Category Archives: writing

Writer’s Block- does it really exist?

Almost two years ago, I printed out this pile of exactly one hundred poems I’d typed up . The poems included were written over the span of the past three years (so, since 2010 or so) but the overwhelming majority of them were actually written within the 2012-2013 year. ONE YEAR.

june 1 2013 012

A highly attractive pile of paper!

Flash forward to present day and these poems have been read over and sorted, once, twice, five times, and there’s a hefty pile I consider Not Exactly Quality. There’s another, slightly larger pile that I considered workable/submittable, and lately I’ve finally been getting around to actually submitting them places. Of course, now that I’m actually submitting, I find the ‘acceptable’ pile has shrunk yet again, and the ‘I really love this, it needs to get out there’ pile is even smaller.

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Several slightly less attractive piles                         of paper!

Why, you may ask, am I showing you piles of paper? What’s my point with all this? Why, I’m so glad you asked! WRITER’S BLOCK is my point.

For nearly two full years after college ended (when I was no longer being prompted or assigned poetry) I hadn’t written a thing due to writer’s block. Nothing I thought of seemed good enough, and when I had a good idea I couldn’t find the right words. Eventually the fear of that blank page and of the desecration of the Ideal Poem I held on a pedestal in my head led to an extreme creative drought. Writer’s Block got me, and it got me good.

Then, something miraculous happened, and that something is this: I sat my ass down in a chair, took a journal and started writing poetry. I wrote for fifteen minutes, and I surprised myself. I didn’t completely hate what I wrote. The next day I wrote for thirty, and the going was a lot harder. Then I scrapped the time idea and set myself page goals, trying to write a full page, front and back, in my poetry journal every day. I told myself I was not going to go back over anything I wrote there for a while, that I wouldn’t edit or even reread anything- anything went, single lines that popped into my head as I was going, a scrap of this, a scrap of that, disjointed stanzas, you name it. As long as I fulfilled my page quota and had one new page of raw material every day, I was playing by the rules. AND IT WORKED. So simple, yet somehow it had taken me years. And it wasn’t the first time I’d gone through this cycle; I didn’t even have ignorance to fall back on. I started feeling so much regret over the time I’d wasted not writing any poetry. If I wrote 100 rough poems in a year, how many could I have had in the space of 3 years? If I had 25 I was in love with, how many would I have to love in 3 years?? Obviously I’ll never let this happen again, I thought. But I did, again and again. The only thing I can say for myself is the dry spells weren’t quite as long.

There are those who say writer’s block doesn’t exist, that all you need is hard work and dedication to write every day and you’ll never experience it again. Then there are those who say NAY, that fabled beast is real and it will eat you alive! Who’s right? From my own experience, I’ve personally come to believe that the truth is a bit of both extremes, as is often the case. Writer’s block does indeed exist: just as being super inspired and having the words flow out of you like no one’s business is a real and euphoric experience, having everything move at a dead crawl and hardly being able to string a sentence together, feeling ‘blocked’ in other words, is equally real. No amount of schedule and dedication has managed to make it go away and never come back. I’ll be in the middle of a novel and suddenly I’m having an astronomically difficult time hitting my quota. I’ll sometimes spend nearly the whole day doing what is normally only a few hours’ work.

BUT. On the occasions I did triumph and wrote through the block, I found that it usually only lasted about a week tops, and at the end of the day, I felt REALLY good that I’d got the words out there, even if they were probably shit. Contrast that with the months (or years!) of feeling blocked that come from backing down and letting the fear build every day, each day making that wall in my head a little higher, and there’s a clear winner in the field of strategy ;).

I don’t think there’s any doubt as to whether writer’s block exists, I think the real question is whether we’ll let it get us, whether we will let it win and force us into a dry spell, or keep writing through it. I’ve let it win SO many times, more times honestly than I’ve been the victor. But I’m trying not to let that happen anymore. I think it’s likely, looking over the pattern of the past, that I will- but I’m aiming to prove myself wrong.

“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”

– Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

-Lili St. Crow

{Hope you’re well and see you next week!}

~ C

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Writing Routines (Feat. a 10 question survey!)

