Persistence – A poem for everyone and a note for writers

Persistence - a poem by Tina Konstant - your Daily Dose of Fiction

Having fully accepted the last book is trashed, I wrote this with persistence in mind. The gentle keep-on-going that allows you to let go and move on without any guarantee that what you embark on next will turn out any different. Here you go…

 

Persistence

Tell me you’re done and
I won’t believe
You are too big to hide
In the shadows
Of the Baobab Tree at dawn
Where the black arrow flies
Looking for love.
Your dreams are loud
They sing where the wild things grow.
Even when you shut
Your ears and your heart
The black arrow hunts regardless.
So do not run.
Stand firm on the wide-open plains.
Catch the arrow with both hands.
It knows where to go.

 

NOTE TO WRITERS: The Daily Dose of Fiction is proving to have some interesting side effects. Over the last 14 years of “trying” to write my novel, I’ve gone through every possible mental contortion. If you’ve worked on yours for more than a few years, you’ll know what I mean. Your mind plagues you. It’s like oil on your kitchen floor – you can’t see it, but you know it’s there.

So, writing something to publish every day has generated some small shifts that might help if you’re a little stuck…

  • When you commit to publishing something every day, you really do sit down to write – with intent and focus. You don’t fret about it or squeeze 250 words into the last part of your day. You will, I promise, focus on it first.
  • To be in the state required to create something you like enough to publish, your day will take on a different shape – so you might find that you don’t succumb to sugar and afternoon movies so much. You’ll write and edit instead.
  • You’ll start to notice the world around you a little more. You’ll find yourself looking for stories and random conversations, contact and life.

Bottom line… writing something to publish every day is a great way to get your head out your butt.

That’s it. Try a Daily Dose of Fiction yourself. It might shake the rust from some of your joints.

Enjoy your magnificent day.

Tina

 

Procrastination gets a bad rap

What if procrastination isn’t a bad thing? What if it’s a critical part of the creative process? I’m not making excuses for either of us, I’m just asking the question: What if there’s a reason you’re not forging ahead with your cunning plan?

Here are more questions… Instead of beating yourself up because you’re not “getting on with it” ask yourself: What’s missing? Am I ready for the fallout if it goes wrong? Am I ready for the fallout if it goes right? Is the idea ready? Is the idea big enough/small enough/clear enough?

Maybe it needs to stew a little longer?

And there you have it…

Maybe the thing you’re avoiding just needs to stew a little longer. Maybe the idea is a good one, but you’re missing a key ingredient. Maybe it has to sit in its juices for a while to mature before you put it into the world. Maybe procrastination isn’t procrastination at all… maybe its being patient.

Have a most mellow day, folks
Tina

P.S. Here’s a TED talk I think you’ll enjoy. It’s by Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

 

 

What does Patience have to do with Procrastination?

What does patience have to do with procrastination?Over the last week we’ve talked about procrastination a whole lot on Facebook. Why? We needed something to do instead of what we should be doing, and talking about procrastination seemed appropriate. Oddly, having thought about the subject considerably, we came to a somewhat unexpected conclusion.

Procrastination is more about a lack of patience than putting off what you should be doing.

Think about it for a moment… Think about what you put off doing (I’m not talking about little admin jobs you let build up until they bite your ass, but the things that really matter). These things typically take up a lot of time, the results aren’t immediate, the outcome might well rely on the approval of others, that approval, if not received, could extend the completion of that project.

So take your novel as an example. Think about the time it takes from idea to draft, then from draft to final edit, then from final edit to submission. Then, once you submit it, you have to wait some more. You might or might not get the deal you want. If you don’t, you have to get back to work and wait some more. It’s a long process. It takes time. So instead of diving in and doing it, you do other things. Things that do have a guaranteed outcome (sorting the shed, doing the laundry, building a website, cutting the grass…).

Because the truth is, we don’t do NOTHING when we procrastinate. We fill our time with things we can finish quickly and easily. We get busy and we stay busy. Finishing things we can control feels good. Finishing them quickly feels even better.

So what does patience have to do with procrastination?

If we had patience, we could wake up in the morning and accept that the thing we want to do will take as long as it will take. When you accept that, starting doesn’t seem so daunting.

