Self-Doubt

 

We all know that self-doubt will kill your creativity and your productivity faster than just about anything else. To get books finished and launched into the world, writers need to get past their self-doubt.

One technique that some writers use is to imagine their self-doubt like a troll that sits in the corner and says awful things. This troll can’t die, and it can’t escape your head. The idea is to beat that troll down until he’s barely a whisper, or withhold food and keep him on the brink of starvation; too weak and tired to talk shit. In other words, don’t feed the troll.

I subscribed to this philosophy for a long time, until I started to think about it differently. I still see the nagging self-doubt troll in the corner, no doubt, but I began digging into why he says the shit that he says. Nobody does anything without a reason; not even imaginary trolls trapped in your head.

Eventually, I figured it out. The troll isn’t your enemy.

He’s your friend.

He tells you that you’re not good enough. He says you’ll fail. He says that you’re not smart enough. He says you’re a hack.

He does this because he’s afraid for you.

Think about it. What if you try and fail? What if people write bad reviews about you? What if people think you’re stupid or untalented? What if people don’t like you? All these things are risks when you put yourself out there for others to see–and judge.

He’s trying to protect you by dissuading you from taking risks that might cause harm. Remember, he’s stuck in your head with nowhere to go. He can’t die, not until you die. So whatever you go through, he does too. He takes the punches right alongside you.

He’s not your enemy. He’s actually your best friend, but his communication skills are lacking. He’s blunt. He’s rude. He’s childish. He’s impudent. He’s crass.

Hell, he’s scared all the time; what else do you expect?

So instead of beating him down the next time he starts his shit, maybe you should console him. Pat him on his bumpy little troll head and tell him that everything is okay. Tell him that you appreciate his concern, but you got this. Tell him that if he just chills out and sits quietly, the storm will pass and everything will be okay again. You’ll take the risks and keep him safe.

Like a fussy baby, once he’s calm he’ll shut up. He’ll go back to whispering in the corner, a soft murmur that you’ll ignore while you get things done.

Once you empathize with him, you’ll understand that his words are a misguided effort to keep the both of you safe. Ultimately, instead of feeling resentment toward him, you’ll feel pity.

And as far as feelings go, resentment is a whole lot more expensive to maintain than pity.

Productivity Boost

Now that I seem to have gotten my mojo back, the words are flowing again and I’m back on track with my quotas. While I’m happy to be back in the saddle, I’ve been thinking about my current rate of production.

Currently, I produce about 40,000 words per month and I’ve been doing it for almost a year. I write for two, thirty-minute sprints each day. That nets me about 1,400 words per day, on average.

I started thinking about how I might improve upon that while still avoiding burnout. I landed on the idea of adding a half-sprint (15 minutes) to each day.

Look at the numbers: Take 1,400 words per hour, divide it by 4 and you get 350 words. Now, take 350 words and multiply that by 365 days; that’s more than 127k words per year, just by adding a single 15-minute sprint to the daily quota.

Even adjusting it down to say, 250 extra words then multiplying that by 300 days (assuming I have some off days) that’s more than 100k words by year’s end.

That’s more than enough words for an entire novel.

Do the math…it’s not about speed. It’s about consistency. Fifteen minutes a day nets me an extra novel per year and without so much extra work that it’ll burn me out (I’m a full-time programmer with a wife and kids, so I have to watch my time closely). But fifteen minutes? It’s a no-brainer. I started today and I got my extra sprint in easily.

So if you like my books, you’re in luck; there’ll now be an extra one for you each year.

Short Stories, Distractions, and More

Summer has been anything but relaxing for me. I thought I’d be able to keep up my writing streak and maintain my high levels of productivity, but I’ve dwindled down to about half of where I was during the winter months. So instead of 40,000 words per month, I’m writing about 20,000 words per month. I suppose some might still consider that a success, but in context, well…not so much.

But life intrudes. My day job hasn’t been so stable for me these days and that seems to have intruded on the serene little writing happy place I’d carved out for myself late last year/early this year. I think we all need to remember that life isn’t going to cooperate with our wishes and desires all the time and that distractions and tumult just has to be weathered like a storm. You batten down the hatches, hunker down and do the best you can until it passes.

