Get Out of the Way!


It’s one of those days when RL (real life) is getting in the way ofany kind of writing, even this blog. Between other stuff (which could go in caps, like OTHER STUFF) a co-worker fell at work and I have been pulling the graveyard shift. Ugh-ick. So I thought it might be smart to build on that, and talk about the writing life, when RL gets in the way.

Some of the best advice on writing (to me, anyway, but you can put yours in the comments) is :

1.) Read a lot.
2.) Write every day.
Neither of which I do.

Yep, I’m a baaaad writer.
But I have another life. (Two of them. Maybe three. And looking for fourth. Call me schizoid. I won’t deny it.) I do read, but it isn’t quite what the writing-rule requires. The writing-rule is suggesting that I read a lot of books and short stories in my genre, books that will show me market trends, written by writers with far better skills and more devices in their tool boxes than I have. The idea is to feed my mind and my skills while reading for pleasure.

I don’t follow the spirit or letter of writing-rule number one. I ignore it regularly. Instead, I usually spend my reading time on other things—nonfiction for the lab field, manuscripts and partials for the 3 or 4 writers I am mentoring (pushing, prodding, abusing, critiquing,) at this time, the manuscripts I am asked to blurb, and the books I edit for a small publishing house. So yes, I read lot, but it isn’t for pleasure and education. Not at all.

I only have time to read two books a month that fall under the Read-A-Lot writing-rule category. This month, those two books are Kim Harrison’s Black Magic Sanction, and AJ Hartley’s Mask of Atreus. Kim’s book blew my away. Her skills as a writer have grown richer, mellowed, and deepened in flavor, like really good red wine. Her ability to weave multiple plot lines into one whole, to make a rich, full bodied reading experience has gotten better over the years. A lot of writers with the intense deadline schedule she has, show a decrease in skills and attention to craft. Not Kim. She makes sure her fans have a wonderful experience, and I have no doubt that, when she moves from the Hollows series to something else, she will bring this depth of skill and passion for craft into the new projects. I finished Kim’s book on Sunday, and I recommend you read her Hollows series from start to finish to see how a skilled writer weaves a series arc, and develops a character into a multilayered whole. I’ll start AJ’s book tonight, if the lab is quiet. This will be my very first AJ book. (Like I said. I’m a bad writer. I should have read him long ago, but I admit to having a fear of reading AJ. No. I haven’t told him this. {Waves to AJ.} But his ability to skip between genres is daunting. I know full well that I’ll have writer’s envy {she says with a laugh}. And I hate about myself. Well, sorta.)

Nor is writing every day possible. I am half asleep today, up from my day-sleep (which makes me sound very vampish) with the beginnings of a head cold. RL is getting in the way of my writing life. Again, I am not following the rules. I admit to being obstinate and contrary, by the way, so no need to point that out.

However, even when I finish the rest of the day’s sleep, (to which I am heading momentarily) I will be editing a manuscript and rewriting my AKA’s (and her co-writer’s) outline. (I do detest outlines when they reach the point of tinkering rather than the creative stage, which can be fun.) RL needs me to pay attention to other’s creative endeavors rather than my own. Well, rather than Faith’s own. Gwen is another part of my schizoid self and lately she is a demanding, taxing, stress-inducing entity.

No, I’m not!

Yes you are. This is my blog. Hush. Go take a nap.

You won’t get back in bed!

Sigh… See what I mean? Yes, we all have RL. Some of us have more than one.

So, what personal writing rules do you have? And how often do they get kicked in the tush by RL?


21 comments to Get Out of the Way!

  • Thanks Faith!

    I feel better about my own writing habits already. Both the good and the bad. 🙂

    Now, back to my RL…

  • 1. Apply butt to chair, fingers to keyboard, have faith.
    2. On those days when I just don’t know where I’m headed, I try to trust the Great Subconscious Compost Heap to spit up something good.
    3. Forgive myself when I don’t write, but only for a few days, then get tough.
    4. Blogging doesn’t count.
    5. A fresh location—the back porch, the office, the coffee shop, etc—can jog a sluggish brain.

    Writing is my main RL job, with some part time editing on the side, but even so, I let so much get in the way! I always say I know I’m stuck on the writing when the house is clean, the laundry’s folded, and dinner is cooked.

    And I don’t read enough in the genre, either. Somehow, writing it all day makes me swerve toward non fiction. Reading “Boneshaker” right now, though, and loving it.

    Good luck!


  • Well, the only time I have to read is at night when the wife and daughter goes to bed. I tend to lay in bed and read. I’m reading Revelation Space right now from Alastair Reynolds and liking it a lot. I like how he can add some of the hard science elements into the story without making me feel like a Luddite. I’ve been reading some sci-fi short story compilations lately and many of the authors just kinda either lose me or leave me going, “huh?” by the end of the story. I’m a space opera fan. I like things like Star Wars. I don’t need to know how a hyperdrive works, I just need to know that it does and gets the characters from point A to point B in some period of time. I’m easy to please that way. Anyhoo, I’m going off track. Sadly, I haven’t been able to read as much as I’d like because I keep falling asleep, due to getting up earlier. So it’s taking me a while to get through the book.

