Hey S, how’s your novel coming along?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Well, this has been a pretty crazy week at work.  You know, at the real job?  The job that actually puts groceries in the refrigerator?  We’re playing musical offices this summer.  We used to have this one building, and my office was outside in a trailer.  Then they built a new building about a year ago and added the old building to the new building to make one building.  I moved into the old part of the building.  Now, they’ve done some remodeling and decided to put this office here and that office there and… I’m one of those offices.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just one desk full of stuff, but I had to move my absentee co-workers junk too and then there is the ton of computer crap that has to move.  Probably ten different computer systems, plus all the networking, and it has just been kicking my ass.  I’ve got stuff piled all over the place and one of my co-workers remarked that it looked like the latest episode of Hoarders.

Nevertheless, I have been doing some writing.  Yesterday I got contacted by one of the Vice Presidents of the company asking me for my input on a particular project.  Me.  Talking to a VP.  A VP who used to be a 2-star general.  I was a bit shocked by that, I have to say.

I know I’m a pretty smart and capable guy, but I wasn’t really aware that the upper echelons of management thought I was Our Man in Bumfuck Who Can Answer Those Questions.  Rather heady stuff considering I used to be nothing but an enlisted puke back in the day.  So I spent the better part of a day crafting an email to the HMFIC.  Got to put the skills to work and not look like a stumblebum.

So there’s two perfectly good reasons why the First Novel hasn’t moved forward.  Not good enough for you?  Alright then, how about if I tell you I’ve been spending a lot of time on Scribophile?  In case you haven’t been there, it’s a site where authors (and the other Next Great Novelists) can go to discuss writing and most importantly put their own work up for critique.  However, before you put your own stuff up, you’ve got to earn some karma points by offering your own critiques of other people’s work.  So you have to give before you can take.  It’s a great system and the people are all very helpful.  The first chapter of To The Skies is garbage and they were kind enough to tell me so in a way that made me look forward to thoroughly rewriting it.  In other words, they offered some very helpful and constructive criticism.

So I actually have been working on the First Novel, even though the word count hasn’t gone up any.  But I pledge to you, my loyal First Fans (there will be many thousands of fans who will come later, once TTS hits the NYT bestseller list, but you will have been my First Fans), that this week I will at least get Chapter 12 complete and have some notes put down for where I want Chapter 13 to go.

So get off my butt already!

How to keep focus and motivation while writing a novel

Well, I sure wish I knew the answer to this one too.  Greenelephantperson asked me this question earlier, and I thought I’d respond to her request.

The first thing I thought of was how I write.  Almost immediately I realized that “what works for me may not work for you.”  I can describe how I write, but that does not answer the question.  My real answer is, “I don’t know.  I haven’t done it yet.”

Let me tell you a little about the journey The First Novel has taken.  Maybe my own experiences will do the best job of explaining.

The First Novel began about four years ago as a simple story that I wanted to tell to a friend.  It described a man and a woman taking a trip together.  Because I was (and still am) fascinated with old aircraft, and because I had just learned all about Transcontinental Air Transport, I framed the trip as a journey on TAT.  There was no ending to the story at the time, and I had no thought of making it into a full length novel.

Then, as such things tend to do in my mind, the story began to grow.  Sometimes I chewed on it consciously, and at other times it must have been subconsciously because a thought about a particular scene or a piece of the plot would pop into my head.  I kept writing, although it hasn’t been a smooth progress.  There were blank periods that lasted months.

That explains my initial motivation and how the novel got started.  More to the point, however, is what has kept me going.  The simple answer is other people.

I shared my story with my sister because, being a Big Sister, she can be expected to pat me on the head and tell me what a wonderful guy I am.  But also because she is my sister, she can also be expected to tell me when my fly is open, or when I’m being an intolerant douchebag.  I have always been able to accept her criticism easily, and she’s good at it.  So she would kick me in the butt from time to time and keep me going.

Next is Chainsaw, my writing buddy.  (I haven’t formally proposed to him yet, but we’re writing buddies in action if not in title).  Chainsaw has already finished a couple of novels, and that drives me crazy.  I know he just looks down his nose at me constantly and thinks I’m inferior because the world is just full of unpublished wanna-be authors who are working on a novel but haven’t finished one yet.  So, partly because it is a male competitive thing, I’m pushing to get my first draft done so that I can at least say I have completed a novel.  (And besides which he has only uploaded some text to Amazon and set a price for it.  I could poop all over some paper (figuratively) and sell that on Amazon too.  Take that Chainsaw.  *MY* novel will be on the NYT bestseller lists for years.  But don’t worry, you can come visit me on my yacht.)

So that’s Person Two who keeps me motivated.  Person Three is you, dear readers.  You and everyone else to whom I have been bold enough to announce, “I am writing a novel.”  Because many of you will encourage me, like my sister, and many of you will look down your noses at me, like Chainsaw, because I haven’t finished a novel.  So I’m motivated to keep going because I’m going to both earn your praise and shove your noses in my finished novel when I make a down payment on my Maserati.

That answers the motivation part of the question, at least for me.  Focus is another struggle, and the mechanisms for achieving that are as varied as writers are.  My main enemy is distraction.  I have a tendency to “research” as I write (how many horsepower did a single Mayback V-12 on a zeppelin produce?) and that often leads me down a rabbit hole into the wonderland of the Interwebs where I have a tendency to get lost.  Next thing I know, I’m “researching” the two types of V-16 engines that Cadillac produced in the 1930’s and I realize I’ve got to get up and go to work in six hours.

Personally, I like to slap the headphones on and listen to the Blues while I write.  It does tend to minimize certain other distractions for me, although some writers need graveyard quiet.

Bottom line is, whatever works works.  You’ve got to figure out how to get into the zone and write – focus – and you’ve got to find a way to push yourself into that zone day after day – motivation.

Someday, if I follow my own advice, I’ll be able to say, “I wrote a novel.”