Category Archives: Writer’s Life

Writing Beyond Novels

books

To all the writers currently at work on a novel, or who have already written a novel (or two, or three, etc.), I applaud you.

Writing a novel is a war of attrition. It’s you versus every test of your patience. If you’ve completed a novel, again, congratulations.

I’m certainly not against writers who choose to write a novel. I just want to remind them that there are many ways to present their ideas.

Call it a gut feeling, but I imagine that many aspiring writers (perhaps subconsciously) believe a novel to be a mark of validation offering the status of a “real writer.” I don’t believe this to be the case.

There are many literary forms that can capture an idea. A novel is certainly the longest form. When you get a great idea, it may be perfect for a novel. If so, go right ahead and write a novel. However, your idea may work much better as short fiction, a play, or a screenplay, perhaps even a poem. You can take the fictional aspects out and turn it into creative nonfiction. You can even take the creative aspects out and turn it into pure nonfiction.

But it’s not just that. Aspiring writers should be aware of the fact that writing is all around, and goes beyond novels, beyond all traditional forms. Writing is everywhere. Writing includes the cover letters that you write when applying for jobs (or for publication in literary journals, for that matter). Writing includes the comedy routine that you perform at a local open mic. Writing includes the blog posts that you share with our community on WordPress.

Yes, go ahead and write your novel. It’s a wonderful undertaking. I have the highest respect for all writers who work in the form. Just please, don’t think that novels are the only form that you should work in.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear from readers with dissenting opinions. Do you believe novels have more value than other forms of writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Perhaps we can even start a conversation about this on our new Facebook group. See you there!

Join The Literary Game’s Facebook Group

I really want to turn The Literary Game into an interactive space where writers can learn and grow in many ways. In the hopes of doing so, I’ve started a Facebook group for us.

I’d be honored if you would join our group, and if you’d let your literary-minded friends know about what we’re doing here. I’m on the page, and so are my editors. We’d be thrilled to help with your questions or concerns, but we don’t want this to be about us – we want it to be about writers helping other writers out.

The forum is pretty open. You can use it to:

  • Ask and answer questions
  • Promote your books/writing-related projects and blogs
  • Meet new literary friends
  • Post helpful information

All the bells and whistles (like a logo) may not be ready yet, but that doesn’t matter much, right? It’s the community that counts.

I hope you join us on Facebook. Just click here. Please tell your friends.

Writers and Substance Abuse

Today’s post is a pretty direct break from the usual informative tone of this blog. Every now and then, I plan on writing a more personal, whimsical post. What topic is more whimsical to write about than drugs?

For me, today is day 4 without caffeine. Cold turkey. It’s hard for me to even muster up the energy to post. EXTREME lethargy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But enough about me. Writers and drugs. We’ve all heard the jokes about writers’ choice of diet, oftentimes a mixture of cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine, usually in a cycle, often in the middle of the night. 

But is it really best for us?

I’m certainly no Puritan. I’m a former intern with the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit devoted to ending the drug war. I fully believe that what any individual decides to put in her/his own body is their own personal decision. However, all choices have consequences. Even for legal substances, like cigarettes, alcohol, or my drug of choice, caffeine.

As writers, I think that we often romanticize destruction, the world’s, others, and certainly our own. Many of us even think that one cannot write without engaging in excess. That’s a crutch. That’s a gimmick. 

What makes good writing? Is it the alcohol, the cigarettes, the coffee? That’s doubtful. Go ahead and have a drink or a cup of coffee, even a smoke, but don’t let any substance master you. As a writer, you want to be in control. Getting hooked on any substance, whether heroin or caffeine, can wrestle that control from you.

Go ahead and write. I’m going to post this, and then power through an hour of work on my screenplay. I sure wish I had some caffeine. Maybe some cigarettes. A bit of bourbon wouldn’t hurt either, come to think of it. 😉

What’s your take? Do substances bring out your creativity or do they drag you down? I’d love to hear from you.

Maslow for Writers

Charles Bukowski is one of my favorite writers. The man, before achieving his literary renown, lived in abject poverty in bug-infested apartments without light or food, with nothing but bottles of wine and his typewriter. The man did it, he got his work out there, but it doesn’t have to be that hard to make it as a writer.

If you want to be a great writer, aside from making a habit of writing on a consistent basis (ideally daily), you should strongly consider working on meeting your basic needs, and then ascending past that towards having a degree of creature comforts. If you have some other way to make money, if you can move to a pleasant environment, if you can do what you can to treat yourself well, your mindset will not be in survival mode. Then, you can really plug forward with your writing.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist. He’s most known for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory that proposed that people move from meeting their most basic needs (food, water, sleep, etc.) to their highest ones (creativity, problem solving, morality). You can read more about Maslow’s theory here. Essentially, Maslow postulates that as people progress, their needs become more refined towards the process of self-actualization.

Writers are no different than any other individual. If you are struggling to find stable housing, food, or any semblance of peace, you may amass plenty of material to write about, but it will be incredibly difficult to find the time to write – let alone have the peace of mind necessary to focus on crafting excellent literature. It’s hard to take time out to write when your life is utterly unstable. I know that there are many exceptions, those writers who compose incredible works, even in profuse amounts, while buying their meals from the dollar menu, but it’s a lifestyle that is inherently untenable. While you work towards your goal of becoming a successful writer, if you happen to be in dire straits, try working simultaneously towards meeting your basic needs.I guarantee it will only help your writing going forward.

