Coffee & Conversation: How to become a writer of habit?

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How to become a writer of habit?

A lot of authors will give the advice, Write Every Day. No exceptions.

A lot of other authors will give the advice, OMG, you don’t have to write every day. I don’t. You don’t either. Don’t listen to that advice.

Neither of these are correct and neither of these are wrong.

What you must do as a writer is create a habit. A habit that will last you through shitty days. A habit that will last you through null motivation. A habit that will last you through depression and writer’s block and burnout.

For some people, this habit needs to be every single day. And this is great. Whatever time comes around each day and you sit yourself down at your computer or in front of a notebook because your brain says, “Hey, this is supposed to be writing time, remember?”

But many people have inflexible schedules where this isn’t possible. So to those people, I say this: find a special time that WILL work. Maybe it’s once a week, Saturday morning at 6 am for one hour. Maybe it’s Tues/Thurs nights from 8pm-10pm. Maybe it’s every other Friday from 6am-3pm because that’s your CWS Friday.

I don’t know when you have time. But YOU know.

Find that special time, whether it’s an hour or ten or twenty each week. Find it and make it sacrosanct. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, can interrupt this time. If it’s 30 minutes during baby nap time, then it’s 30 minutes during baby nap time. If it’s sitting down at the kitchen table with your morning coffee before work or on your commute with an audio recorder.

Once you find that time, craft whatever setup you need to make it easiest to keep doing it so it becomes a habit. Put the notebook exactly where you know you’re going to need it. Add extra batteries to your pocket when you go for that walk with your audio recorder. Make sure to make your computer and your working files as easy and as organized to get to as possible. Any obstacles you can remove, remove them. Any way to make things easier, do them.

Set up meeting schedules in your calendar if need be. Set up notifications. Reminders.

And then! (And this is the super hard part)

HIDE YOUR PHONE. DO NOT OPEN THE INTERNET. IGNORE ALL ELSE DURING YOUR WRITING TIME.

Seriously.

I, personally, have a small netbook that is for writing only. Can’t even get onto the internet or it’ll probably die some horrible, virus-ridden death. It’s great, because even if i wanted to get on the interest…I can’t.

But really. Hide your phone or get yourself an app like Forest in order to turn off access to it for your special writing time that you’ve carved out to form a habit that you want to keep you going through the years <3

~Emmi

Canvas Blues – LXXXIX: Present

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CANVAS BLUES
Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXXIX: Present

The room heated, burning up with late-night summer humidity, with fervent lust. Orion smelled of expensive cologne, of genuine leather, of long-barreled whiskey. He felt like a roaring engine, moving parts arumbling, agroaning. He felt good under Brendon’s body. Good and strong and hard.

He kissed the same way he did everything else: bluntly questioning, questing, searching for who-knew-what within Brendon. But here, the blankets soft underneath them, the room tightening, Brendon didn’t mind the exploration. Enjoyed it, even. Opened himself up to the hands that traveled paths across his back and under his shirt.

Shirts slipped away, falling off the edge of the bed into crumpled piles against the floor. Hard and wanting, Brendon scrubbed himself against Orion, rising up and bracing himself to either side of Orion’s head as he dragged their groins together and then watched breathlessly as Orion made short work of their buttons and zippers with hands that didn’t know how to fumble.

Pants out of the way, Orion wrapped both arms about Brendon’s lower back and then heaved, rolling them across the bed. There he pressed Brendon into the blankets, his kiss purposeful and deep, tongue sweeping through Brendon’s mouth in an experienced dance with Brendon’s own.

It became hard to breathe. Hard to think. Brendon shivered, yet sweat broke out on his neck. He clung to Orion, yet could feel his grip slipping. He wanted so badly, that pain in his groin fading, fading into something sweet and needy, yet he felt a tangle in the back of his mind. A tangle of confused pain where strings labeled “victim” and “murder” and “paintings” criss-crossed and knotted themselves in ways he couldn’t untangle.

He opened his eyes as Orion’s lips slipped away, down Brendon’s neck. And there, against the wall, smile so wide, eyes twinkling with an innocence that hadn’t truly existed, stared Casey. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Do you have any writing rituals?

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Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes.

Look, here I’m sitting down, with my netbook. It’s even plugged in. Won’t die on me. Got my document open. Got my notebook for this novel sitting next to me. Ready to go.

Oh, wait. What are you doing, you silly netbook? Let me see my word document. Oh, you’re trying to run a diagnostic. Okay, sweetie, you’re not plugged up to the internet. This isn’t going to work. Look, I’ve pushed the X button about ten times now. Why won’t it close?? I can’t see my document. CLOSE, DAMNIT.

No, not my document… sigh.

Okay, I’m ready now. Diagnostic has failed spectacularly and wandered out of sight.

Meow. Meoooow!

Oh, hi there.

Yes, I wanted your butt in my face. Oh, plhhff, thank you for the tail in my face as well. I can’t see my document again. Can you please find a comfy spot; I need to get to work. FIND A SPOT. Okay. No, that’s not good enough? What about there, huh? That’s no good either. Okay, let me just make myself as uncomfortable as possible. Okay, this is goo–

Ookay then. Good-bye. Can I write now?