Patience is the thing that allows us to slow, think and love the ride. It’s the state of mind that allows us to enjoy the views of the journey we’re on. It’s the feeling of calm in a world full of chaos. It’s the acceptance that we are in charge of our daily actions and that freaking out over how long it takes us to get there will do nothing but delay us and give us an ulcer.

So be calm today folks. Be patient with yourself. Some things aren’t meant to be finished in a day or a week or a year. Some things take time. The more impatient you are, the more you will procrastinate, and the longer it will take. So be patient, accept things as they are, pick up your pen, and get to work.

Kick back and watch the grass grow. It will take as long as it takes.
Tina

Keep Calm… It’s just a novel! 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel freaks you out.

Keep Calm! It's just a novel.OMG!!!!! It’s been a month/a year/a decade and I haven’t finished my novel!!!!!!!! Damn, we wind ourselves up about the most remarkable things. 

It’s all a question of perspective. The main problem is that our perspective (the glorious writer) doesn’t match the rest of the world. We have a schedule! Doesn’t the world get that? We have deadlines! The thing is, the more you freak out over your novel (whatever stage you’re at) the slower the process will become.

So here are at least 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel starts to freak you out.

ONE: Do something that’s worth freaking out over. If you’re scared of heights, go skydiving! I guarantee that facing down something worthy of being freaked by will put your novel in perspective.

TWO: Play tiddlywinks. I don’t know what it is… Maybe it’s the comical seriousness required to get the little suckers in the cup. Takes your mind off things.

THREE: Remove all deadline. Obliterate them. Don’t set them!

FOUR: Get some puppy therapy! Even watching this video will make you smile. So go get some!!

FIVE: Go rock-climbing or scuba-diving. There’s something about these two sports that will put you in an almost meditative state. Blissful. I promise. Get to it.

SIX: Get a mix of people you like, love and maybe not like so much and go play paintball! Shoot the folk you don’t like and blame your buddy. Yeah, baby!

SEVEN: Watch a whole day of TV! Sod it!! TWO DAYS! Get a box set of something awesome and watch every episode back-to-back.

EIGHT: Go on a course. Choose something you’re fascinated in, something unrelated to your book, something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Make sure it’s a real class with real people, not online. Climb right into the subject. Boots and all.

NINE: SING! Doesn’t matter if you can’t. Really it doesn’t. Just open your lungs like a parrot at dusk and squawk! If you like, join a choir and make a habit of it. Your noise is too great for the shower! Get it out there!!

TEN: Go to a tap dance class. I bet there is research somewhere that proves that tap dancing is the most liberating of all the dance forms. There is something remarkable about making music with your feet.

ELEVEN: Get a full on, no messing, hot-stone massage.

TWELVE: Pick up a favourite book by your favourite author, find a coffee shop, take your shoes off and enjoy.

Last I looked, writing a novel was supposed to be fun. So snap open the goodie bag and jump in the puddle… doesn’t matter what you do, but whatever it is, keep calm… it’s just a novel.

Add mellow to your writing day today…
Tina

 

LOVE writing? LOVE feedback! 5 ways to get the most out of it

Be brave. Pick a tough editor. The feedback will do your book good!

Feedback from a professional is the lifeblood of great writing. You can spend years on what you think is an absolute marvel but without feedback from people who know what they’re talking about (not your mother, best buddy or 3rd cousin Jethro) you’ll never know if there are gaps in your plot or holes in your characters. All you’ll know – if you put the book to market without feedback – is that people aren’t responding to it. You’ll know that something is wrong, but you won’t know what.

Now of course, sending your novel or short story to a ruthless, picky professional can be damn scary, but if you’re scared to send it out to ONE person to read critically, how do you think you’ll handle putting that same work online or on Amazon for it be shredded – or even worse – ignored by the public!?

You have to grow to LOVE feedback. Seek it out. Find the toughest, meanest, glass-eyed editors and beg them to leave mercy at the door! Don’t ask people who love you for feedback. Your mother will tell you it’s wonderful. Your best buddy will take pity on you and get you drunk. Your 3rd cousin, Jethro will probably ask for a loan.