First of all, on a completely unrelated note, I now have a facebook page. If anyone reading this has Facebook, ‘liking’ me would mean the world (there is no way to say that and not come off needy, believe me, I’ve tried. Damn fb lingo). (page is here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CA-Allen/416143661895571

Now for the real topic of this post. For as long as I’ve been reading writer’s magazines- possibly longer, even- I’ve been FASCINATED by other writers’ writing processes. Not all the deep, “where do your ideas come from?” crap that we all hate to hear, but the mundane little things like knowing one person writes from their basement from the hours of 6 to 8 after work or that another writer writes entire stories on napkins before typing it up. The music you listen to (or don’t), the little goals you set, the chair or the floor you sit on, the notebooks or computers you use…why is all this so interesting to me? Beats me. I think that as a writer myself I’m just amazed at all the different ways we have of doing the same thing. Reading about the rituals and routines of others, no matter how mundane or bizarre, inspires me. Inspires me how? I don’t know, because I’m usually not the type to branch out and try anything new for myself. Though I’m often tempted.

So I thought I’d do up a survey of some simple questions about writing in the selfish hopes of getting some answers I will thoroughly love reading. So, whatever it is you do, I would LOVE to know. Do you:

  1. Listen to music? (if so, what type?)
  2. Handwrite or type? (and in/on what)
  3. have a best time of day to write new material?
  4. outline/make character sketches?
  5. have a set schedule for working or do you work mostly when motivated?
  6. have a ‘place’ you need to be to write? Where?
  7. carry ideas in notebooks, your head, or both?
  8. Any activities you like to do before or during writing that you feel help the process along?
  9. show your writing to anyone as you go?
  10. make revisions as you go or at the end? How many times on average do you think you revise a project before you consider it ready?

Please answer in the comments! I’ll start by giving my own answers:

  1. I can’t concentrate with any kind of music going on. I wish I could so I could make awesome playlists, and there are songs I like to listen to because they remind me of scenes or characters, but not DURING writing time. Sometimes when I write poetry I listen to music without words, new agey or classical stuff, but that’s about it.
  2. Type novels. Handwrite poetry and then type it up later. Often I don’t look at it for a while in the space between.
  3. Morning, or more accurately, whenever I wake up. RIGHT when I wake up.
  4. I build up the world and characters in my head as I go but it’s rare that I put anything on paper, and *very* rare that I know where I’m going with my story when I begin.
  5. Set schedule. If I don’t, the fear of writing will take over and I’ll never get anything done. Sad but true.
  6. Not really. My room is where I normally write, but sometimes I’ll switch it up to another part of the house or (on rare occasions) the library or a coffee shop. I would really love to have my own little ‘office space’ devoted ENTIRELY to the pursuit of creative endeavors, but thus far I do not, so.
  7. My head. Sometimes I’ll write lines of poetry or ideas for parts of novels or characters down on my iphone in ‘notes’, but that’s pretty rare.
  8. COFFEE. Coffee. The first thing I do waking up, every single day: make coffee. The second: usually something writing related. So the two are intertwined for me. I can totally start drinking coffee if I’m not writing, but I can’t start writing if I don’t have coffee.
  9. I’ve heard it works really well for some people but for me it’s just the death knell over whatever I thought I was creating. It used to be really tempting but I learned from trial and error. Show someone my work before it’s done? Yeah, it’s never getting finished.
  10. I wait until I’m done to make revisions, unless they’re so obnoxious I can’t ignore them. It usually doesn’t take me more than two rereads/edits to feel like I’m done. Not that the book is perfect by any means, just that I’m satisfied that I did my best at the time and it’s time to move on.

coffeeee sunrise-over-green-hills  silence schedule

(my ‘essentials’. Yeah, all my schedules have hands and feet.)

Do it, do it, DOOO IT!!! If you read this post, or even look at it, please answer at least a few of these questions, whichever ones strike your fancy (or all, if you’re feeling ambitious!) If you don’t, I’ll know 😉

I hope everyone’s well and I’ll see you next week!!

~C

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Na-No-Wri-Mo, find out what it means to me!

Now that that terrible, cheese-drenched title is out of the way, I’d like to address the topic at hand: National Novel Writing Month, a month long writing frenzy in which people everywhere attempt to crank out a novel (or 50,000 words of one anyway) in one month. (site: www.nanowrimo.org )

I first found out about Nano in my freshman year of college, and in a spirit of overacheiverism which comes rarely to me, decided to give it a shot. Before that time, I had only written a few novellas, some short stories, and a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction.  My biggest work at that point was a trilogy of novellas which eventually became a three book novel, A Dewdrop Away.  I’d spent years building on the world of Arborand in my head, and along with this world-building there had come the vague idea for a sort of prequel book to the then-trilogy. Why not, I thought? I want to try to make something 50,000 words long!