The takeaway? There’s a great novel by Chuck Kinder called Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale, loosely based on Kinder’s friendship with the acclaimed author Raymond Carver. It talks about how chaotic their lives were until they made it as writers, and how their crazy lifestyle almost killed them, how their lives were like nightmares. It doesn’t have to be this way until you make it. You can choose another narrative.

Make Time To Write

Writers, by nature, are quite imaginative. We usually have plenty of ideas floating around in our heads. Shouldn’t those great ideas be taken out of the aether and translated onto the page?

Most of us are aware of NaNoWriMo. I love the idea! However, many writers believe it’s impossible to find time to write on a regular basis, let alone complete a whole novel in a month. Many feel that writing a novel is a process that takes years. I don’t. I firmly believe that you can take the NaNoWriMo challenge and pass it with flying colors.

3,000 words a day, every day, will lead to 90,000 words at the end of a standard 30-day month, about the perfect size for a novel. Would it be ready to send a publisher afterwards? No, that’s not likely at all, but the idea would be on the page, and after a bit of shaping may soon enough be ready for publication.

Most emerging writers are not fortunate enough to have the financial means to get by without a day job until their work really takes off. Many of us have children, families, jobs, girlfriends or boyfriends, social lives. We have plenty of things going on in our lives. Still, through devoting just two hours a day, every day, to writing, I know that your novel can be completed in virtually no time.

It’s simple – once you have your outline prepared, just write. Your first draft won’t be perfect, but it will be complete. Let go of perfection in the immediate. You can worry about that later. For now, all you have to do is write, and soon you’ll be on your way.

Now if you’ve already completed a manuscript of your novel, or other works of fiction, please consider test driving our editing service for free. Simply send us your work (theliterarygame at gmail dot com) and our editors will work with you to shape your work, free of charge. All we ask for are your honest thoughts regarding how effective our help has been, and what we can improve on. Thanks!

Writer’s Block? Try Living More!

Point blank – writers can’t be sheltered individuals cloistered in their troll holes and expect to write anything of substance. Writers must live life!

We’ve all heard the maxim, “write what you know” – it’s good advice (and certainly something to expand on in a future post). However, if your world of experiences is rather limited, your writing will (most likely) be as well.

While it IS important for writers to attempt to write every day, it’s also important for us to live life. Take some chances. Take the road less traveled. If you’ve truly lived, all the other details will take care of themselves. If your world of experience is narrow, your work will suffer. It’s likely that you’ll be beaten over the head with writer’s block, and the ideas you do have will be severely limited by the difficulty faced in trying to generate many scenes and landscapes outside of the breadth of your experiences.

Yes, please do write everyday, but make sure, first and foremost, to live life. Don’t make any excuses. You may have children. You may have a job. You may have many other responsibilities. Just as none of those excuse you from making time in your schedule to write on a regular basis, neither do they or anything else excuse you from living life, having fun, exploring the world, and learning new things. It’s the only way your writing will capture people’s attention.

The stereotypical writer may be an introvert, used to long periods of solitude in front of their keyboard, but stereotypes are just that. If you want to have fresh ideas and sharp prose and rejuvenate yourself for the discipline it takes to write on a regular basis, you better start living.

Here’s the takeaway: Take heed to the immortal words of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. They apply to writers and hippies (and hippie writers) alike: You just gotta keep livin‘ man, L-I-V-I-N.”

How to Focus as a Writer

I’ll let you in on a secret: the key to being a successful writer is focus.

Writing requires discipline at every stage of the game. Writing itself requires discipline, editing your work requires discipline, finding appropriate places to publish your work requires discipline, networking with writers and others involved in the literary world requires discipline.

If you want to succeed as a writer, you need to learn how to focus. 

Many writers resolve to write on a daily basis. Unfortunately, for many, this important practice is eventually shrugged off and forgotten as easily as a New Year’s resolution. You don’t want to be that type of writer. Those types of writers are WINOs – writers in name only.

Yet maintaining focus as a writer may be quite difficult. Here are a list of suggested ways to maintain your focus:

1. Keep in mind the end goal – getting your writing out there and connecting it with readers who will love your work. If your work remains in the aether, or on your desktop, that won’t happen.

2. Have a set time devoted entirely to writing-related activities. This can be writing, editing, networking, or exploring publishing opportunities. Try to devote at least one hour to this every day. Devote more time during the weekend. Your determination will pay off.

3. When the inspiration strikes, write! If at all possible, stop what you’re doing and take advantage. Capitalizing on your bursts of inspiration will motivate you to persevere during normal times where it may be a bit more difficult to get the creative juices going.

4. If you are writing on your computer, I highly recommend listening to videos on YouTube that help individuals focus through binaural beats and isochronic tones. Here’s one such video that I use (Ultra Focus). Make sure to use headphones and listen at a low volume.

5. Avoid overreacting to mundane annoyances in life. A writer shouldn’t get too high or too low about anything. Being an emotional rollercoaster will hinder your ability to focus.

6. Consider using Reiki or other relaxation practices to calm your nervous system down.