Overcoming Burnout

There is a problem that many writers will eventually face, and it’s one that is not easily overcome. It strikes both amateurs and professionals, and it comes without the slightest bit of warning.

Burnout.

Every writer, at some point or another, will find himself or herself sitting down, ready to begin yet another day of crafting words, only to discover that the words simply aren’t coming.

For some writers, this is known as being “blocked.” For others, however, it’s far more than that. Writer’s block can eventually be destroyed with the passage of time and by using various creative techniques to surmount the problem. But, burnout is far more than that.

It’s when a writer just doesn’t want to write any longer.

This usually happens when a writer has been spending too much time with a project or with a series of books within the same project. After all, these characters come to life for a writer, don’t they? Now, imagine if you spent too much time with the same people, day in and day out – morning, afternoon, and night.

When we’re with our families, we’re also forced to go to work and forced to interact with the rest of the world. But, when we’re burning out on a project, it’s because that project is there with us every minute of the day. While the boss is jumping down our throat for not getting an assignment in on time, we’re trying to figure out how to get our protagonist from being killed by his nemesis. While our spouse is complaining that the kids are being total monsters, we’re focused on how to get our protagonist’s ally to save the day in time.

The more time that we spend on our project, the more risk we run that we’re just going to get so sick of it that we want to bang our heads against a concrete barrier.

So, what’s the solution?

Simple.

Take a vacation.

When you simply can’t muster the energy or the strength to get excited about your latest endeavor, just walk away from it. If you think you can’t, you’re wrong.

Walk away.

And – stay away.

That’s right. Don’t think about it. Don’t discuss it. Don’t look at your notes.

Just walk away from the damned thing.

One day – it might be 24 hours or it might be a month – you’ll discover that you have to get back on the saddle. You can’t NOT work on the project.

When that happens, you’ll probably discover that you’ve unleashed a sudden burst of energy and inspiration that you didn’t know you possessed.

Take advantage of the moment and strike while the iron is hot – but always walk away from the project whenever you start to feel the burnout coming. The earlier you do that, the quicker you’ll find yourself overcoming the burnout.

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THE DIGITAL WRITER

Right now, we’re living in a remarkable time for writers. The opportunities for a person to make a living at being a writer are greater than they ever have been before.

Back in the old days (which was only about ten years ago), if you wanted to be a writer, you had to make sure that you played the game by the right rules. If you were sending your manuscript to Blindfold Press, you studied the kinds of books that Blindfold Press wrote, and you did everything you could in your power to write those kinds of books.

Now, if it just so happened that you were already writing the kinds of books that Blindfold Press liked, you were in luck.

But, let’s say that the books you wrote didn’t completely met the criteria of Blindfold Press.

What were you to do?

Well, you could write the way you wanted and hope that the person reading your manuscript at Blindfold Press was so impressed with your work that you were able to keep your words intact.

Failing that, you could change your writing style to suit the editors at Blindfold Press — or you could keep looking at the criteria of other publishing houses until you found one that meshed with you.

This wasn’t always the greatest approach, however. After all, if you happened to be someone who didn’t write the kinds of books that mainstream publishers were looking for, you were pretty much out of luck. Let’s face it — you could have written the greatest book in the history of writing, but if a publisher didn’t think there was a market out there, there was no point in them publishing your book.

And then, the internet came along — and so did digital books.

BAM!

In one fell swoop, things changed for writers all around the world.

Suddenly, anyone could write and digitally publish his or her own book.

This was a good thing.

And this was a bad thing.

It was a good thing because the publishing Gatekeepers were no longer in existence. A writer didn’t have to carefully research different publishing houses before writing a book. A writer could simply write.

So, why was it a bad thing?

Simple — because there are a lot of BAD writers out there.

You’ve probably gotten a book or two from a digital publisher and thought, “Oh, my god — this is absolutely terrible! Who writes this crap?”

We’ve all been there.

