The Internal Heckler vs The Internal Editor

Most of you know my policy on advice – too much and it can be overwhelming enough to paralyze your efforts. With that in mind, take this with a grain of salt. It happened to work for me today.

Authors Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowel, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Taylor discuss the difference between the heckler and the editor competing for your attention.

The 25,000 Word Curse and How I’m Learning to Break It

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I’d share a secret with you non-writer types. If you’ve ever tried to scare a writer through “conventional” means, you soon found out that the writer species is so jaded, so obsessed with the unusual, that monsters and beasties of the dark have no outward effect. 



If you lean in closely, so close that only they can hear what you say and whisper these words: vast middle, you will see their skin prickle and shivers of terror pulse through their body.

As writers, we all have that point in our WIP’s that we feel the wheels begin to slow, the burst of genius flare less frequently, and the words come in useless couplets. Mine, as you may have guessed, begins at around the 25,000 word point.

It never fails.

With my novel, REAPER, once I hit that cursed word count, it was like the power went out in my head. It’s my head, so I knew where everything was (including that freaky bastard that likes to hide in the darkest corners), but without the light, I fumbled through my thoughts in search of the ones I needed. What started as a sprint out of the gate because a slow, agonizing crawl across upturned thumbtacks. It became so disheartening that I abandoned the project to pursue a new shiny idea (which, of course, led straight into the ground and now sits, molding, in my “NO FUCKING CLUE” folder). It took a month before I was able to swallow my anxiety and dive back in. 

Later, I hit the same wall with a WIP called THE BOOKSELLER. And now, with my current and longest-running perpetual WIP, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, I find myself at 26,327 words with dry mouth and a broken light bulb. 

If I told you that I wasn’t tempted to walk away from it in favor of plotting my NaNoWriMo project, I’d need an army of sexy lady firefighters to put out my pants. Actually, now that I think about it…

No. No fire ladies. Words. (Dammit).

Unlike THE BOOKSELLER, I haven’t completely hit a wall with this one. I know where it’s going and I can see it taking shape with each few excruciating sentences. I know my characters. I know the story. I know that it’s going to be great – if I could just fucking finish it. I’m a sculptor with a tiny hammer hacking away at a mountain of marble. Each time I get angry enough with it to throw it in a fire, I pep talk myself, using REAPER as an example. I wrote it. I polished it. I sold it. I proved to myself that I’m fully capable of creating something fantastic, so now there are no excuses. Only frustration.

Each day, I do something, change something, in order to try to relieve some of that frustration. Below are 5 things I’ve discovered help me get through the writing day. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

1. Realize that no two writers are created equal and that there is NO RULE that says you have to finish in an allotted amount of time. Get a feel for your own pace and keep with it. It will change every day, and that’s perfectly fucking fine.

2. When writing at night stopped doing it for me, I changed up my routine, opting for mornings at a coffee shop. A change of scenery has a HUGE impact on how the brain works. Now that I’m slowing again, I’m looking for a new writing spot to relight that spark.

3. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t write something that day. Granted, if you’re knee deep in a project, it’s unlikely you’ll go the entire day without at least scrawling a note on the palm of your hand while sitting at a red light. BUT, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. There’s no reason to punish yourself for it. You know those times when you can’t for the life of you remember the answer to a question that’s been plaguing you all day and then – BAM – it comes to you at three in the morning? That’s because you stopped bashing it to a pulp and let your subconscious sift through the brain cave. Writing works by the same principle. 

4. Work on something else. I don’t mean abandon the project; I mean allow yourself to explore ideas completely unrelated to what you’re primary focus has been. It’ll allow your subconscious to do the sifting AND you don’t have that guilty feeling for being unproductive. For me, my side project has been hashing out my NaNo book. It’s been fun and I’m looking forward to writing it.

5. Blog about it. Or, if that’s too much like writing for your fragile psyche to handle, email or call a writer friend and vent about it. If there’s a particular plot issue making you homicidal, they’ll work through it with you.

There they are. If you have ideas to add, please do. We could ALL use the help. 


NaNoWriMo Version 2.0 (download for update)

Last year about this time, my friend Renee and I decided to conduct an experiment. We would participate in NaNoWriMo so that we could bash it properly and with brain-splattering facts at our disposal. 

Boy did that bite us in the ass.

Renee and I both wrote novels as a result – she “finished” 50k within the required 30 days. I did not. I did, however, manage to finish, demolish, rebuild, polish, and submit a book called REAPER which was picked up by Melange Books early last month (look for it next fall.) 

Don’t misunderstand – the process was ANYTHING but simple. I started with a detailed (kind of) outline, but still found myself rehashing the plot when I was already thousands of words behind. I hated every second of it. The pressure was maddening! It didn’t help that every day greeted me with a feed filled with tweets by other NaNo-ers who COULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH FUN IT WAS. They’re all fucking liars. Really. Writing is fun. NaNo is torture.

But guess what. I’m doing it again because deja vu and karma are sleeping together now. And because Renee possesses magical voodoo powers of persuasion.

This time, I’ve got a little less than a month to prepare and I think I’m ready, which of course means I’m not. I’m knee deep in the first draft of another WIP, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, which needs to at least be close to finished by the time November 1 comes around. Provided there’s no major disaster between now and then… No, I’m not even going to say it. 

Anyway, here’s a very brief synopsis of what I’ll be writing about – I’m calling it THE EVENING HOUSE:

Her name is Blythe Evening. She grew up on the Shoshone Duckworth Reservation in Nevada, but left when she turned eighteen. Being trapped on the Res wasn’t something a free spirit like Blythe was prepared to face. 
Years later, her (barely legal) brothel is on the rocks. Sure, according to Nye County law, her establishment is on the up and up. But with mounting registration fees, girls skipping their tax payments, and having to navigate the treacherous waters of having her “unique” girls medically examined on a monthly basis, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her head above water. When officials from the tax collector’s office show up to The Evening House with an official notice to shutdown, Blythe goes to visit an old friend – a shaman by the name of Bud Firehorse – not for guidance (she doesn’t believe in all that mystical, vision quest crap), but for the best whiskey this side of the Rockies. 
Drunk, she spills her issues to Bud and he gives her the same advice he’s been giving her for nearly two decades: go on your vision quest. Find your spirit guide. According to him, Blythe’s life has been destined to go downhill since her refusal of her guide’s help. Against her better judgement, she agrees to go on the quest. 
Early the next morning, severely hungover and high on the shaman’s special peyote, Blythe wanders the wooded area surrounding the Res. She’s gone for nearly 12 hours when the hunger and peyote deliver a punch to her mind. She collapses and dreams of the Snake guide. 
Snake, like all reptile guides, is despondent, violent, and prone to abnormal mood swings. But Snake is also the guide for change. Rebirth. At daybreak the next day, she is collected by Bud and Blythe tells him what she’s seen. He doesn’t seem hopeful.
When she returns to The Evening House, Blythe comes across a woman with scaly skin and a forked tongue – it’s her guide, Snake, and she’s here to help… or so she says. It doesn’t take long for Snake to turn Blythe’s life upside down, forcing her to have to not only try to save her business, but also to save Nevada from Snake.
Hope you all are as excited as I am. By that I mean take cover.
The end is Nye. 
(See what I did there?)