Go to the professionals. Ask for honest feedback. Then do the following to make sure you can do something with it:

ONE: Let your book go. You have to. Once you hand it over to a professional, you need to detach yourself from it. If you don’t, the feedback you get might feel horribly personal. But when an editor says – your characters are weak and limp. She really is saying YOUR CHARACTERS are weak and limp. Not you. But if you are too entwined with your book, you’ll risk taking feedback personally and it could break you.

TWO: Listen! This is important. Really listen to what a good editor has to say. These people have read, reviewed, studied, considered, edited, re-written hundreds of books and short stories. You have written… what? How many? One? Three? Maybe 10 if you’re on a roll? A professional editor knows their beans. Listen to them.

THREE: Take their recommendations seriously. Don’t just THINK about them. Implement them. What’s the point of great feedback if you’re going to ignore it?

FOUR: Think for yourself. On one hand I say listen and take the editor’s recommendations seriously, but you also need to think for yourself. The very first novel I wrote (never published – still on a shelf) I included every suggestion the editor made. It ended up not sounding like me at all. So listen to everything, then do rewrites based on the feedback, not mindlessly including it.

FIVE: Make sure you give your best work to the editor. Don’t give your book or short story to an editor because you can’t work out what to do next. If your plot or characters are broken, do the work, fix them, then get the editor in. Your name will be on the cover after all.

Bottom line… Grow a thick skin! Feedback is part of the process. Don’t shortcut the process.

Happy growth spurt today!
Tina

If you’re a writer, eat the frog first!

If you're a writer, eat the frog first!I could write a 2000 word blog about this (Brian Tracy wrote a whole book!), but I’m going to be brief so you can get on with things. If you want to achieve the important things in your life (including being the writer you want to be), eat the frog first!

Do what’s difficult. Do what you’ve been avoiding. Do what you’re scared to do. Do what will honestly move you forward.

Look at everything you want to do today, pick the thing that will actually lead you to achieving your goal, do that first (no matter how hard/scary it is), then get on with the rest of it.

So if you’re selling something (book, short story, article, pot plant) and can’t seem to get started – make selling it the first thing you do. Don’t mess about with emails and internet research and other such excuses. Pick up the phone.

If you want to get fit but would rather have cream cakes for breakfast – get to the gym first. Don’t go shopping for new gym gear.

If you’re writing and have been putting it off – get your words in first. Leave social media and emails until later in the day. Why? Because once you’ve eaten the frog, you’ll actually have something to talk about and contribute.

For more about eating frogs, have a read of Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog”.

Damn delicious, I promise you.
Tina

You’re writing a novel, so why bother with short stories?

A short story or two could be the solution to all your writing issues!Whether you’re in the thick of writing your novel, working hard at starting it, stuck in writer’s block or dreaming about your career as an author, you might find some answers in the unlikely lap of a short story or two.

But why take the time (that you probably don’t have) and effort (that’s dwindled to a puddle) to write a short story when every moment of your day is absorbed by either working on or freaking out over your novel???

In no particular order… 11 ways a short story can make you a better writer

ONE: Short stories are quick to write. If you’re stuck on your novel and need a distraction, pick a character and genre you’d never normally write in and blast a story out. You’ll be surprised how many rusted bolts that loosens up.

TWO: Short stories are an amazing way to develop a character. If yours are feeling a little two dimensional, pick an era in their lives (outwith the timeline of your novel) and write a short story about that. It will give you incredible insight into their back story and might reveal a few things about them that you didn’t know.

THREE: If getting your stuff out there seems terrifying, write a dozen short stories (at least) then send them ALL out for sale. Not competition. SALE. You’ll soon feel comfortable sending your work out, writing cover letters, finding the right publications and feeling OK if they say no. Why? Because if they do come back unaccepted, you tweak it and send it out again!

FOUR: Short stories are perfect for developing and experimenting with story worlds. Write a short story titled “A day in the life of a lizard in my story world”. You’ll be surprised what you find out. Most of the time you view your world from character head height. What happens on the street? What do things look like from the ground up? What does your world look like from a totally different angle? If your main characters are very rich, write a short story about someone in your world who is very poor.