When I say the idea was vague, I do mean vague. I cannot stress enough how vague it was. But I hadn’t started writing anything. I don’t know if I ever would have started if Nano hadn’t come up. Beforehand, I read some of the pep talks on the site and some of the helpful advice for the months before Nano, all of which served to really fire me up. I didn’t really heed any of this advice though. I was maybe two weeks away from November first when I decided I wanted to participate. I did not write any outlines or do any exercises. When the first came, I just started writing. I did, however, utilize some of the tricks I’d read about, like stuffing my novel with needless adjectives and extraneous words, all under the promise of I’ll Come Back and Edit this Later. It was a tough battle though- everything I’d previously written had gone very slow, under a regimen of ‘I’ll work on this when I feel inspired’ or ‘I don’t have time with school’. Around the legendary second week, I felt completely dried up, had no idea where my story was going, and thought constantly of quitting. But then one thing came to me.  Just when that had become exhausted, another came to me. And I made it through the entire book that way, just one bit at a time. At the end, I was astounded that my story actually made sense on the whole, that things came together almost magically at times and where my sweaty hands slipped on the wheel, the characters came in and took charge.

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  – E.L. Doctorow

That was 2007. The book I wrote was entitled Flight. It was originally meant to be a standalone prequel, but later I discovered it was actually the first in a trilogy (I really must like trilogies).  I did not come away from Nanowrimo having learned nothing: when I wrote Fall in 2010 and Overworld in 2011, though I did not participate in Nano, I obeyed what Nano had taught me were rules number one and two to success: Have goals, and ensure that you meet them no matter what. So I made my goal 10,000 words a week, and every week I ensured I made it to that goal by writing *something* every day, with whatever time I had that day. Writing every day also ensured that I stayed absorbed in the world, which helped inspire me to find that next leading action or scene.

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This

flight_final

becomes THIS

                                     

For a while, I believed I’d learned all I needed to learn from Nanowrimo, got all I wanted to get out of it. Then I went through a dry spell where I didn’t get anything of much length or import completed. For a good couple of years. I was getting desperate and depressed and just plain weird. And I thought, November is coming up! I should use Nano to get me going again! I had the rough draft of a novel I’d written in 11/12 which was set up for a sequel. It was perfect. My overwhelming response to this suggestion was No. There’s stuff I could be editing. I should edit things first.

That’s probably just an evasion tactic you’re using. Think how bad you’ll feel if you don’t do it and then you don’t get your editing done either.

 I’m terrified of jumping into a new novel. It’s been two years and I still don’t know where I was going with that story. Let’s not and say we did!

There was another reason I considered Nano in 2014: to explore an aspect of it I hadn’t experienced previously, away at college- the community.

The very idea gave me brain freeze. As someone with considerable social anxiety as well as driving-related anxiety, this sounded like a giant no. But still, that other part of me persisted:

You can use mapquest. You don’t have to take highways. No one else will be in the car with you.

After you actually meet them, you know it’s not as bad.

You will feel so good about yourself.

And that was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was something I needed.

When it got to October 31st, I was still having internal turmoil and had no idea whether I was doing Nanowrimo or not. I had created a new profile on the site, joined my region, even made a couple tentative forum posts, but I wouldn’t allow myself to say I’d decided. It was a very uncomfortable Halloween. I did not set an alarm for the 1st.  I slept in as a result, and when I got up I thought, Well, it’s too late anyway. I write best in the mornings.

Directly after having this thought, I took my laptop from its place on the floor beside my bed, propped it up on my lap and wrote some words. I wrote words until I hit 1,500, and then I stopped and logged my progress on the site. Accomplishment flooded through me. How was it that something so easy had taken so long to do? But I knew the answer. It was always this way with writing; I think it is for most writers. There was a kickoff meeting that day not too far from me, but I had another appointment elsewhere and used that as an excuse not to go. But I’d started writing.

By the end of Nanowrimo 2014, I had written something every single day even when it meant getting up at 4 a.m. to get in writing before an eleven hour work day. I had also attended two meet-ups. At the first one, I got there early and watched everyone else come in, set up and write for nearly half an hour before I got the courage to go over and join them. At the second, I was one of three people because there had been some mix-ups. At both I felt really spectacular by the end. There was something oddly binding about sitting together with a bunch of strangers and typing for a few hours. And magical: I probably got more writing done faster in those couple of meetups than I ever did alone. Part of it was due to the ten minute word sprints, which were a lot of fun (and which don’t work nearly as well without competition, though I’ve tried). But part of it was the knowledge that everyone in the room had the same goal as me. The sound of their fingers clicking the keys made my fingers feel like clicking even if they didn’t know what the hell they were clicking.

