Category Archives: First Draft

How I’m Getting Back in the Creative Game

I recently wrote about pulling creativity out from a bad job. This is something I’m just getting started with myself. I’ll admit: I took some time off of writing. I didn’t want to, but struggling with work and family problems, I was too exhausted to think of anything creative to say. It’s a bad excuse, and one I wouldn’t accept from anyone else, but there it is. Now, I’m back. And here’s my game plan.

1. One hour a day- minimum. This used to be my pattern. Even if I had to be at work at 6 AM, I would still get up an hour early to write. I’m going back to this. It’s important to my mental health. This time I haven’t been writing has been unfortunate. Some people are morning writers, and others are night writers. I have a friend who swears by scheduling one night a week as Write Night, and she writes not stop all evening. Every day works better for me, in order to form a solid habit.

2. Pour my problems into my writing. No matter what’s going on, I’m going to use the emotions and problems to fuel my writing, rather than take away from it. This was something that I used to do, but I reached a level of exhaustion I’d never experienced before, and I stopped. That was stupid. Never again.

3. Don’t get stuck in the editing swamp. Always be on the first draft of something. I don’t know about you, but first drafts are just good for my soul. I get all excited as ideas flow into my brain, about this chapter or that character. I need that excitement and creativity in my life! So instead of ignoring Project B for 6 months to edit, I’ll edit Project A as I write Project B.

4. Take a backseat. I’ve always been a pretty ambitious person. I decide I want something and put all of my energy and focus into getting it. Recently, this hasn’t served me so well. I get focused on something I think I want, spend years trying to achieve it, and then realize it’s not going to make me happy. So now, I’m trying to take a more laid back approach. Go slow and see what works. This applies well to writing because I’m not going to rush through rounds of editing to get something to a publishable state. I’m going to take my time. I’ll still write every day, but not push myself to meet word count goals. I’m going to let my work marinate.

Do you have any writing rules for yourself? Let me know!

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How to Draw Creativity from Unlikely Sources: The Bad Job

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” -Orson Scott Card

Often, people think of their day job as the necessary evil to make their creative dreams possible. I fall into this trap myself. And I have a particularly tough day job. Every day, I work a minimum of 12 hours. Yes, that’s not a typo. I often work between 12 to 14 hours a day. 5 days a week. For months on end. It’s the unfortunate truth of the television industry.

There are a lot of tough aspects about my job: the long hours, the low pay, and the constant contact with a few people with MASSIVE EGOS. (I’ve worked on 8 different tv shows, and let me tell you, it’s not the people at the top with the big egos. The people at the top of my show are all awesome! It’s always people in the middle, who are grasping for power.)

While my case of long hours might be extreme, almost everyone has unique problems with their job. I love the short story Orientation as an example of crazy workplaces. Office Space is of course a great example, as is this clip from NCIS.

Here’s how I use bad bosses and ridiculous jobs to fuel my creativity:

Writing it out. The simplest, and maybe most effective, way to process what’s going on when you’re starting to feel a bit crazy. I’m no nonfiction writer, but it’s nice to pound out my problems on the keyboard.

-Using character motivations and emotions from the day. When I go and sit at my keyboard, it’s impossible for me not to fuse something about my current situation with what I’m writing. Whether it’s simply a single line, or a motivation for an entire scene or story, putting your current feelings on the page is a great way to write emotion. The reader will really feel them!

-Live through your art. Dreaming about wild adventures and daring romances is the perfect escape from the narcissistic drone of your boss behind you as you take on the same repetitive task for the day. (Corporate accounts payable, this is Nina speaking. Just a moment.)

-Dream a little harder. Wanting out of a particular situation can be inspiring to work harder to move on. Take action, make changes, and get ready for your future!

If all else fails, your bosses can’t be as bad as these guys, right? (Although mine would definitely compete with Miranda Priestley for craziest demands.)

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2014 vs. 2015, Hopes and Accomplishments

2014 has been an interesting year for me, both personally and professionally. The year was full of professional accomplishments and personal trials. My family has been wrought with deaths, divorce and health struggles. It has certainly taken a toll on everyone. Yet, professionally, I wrote a book that I am about to start querying and I’ve moved into a dream company of mine, Nickelodeon, as a production assistant.

So here is my year in review:

Trials:

-Health struggles for my nephew

-Marital struggles of close family members

-Death of my grandfather

-Health struggles of two other grandparents

-Getting let go from a job I liked

Accomplishments:

-Getting a better job on a better show

-Starting to work for my dream company

-Finally living alone in a wonderful apartment

-My IMDB page has gotten pretty long

-I won at National Novel Writing Month on a separate book project: A YA Sci-Fi project.

-And the biggest one: Completing the first draft (and several rounds of revisions after that) of my first book, an epic fantasy called Burn Like Stars!

So, for 2015, I have a few specific goals:

1. Get a literary agent. This is a task that I will be starting mid January, after I wrap up my final Slow Edit of my book. It may take all year, but I will be querying hard and long to achieve this one!

2. Get a promotion at work. I work in television as a lowly PA. However, in 2015, I hope to get a promotion of some kind and leave the unappreciated ranks of PA-dom. The job can be very fun, but it is long and hard work with much physical labor and very little financial reward. Here’s hoping that I’ll be able to pay my bills by the end of 2015!

NaNoWriMo in Hindsight

NaNoWriMo is over, and with it went my motivation. December 1st was supposed to mark the end of working on my intermediary Space Cowboy project and the first day back editing my Epic Fantasy project for the third round of revisions. Here’s the catch: 50,000 words does not a book make. My NaNo book needs at least another 30,000 words before it is complete, and I don’t want to stop yet. I am on a roll! The first draft isn’t really done. And that is why I felt NO sense of accomplishment after winning NaNoWriMo. It’s really unfortunate, actually.