With all the garbage out there, it’s more important than ever before that writers understand how to write — and, more importantly, how to write for today’s audience. That’s what we’re going to look at and work on. When someone buys a copy of your books, they are not going to say, “Who writes this crap?” Instead, they’re going to say, “Whoa. Let me see if this writer has anything else out there that I’d like.”

We’re going to be looking at what it means to write in today’s digital age — and how to attract the right kind of attention.

We’re also going to be looking at what it means to be a writer — regardless of whether we’re talking about the digital age or thirty years ago.

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Writers Need a Supportive Community

For those of you out there who share their lives with writers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you.

Listen, if there’s one thing that I know, it’s that it isn’t easy to live with a writer. You’ll be sitting there, telling us about your day at work, and you’ll look into our eyes and see that we’re a thousand miles away. Sure, for you, it was really awesome when you unloaded that truck in record time — but, right now, we’re thinking about the predicament that we stuck our main character in and how we’re going to get them out of it.

Those who support writers are the unsung heroes of our lives.

If the writer in your life has just received a rejection from a publisher or has just seen the sales of the latest Kindle edition drop off, you know that there’s going to be storm clouds on the horizon for quite some time. The fact that you’re able to recognize that there’s a hurting writer nearby means the world. Sure, it might not seem like a big deal to someone who isn’t putting himself or herself out there, but for the writer, just knowing someone is supportive — even if they don’t quite understand the madness that grips us — is really awesome.

So, once again, to those of you who are not writers — but are living with the madness of a writer — we salute you.

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On Being a Real Writer

 

 

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I’m convinced it’s becoming harder and harder to be a real writer these days.

Oh, there are plenty of writers out there. Hell, you can’t walk ten feet in a Starbucks these days without bumping into a writer. But, the people that you see in those places aren’t real writers.

They’re just writers.

So, what the hell am I talking about?

I’m talking about the writers who are driven – the ones for whom writing isn’t a calling, or a passion, or an addiction. I’m talking about the writers for whom writing is as much a part of them as breathing and eating and sleeping.

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m not one of those writers.

I wish I was. Truly, I do – because I know that, if I was, I’d be a lot more successful in my writing than I am now.

The trouble is – there’s too much of Life in my life for me to be the kind of writer that I want to be. I’m spending too much time online, too much time being social, too much time watching television, too much time doing everything other than what I should be doing.

Writing.

Does that make me a failure? Hell, no – at least, not in my eyes. Perhaps I’m a failure in the eyes of the real writers out there, but I don’t think so. Personally, I think they’re much too busy writing and don’t want to take the time to worry about whether or not I’m a real writer.

All that matters to them is the writing.

I’m writing this now because I can see that I desperately want to be one of the real writers out there. Lately, though, I’ve been spending more and more time away from the keyboard, and that’s not a good thing.

It’s time for me to get my writing on again.

Anyway, for those of you out there who are real writers, know that I admire and appreciate the hell out of you.

For the rest of you out there – the ones who are just writers – hey, I know just where you’re coming from.

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Writing Past the Block

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Okay, so what happens when you’re going along in your latest work-in-progress and you suddenly find yourself smack in the middle of a writer’s block?
Let’s face it — we’ve all been there. One minute, we’re flying along and the next thing we know, we’re having to stare at the computer monitor and the words simply aren’t coming along. It’s like they’re stuck in our head, holding on for dear life, doing everything possible to avoid coming forth.
What do you do?
Naturally, it varies from writer to writer…and from incident to incident. One thing that I’ve recently learned, however, is that it’s possible to write “around” the block.
Basically, when I discover that I’ve hit my own particular Writer’s Wall, I simply write down something like “In this scene, Elliott needs to make his way to Arthur’s house to retrieve the dagger” and I move on. You see, obviously, there’s something in that scene that I’m not ready to write yet, and rather than force myself to get through it, I simply write around the damned thing and go back to it later.
When I’m writing, I need to remind myself that I’m not writing my final draft. I’m writing my garbage draft, and the purpose of that is to write it and move on to where IF can actually work on the polished version. That being the case, it’s okay to skip entire scenes, when needed, in order to continue on the journey. In a way, it’s sort of like speeding through a school zone at night when you know you’re not going to get caught just so you can get home that much sooner.
So, the next time you find yourself facing the dreaded Writer’s Block, know that you don’t have to let it ruin your day. Just write around it, and go back to whatever you skipped over at some future date.
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Why Writers Need to Make Sure They Know How to Write

Okay, folks – time’s up. You’ve had your fun, but now it’s time to get serious about writing. You see, the folks who have e-readers are finally getting smart. They’ve caught onto the fact that there are a lot of lousy writers out there, and the readers are becoming discriminating in what they’re reading.

