Don’t panic: do something

Going in over your head is sometimes the only way forward. The next step is straight into the deep end, and you know it’s unavoidable. Instinct number one is to panic.

I’ve been panicking. Just a little bit. But mostly because I’d forgotten my simplest and best rule for avoiding that sense of losing control of my direction. I require a high amount of self-education any time I’m uncertain of my plans. If I’m lost, I just need to stop and find enough information that I am enabled to have more confidence.

Honestly, my biggest problem of late has been putting all my efforts out of order. I want to get this thing over here done as soon as I can, but I desperately need to do this other task first, and putting it off won’t change any facts. There are plenty of activities which can be done in any order, but certain challenges must be faced one after the other.

I got tired of feeling under-confident and uncertain. Instead of pretending like I can avoid the hard parts until the very end, I sat down with a search engine open and started typing my questions. Simple things I needed to know, the very concerns which triggered my panic. “How do I?” such and such. Figure out the answer as I go.

And yes, research of this nature takes a long time. Many pages of browsing, many refined search terms. Click, read, click, read. Pick up tidbits of information from this person, disregard what that guy has to say, stumble across other fragments of valuable knowledge and store them for later.

I know this is all rather vague. In fact, all my panicking has been vague and across the board – one crisis at a time is more than enough, but I decided to have a couple. You know, for laughs and “funsies”. Or something. But the good news is, I fell back into old habits!: Research. Learn. Find out everything I can to give myself the stability I require. I might not do any of my tasks right, even after all this, but at least I can provide myself the best possible start to tackling my concerns. Information. Education. Knowledge.

Doing something is better than flailing about in a blind, self-defeating panic. I know. I’m there.

~A

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A line between fiction and reality

Before I threw myself headlong into other projects, I strongly considered going back and finishing my romance novel, known as FiA. But I have a rather significant concern surrounding that story, and haven’t quite been able to work on it.

In its simplest form, the setting for FiA is natural disaster stranding the two main characters together, where they fall into some kind of love (romance, after all!). In the time between birthing the full plot, and when I was going to return to working on FiA, a very similar event actually occurred in the location my book is set in.

It almost feels insensitive for me to write my novel about this location, and about this kind of disaster, when in somewhat recent times that place has gone through such a terrible experience. My feeling is borderline irrational; the location has seen other such disasters over time (as with many places on this fine planet, you get hot-spots for natural disasters, like Tornado Alley). It’s part of why I chose that location. The setting is realistic, the events plausible.

My handling of the event in FiA is befittingly serious. I don’t make light of suffering, but it’s also not the direct focus of the story, since it’s pretty much just the catalyst for the characters to be together. I hope that, given enough time, I’ll feel comfortable in writing this book again. I was really enjoying the experience, and the little that I got through taught me a lot.

I have the capacity to over-think my work to a degree I hadn’t realised beforehand. Writing FiA made me see that I could get just as caught up in my version of the real world as I can in fantasy (writing descriptions of a place I’ve only seen in photographs is wondrous!). I know I haven’t finished with this story, but I don’t know when I’ll go back to it, either.

~A

Dealing with fears

Writing IS fear. I can’t even begin to list all the things you can be afraid of in writing, because it spans from acceptance, to quality, to expectations, and so on. If it’s an aspect of writing, you can damn well be certain you might be afraid of it at some point.

Being afraid of doing something wrong is actually easy enough to overcome. You can make weird concessions to nullify half of the fear. And eventually, it seems like every writer comes to the same conclusion: you have to be willing to be bad. We all suck, and that’s cool.

But what about when you’re afraid of being good? That’s a little trickier. Everyone’s bad. We have terrible days, we can’t write for peanuts, we make mistakes. But not everyone is good, are they? That’s a little higher. That’s above the mark. And it’s terrifying for many people.

It can be really hard to find someone who relates to you, understands your plight, and is willing and able to be your support group. They aren’t the types who will just endlessly cheer you on, but they will also rein you in when you’re being a bit crazy, and will be honest and heartfelt with you. They are the ones who will be able to say, “You know what? You’re strong enough for success”.

Even so, getting over any fear is largely up to you. After all, at the end of the day, you might even be afraid of trying, and disappointing those supporting you so well. Or you might be afraid (irrationally!) of proving them all right. Who knows! Fear is crazy! So you have to make your mind up to ditch the fear. There’s a time and a place for accepting your fears, acknowledging them to see if they hold any validity. Sometimes the thing you’re worried about is legitimate, and you can fix it ahead of time.