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This

Winner-2014-Square-Button

becomes THIS!

.

So it is that I finished the second rough draft in what will hopefully be a trilogy (I told you about the trilogies) in early January this year. I no longer believe that Nano has nothing to offer me anymore…in fact, I believe it has a lot more to offer me. Next year, I plan to challenge myself to participate once again and to go to more meetups than the last, and I am also looking forward to participating in Camp Nanowrimo (https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in) for the VERY first time this April or July (or both? heh). JOIN ME

So Nanowrimo? Has come to mean a lot to me in more than one way. I’ve participated twice, seven years apart, and learned two different sorts of lessons that have helped my writing to no end. Who would I recommend it to? Everyone. Whether you’re ‘serious’ about writing or not, everyone’s had a story idea at some point, and you can’t say no to a good healthy self-challenge 😉

Take care and see you next week!

~ C

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*climbs up on rooftop* *shouts*

HEAR YE, HEAR YE!!

I have the most exciting of news today. What’s that, you ask? Why, the final two books in my Dewdrop Prequel Trilogy, Fall and Overworld, respectively, are up for sale on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle versions!
fallforblog2                             overworldforblog2

The series as a whole (including A Dewdrop Away and Flight, the first in the prequel trilogy):

blerbbb      blogbookspines2

Look at my beautiful children.

I would like to use this opportunity to put in a plug for Emily C. Holt, the cover artist for these beauties.  You can find her here: http://emilyholtillustration.blogspot.com/

Without her flawless work, these babies would not look quuuite as enticing, to put it mildly. I could not have found a better person to draw my fantasies to life.

Amazon, as always, was an easy process, and I say that as someone who is misled and tripped up on technicalities more often than not. IT WAS EASY, and fairly fast, even with wait times. I still recommend this route of publication to anyone who wants to get their book out there with minimal blood, sweat and tears. Yes, you are mostly alone when it comes to marketing, but the service is free, and it all depends on what you want from self-publishing. Mine may not be the best blow-up-overnight strategy, but it is the best just-get-that-shit-out-there one I’ve ever encountered : ) .

However, this time around, I have enrolled all the Kindle versions (even Dewdrop and Flight) in the Kindle Select Program (https://kdp.amazon.com/select) and I’m excited to see how that goes. From what I understand, there are special promotions I can activate under this plan in order to sell more, so I’ll definitely be experimenting with that.

ALSO: as part of KDP Select, I’m able to do a free book promotion, which I’ll be doing with all of my books. From today through Sunday the 15th, all of the kindle versions of my books will be FREE.

FREE, people. Take advantage! Even if you have no interest in reading them, take the time out just to download because it really helps me out in terms of visibility. Also, if you want to drop by the Amazon page, click some stars and give me a good rating, that would be AMAZING.

So now the series is complete and fully published! This series has been a wild ride, from its first conception (I was in middle school! Middle school.) to finishing writing it all (college) to finishing editing (after college) to publishing (now). Below I’m linking to each book, in order of publication. If anyone buys, rates or downloads anything , please comment here or shoot me a tweet on twitter so I can know who it is I am forever indebted to (: P …but really).

Some Links:
A DEWDROP AWAY (both paper and kindle are here):  http://www.amazon.com/Dewdrop-Away-C-Allen/dp/0988985616/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1423600275&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=a+dewdrop+away

FLIGHT (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Dewdrop-Prequel-Trilogy-1/dp/0988985632/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

FLIGHT (kindle) : http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Dewdrop-Prequel-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00GW5NFYK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423600667&sr=8-2&keywords=flight+c.a.+allen

FALL (paperback) : http://www.amazon.com/…/dp/0988985640/ref=la_B00GXMY4J2_1_3…

FALL (kindle): http://www.amazon.com/…/dp/B00TECQRXO/ref=la_B00GXMY4J2_1_6…

OVERWORLD (paperback) : http://www.amazon.com/…/dp/0988985659/ref=la_B00GXMY4J2_1_4…

OVERWORLD (kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Overworld-Dewdrop-Pr…/…/ref=sr_1_cc_1…

As a final sidenote, my books are also all up on goodreads.com, for anyone who uses that lovely contraption.

In conclusion: SO STOKED (is it obvious?). I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you next week,

~ C

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