FIVE: Use short stories to fix your writing challenges. If you have a problem with good dialogue, write short stories packed with it. If narrative is an issue, write one with narrative only. Whatever your writing weakness, use short stories to work it. Once you’re done, send a few into competitions that offer a review. Get feedback from professionals, rewrite based on the feedback, then send it out for SALE!

SIX: If you can’t think of anything to write, then write a short story that starts with your name. Don’t plan. Don’t think. Just free flow. It won’t take much time and it’ll get things going.

SEVEN: Practice your editing skills. A novel is a mammoth thing to edit. More often than not it takes way longer than we expect, and certainly longer than we’d like! Get better at it. Write short stories, edit them well, then send them out into the world.

EIGHT: When you send your novel out, you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules. If all you’re doing is waiting to hear back about ONE piece of work, you’re likely to crash and burn when/if you get a no. But if you always have multiple bits of work in the market, getting a no won’t have that much impact on your soul. You’ll have a bunch of other pieces of work out there. So rework what came back, and send it out again.

NINE: They’re fun! There isn’t a huge investment of time. You can write flash fiction if you like. A mere 500 words. When things are getting too serious, look around the space you’re in, pick 3 words and write a story that incorporates them. Make is as crazy and ridiculous as you can. Make yourself laugh! Then, if you like it, edit it and send it out to WORK!

TEN: Short stories allow you to build a great portfolio. One day, when you have a bunch of stories you love, you can gather them all together and publish a compilation. Never a word wasted.

ELEVEN: One of a writer’s fears it the notion of spending years on something that doesn’t go anywhere. A short story will give you a reprieve from that. Spend an hour or two writing it (1500-2000 words) then a week or so to edit and stew, then send it out. Use this little tool to beat your writing fears whether they stem from the quality of your work to judgement of it. Sod it. Put it out there anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh… say it ain’t so… you might actually get really good at it and get result. RESULTS!

There are 11 reasons to write short stories. Any more? Let me know…

Happy writing today!
Tina

Is it writer’s block or are you suffering from information overload?

Information overload or writer's block??!One of the traps you fall into while deep in writer’s block is to keep yourself busy researching everything, from the genre you’re writing about, to how to write, to why you can’t.

While you are reading and researching you keep finding people who have already published their first or tenth novel and the advice they all spout is “Write every day. You must write every day.”

They might be correct. You know they probably are. But you still want to smack them for saying it, because you can’t write! That’s the problem! What part of writer’s BLOCK don’t they get?!

But are you suffering from writer’s block or is it information overload?

Considering most of my non-fiction books are on speed-reading and information overload, I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve fallen foul of an overload funk a few times. Here are some of the symptoms…

  • If you feel buzzed and happy until you sit down at your desk to write – at which point the energy in your body drains into a miserable puddle around your feet… you probably have information overload.
  • If you can’t write a sentence without feeling compelled to dig out every fact needed to write the next sentence, you might have an issue with information overload. For example: Your character picks up a gun. You’ve seen a gun in the movies, perhaps even held one, but you don’t know anything about guns, so you shut down your novel to pick up a dozen gun magazines, go to a gun show and join a shooting range. You are most likely addicted to information overload (it’s a great excuse for not being able to write).
  • If your novel is so full of facts that you’ve lost the story but don’t care because you’re sure your readers will love the details as much as you, then you’re suffering from information overload.
  • If you feel that no matter how much you read and study, you will never know enough, then you’re suffering from information overload.

Quick tips on how to get out of the research trap, escape writer’s block (!!) and get on with your writing:

ONE: Ask how much information your CHARACTERS need, and find out that and only that.
TWO: If you’re writing on a subject you know nothing about, write it from the point of view of a character who knows nothing. See what happens.
THREE: Limit your research to an hour a day – maximum. When time is limited you’ll get smarter about how you do it.

No matter how great your facts are, if your plot is a mess and your characters are weak, no one will get past your first beautifully crafted page. If someone really wants to know the entire history of China or the metal make-over of an AK47, they’ll Google it themselves.

Dump the research today and just write.
Tina