Writing—So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

More sage writerly wisdom from Ms. Lamb.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Recently a Facebook friend shared a post with me regarding Indie Musicians versus Indie Authors. It appears our culture has a fascination and reverence for the Indie Musician whereas Indie Authors face an immediate stigma. We authors have to continually prove ourselves, whereas musicians don’t (at least not in the same way). My friend seemed perplexed, but to me it’s very simple.

We’re not even going to address the flood of “bad” books. Many writers rush to publish before they’re ready, don’t secure proper editing, etc. But I feel the issue is deeper and it reflects one of the many challenges authors face and always will.

People give automatic respect to a musician because not everyone can play an instrument or sing. Simple. It’s clear that artist can do something many cannot.

As writers, we have an insidious enemy. People…

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The Danger of The Not Quite Complete Outline

As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, when it comes to the ‘plotting vs. pantsing‘ debate I fall firmly into the former camp. I wouldn’t dream of starting the first draft of a book without having a well-defined outline of the high level plot, chapters to get from A to Z, and even the scenes that make up those chapters. I just don’t know where I’m going otherwise.

So when it came to starting work on my current WIP–Causal Nexus, which will be the third book in the Unity Sequence–the first thing I did was build that outline. Start to finish, all the characters, all the arcs, all done and ready to draft.

Or so I thought.

I started writing, and the first few chapters came with ease. Then, as I neared the end of part one (of three) I started to slow down. The words weren’t coming so easily, and I found I just wasn’t sitting down to write as much as I should be. For a while I assumed it was just life getting in the way; work being busy, too much other ‘stuff’ that needed doing, etc.

But then a couple of weeks ago I went to a work conference, where several colleagues who have read my first two books accosted me–in a friendly way–and demanded to know when the third one was coming out, because they were tired of waiting for it. Which is obviously a very nice thing to hear, and gave me a kick up the backside.

The day after I got home I fired up Scrivener and spent an hour poring over what I’d written so far, the character bios, the outline, the– wait, the outline. I realised that what I’d thought was a very well-defined incident at the start of act two, which kicks off the sequence of events that drives the story through to the end of the book, was in fact not very well-defined at all. Was damn near woolly, in fact. Vague.

I’m not sure how that happened; I can only assume I was in a rush to get down all the other exciting stuff that happens after that point. But regardless, I rolled up my sleeves and fixed it. Nailed those few scenes down so they made sense, flowed, and tied into other plot points both earlier and later in the story.

And what do you know? Now I’m back to full speed again. Seems that my being sub- or unconsciously aware that I didn’t-quite-100-per-cent-totally know where I was going next was making me tentative about getting to that point. Once I did–boom. Away I went.

The moral of the story here, my plotter friends, is that if you ever find your writing trundling along at less than your normal place, or worse, stalling entirely, take a good hard look at your outline. It might be a bit more… ‘pantsy’, shall we say, than you thought.

Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller

Ah, the media. What would we do without you. *slow clap*

David Gaughran

hitlerA juicy story broke last week, the kind that makes savvy sub-editors salivate over potential Twitter-bait headlines.

It had been discovered that Hitler’s pre-war memoir Mein Kampf was a digital bestseller, leading to a global bout of media hand-wringing and pontificating. One excitable commentator even suggested it was a sign the second Holocaust was imminent.

The only problem with this story is that it’s not true. At all.

Hitler’s “bestselling” performance was first reported by Chris Faraone at Vocativ under the headline Kindle Fuhrer: Mein Kampf Tops Amazon Charts. Then spread like wildfire.

Huge blogs and websites like Gizmodo, Huffington Post, GawkerSlate, and Salon reported on this phenomenon. Major newspapers also covered the story: the Guardian, New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times. Television networks got in on the act too, like ABC News

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Treadmill Desk is Go Go Go

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and be jealous!

IMAG0492_BURST002After about eighteen months of using a standing desk to work from home, and loving it, last week I took the final step in banishing the sedentary aspect of working on a computer all day. I’ve been following the trends in treadmill desking over the last year or so, and particularly the amazingly in-depth Treadmill Desk Diary. It was based on the recommendations there that I bought my desk and my treadmill. And the colours even match, which is a nice bonus!

So far I’m not walking constantly while I work, sometimes I just stand, but I’ve definitely been getting some good exercise. I’ve been keeping track of how many minutes I’ve done, and at what speed, and therefore my distance. The treadmill also has a calorie burn estimate, which is handy. From all of this I can say that in Week One A.T.–After Treadmill–I walked 36.1 miles and burned 5340 calories! Which is pretty badass.

If you’re interested in learning more about the terrifying dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, or ‘How Your Chair Is Killing You’, have a read of this report from the President’s Council on Not Being So Overweight And Unhealthy That You Die at Forty Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. If tl;dr, the headline is ‘Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More, More Often’. Which is really just common sense, but it does take a bit of effort to put it into practice. You don’t need to go the whole way and get the same setup as me–and that wouldn’t even be possible for a lot of people who work in normal offices, rather than at home–but try standing up to work once in a while. You might like it!

He’s Only Gone and Actually Written Something

Yup. Much like Hercules still finding time to stay in shape and have great hair whilst completing his twelve labours, yours truly has found time in his busy schedule of working, sleeping, playing Red Dead Redemption, watching Sherlock, thinking about the Sherlock I just watched, and wishing there were more than three episodes of Sherlock in a season, to actually write some more of my soon-to-be-nearly-upcoming novella – the very science-fictionally titled Causal Nexus.

Entirely gratuitous picture of BC to attract clicks. Hi there, people who were expecting a post about Sherlock!

Chapter six is in the bag, and that’s six of my seven characters introduced. One more chapter will complete the cast, and also act one of the book, which with a gentle, not-quite-literary-but-getting-there pace quite unlike that of the first two books in the series, sets the scene.

Then in act two everything starts going to shit for everybody, which is much more my usual speed. Fun!

If I can get some momentum going I should be able to knock out the rest of the draft in fairly short order. It is, after all, a novella, not a novel, so isn’t likely to run much more than about 50,000 words. I’ve got a third of that done already, so another couple of months at a decent clip should get a draft done. Then it’ll be time to bring in the editor, rustle up a cover, try to remember how to compile ebooks and do paperback layouts, and all that jazz.

Onward! Also: upward!

Dan’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

  • Take driving lessons. Pass test. Terrify other motorists with erratic and unexpected driving ‘skills’.
  • When visiting Grand Canyon in February, take at least one decent photo.
  • Exercise more. Remove squidgy bit of body hiding abs. (These may have disappeared since last sighting, though prodding suggests one or two still remain.)
  • Complete and publish third novel. Start fourth.
  • Blog more.
  • Read more.
  • Try harder to acknowledge dog owners before greeting dog.
  • Learn how to properly roast a duck. Also: goose.
  • Bring unruly sideburns under control.
  • Don’t use bulleted lists so much.