But usually, you just need to look it over, realise the fear isn’t serving you, and release the emotion for better things. Say goodbye to your terrors, and embrace enthusiasm and love. It’s all in your head, and it’s all up to you!

~A

Series potential

My novella project is the first time I’ve put a lot of effort into planning a series. It’s alien and frightening, and every time I come up with some new perspective on the story, I’m afraid that half way through writing the whole set, I will understand something new and want to change something.

Usually an author will begin publishing a series before all the installments are complete. This is understandable, since a novel often takes a year or more to write, and no one wants to wait ten years to start publishing something they’ve completed. This means that the overall theme has to be well established before they send out book one, because once it’s printed, there isn’t any “fixing” the story.

I thought I had done most of the important planning aspects for TDM, laying out plots and important events, characters which won’t be involved until several books in, the list goes on. My notes are extensive and the outlines were poured over until a cohesive plot was made. I really believed I was in a good position to just write these and expect things to turn out the way I planned. But as I progress through the edit of book one, and drafting book two, I realise that little things can change, and indeed sometimes need to. I worry what this means to my series. Do I need to go back to the planning stage and make the outline even more detailed? Would that be so much different from just writing the drafts and working from there?

At the end of drafting book one, I realised some of the mistakes I’d already made. In some places, I had written the characters to behave in ways I had never intended, and some of the scenes were really unsuited to both the characters I was creating, and the story they needed to tell. Not only that, but it wasn’t until the full first draft had been completed that I understood some of the events I rushed to include too soon when I planned the stories. They shouldn’t happen in book one. They need time to get there organically. My enthusiasm for this series was driving me to cram too much in right away.

Maybe I deviated from my outline too much, even though I really didn’t change many events in the first draft. At the same time, one of the added ideas was so solid and brought together all these other elements, I start thinking I just need more time to get to know my characters and reassess how they will respond. Maybe I haven’t done nearly enough planning. This is an interesting learning curve. It’s hard not to worry about it.

~A

Work through the sickness

My life these past few days: care for sick relatives. Wake up every four hours to help administer medication. Cook soups, retrieve water, collect extra boxes of tissues. Condense an eight hour shift at work into some kind of ungodly three and a half hour race.

And all that leaves me tired out and catching a cold. It’s to be expected, and I’m already getting over it (there’s something to be said for eating heaps of Vitamin C supplements at the onset of an illness, let me tell you!). Nevertheless, I’ve had no energy to do anything besides these important duties. Anyone with a family will tell you that sick time is “drop everything else” time. But I’ve persisted at my writing work (usually when everyone’s taking a nap), and I’ve noticed something interesting.

When I’m exhausted and spaced out, I can be very capable of monotonous tasks like replacing pesky words. Something about the frame of mind I have been in has allowed me to see every instance of repeated words, bland adverbs, and importantly, spotting “it”, “was”, and “that” in my writing (some of the most frequently used words through this manuscript – eek). The fact that I was spacey enough to actually need a bright red sticky note on my monitor with those words written on it makes no difference; I just couldn’t remember if THOSE were the words I was on the lookout for unless I had a quick reference.

This has something to do with lacking the brain power to concentrate on multiple things. Yes, I’m guilty of multi-tasking, which is just code for doing everything slightly less efficiently all at once. If I can think about researching, and emailing, and maybe just quickly checking one of my online hangouts, I’ll probably do it every now and then. But if I’m too tired to even remember those things exist, I have no problem just mumbling my story out loud and finding all the things that need fixing.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be delighted when I’m over this cold. It’s the first one I’ve had in ages, and I resent it. But maybe it will teach me something valuable, if I can just figure out where to find a “quiet mode” in my brain. Because it’s not the distractions themselves that are so problematic to being productive, it’s my ability to think about them while I’m doing something else.

It doesn’t matter what it is. If I can think about it, it’s a distraction.

So I will continue to make the most of this illness and work through it, glancing to my red sticky note every now and then (noting “just” isn’t on the list for the umpteenth time), seeking out those redundancies, and finding all the times where I’ve told, not shown (he’s happy to see them? What ever made me think I could just say he’s happy to see them?).

~A