Burn Out!

WOW! Never thought it would happen to me, but it did! Burn out!! Not from writing  —  from   L-I-F-E…

No, I’m not being suicidal. I’m being tired! Full time job outside of the house, full time writing career, full time mother, full time wife, owner of 2 small businesses, writing for 4 or 5 different blogs (I’ve lost count LOL!)… Does it ever end??? Whew! I need a vacation and FAST!

In all honesty, I do this to myself all the time. I have a disease that doesn’t allow my mouth to say “no” and doesn’t allow my mind to ever close from its creative activities. There is always some idea that comes to mind that will help me in my life. But with a new idea always comes new tasks to add to an already too full plate.

And it’s CampNaNo June, which I am determined to win. I think that is what is really making me feel burned out. The pressure of writing 50,000 words in a month. Now, I am absolutely certain that I write 50k words in a month with no problem. No doubt about it. I have to — writing for several blogs, working on my manuscripts, and writing poetry. But the pressure that is on now is writing 50k words in one manuscript all in one month’s time. Yeah I write 50k words in a month, but never on one subject or in one manuscript…

Burn out.

I know it’s from sheer overwhelm. I work at my peak when I have too many tasks on my plate. My subconscious mind, however, keeps reminding me that I am 2 days and 505 words behind not counting the words for today. The day is still young so I can’t count that as “behind” unless I don’t write any more today. That puts me at 3,839 words behind. But what makes it worse is that I am at a particularly difficult part of the manuscript. It’s a memoir, so in this section I am talking a lot about my mother and father who are both deceased. The memories are good ones, but the fact that they are no longer here is what’s making the writing difficult. I am nearly 4,000 words behind! I don’t need this kind of difficulty in writing right now…

So, what do I do to circumvent this burn out? I wrote 1,162 words this morning and then ended the chapter. Those 1,162 words are what made me less than 3 days behind. I couldn’t bare to write any more about mom and dad…not right now. It was making the writing laborious. This is the very first, clunky draft anyway. I can always go back during the editing phase and add in whatever I need to enhance that chapter. If I continued to try writing in that chapter today, I would not get any writing done.

I have read many authors who do the same thing. Either finish the chapter off quickly, knowing they have to edit the manuscript anyway, or start writing a different scene or section of the book and come back to the difficult writing later. Because I am a pantser, there’s no way I can write a different scene or section and come back. I haven’t done any planning or outlining so I don’t know what the future scenes and sections will hold. I could always have gone off and worked on some poetry or maybe one of my other manuscripts; but I know me, I would never get back to writing this one… For the next 24 days I need to stay focused on writing this one manuscript. I want to win CampNaNo and I want to have a completed, clunky first draft in my grubby little paws by June 30th. If I don’t stick to deadlines, I will never get this book written and published!

Some writers take a break from writing when they hit a difficult patch, either by writing something else or walking away from writing altogether. Oooo, that would be a book killer for me! I would never want to return to writing that manuscript knowing where in the manuscript I had left off. Walking away at the difficult part for me would ensure that I would never return to finish writing. And I definitely would not return from writing something else, something less emotional. However, some authors have what it takes to walk away and come back later. I just am not cut from that part of the cloth…

Whatever you do, as always, you need to keep writing!

Time to share…
What do you do when you are burned out from so much going on, including your writing? How does writing sensitive passages affect your writing ability? What do you do when burn out begins to sabotage your writing practice? 

Focusing Your Memoir

Writing a memoir is a daunting task. A writer often struggles with what to include and what to leave out. It can be very overwhelming because no one wants to leave out any of the “good parts.” But how does one determine what the “good parts” are?

Memoir writers are often tempted to put in too much information. Characters and details that really are not important to the story you are trying to convey. These characters and details may have been part of the actual events, but do they make sense to the story from the viewpoint you are writing the memoir? If not, leave them out…even if it’s one of your siblings. You are not altering history here, you are simply writing the important memories you want to convey without the fluff stuff that isn’t necessary to the story you are telling.

I recently read an article on the American Scholar website on How To Write a Memoir. The author relates detailed information that can assist in memoir writing, some of which include:

  • But in my memoir I don’t write anything about the war itself. I just tell one story about one trip I took across North Africa after our troopship landed at Casablanca.“, and
  • Remember: Your biggest stories often have less to do with their subject than with their significance — not what you did in a certain situation, but how that situation affected you and shaped the person you became.“, and
  • Tackle your life in easily manageable chunks.

