Awesomely Utter Zaniness Is About To Commence

I got SFF Hero Conan the Barbarian dedicated to me, first thing this morning. That will put a GREAT shine on anyone’s day. Plus, I’m getting more work done, about to see if I can bump up my morning runs to 2.5 miles, and just basically looking forward to a day that is going to kick a ton of ass.

So, while I’m off humming the waltz that was playing while James Earl Jones turned into a giant snake (oh, my God, I love that scene), you could read Scalzi’s Why Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon, a very nice little three-act play. You could try to imagine the point at which I completely lost it and started laughing hysterically while nodding vigorously and screaming “Yes, YES!” so loud I’m sure the neighbors think I’m Up To No Good.

Yes, I’m in that particular stage of hyper where I can tell a book is going to break loose soon. It’s probably going to be revisions on Heaven’s Spite, which took a left turn while I was weaving in some plot tangles. I have to think about this, and I’m sure when I go back to finish it I’ll lunge through the next hundred pages of revision at warp speed and somehow discover I’ve added another 2-3K words. That’s how these things usually happen.

So, today will be a day of awesomely utter zaniness for me. I hope yours will be just as fun.

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Song Of The Week *hic*

Philip Palmer graciously invited me over to his blog-house today for the SFF Song of the Week. I managed not to break anything or mess up the floors. (I think.) If you’re interested in more Leslie Fish, her site is here.

And Philip? Next time I’m sticking to vodka. That green stuff is dangerous.

Well, I’ve revisions to stick my nose back into and fresh wordcount to pick up on several items today, including a short story that I’m really excited about but can’t announce yet. So I’ll bid you a fond farewell. Happy Wednesday! Tomorrow is Reader Question Day, I’ve got a few from the mailbag just dying to come out and play.

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I Don’t Wanna

First, announcements, then the meat of the post, then Damiversary giveaways. That is the order in which things will occur this Friday. I declare it. Hey, the Muse is just sitting there filing her nails, so I’ve got to be a petty dictator where I can.

Announcements! You can find a taste of my short story Best Friends over at FlamesRising! The story is in The Girl’s Guide To Guns & Monsters anthology, available just around the corner in February. Also, you can find a short preview of my essay Ambiguous Anita for the absolutely fabulous Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, which will be coming out in April. It was a pleasure to be included in both.

I still have other good news that I’m having to sit on. It KILLS me. But them’s the breaks.

And now, the meat of the post…well, don’t take this the wrong way. But I don’t wanna.

Seriously. I started out yesterday with a huge honking attack of the I don’t wannas. It’s only gotten worse today.

Any disciplined activity you put serious time and energy into–dieting, writing, dance practice–goes through periods where it temporarily gets harder to do. The reasons can be manifold: stress, life changes, boredom, the urge to rest for a bit, what-have-you. It goes in cycles, especially when you hit a plateau right before a leap forward.
I write a lot here about discipline and habit. Think of them as bowling bumpers, keeping your ball in the lane. During good times, when you’re excited and happy to be writing, the discipline is easy to maintain. Your motivation’s high. But there will come times when you just don’t want to, for a variety of reasons. It will get harder to keep a consistent schedule and keep writing a priority. Just like it gets harder to stick to calorie restriction or dance practice when your motivation goes down and a stack of Netflix DVDs plus a box of Entenmann’s are calling your name. (OK, I could be projecting here. Just a touch. But you still get the idea.)

I bump up against the hard edges of the habit of spending several years writing damn near every day occasionally, when the I don’t wannas attack. Sometimes I do slow down a bit and take a rest. It’s hard to differentiate between loss of motivation, just plain laziness, and approaching burnout. I’ve evolved a few questions that I ask myself and a process to tell if it’s burnout, but I sincerely doubt my methods will work for anyone other than me. Part of the difficulty of consistent creative activity is that it is so personal, and the methods of motivation and differentiating burnout from laziness differ from person to person.

Yes, I have trouble motivating myself sometimes. The advice I give is partly because I struggle to keep that consistent discipline and practice. Maybe for some people, it’s easier. I don’t know. The important thing is to keep the habit of discipline strong, so that when the I don’t wannas attack, you have nice strong bumpers keeping your ball in the lane and a fighting chance of getting to the pins.

My motivation to write is pretty simple: I have rent to pay and kids to feed. And yet, still, some days I struggle. It might be worse for people who aren’t depending on their writing to bring home the rent. I suspect it is.

No matter how hard I don’t wanna, I’m still in the habit of doing it every day. So I suppose I’ll just poke at a few things and see what happens.

And now, the giveaway! To celebrate the Damiversary, this time I’m offering 2 T-shirts from my CafePress store. (I really need to get some more designs up…) All you have to do is comment here at the Deadline Dames by midnight Saturday (the 30th).[1] If you can’t think of anything to say, tell me what you do to get going when your own motivation suffers. I’m always looking for more techniques to steal, ahem, I mean, good advice to follow. I’ll pick the winners from Random.org, and the Dames will announce them next week along with this week’s winners.

Speaking of which, we still haven’t heard from some of last week’s Damiversary winners! Make sure to go and see if you won something, and look for other cool prizes that were announced earlier this week as well.