That said, I have still made some progress. I finished Devil Breed a couple of weeks back. It clocked in around at around 200 pages or so and I like where it went. It still needs some editing and a final read, but I’m going to try to get it out before the end of August. Looking back, in the last ten months I’ve published five novels, so I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. 🙂

Outside of Devil Breed, I’m now caught up on all but one of my completed manuscripts. They’ve gone through their edits and have been released out into the wild to fend for themselves. Only a single book remains; a little novel called Vengeance In the Badlands, which I’m still trying to figure out what to do with. I’m not sure that I’m happy with it, so I’ve been sitting on it until I make some time to read it again and make a decision as to its fate. It’d be nice to have another book for sale, but I don’t want to rush it or publish something that’s not up to standards. I’ll probably make a decision by the end of the year, one way or another, but for now I’m just going to let it sit.

Since finishing Devil Breed, I’ve started two novels and ended up stalled out after only a few chapters. I think the stress of my day job and the distractions of summer have taken their toll. I also let self-doubt catch up to me again, which slowed me down a lot. And if I’m being honest, I also made the mistake of focusing too much on sales and not enough on the fun of telling stories. When it becomes about the money, I know I’ve gone off the rails somewhere.

That said, it’s time to refocus. June is gone. July is now upon us, bringing with it a blank slate and ample opportunity to get back in the saddle. With summer distractions and day job instability, it’s going to continue to be difficult to focus on a novel. So I’ve decided that instead of spending the next two months on a new novel, I’ll instead spend it writing short stories. By their very nature, they don’t require marathon-like focus and dedication, allowing me some latitude to deal with the other stuff going on for me right now. I just don’t want to lose momentum and this keeps me writing. And at the end of the summer, I’ll have another book for you once I gather all these stories into a single collection.

So with renewed focus and dedication, I should have a novel out to you by summer’s end, followed by a whole bunch of short stories. After that, who knows? I choose projects on a whim, so I couldn’t tell you what kind of mood I’ll be in after summer is over. I do, however, plan to be working on something. Until then, I’ve given you plenty to read, so check out my stuff and see if you find something you like.

I Finished My Book and Broke My Site

It’s been about a month since my last post. Since then, I finished my newest book, Devil Breed.

I also broke my website. I upgraded my Ubuntu Linux webserver and ended up without any PHP installed at all. What finally got installed ended up being PHP 7, which doesn’t seem to play nice with my WordPress Jetpack plugin (which means my sidebar just shrunk by about half its original size).

But you don’t give a crap about WordPress plugins or programming languages, do you?

So, back to the book…I finished it this morning. I don’t use outlines anymore, and this book had me counfounded for a while near the end. That’s okay (it’s part of the fun of writing into the dark), but it slowed me down a little. Then the lightbulb went off and I had the ending right there in front of me. Funny how your subsconscious sorts things out when you give it time to work.

I surely didn’t expect the book to go in the direction it did. It surprised me, so I’m hoping it’ll surprise readers as well. Devil Breed is a horror story, no doubt, but it gets weird at the end. Very surreal. But the way it all ties together…I couldn’t have planned that. It was totally organic. I’m pretty happy with it.

I’m not doing a preorder on Devil Breed, so if you want to know when it comes out consider signing up for my newsletter. You’ll be the first to know when new books are released and I’ll send you a free book just for signing up.

I Am The DarknessSo…what’s next? Still thinking on that one. I’ll start writing it tomorrow, so I’d better figure it out soon. I’m thinking I need to breathe some life into my Serial Killer Hunter novella series. I might write the next two books and release them simultaneously. It only takes me about a month to write one of these (they’re about half the size of a novel). Getting two more books out in the series might convince folks on the fence that I haven’t neglected the series and plan to keep it going. Besides, I already have a cover for book #2, ready to go.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in this one. I know that Tom is looking for a killer who murdered a young girl away at college. The cops haven’t turned anything up, but Tom hasn’t had a chance to take a crack at it yet. And to get answers, he’s willing to do things that no cop will do. After all, he really has nothing left to lose.