I think that these tidbits are good information for memoir writers to keep in mind. There is a wealth of other useful tidbits in the complete article, which can be found here. Don’t overdo it. Write just what is necessary to the story at hand. Your life spans many decades and trying to get a history of all those decades recorded in one volume is not only a difficult task, it may be unnecessary. Unless you are writing your autobiography, every detail is not necessary to tell a story about a portion of your life in a memoir. There’s no reason to relay all or most details of your life from birth up until the time of the story at hand. Leave those details for a different memoir. Focus on the subject matter of the memoir at hand — your memories of trips to your grandparents house, your memories of growing up in the church, your memories of baking cookies with your mom and selling them for a nickel at your lemonade stand…

In writing a memoir you must keep the story you are telling in focus. Do not lose your readers by giving too much information. Only what is pertinent to the story need be included. I suggest you take the time to read the full article. It is time well spent. I will be implementing the author’s suggestion to write a story about your life each morning and file it away until you have enough material to review and look for recurring patterns and themes. This helps the writer to really find out what their memoir is about, which is not usually what you think.

Time to share…
What do you struggle with in memoir writing? Has this article or the article on the American Scholar website helped you to refocus your memoir writing? In what ways?

On Writing…

I read a great article yesterday by a newly published author — Khanh Ha. His first book, Flesh, was released this month from Black Heron Press.

Mr. Ha is of Asian descent. In his article, he speaks about writing from a voice that is not your own. A voice in which your ethnic background is totally different from that of your character’s. It is difficult to accomplish this task, as a writer needs to pull from a place where she’s never “been.” His article then goes into giving the reader some tips on becoming a successful, published author.

I enjoyed the article in its entirety; however, Mr. Ha’s 7 Rules for Writing really drove it home for me:

ON WRITING

So you want to write a novel. Do you have a writing routine? I know no one’s routine is like another’s. While writing FLESH, I was regimented. I wrote every day. Each day faithfully by sticking to the seven rules—7 is my lucky number.

#1—find discipline in solitude, in aloneness so you can meet your characters. It’s like a rendezvous with ghosts. Then make that meeting every day or every night with no excuses.

#2—write each scene as if it were the only thing in your universe—it must command all your attention.

#3—write one scene well and that scene would breed the next scene.

#4—leave room for readers to participate: don’t overwrite.

#5—stop where you still have something to say so the next day you won’t face a dry well.

#6—read each day to keep your mind off your own writing.

#7—don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.

If you were born to write, write something, even if it’s just a suicide note. Somewhere I remember Toni Morrison once said, “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”
[Credit: Khanh Ha, “Rules for Writing and Revising Your Novel”]

These 7 rules are golden! But the rule I liked best — “#7 — don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.” Many new authors do more reading about “how” to write and “how” to be an author and “what NOT to do…” that we 1) don’t spend enough time writing — the whole goal, and 2) have so many conflicting pieces of advice that we stay still for fear that we’ll choose the wrong writing path to travel down and break the rules. The only rules are the ones you set for yourself…

The full article can be found here. It is worth the read. And then, get to writing!

Time to share…
How do you feel about Mr. Ha’s 7 rules for writing? Will you implement any of them in your writing life? Which one(s) would you change?

My Thoughts on Self Publishing

“Traditional publishing is dead, a victim of its own self importance. Writers of the world, step over the carcasses of the troglodytes. A new world awaits, and it’s all about you.”
Dan Poynter, Self Publishing Manual, Vol 2


I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more…

There has never been a question in my mind about which publishing route I would take. Traditional versus Self Publish. I always knew I was a self-publishing kind of girl… I am definitely a DIY’er and self publishing simply falls right in line. I am also a bit of a control freak. To turn the manuscript that I slaved over for months or years and have someone who is not in my head proceed to butcher — I mean edit — it into what their opinion of what my message should be gives me the willies. My editor works with me to massage the manuscript into my vision, not hers…

