I got to thinking the other day about how much of a “just do it” factor there is when it comes to writing. As someone who is still fairly new to this whole being-an-author thing, I sometimes forget that I’m not just writing for myself anymore – there are actually people out there now who are waiting for the next book. On the one hand, this is exactly the type of pressure I had wanted to avoid, although I suppose it’s still better than having real deadlines and having your publisher breathing down your neck. On the other hand, having that pressure also motivates me to work. It helps me “just do it.”
There are a few things you should know about me.
- I get distracted easily. I don’t know why, but for the past couple of years my attention span has seemed nearly nonexistent. I often attribute this to the fact that I constantly have 5,000 things going through my head.
- As the World’s Biggest Introvert, those 5,000 things include scripts for conversations and scenarios that may or may not ever actually happen. I definitely like to think before I act. Because of this, I have plenty of practice visualizing things and making up dialogue, so I often have book scenes planned to a T before I ever even write them.
- I’m an expert procrastinator, and I often procrastinate on stuff I actually enjoy doing. I blame this partly on my lack of attention span, but I think it’s also because many of my hobbies don’t technically have to get done. That’s the whole point of hobbies, after all.
But now that writing has become a little more than just a plain old hobby, I’ve found that I need to kick the self-motivation up a notch. Being a full-time student on top of being an author makes things a little tricky, because I don’t have as much free time. Then I have multiple hobbies and obligations all vying for the free time I do have. This is where Just Do It comes into play.
You’ve already got 10 different scenes planned in your head and they can be written at any time.
JUST DO IT.
Oh, you’re distracted by cat videos and piano covers of your favorite video game music.
JUST DO IT.
You love writing and already have extensive outlines for these chapters, so why are you procrastinating?
Don’t sit there and think about doing it, don’t complain about doing it. JUST DO IT.
One of the other issues is that I can be a bit of a perfectionist, which may also explain the procrastination. I tend to think “If I can’t make it perfect the first time, I won’t even try right now.” But that’s what editing is for, and I need to keep reminding myself that. For now, Just Do It. Worry about fixing it later. One particular thing that often trips me up is if I juuuuust can’t quite think of That One Word/Phrase that perfectly conveys whatever idea I’m trying to get across, and I spend a lot of time just sitting there staring at the screen, accomplishing nothing (and eventually getting distracted). If I can’t think of a certain word or get stuck trying to describe a certain idea, I’ve found that it helps to just write whatever comes to me, even if it’s “that-one-thing-that–” or something. Describing the concept as thoroughly as possible – regardless of how pretty it sounds – allows me to come back later with a fresh set of eyes and remember exactly what I was trying to say. Perfection isn’t necessary on the first try. Just Do It.
Another thing I have issues with is planning and outlining. As of late, I’ve been terrified of moving forward with a story without having a definite plan. In a way, I think it’s reasonable to be a little nervous about planning, just because I’m dealing with a trilogy of books and I have to pay attention to continuity and character development and whatnot. If I just wing it, I may forget to include a crucial detail. But being stuck on a scene is no reason to just drop everything. One way I’ve learned to deal with this is to move on to something else, maybe one of those other scenes I’ve spent so much time planning in my head. Nobody ever said a book had to be written in order. I pre-wrote several different major scenes in Nexus: Ziva Payvan Book 2; not only did it give me something to do when I was stuck on something else, but it also helped provide some structure for the story. It almost became like connecting the dots – in order to get from Scene A to Scene B, x and y needed to happen. I’ve been doing the same thing while working on Ronan, working on scenes that don’t happen until probably 2/3 of the way through the book.
But while writing future scenes is helpful, eventually you’ll have to go back and Just Do It. Just write that part you were stuck on. Just write what comes to you, and worry about editing it later. I’ve also done that with Ronan – I was a little panicked because I had gotten to a scene that I really hadn’t done any planning for, and I ended up putting off working on it for a long time. But I picked it up again a few days ago and just started writing whatever seemed natural. I ended up with kind of a long exposition and a little bit of cheesy dialogue, but it got me through the part I’d been stuck on and, as we’ve established, it can be edited later. It was only a matter of Just Doing It.