While I’m pimping, why not pick up book #1 now? And if you like murder mysteries, my novel Familiar Lies was published just last week. Oh, and buy my other crap too. You got money to burn, right?

Until next time, keep drinking.

Up Next: Devil Breed

I’m a little more than halfway through the first draft of my new book, so it seems like a good time to announce it. It’s called Devil Breed; a horror novel set in a small town where everyone seems to have something to hide. Here’s the synopsis:

When Eric Bradley was thirteen, something viciously killed his brother during a family camping trip near the small town of Sander’s Run, leaving Eric barely alive and bleeding out on the forest floor.

The authorities said it was a wild animal, but Eric knows it was something much worse.

Now, fourteen years later, Eric has returned to Sander’s Run with a single goal: to find and kill the thing responsible for his brother’s death.

Sander’s Run is a town full of secrets; a place where everyone has something to hide. To find the monster that killed his brother, Eric will have to follow it into the shadows where it lives…and hunts.

But the shadows conceal more than monsters. In the shadows are answers that will force Eric to question everything he thought he knew about what happened to his brother.

And everything he thought he knew about reality itself.

I’m making decent progress on this one, especially now that all my backlogged books have been published. I figure this manuscript will be finished by the end of May, so likely a mid-summer release. If you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll be the first to know when it’s available. I might even run a short preorder sale on this one, heavily discounted and advertised only to members of my mailing list.

I’m also working on other perks for mailing list members. More on that later.

Speaking of backlog, my weird western The Saint, the Sinner and the Coward is now available to read immediately on your Kindle, iPhone or iPad, Kobo, Nook, or any other reader. Not sure when it’ll make it to paperback, but it should get there eventually. And don’t forget that book #3 in the Badlands trilogy, Out of the Badlands, is also available now.

Until next time, take it easy.

A Milestone Day

I had a milestone day yesterday:

 

 

  • 100,000 new words written in 2016
  • 300,000 new words written since adopting Chris Fox’s “sprinting” method
  • 1,000,000 new words written since I started writing in 1992

That last number is 1 million, by the way; total word count since my very first short story ever written.

Time to get started on the next million words. 🙂

Finally Coming Up For Air

I’ve been heads down for much of March getting my Mothman book revised. That work is complete now, so I’ve decided to take a break from the work and let everybody know what’s going to be coming down the pike from me over the next month or so.

The Mothman book in question, It Came From the Mountain, is available for preorder now. It’ll be released on March 31st. It’s a short novel and hopefully, most folks will find it to be a fun read.

Next up is Out of the Badlands, the third and final book in my Badlands trilogy. I got my edits back and I’ll be working those this weekend. This book is also available for preorder now. You might want to jump on this one because if you preorder it you save a buck off the normal price. It’ll be released on April 16th, so you have until the day prior to preorder.

My weird western, The Saint, the Sinner and the Coward, is also available for preorder. You can save a dollar on this one too if you pre-order before May 21st.

Familiar Lies, the murder mystery I was working on last month, is now finished and ready to go off to the editor. Look for that book to hit preorder in the next month or two.

I put my zombie book on hold because I’m just not feeling it. No reason to muddle through and produce subpar work. I’ll come back to it later. Right now I’m working on a new horror novel that I’m pretty excited about.

Because of the revision work needed to get the Mothman book ready for publication, I didn’t write many new words in March. That hiatus is over now, so it’s back to work for me. We’ll talk word counts later once I’m back to speed again in April.

Weekly Digest, Episode 7

I’m late, I know. But let’s just go anyway. I’ll keep it short. With this much vodka in me, it’s probably for the best.

Word counts for the past few weeks:

  • 2/7/2016 – 2/13/2016: 10,401
  • 2/14/2016 – 2/20/2016: 9,238
  • 2/21/2016 – 2/27/2016: 10,807

Progress is screaming on Familiar Lies. I’m 1-2 days out from finishing the manuscript. I love how it’s turned out so far.