I started writing many many years ago. When I started, one of the first reference books I purchased was Dan Poynter’s original Self Publishing Manual. It became my publishing bible. Sadly, I cannot find my copy so the other day I went on Amazon to pick up another. I was elated to find Mr. Poynter had written a sequel, which the opening quote to this article was taken from. Being in eBook format. I squealed as I waited for the lightening fast transaction to complete so I could go from receipt onscreen to eagerly devouring the pages in my cloud reader app. I did buy the original as well, but it’s only available in print version (or Smashwords, which I didn’t want to deal with)…

To read just a few pages into the sequel and come across such a perfect gem of a quote couldn’t have been better. Mr. Poynter makes an emphatic, no nonsense statement on what’s happened in the publishing arena and why. So true that the traditional publishers harmed themselves by not embracing the digital revolution. They blew that new fangled toy called “the Internet” off as a passing fad that would never be able to touch the big boys.

Not only did the Internet age revolutionize the way books were sold (online v bookstore shelf), it gave new options to both authors and readers. Authors now had the ability to create and nurture their own relationships with book distributors. The advent of Amazon opened doors unimaginable to many. And then someone created digital books…

Traditional publishers were already scrambling to embrace technology. They realized that they needed to bring their catalogs online and quickly. The ease and convenience with which readers were now able to purchase was unmatched, and they never saw it coming. Meanwhile, the digital revolution had begun its progression to the next phase in making reading and buying books easier. The electronic book. Now patrons could purchase a book and start reading it virtually instantly. No more waiting for packages of books to be delivered. They had already all but abandoned trips to the bookstore.

Many smaller traditional publishers could not weather the storm and either folded or were absorbed by a larger publishing house. We ended up with a handful of power houses — publishing houses so large and with such deep pockets that they just knew they could continue to pay little attention to the writing on the wall. Pun intended. They made minor changes simply to have a finger in what was happening, but felt it worth not much more of their attention than that. And they continued to play god in the lives of authors and aspiring authors. They continued to operate like they had all the keys to the castle.

All the while authors and those writers who continued to be rejected made a new discovery — self publishing with ease minus the previous stigma. The advent of the Internet and all the changes it brought about caused a very pleasant turn of events for the self publishing arena. The stigma normally associated with being a self published author was greatly diminished and swiftly vanishing. More and more authors, including nationally recognized best selling authors, were considering and choosing to self publish. And the big boys never saw it coming…

They never thought the Internet would make much impact on the way they did business.

They never thought their loyal customer base would ever change with the tide and start purchasing online.

They never though the invention of the eBook and eReaders would have much impact. People were used to having, and wanted to continue feeling, a “real” book in their hands…

They never thought they would be de-throned by technology.

And their actions, or lack thereof, caused them to be “a victim of its own self importance.”

Dan Poynter said it best. I imagine a publishing world where the coin has been completely flipped in the very near future. Where self publishing is the norm and traditional publishing is the exception. Where writers turn to traditional publishing so they won’t be literally “starving artists” — they will be able to live off the advance given when traditionally published. Where traditional publishers will have to offer all authors advances and better royalties just to get them to sign. You know…much like how the world of self publishing used to be and the author paid hefty fees to get their books published. And then they were labeled. They had “bought” their book publishing. They weren’t good enough to be picked up by a traditional house…

Now the label will be for traditionally published authors. They’ll be labeled as “sell outs,” but only because they chose not to fully live the writer’s life and be a starving artist. It will be a fun label; not one in which their book sales will be hurt for the benefit of the big boys. Their prose won’t be marked substandard simply because they didn’t self publish, as self published authors used to be labeled because they chose to self publish.

Self publishing is here to stay. It’s no longer taboo to be a self published author. Yes, we all still aspire to be “picked up” for now — why wouldn’t any author? However, technology has greatly leveled the playing field and allowed more good authors to release their works. It also created a much larger pool of poor writing to sift through; but that’s an article for a different day…

Time to share…
What is your take on self publishing? Does it still carry the old stigma of being a substandard writer who couldn’t get picked up? Do you plan to self publish — even if you will also attempt to be traditionally published?

Dan Poynter is a well known author and known by many for his Self Publishing Manual. He runs Para Publishing and has a website that offers a wealth of information to authors and aspiring writers. Visit Mr. Poynter at Para Publishing by clicking here.