    Writing…I sit in front of the computer and try. Some days it just flows, other days it doesn’t, and still other days I’m interrupted by our daughter every 15-20 minutes so that I can never get up any momentum. I’m the type of writer that has to take time to focus and get into what I’m writing and if I’m interrupted constantly I can’t immerse myself into the story and it doesn’t flow. My wife has started an earlier shift so she gets home earlier now as well, so I have to start dinner earlier, which means quitting the writing earlier. I’m still getting used to the new schedule. I’m considering flipping my time and writing at night after everyone goes to bed and reading during the day. At least if I’m typing I’m not falling asleep and with everyone asleep I won’t get the interruptions.

    Writing the first draft of the WIP I felt possessed. Now I feel like I’m struggling through the rewrites and I shouldn’t be.

  • I’m trying to develop some that will work. I know I have interstitial time that can be used for fiction, but am having trouble doing that. In between the day job, the small-business-ownership, and the two major non-fiction projects… I need to get a couple of stories revised and a novel draft finished. The stories are actually harder because I need a larger chunk of uninterrupted time, and I haven’t been able to find it. The novel draft I can think about in spare moments and write a few paragraphs at a time. At least that’s my hypothesis; there’s a shortage of data supporting it right now.

  • Rules, schmules. Whatever works works.

  • I don’t read in genre nearly enough. I don’t read out of genre nearly enough. Put another way, I don’t read nearly enough. I write every day. Except on weekends. I don’t self-promote NEARLY enough. Because I really, really hate it. More than doing my taxes. Really. But I hit my deadlines, and I turn in a clean manuscript. And for me, ultimately, those are the most important things. Well, those and enjoying it.

  • I try to write every day, but my mojo only works in the morning hours and by 11:30, when my stomach grumbles for an early lunch, that’s it. End of mojo. I can do some easy writing in the afternoons — typing in edits or proofreading, that kind of thing, but all my serious brainwork must be done in the mornings. I do read everyday but I’m a slow reader, so I don’t always have a huge list of finished books at the end of the year. And finally, I think there’s a point where you don’t need to be totally immersed in reading your genre. At first, sure, you need to learn, but after that, I disagree. I read genre books for fun mostly. Beyond that, I find great value as a writer to read outside our genre. I learn far more about writing that way.

  • Wolf Lahti

    The RL that I deal with with every day is a crippling depression and despair that counseling and rugs have had no impact on. I’ll trade those for the demands of housework any day of the week.

  • A *Fear* of reading AJ Hartley books!!! Really??? Faith, you’ve met me! You know I’m nice, rarely bite and am thoroughly unintimidating.

    Of course announcing that you PLAN to read my stuff is now intimidating ME. You may hate it! Worse, you may just think it’s garbage.


    As to rules, I have few. I often don’t write fiction for weeks at a time because, like Faith, I have a couple of other identities. I can keep a few balls in the air but I need to focus to really get them moving and that means I have to find bloocks of time when I can give each one proper attention for a few weeks.

    Will now withdraw anxiously while Faith considers her verdict.

  • Good replies, Y’all! We all share the writers’ *lack of time* syndrome. Unless we can find a way to work outside of time, pushing through RL is what seems to work best, I guess.

    Wolf, I’ve dealt with the black dog (what I call depression) for years. Mine is mostly mild, only seldom life-stealing. I have great tenderness for people who suffer from the harder, darker, blacker dog. Big hugs.

  • I don’t read while working a novel because of my ADHD. I find I need to focus on one thing to finish it. And saying that, I yet finish a second draft of a novel.

  • Emily

    I don’t read enough (does anyone say they read enough, really?) I read all the time, but most of it isn’t for pleasure. Because I’m teaching English classes, what I do read for work is usually good (even if I’m not fond of it). So it is worth while.

    I usually read in bed before I go to sleep, which is nice. Even if it is scary. I just finished Skinwalker and loved it. I loved the two-voice first person and I can’t wait to see more of Rick. I’ll be picking up the next one soon.

    I do not write every day. I cannot when I’m working. I have tried in the past and just ended up feeling achingly guilty when I failed. Yet, I managed a draft of a novel (72000 words) in about six months. I tend to find a free Friday or Saturday night and pound out between 5000 and 10,000 words. (Okay, so I’m not saying they are GOOD words…) During the summers, I can write every day, but that’s usually spent writing with my co-author. We’re only on the same coast during the summer, so we’ve not got a lot of time.

    So, that’s how I read and write.

    Thanks, Faith, for the post. Now I feel less bad about not getting the writing in every day, or the genre reading! 😀

  • LOL at Faith and AJ. I only have a few rules.

