The point where shit ain’t working.

I’ve reached critical mass, DEFCON 1, time to pull the holy shit handle…you know all of that.

My writing isn’t working and maybe it hasn’t been working for longer than I’m willing to admit.

The writing itself has been good, but the organization looks like my niece got ahold of crayons and paper.

Shit is all over the place!

I’ve always just written. No outline, rarely a beat sheet and it’s just not working.

I’ve rewritten whole books a couple of times because I was afraid of the outline monster.

I was worried I’d get bogged down in an outline, stop working, and just quit.

But I’m at the point of quitting right now. So why shouldn’t I take a chance on an outline?

I realized my first written draft is my outline, but a 86k+ outline is hardly workable.

It’s daunting as hell and it’s making me hate writing. I used to love sitting in the chair and creating.

Then I noticed a few things.

I was putting out a draft that had no cohesive theme or flow through, not until at least the third draft.

When my wife would ask me questions if flub through it.

The other night she asked what is motivating a certain character, I had no reply.

What the hell am I doing if I don’t know the damn motivation for what my character does?

I’ve only looked at the part where I’m sitting in the chair as the writing part. Not the thinking about the story, drawing maps or staring at screenshots which resembled the world I’d created, and definitely not an outline.

This changed over the weekend.

I thought about all the stories I’ve written. Shorts, novellas, novels and understood that whenever I’m thinking about, drawing about, or outlining, it’s still writing.

I have stories that felt too daunting to create because I didn’t understand their world and didn’t get it about the things I mentioned above.

Now as I hit the button, reset things, and journey into this new creative life, I feel blessed to have a wife who continues to stand by my side as I navigate these waters.

She’s my rock and she’s always there to tell me it’s okay. She makes sure I keep writing in whatever form it takes and I’m the luckiest man to have her.

Now on to the writing.

I changed how I read my first pass and saved my sanity, and story.

I used to print my stories out, go through them, and that’s it. When our printer died, I read it off my laptop.

I realized it wasn’t working.

I put the file in Mobi form and put it on my kindle. I rarely use my kindle for reading and it seemed a good reason to use it.

It’s worked out well.

But seeing it on the Kindle in the form it would take after publication energized me. It made me realize the story is good and that it would one day see the light it deserves.

It was an epiphany. It gave me a new view at my work that I’d never had before.

It’s not reading through my own eyes, it’s reading as if I were the one who purchased the book.

It felt like a new book, one with more potential than I’d seen before.

Having a book as a file on a computer is one thing, reading it as the intended audience would gave me a whole new perspective on the draft and where the story could go.

I’m only sorry that I’ve never done this with previous stories. It makes me want to go back through the books I’ve shelved and see if they’re worth saving.

For the longest time I didn’t think about the other stories I’ve written. I wrote them, worked on them a little and moved on to the next one.

Seeing it in a published form gave me new eyes when I didn’t believe I needed them.

I have a lot of work to do with it but reading it the way the intended reader would is changing how I work on a draft.

It’s definitely increased my enthusiasm for the project.

I didn’t see the problems the other way, but now, I see the problems and understand how to fix them because I’m reading it the way my readers would.

I hope you all have a great week.

Don’t let anyone distract you!

There’s a point when you’re an unpublished writer and all of your writer friends aren’t on the same level you feel you’re on.

This isn’t about bragging, narcissism, or vanity.

It’s about focus!

Projects may come along which can divert your attention, take away your focus, shifting it somewhere you don’t want it to go.

These projects are distractions from your goal, they’re mental masturbation.

You might get some joy out of them but they will always take your focus away from your goals.

They’re you telling yourself, it’s okay to do this thing these other people are doing because it “might” make you better. But you have goals to focus on, you have self-imposed deadlines to meet.

When everyone around doesn’t have true, set on paper goals for their writing it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. It’s a distraction. And distractions take you away from your goals.

Don’t let anyone tell you your goals aren’t real, that they aren’t attainable. And never let anyone distract you from those goals.

How I took over control of my life.

This year has been about regaining control over my life.

First, it started by fixing my writing.

I listened to myself when I was writing more often, thought through sentences more carefully, and paid attention when a story went off the rails.

Today my wife will be finishing her first read-through of a novel. I’ll start revising it next week.

I started a new novel yesterday.  I’m currently outlining it and creating a beat sheet.

It’s something different from my other stories, in structure and content.

Second, I’ve been exercising more.

The end of last year was a tough one. My brother passed away from an aneurysm.

Technically we weren’t blood, but he’ll always be my brother.

When he passed, I realized I wasn’t taking care of myself as well as I should.

I’ve worked to correct that.

I work out four to five days a week, restrict my caffeine intake and make sure I’m eating decently.

Third, I spend more time with my wife and kids.

Three years ago I lived in Las Vegas. I worked a job I hated and was stressed all the time.

The hours I worked made it nearly impossible to get any time with my wife and kids.

I’d spend a few days here and there with them but it wasn’t quality time. It was usually in a movie theater.

After we left Las Vegas our goal was for me to write more, spend more time with each other and give our kids a better environment.

We’ve managed to do all of those things.

I’ve written four novels since we moved, over a hundred short stories and with each I see improvement.

Our kids are doing better in school. My son almost made the honor roll, which was unheard of in Las Vegas.

We hike, spend time outside and sometimes we go to the movies. The movies used to be our family time. Now its secondary to doing other things.

I have no doubt I’ll be published soon. I know I’m in better physical and mental condition than I was three years ago.

My relationship with my kids and my wife is stronger than its ever been.

If we wouldn’t have left Las Vegas all of us would be miserable.

I fight my way through depression daily, my wife does too.

There are moments when life seems hard. At those moments I look around and compare the life I had three years ago to my current situation.

Things are better.

I took control of a lot of things this year. I’m also working harder at my prose than I thought possible. I never would have had the time to focus during our Las Vegas life.

Today, I have the time, the strength and the ability to push towards my goals.

It all started by taking control.

Looking at Failure Differently

The doubt bugs crawl in, infest themselves in your mind, control your thoughts and you suspend everything you’re doing because you failed at something.

Here’s the truth, failure happens.

Failure is required for improvement.

Without the punishment we feel from failure, we’re not able to step up and grind out our goals.

Failure hurts.

It makes us want to quit.

It will want to stop working towards your goals.

The pain from failure should remind you you’re human. Take it as learning and move forward.

Every time we fail its fate telling us we’re not there yet. It’s not telling us to stop.

If you stop, you’ll look in the mirror one morning, stare at the wrinkles, wonder where time went and wish you would have stayed on the path.

Go forward and keep working on your goals.

Keep pushing forward.