In truth, I should have foreseen this. Projects are always more fun when they’re new, and I’ve been working on my Epic Fantasy for several years. I’m not ready to go back, but I know I have to. In December, I will have several weeks off of work and want to use that time to make any final revisions on my Epic Fantasy story. This is because I really want to start querying agents in January (February at the very latest).

Although, I will be honest- now that I put that down in writing, I begin to wonder: what’s the rush? I obviously want my book to be perfect, that’s no surprise, but probably, in the back of my head, I know I’ll always want to tweak it and at some point, I should just get it out there! I will definitely start editing this month, but I think it will be good to stay flexible and know that it will be ready when it’s ready.

And perhaps, while I’m editing Book A, I can keep writing chapters and snippets of Book B. The only one saying ‘no’ to me is me!

NaNoWriMo: The Week 2 Slump

At some point, the nightmares came and I stopped sleeping well. They were weird and very stressful. After that began, my mood went quickly and my writing inspiration followed. Sleep isn’t just essential. It’s everything.

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It was Day 7 of NaNo when I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the day off from writing. I should probably explain that I work 12 hour days. I’m also someone who needs to write in the morning. On weekdays, I get up 90 minutes before I have to start getting ready from work, so that I can get through a solid 2,000 words before I go to work. On Friday I couldn’t make myself get up and I took the day off. While I needed the extra sleep, it started a complacency with my NaNoWriMo that is never a good thing. I had already hit 20,000 words and was comfortably ahead. On Saturday, I had planned to write a solid 5,000, as I had done the last Saturday on Day 1. I squeezed out a meager 1,800. On Sunday, I squeezed out only 3,600. Way short of my weekend goals.

My realization: Week 2 is hard! The initial excitement has faded and I’m deep into the trudging along phase. No fun. However, the important thing is that I at least get that 1,667 every day. Even with just doing that, I’ll finish well ahead of schedule because of writing so much in Week 1!

NaNo Week 1: The Fervor

NaNoWriMo Week 1 has commenced. Here is what I’ve experienced so far.

1. Week 1 is the time to get ahead.

Invariably, the feverish enjoyment you experience in your characters will dim slightly as November hits the double digits. Use the Week 1 excitement to get massively ahead! On Day 5, and I stand 17,000 words into my story. I wrote 5,000 each for Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 1 and 2), and have written 2,000 each for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 3, 4, and 5). On Tuesday the awesome @NaNoWordSprints led me to write an extra 1,000 words which puts me at 17,000 (+change).

2. Be An Overachiever

A lot of people that I’ve seen on Twitter seem to hit their word count and then call it quits for the day. They call it reaching their goal, but I call it doing the bare minimum. We can all be honest: 50,000 words does not make a book. 50,000 words is 2/3 of a short-ish book or 1/2 of a long-ish book. Yet, everything all over NaNoWriMo’s site talks about writing a book in a month. I’m trying to accomplish a bit closer to this. Sticking to my goals, I should write about 70,000 words by the end of the month (even including all of the stuff that has gotten in the way.)

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3. Things will try to stop you. Don’t let them.

On October 29, my Grandpa passed away. He was very important and very special. We knew it was coming for a few months, which helped, but it would have been easy to say, “well that’s it. NaNo over.” Luckily, I didn’t. I channeled my upset into the story and told myself that I’m writing a story he would have loved. (Though he probably would have waited for the movie version to hit theaters, rather than reading the book!)

So now, in November, here are all of the things that are trying to take my writing time/focus:

  • my birthday
  • my parents and grandma coming into LA to visit me for 4 days
  • my grandpa’s memorial service, which I have to fly to and miss 3 days of work
  • thanksgiving
  • extra busy work schedule, because we are shooting our final episodes of the season (we’re talking working 14 hour days busy)

Any one of these things probably could have derailed me, if I chose to let it, but I’m not. And I’m even ahead on word count.

4. Use the sprints!

I mentioned above that the sprints bought me an extra 1,000 words after my 2,000 word weekday goal. However, it also pushes me through moments where I want to say, “Hmm… I’ll stop and think about how I want this to sound for a while.”

I particularly like the #1k30min sprints, which are targetted to get you 1,000 words in 30 minutes. No, this is not easy. I usually hit around 960 words in 30 minutes during these sprints, but the exercise is totally worth the time!

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Above all, guys, just enjoy NaNoWriMo! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And you get a book at the end, instead of an ugly Christmas sweater!

What I’ve Learned: Editing Book 1

When I sat down across from my beta readers after they read an early draft of my first book, I expected that I had already fixed most of the major issues. I was prepared for “more about X, less about Y, why does Z do this? I don’t get it” kind of comments. Instead, I got something wonderfully enlightening: I had made consistent, stupid mistakes. I knew I wasn’t happy with my first 50 pages, but I couldn’t have told you exactly why. All I knew was that it needed to be ‘punched up.’ Instead, I found that I made a few crucial mistakes, like overuse of the word ‘had’ and the fact that NO ONE had a conversation in my first TWO chapters. Yes, that kind of bad.

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Looking back, it’s terribly obvious. But as you write your own book, you will miss major errors like that. You’re focused on the idea and the feeling, less on the wordy minutia. I went through the book once after I wrote the wrote the first draft. I wanted to do my own revisions before I gave it to my beta readers. I caught some smaller issues and added some excitement in the middle of the book, but I missed SO much. I should have taken a month break away from it before I edited it.

Enjoy the experience with your beta readers, take criticism and keep in mind, your beta readers don’t have to be writers, they just have to read and pay attention!