By the way, I have a couple of new books up for preorder. It Came From the Mountain and The Saint, The Sinner and the Coward. The first is a pseudo-Mothman book and the second is a “weird western”. Both can be purchased using links found here.

Weekly Digest, Episode 6

  • 1/31: 179 words
  • 2/1: 675 words
  • 2/2: 1,172 words
  • 2/3: 1,643 words
  • 2/4: 1,627 words
  • 2/5: 1,513 words
  • 2/6: 552 words
  • Weekly Total: 7,361 words

I’ll add in some other stats that might be useful if you’re looking for some inspiration to get your word counts up. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve written 45,191 words. Since I started using Chris Fox’s sprinting method back in August, I’ve written 245,446 words.

And as of 2/6, my total lifetime fiction words written sits at 946,065.

That last number is important because a million words is typically touted as kind of a magic number. In other words, many writers claim they started to really hit their stride at this point. As I approach my tenth novel and a million words, I’m feeling it too. I think I’m telling some of the best stories I ever have, in my own voice and with a confidence I didn’t have before.

As of 2/6 I’ve written for 81 days without a miss. You’ll notice above that on 1/31 I only wrote 179 words; that’s the day I spent nine hours revising Badlands #3. I did a fifteen-minute sprint that day on new words solely to keep the streak going. Streaks are like that; once you get one started you don’t want to break it.

Lately, I’m averaging about 1,500 words per hour and roughly 1,400 words per day. My weird western brought my average down since it seemed to take longer to write. Not sure why. My average speed is coming back up again on this new book, even without an outline. No two books are ever the same experience, so I suppose there’ll be some variance across them.

Familiar Lies, the new murder mystery I’m currently writing, is chugging right along. I’ve been working on it for 29 days now and expect to finish on time. And now that I’m proofreading as I go, I won’t have to revise the entire manuscript after the last scene is written. That’s been another game changer for me. Most I’ll do is read it one time through, full speed, before it goes off to the editor. That’s easy.

I’m still working without an outline and learning exactly what happened right alongside the protagonist. Will I go back to using outlines on future books? I don’t know. I think maybe I needed them earlier in the game, when I wasn’t confident I could finish a story. I don’t know that I need an outline as a crutch anymore. I suppose I think of outlines these days as tools that I might use, but don’t have to use.

Good week. I’ll be back after this week is over to tell you how it went.

Weekly Digest, Episode 5

Familiar Lies. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1/24: 1,219 words
  • 1/25: 1,667 words
  • 1/26: 1,214 words
  • 1/27: 1,140 words
  • 1/28: 1,104 words
  • 1/29: 458 words
  • 1/30: 1,357 words
  • Total new words: 8,159

Sunday’s word counts aren’t included here (my weeks “start” on Sunday), but I only wrote enough to keep my streak going (maybe 150 words). Instead, I spent nearly nine hours revising Out of the Badlands so that I could get it out the door and off to my editor.

There’s a lesson here (for me, at least) and that is to not put revisions off until the last minute. My days of making eight or ten passes over a manuscript are behind me, but I still need to do at least one proofreading pass to find typos and make sure what I meant to say is actually what I said. Copy editing, by definition.

These days I do it as I go (something Dean Wesley Smith calls cycling). I’ve mentioned it already, but it bears repeating. Before I start writing for the day, I go back over and proofread what I wrote the day before. Then I get back to writing new words. This eliminates the need to do one massive pass over the entire manuscript after it’s complete.

Well, I have three manuscripts sitting around that haven’t had anything resembling a second pass, so I have my work cut out for me.

I hate revising manuscripts, so I put it off for Out of the Badlands. That bit me in the ass because I had to cram to get it done. Not a good way to do things.

That said, the book is out the door and with my editor, so I don’t have it looming over my head anymore. My other two manuscripts won’t go to the editor for another couple of months, so I’ll have time to proofread those along the way. One bite at a time, like eating an elephant.

With Out of the Badlands out of the way, I can focus again on my current novel. Familiar Lies is coming along nicely. So well, in fact, that I might actually publish it next, before the other books I have currently waiting in the wings. We’ll see.