I didn’t make any New Years’ Resolutions this year because I’ve always thought the idea was kind of lame, but I think I’ve decided that my official resolution will be to Just Do It at least once a day. If I up my wordcount by 2,000, awesome. If I up it by 200, that’s great. I’ve started jotting down dates with my current wordcount next to them, and it helps to see a change in that number on a daily basis. Even if all I’ve done is edit something, I want Word to ask me if I want to save changes when I close it. If I can do that at least once a day, I’ll be making progress.
Ronan is currently sitting at a wordcount of 26,137 and is 88 pages, 58 of which make up the main body of the story. The other 30 pages are all bits and pieces of Those Other Scenes that will serve as checkpoints as I write.
In other news, I discovered today that the paperbacks of both Dakiti and Nexus are available through Barnes & Noble. I’m wondering if those of you who have reviewed one or both books on Amazon or Goodreads would be willing to post your reviews on the respective B&N pages. Just a simple copy-paste job is fine. I’m not entirely sure how long they’ve been available on the site (I certainly never got any sort of memo!) but without reviews, people don’t know much about them. Reviews are what fuel us indie authors in the big crazy world of publishing. When you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy a book, you read the reviews first, don’t you?
And now I’d like to treat you all to an excerpt from Ronan. It took me awhile to decide whether or not to post this particular segment in terms of it being spoiler-y, but I’ve decided that it doesn’t really include anything that won’t be mentioned on the back blurb whenever the cover gets finished, so I think we’re good. Enjoy.
She was reasonably sure her eyes were open, and yet she could not see anything. She blinked several times just to be sure — still nothing. From what she could tell, she was slumped against a wall, her neck and shoulders bent at an awkward angle. There was a certain closeness in the air that told her she was in a small room, though there was no way of telling how small. The room didn’t have a noticeable scent; she guessed she had been there awhile and had simply grown accustomed to it. The darkness seemed familiar, though whether she knew it from sleep or consciousness, she had no idea.
What do you know?
It was a question she vaguely remembered asking herself at some prior time, so maybe she had been awake at some point after all.
My name is Zinnarana Vax, she told herself as she pressed her palms to the floor and tried to heave herself into a more upright position. I am an intelligence officer in the special operations division of the Haphezian Special Police. Her arms felt like lead and it took what seemed like all of her strength to move her body. Fire pulsed through her neck and back as she was finally able to straighten. I can feel pain. That’s a start.
Zinni fidgeted a bit as she settled into the new position. She lifted a shaky hand, almost startled when she felt her own fingers brush against her face. She slowly began a systematic exploration of her head, finding her eyes, nose, lips, ears, and even taking the time to run her fingers through her hair. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary; she found no blood or fluids, and she felt no pain other than a dull pounding in her skull.
It felt like she was moving in slow motion as she lowered her hands and repeated the examination process on her neck, chest, arms, and abdomen. I have some bruising on my left side, she thought, pressing down on a sore spot below her rib cage. Feels like blunt force trauma. She couldn’t imagine that she could have inflicted such an injury on herself. Either she had left his room at some point, or someone else had come in.
For the first time, she noticed the subtle changes in the tilt of the floor she sat on. She wasn’t sure if the space she was in was actually moving or if it was just her mind playing tricks on her, but she added the sensation to the ever-growing list of things she was aware of.
Zinni sat still for awhile, focusing on the darkness once more. For a moment it seemed heavier than normal, almost as if she had passed out again, but everything looked exactly the same. Other than a low vibration that seemed to be coming from within the walls around her, her ears weren’t registering any sounds. The silence plus the blackness left her with no concept of time; she had no idea how long she sat there staring before beginning the self exam again.
What do you know?
She heard the low metallic groan just before the sliver of red light pierced the darkness. Red hues are less intense, she told herself. Nonetheless, the light seemed blinding in comparison to the void around her and she squeezed her eyes shut, overcome with a sudden bout of nausea. The groaning continued and the light became brighter, even through her closed eyelids. A door is opening. She commanded herself to open her eyes, to determine the location of the door, to see who or what might be approaching, but the light burned and intensified her headache. She settled with listening, smelling, feeling. A hand took hold of her arm, a device beeped somewhere near her head, and she heard muffled voices that echoed as if they were far away.
My name is Zinnarana Vax. I’m still alive.