Vive les Dames!

[1]Comments are closed on this post just to make everything fair.

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Short But Sweet

…just like my temper today. Ha ha. I got nothin’ today, so here’s a couple links:

* It’s the one-year anniversary of the Deadline Dames. Come over for giveaways, prizes, exclusive spoilers, and more!

* Plus, Philip Palmer (the coolest Welshman since Daffyd op Owen) has started a new feature: the SFF Song of the Week. Check out this week’s offering.

As for me, I’m still working away on Dru 4. Tentative title: The Blooming. The book’s taken a weird left turn, which is both terrifying and a Good Sign. Plus, today’s laundry day. The fun just never stops here at Casa Saintcrow.

Catch you later…

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Keep Showing Up

There comes a point in every book where one realizes one is not writing the damn book. The damn book is taking shape under one’s fingers, according to its own will and desires. You might as well just be a tube the words are coming through. Although the story needs the tube to contain it–and to work to put it on the page–it certainly doesn’t, well, obey.

I think this frightens a lot of people who want to write. The sense that they might not be in control, or that the story might be coming through them, is a scary one. It’s like having an alien in your brain. Others fight the organic life of the story and end up with a mess, where the reader can tell the writer fought tooth and nail to retain control instead of letting the story take shape. It’s sad to read–it’s like looking at a limping, broken thing that once used to soar.

Even writing to spec requires some submission to the story’s desires. There’s the focused daydream of planning the story, where chunks of the narrative arc come out of the mist and loom inside one’s head like frigates, and then there’s the day to day writing, where you have to get to a particular plot point, but the pleasure resides in deciding how.

This may be different for other writers, I don’t know. For me, it’s an odd tandem: the discipline to sit down and be present every day and the gift of the story taking shape of its own accord. I decided a long time ago that coming up with the story wasn’t really my job. That’s the Muse’s job. Mine is being present in front of the keyboard every day, ready, willing, and Mabel. I give the Muse the vague specs and she takes over. She needs my hands and my willingness, and I need that damn fairy dust she sneezes out. We’re a symbiote, but it requires work.

Anyway, I’ve reached the point in the current book–around 30K, sometimes a little later–where I sit back to think about what comes next and I realize I am not steering this train. The tracks are laid and they’re taking me somewhere through that wall of fog. It’s equal parts terrifying and downright exciting.

Terrifying because I am counting on this other thing to produce the story needed for me to continue working and earning money. Exciting because it’s a rollercoaster, and you know…she’s never let me down yet. The Muse is a fickle, tricky, nasty little wench. But she is also faithful in her fashion, and as long as I’ve shown up she’s never taken a sick day. There’s a certain amount of comfort in realizing that as long as I’m doing my best, she’s going to keep slugging away too.

So, I’m about to turn on the foglamps and charge forward into that white cloudbank. There’s always the risk of running off the edge of a cliff. But if I haven’t yet, in over thirty finished books and God knows how many short stories and slush bits…well, I’ll take my chances and trust the Muse.

She hasn’t let me down yet. All I’ve got to do is keep showing up.

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Optimism Proceeds Apace

First, the links: there’s a giveaway of Flesh Circus over at NL Berger’s place. And here’s an opinion piece about how the Internet does not mean the death of publishing. Oh, and nuts in Texas might be affecting the textbooks your children will use. (This last one is why I’m so glad I have a great deal of information and supplementary reading for my kids just hanging around the house.)

It’s been a time of big changes here at Casa Saintcrow, and we’ve just accomplished one of the biggest. Which has required a wrenching in our personal habits–now we’re all getting up between 6 and 7 AM. This is not cool for my biorhythms, man.

I have always been a night owl. Always. Given my druthers, I’d be completely nocturnal. Unfortunately, life won’t allow that. So I’m stuck on a schedule that my entire body rebels against. It’s hell for the first half-hour or so of my day, until I can get enough coffee in to trick my flesh into believing that it should be vertical, not to mention ambulatory and thinking.

Fortunately, the Little Prince and Princess are both so excited, they adore the new schedule and are quickly falling into a routine. And getting up this early leaves me with a shoal of time in the early afternoon that’s turned quite productive. (My productivity has also been helped by a number of stressors Going Away.) So, it’s got its good things.

The “make 2010 MY year” Optimism Experiment is going full steam. I’m fitting into size 14 jeans. While this does not sound like a lot, if you’ve ever lost a significant amount of weight, you know what it feels like to hit a milestone. Which this size definitely is, for me. I have even more grounds for optimism, in that there’s been nothing so far in the past two months that I couldn’t handle. I am beginning to feel okay about things, another huge step up.

On the other hand…I think I have to ditch about 1K I wrote yesterday evening. It’s a great scene, but I think it belongs a touch later in the book. This is why having a slush file for each book is so important for me. Of all the slush piles, the one for To Hell And Back is most extensive, because I had two or three different fully-finished versions of the book. That was a lot of work. Damn.

In any case, it’s time for the treadmill now. I am feeling cautiously, faintly optimistic about this entire 2010 thing. Which is way, way better than the alternative.

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