(Your battery is at 1%)

What?? But it’s plugged in. Fine, I’ll wiggle all the cords until the power is happy. Happy now? Charging?

NOW can I write??

Where’d my pencil go? Cat!

~Emmi

Canvas Blues – LXXXVIII: Yesteryears

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CANVAS BLUES
Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXXVIII: Yesteryears

The day after Valentine’s Day, Taylor L. overdosed at his parents’ house. Brendon found out three days later while in Art class with Mrs. Yue, a woman who was better than Mr. Reading since she actually seemed to care, though she had a tendency to gush about everyone’s work, which made her effusive praise somewhat unbelievable. Not at all like the well-won appreciation Mr. Wexlar had given Brendon’s work in middle school.

It’d been whispered by two girls in the back, one with straight black hair and wide eyes, the other with curls she kept tamed with coconut oil and a bright yellow ribbon.

“He’d always been at the races, up until he got busted by his dad.”

For a brief moment, Brendon thought they were referring to Casey. He paused, hand hovering over the lump of clay he’d been shaping into leaves.

“Oh, I don’t think he ever stopped going. He was just more careful when he raced. Did a lot of dealing though. My brother bought from him a few times.”

“Mmh.”

“You know what did him in? My brother didn’t know.”

“Heard he’d ODed.”

“Damn. He’d been a cutie too.”

“Heh, but he’d not have gone for you. Heard he was into the boys, if you know what I mean.”

A sweat broke out over Brendon’s neck. Like he’d suddenly got a chill that sucked all the heat and left him dripping ice out his pores. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: How fast do you write?

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How fast do you write?

This is one of those trick questions :)

I talked about how nebulous it is to talk about writing a novel based on months and years and that generally hours is a better method for counting your progress. Hours will also help you get an idea of how many words you can write in a given period of time if you keep track of your time spent and progress made.

The average word count per hour across writers is something like 500 words.

Some writers I know can dump 1000 to 3000 words each hour onto the page. Generally these are writers who are big into editing or they are over-writers who then go back and cull many of those words back out. Not always, of course. Some of these writers have simply been heavily thinking about their scene for a long time so when they sit down, the scene flows out incredibly quickly.

Other writers are like me, and we write anywhere between 250-600 words per hour. For me, specifically, this is because I have a tendency to cycle. Cycling means one doesn’t start at the last sentence from the previous session, but rather goes back a chapter or scene and begins there. I’ll read and tweak and edit as I go and then when I get to where I left off last time, I’ll continue on, but now I’m immersed in the world and can get more words out. If I’m working through a full other hour or two, then my word count will go up during those hours because I’m no longer having the time-sink of the cycle. However! This means I’ll have more words to go through during my next writing session, so it’s a give and take.

I don’t mind being a writer with an average writing speed/slower writer because I get a ton of editing done during the writing phase, which gives me great pleasure because I’m not the biggest fan of editing once the story has all the words in place. At that point, I’m eager to be done and moved on to something else and must force myself to focus on clean up. As a metaphor, it’s like waking up the next morning after a party–if you clean up during the evening as things progress, clean up doesn’t seem too bad, but when you wake up and there’s a ton to do, you’re just…tired before you even start in on it all.

So I am not a fast writer by any means. If I want to draft something quickly, I must spend a great many hours on the project in a condensed time frame.

~Emmi

Canvas Blues – LXXXVII: Yesteryears

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CANVAS BLUES
Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXXVII: Yesteryears

Senior year, Brendon’s schedule at school landed him in American History and Government with a Mrs. Tallir. A Mrs. Naomi Tallir who hadn’t divorced her husband, but had separated and ended up taking over his classes now that she had to go back to work. Or so said school gossip.

She was a white lady with a roundish face who liked hats and scarves, but maudlin ones in shades of gray and chevron. Her class was mostly memorization of dates and laws, with essays on cause and effect that ignored most of the rest of the world and at least half of the cultural history of the United States. In other words, basic, repetitive and easy.

Her one quirk, that students never reported—some out of empathy and some out of self-preservation since the other teacher on the subject had awful tests—was a tendency to talk about her husband in roundabout ways.

She’d warn the girls in class about handsy males and wrote a hotline in the bottom corner of the whiteboard that stayed there all year getting more and more smudges until the 8 looked like a 3 and the 7 like a 1.

She’d talk about specific character traits and passions and link them as representing immoral tendencies. Such as an obsession with weaponry and torture implements indicating sadism. Or constant nonfiction reading on wars indicating a gross neglect for human life.

They all knew who she meant. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What is a Nanowrimo novel?

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What is a Nanowrimo novel?

A novel written during the National Novel Writing Month (November), where people are urged to set themselves goals, the lead one being to write 50k words in 30 days.