    1) Write Everyday

    Since I started writing full-time, I’ve been pretty successful at writing every day. At first I could only have BIC for an hour, two tops. With consistency I’ve been able to write for 3-4 hours at a time, with a few short (5-10) minute breaks. Word Wars with CE Murphy and gang have broken that up to shorter writing times, which I’m not sure works well for me, but the interaction is so much fun I can’t give it up.

    2) Read more (award winners/bestsellers-recent amendment).

    In recent years, I have mostly been reading what friends recommend or authors I’ve met online or at cons. Just recently I decided I wanted to know what set bestsellers apart from mid-list friends. I still haven’t gotten to that, unless Joe Abercrombie counts (DGLA 2009 shortlist). Last year, my wife and I take started picking literary classics to break up our regular reading. That’s been a great fun and formidable torture.

  • We all have different ways of balancing reading, writing and RL. The main thing is that it has to work for us, letting us live more stress-free lives.

    I will add, y’all, that reading debut novels, bestsellers, and breakout books are the best way to follow a genre’s trends.

  • Barb Mills

    It is so nice (sorry guys) to see that writers I love still have trouble sitting down to write and that RL intrudes often. Those of us who are avid readers have the idea that you all sit in your lofty towers and pound out a book while taking tea and and juggling your lives one handed. Bless your hearts for sharing your struggles with us. Keep writing! Faith I love your books and can’t wait for the next one.

  • Hey Barb! I do take tea and juggle my life one handed. Which is why I have things all over the floor and jumbled and out of order. (grins)
    Thank you for the kind words! I’m planning to write a freebie giveaway short story about how Rick got his tats. I’ll post it on the website and mention it here. It’s a fan thank you!

  • Barb Mills

    Are you going to write more about your characters from Blood Ring, Host, adn Seraph?

  • Faith,
    I’ve read all of AJ’s fiction books and liked all of them. I’m an engineer so I generally read SF, but I took art history and archaelogy as electives at Tulane so history stuff will interest me also. I generally read historical mysteries not romance stuff. I also like Peter Tremayne mysteries set in ancient Ireland.

    I read several books a week because I work from home and have a flexible consulting job with no commute. I’ll go downstairs away from the computer and read while I wait for the washer or dryer to quit because if I go upstairs again, the stuff may be sitting for a bit because we can’t hear the machines upstairs.

    Hubby is going to grad school and writing the novel, which is going along nicely. He also doesn’t read much while writing because he is also ADHD. If something really catches his attention he will read that and the novel writing gets derailed for a bit (Percy Jackson did that for about a week). Sometimes if we can find something which is really amusing and not anything like the space adventure we write, then he can do both. Right now we are reading Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, a Baen book with lots of guns and people running around Alabama training to kill monsters. We have found it amusing as we both were born in Alabama and Larry got much of the info correct. It’s like a B monster movie turned into a 700 page novel. Apparently, others find it amusing too, as Baen’s publisher told us last weekend that it was in its third printing and a second book is coming out soon.

    I hoped some of you would be at Stellarcon last weekend but I didn’t see any of you (kind of hard to tell ahead of time because no grid was posted before the con). Nice to talk to the Baen people though and to our mentor Steve White, 2 weekends ago at Shevacon. Next up is Ravencon, where Steve and his new writing partner Chuck are going to be, so we get to meet Chuck for the first time. It should be some interesting conversations; me, hubby, Steve and Chuck have all been gamers since the late 1970s and now we have all moved to writing fiction. If anyone else on here is going to Ravencon, let me know (if you go to the website, there is an email link which goes to our account).

  • I make myself open the file every day, and write something. When there’s laundry that must be done or else there’ll be nothing to wear to work tomorrow and the Beetle suddenly pops up with a homework emergency (happened just last Thursday!), I don’t get much written. But at least the file was open, in front of me. It’s harder to skip when it’s right there on my monitor staring at me. *smile*

    Angela, are you talking about Chuck Gannon? I met him at RavenCon last year…such a nice guy! Alas, I won’t be at R’Con this year, but I’ve just been invited to Balticon, so if you happen to be there, come up and say hey. And David, Faith, AJ and I (Stuart, you too?) will be at ConCarolinas in June.

  • I’m not a panelist this year at ConCarolinas (I couldn’t commit to the whole weekend) but I am planning on visiting most of Saturday with y’all. So, I’ll see you then.

    I am going to Ravencon — so I guess I’ll be missing you there. 🙁

  • Hi Barb, Yes I am. The RPG — which will be out this summer — has 22,000 words of fiction, and loads of info on seraphs, Light, and Darkness. I am also pondering a short story about Thorn. As to another book on the Rogue Mage world, that is in the hands of my editor. I am proposing one to her this month.

    Angela, I wasn’t there. I’m limiting the number of cons I do, now. But I’m sure it was a blast!

    Stuart, we’ll plan a writer’s dinner, then!