You know what that means?

It means that just because you slapped some words on a virtual page and compiled an e-book, you’re not automatically going to have readers lining up around the block to meet you. It means that readers are getting pretty savvy about who’s a good writer and who’s a bad writer. It means that having a good-looking book cover is no longer the key to success.

In short, boys and girls, it means that you’re going to actually take some care with what you’re writing.

Yeah, I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Sales are Leveling Off Already

In the first quarter of 2013, sales of e-books were only up 5 percent from a year earlier, while in the first quarter of 2012, sales of e-books were up 28 percent from the same period a year earlier, and in 2010’s first quarter, sales of e-books were up 252 percent from the previous year.

The technology is no longer new and exciting – and people are beginning to be a little more picky about what they load onto their devices.

Open Your Eyes

If you’re a writer, it’s time to open your eyes. The writing is on the wall – and it’s not the kind of writing that you’re going to want to read. This means that writers are going to have to find ways to attract readers – and the best way to do that is going to be by writing well.

Look, there are a lot of books out there right now, and if you’re looking to be a real writer, you’re going to have to produce material that stands out from what’s out there. You’re really going to have to work at your craft – and you’re going to have to keep producing.

Diversify

One thing to consider is diversify your writing. Experiment with different genres and try new things. Some writers recommend staying away from series fiction. Why? Well, if you have 18 books in “The Stormdancer Saga” series, you might not get someone wanting a quick read to make that kind of commitment to your series. On the other hand, if you have 18 different kinds of books under your belt, someone can pick any of those 18 books up and discover whether or not they like you.

Naturally, if you’ve built up a loyal following, you might as well continue with the series. It’s important to understand that part of the success of a good writer comes from always building the reader base.

It’s a Good Time to be a Writer

With all of what I’ve said, why in the world would I think that it’s a good time to be a writer? Well, in spite of the increased competition that’s out there, good writing will always be valued and cherished. Plus, all of the bad writers are eventually going to stop writing. That’s how it happens. Right now, they’re high on having written something and getting some attention. In a year or two, however, they’ll have moved onto their next phase of creative homicide, but the good writers will still be around – writing good books, producing quality work, and bringing dreams to life.

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Writing a Scene

If there’s one problem that I’ve picked up on some of the newer writers today, it’s the fact they don’t know how to write a scene. In the past, there would have been editors around who would have pointed out the mistakes they were making, but in today’s market, anyone can just put their stuff on a Kindle or a Nook, and ignore any editorial advice they might need.

So, how does one write a scene?

First, you need to get into the scene as late as possible. Don’t talk about walking down the hallway, opening the door, and entering the room. Just enter the room and get into the meat and potatoes of the scene. Don’t describe more than you need to describe — or you’ll risk boring the reader. Trust me — there is no greater crime a writer can inflict (other than stealing someone else’s work) than boring a reader.

Secondly, you need to make the scene relevant. If you’ve stuck a scene in there just to pad out your word count, that’s not cool. Instead, you need to make certain that everything in that scene needs to be there. Pretend that you’re going to have to pay for every extra word that’s in that scene. If you don’t need it, get it out of there.

Lastly, get the hell out of the scene as quickly as possible. Have you ever watched a show and the scene ends at the commercial break — usually on some sort of dramatic statement or action? That’s the way to do it. Don’t have characters stand around after an incredibly dramatic moment and then sort of just have the scene fade away. Instead, deliver that knockout blow — and move on to the next scene.

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