A lot of people look down on events such as Nanowrimo. They call the books or partial books written during that focused time “brain dumps” or far worse. There are even submission guidelines by editors and agents that specifically demand not to be sent your “Nanowrimo mess” as if November is the only time that one might be able to write a mess of a novel or that if a novel is written in a month it must therefore be, a mess.

Thing is…a month is an incredibly arbitrary span of time.

What is a month? It’s four weeks. It’s 28 to 31 days. It’s 672 to 744 hours. It’s 40, 320 to 44,640 minutes.

So, when you say you wrote a novel in a month, are you saying that you spent 40,000 minutes on that novel? Did you spend 700 hours on that novel? No, of course not! (i mean, unless you never sleep or do absolutely anything else during the month.)

So what does saying “I wrote this novel in a month” actually mean?? What does saying that you spent two years working on a novel mean??

Well, in fact, they could actually mean the exact same thing. Or, they could mean nothing at all.

If, say, a person decided to spend one month working a novel, by which they decided to spend a grand total of 4 hours each evening instead of watching TV or going out or reading or any other leisure activity, by the end of the month they will have written during a total of 120 hours during that month.

If, say, a person decided to write a novel and only spent 1 hour a week over the course of two years, they would have spent 104 hours during those two years. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – LXXXVI: Present

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CANVAS BLUES
Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXXVI: Present

“Was Casey ever charged in Dylan’s death?” asked Orion.

They lay closer now. Orion had slid over so that their lengths pressed against one another, his hand casually laying on Brendon’s hip. Brendon had turned, just a smidge, hoping to shift that hand closer to his crotch, hoping to restart where they’d been, wanting to get off the topic of Casey, of death, of his paintings making him some sort of villain.

“No, not that I remember,” said Brendon. “But he was blamed by the court of public opinion well enough.”

“And as far as you know, Casey and Dylan were the only two people in that garage when it happened.”

Brendon made an agreeing sound.

“Emma lives alone. Doesn’t have anyone else there when she visits that boat you painted for her. As does Jennifer Craugh and her forest filled with wolves. But little Diana, she has her parents there, though if they’d ever seen that panther come to life from your carousal painting, I doubt they believed it themselves.”

“What are you getting at?”

Orion squeezed Brendon’s hip. “Was wondering whether the paintings have limits to who can see. One, two people an acceptable amount, but more than that, like say, at a gallery, might be too much, too many.” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Are you a grammar nazi?

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Are you a grammar nazi?

Not even remotely. In fact, particularly online, I really don’t care where your commas are, whether you use the Oxford comma, or whether you use the correct form of its/it’s or your/you’re.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, if you’re entire post is riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, I might judge you. A little.

But we’ve all been there, writing too fast, skimming the words, completely missing something we’ve written. It’s why we edit. It’s why we read through our work over and over again. It’s why we have copy editors as a profession. It’s not like you’re going to hire a copy editor for your blog or your social media status. I’m not one to mock.

Just recently I was editing something and found that I’d written “view” instead of “few.” I’m constantly finding mistakes like that in my own work so I can’t really be cruel to someone else.

That being said…

The one rule that reeaallly grates when I hear it/see it, is the who/that one. People are WHOS (like the WHOS in WHOVILLE), not THATS. We are People, not objects. People WHO do things. Very important :P

~Emmi

Canvas Blues – LXXXV: Yesteryears

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CANVAS BLUES
Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXXV: Yesteryears

Had Brendon been allowed to spend more time with Casey that winter, that spring, heading into that summer, maybe Taylor L. wouldn’t have come back into the picture. Or maybe he would have anyway. Drugs a welcome escape; dealing a way to pitch a middle finger to all the people who now saw, not just a poor boy from the wrong side of Grant’s Lorry Road, but a murderer who got away without justice.

White powder baggies must have started hiding in Casey’s pockets, though Brendon had scarcely seen him to know for sure. By the time the police threw up their hands and stopped hounding Casey so closely, by the time Brendon and Casey began to see one another again on the weekends, those white powder baggies had taken up residence in the nooks and crannies of Casey’s Mustang.

It took a few parked evenings, Casey sprawled under Brendon or Brendon dragging Casey on top of him, before Brendon finally realized, and by that time, he’d been scared—scared that if he said anything, one breath or word against Casey’s newest activities, that Casey would cease bothering to make the hour trip down to Castlebrock.

“Can’t stand being cooped up at Mom’s all the time,” said Casey. “Silvia’s great, but man all her things take up a lot of space and Becks is constantly going on about my cussing.”

Brendon looked out the window, watching the colorful leaves rush by—orange and yellow and maroon like Dylan. He shook his head and looked over to watch Casey’s profile. Something had hardened there, the last bit of childhood burnt up in a stream of rubber and oil and loose lips about town.

“You have anything else at the Bayscape?” asked Casey. “Been meaning to ask. Want to head over there if so.”

“No. Haven’t talked to Donna Pierceman in a while.”

Casey made a strange, strangled sound. Hit the steering wheel with the heel of his palm. “You should. Come on, man. Don’t let your fucking chances dry up. You’ve got skill. Working on comics and paintings and shit.” Continue reading