Last week I mentioned I was starting a new project. A huge one. Easily the biggest thing I’ve ever done and very  probably the next two or three years of my life.

To call it intimidating is a bit of an understatement. It’s been ridiculously easy to find other things that I need to do. Not that I’m avoiding it, of course, it’s just… look, I’ve needed to paint these Space Marines for a while now. And, if you missed it, I bought a Shogun Warrior to restore, a Raydeen like I had when I was a kid. Not to mention, I really need to spend more time with the cats. They’re feeling a bit neglected, and I think I’m making some real headway with Doctor Wade Salem. Heck, we haven’t even discussed all these ranty blog posts.

Okay, yes, I’ve already started the big project. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of other things I could be doing. Or maybe some I should be doing.

I mean, let’s be honest. There’s arguably a ton of stuff I need to do before I start a project. I should have a rough idea of who my characters are and what they want out of life. At least a bare-bones sense of a plot. Which could mean some degree of research.

Plus, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I knew what my chosen genre’s expectations are. Or had a notion of what’s been done before in it.

If you’ve been following this collection of rants for over a year, you may remember the A2Q. It’s a dozen long-ish posts about how to take a novel from the bare bones idea through to a finished manuscript. And almost two-thirds of them were things to do before we started our first draft.

When we get right down to it though, there’s only one thing I really need to do to start a new project. And just based off my own experience (and some experiences I borrowed from other folks) it’s probably the toughest thing. I know I used to get caught up on it a lot.

So what’s the all-important, ultimate step to writing a project?

We start writing it.

I know that sounds stupid but, well, it really is what it comes down to. I can do a lot of research and practice and character sketches and pin a hundred index cards up on the wall with different colored yarn. I can block out scenes with action figures and act them out with friends and take long walks where I have silent conversations with myself. But at the end of the day… I have to start writing it. Until then it’s just prep work at best, procrastination at worst.

I know some people might take offense to such a statement and insist all those character sketches 100% count as writing. And the multiple outlines. And the four months of research. To which I say… sure, of course it does. Again, I wrote around 25K words last year about all the prep work you can do before starting a first draft.

But I also wonder why some of these folks are so quick to take offense. I mean, at least four or five times a year here I point out that my method is my method and your method is your method. No problem at all. But if the mere suggestion that my wall of index cards doesn’t count as writing gnaws at me that much… maybe it’s because I know it doesn’t?

Two or three times here I’ve told the story of Jerzy, a personal trainer who helped me to lose a lot of weight by just pointing out all I had to do was follow the schedule he’d given me. I could come up with a lot of reasons for not doing it or to put off doing it or… I could do it.

There’s a point where I’m doing that advance work, and there’s a point where I’m just not writing. And that’s the real goal here. Stringing sentences together and making paragraphs and telling stories. If that’s what I want to be doing… well, I need to do it.

Yeah. It’s scary and it’s work and it’s a commitment. And we all want to do it right, to create something fantastic. We can always find good reasons not to start, to put it off, to convince ourselves we’re not quite ready to do it yet. Because it’s going to be tough.

But it’s going to be a lot easier than trying to lose sixty pounds was, believe me.

Next time, I’d like to revisit that idea of throwing rocks at people in trees. Even if you’re doing it for a good reason.

Until then, go write. 

October 7, 2016

Procrasti Nation

You remember the Procrasti from Deep Space Nine, right? They were that race from the Gamma Quadrant that was going to come through the wormhole someday…

Geek joke.

I saw a thing floating around Twitter a month or three back, one of those clickbaity “this article EXPLODES one of the biggest myths about writing…”  And that myth was that writers need to write every day. Which, granted, the vast majority of professional writers—myself included—will all tell you to do if you want to do this for a living.  But according to this little piece, that’s complete nonsense.  If I only write once a week, good for me.  If I need to wait for inspiration, that’s fine.  What’s important is that I’m writing at a rate that’s comfortable for me.

Now, in all fairness to the article, I’ve said similar things here.  If you can only write on Sundays, standing on your head while wearing that “enhancing” corset you bought at the ren faire last year, but you always write 15,000 words in a session… well,  congratulations.  It’s a damned weird system, but it works for you.  So what if you don’t write the other six days of the week.  Fifteen thousand words a week is fantastic.  I know some pros who don’t hit those numbers consistently. Hell, I usually don’t hit those numbers.


If I’m only cinching myself into the corset once every two or three weeks, and only writing a hundred words when I do… there’s a chance I just may not be taking this whole writing thing that seriously.

And there’s nothing wrong with that in a larger sense.  If I just want to scribble blog posts or fan fic as the mood strikes me, that’s fine. I know a few people who write as more of a therapy thing, some who do it for fun, and one who did it as a sort of… well, she’d been single for a while.  Let’s leave it at that.

Again, no big deal if that’s how I approach it.  To fall back on an analogy I’ve used once or thrice, not everybody who cooks needs to be a chef.  Or wants to be.  I love cooking, playing around with spices, trying new things with pizzas or pasta… but I’m never going to be a chef.  I’m fine with that.  I’m just doing this to have some fun on the weekends.

But… if I wanted to be a chef, to actually get paid for cooking, I’m probably going to have to put some work into it. And that means doing it more often than when the mood strikes me.  It means sometimes I’d need to stay home and cook rather than going out with friends.

And, yeah, sometimes that work can mean other things. It can mean reading cookbooks. Or watching cooking videos on YouTube.  Maybe even eating out sometimes.

But in the end… it means I’m going to be cooking.  A lot.  There’s really no other way to do it.

Same with writing.  If I want to make money off this storytelling thing—if I want to do it for a living—I’m going to have to write. A lot.  On a fairly regular, consistent basis.

I wrote my first three novels and a good-sized novella while I was working full time as an entertainment journalist. And reading scripts on the side.  So I was often doing four or five thousand words a week to put food on the table and pay rent, then staying in the chair to do another six or seven thousand on the stuff that I wanted to be paying rent with.

Hell, I know two full-time, professional writers (about to be three) who had babies this year.  Little, squishy new-humans who pretty much need constant attention (granted, I’ve never had one myself, so that’s just conjecture on my part).  And those three are all still writing.

It’s fine to tell myself that I’m waiting for the muse.  Or that I’m reading a how-to book about crafting the perfect first sentence.  Or that playing Dawn of War III is going to be a vital part of my creative process.  We all have our own methods when it comes to writing. Like that corset.

But there is also a point that… well, I’m just not writing.

Again, depending on what I want out of this, that may be fine.  If I only post on my blog once a month… so what?  If I just write slash-fic when I’m bored, hey, it passes the time.  If this is just a hobby that I do every couple of weeks… awesome.

If I keep telling you how much I want to be a chef, though… wouldn’t it be weird if I only cooked one or two meals a week?  Or two or three times a month?

I mean, that just doesn’t make much sense, right?

Next time, I want to talk about something crazy.

Until then, go write.

Oh!  And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, this Sunday is the Writers Coffeehouse at Dark Delicacies in Burbank.  Noon to three, open to writers of all levels.  It’s completely free—no sign up or anything, just stop by and pull up a chair.

Okay… now go write.