“…one begins to see Herbert’s essential themes. One of his central ideas is that human consciousness exists on—and by virtue of—a dangerous edge of crisis, and that the most essential human strength is the ability to dance on that edge. The more man confronts the dangers of the unknown, the more conscious he becomes. All of Herbert’s books portray and test the human ability to consciously adapt. He sets his characters in the most stressful situations imaginable: a cramped submarine in Under Pressure, his first novel; the desert wastes of Dune; and in Destination: Void the artificial tension of a spaceship designed to fail so that the crew will be forced to develop new abilities. There is no test so powerfully able to bring out latent adaptability as one in which the stakes are survival.”
– Timothy O’Reilly in Frank Herbert (Recognitions)
Originally published by Frederick Ungar, October 17, 1983. The whole critical biography of Frank Herbert (216 paperback pages) is also available online at oreilly.com.
Next, I recently pulled a few of my stories out of Kindle Unlimited (Amazon only), so I got to publish The End of the World, Magick Mirror, and The Door Below on the rest of the ebook retailers—Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and a few other smaller retailers that I can reach using Draft2Digital (an ebook distributor). I put those tasks off for too long, so it’s nice to have them done.
Last, I worked on revising and improving the blurbs for my novels. I still find writing short, punchy descriptions of my books very challenging, but they’re not going to revise themselves, so I gritted my teeth and worked it for a while. I’ve got more to do there, but I did manage to make some progress today.
All of this on top of writing 1400 words on Translocator 3 this morning, and I still feel like I only made a minor dent in my “to do” list!
Still so much to do! I’m going to take it easy tonight, so I attack the list again with fresh eyes tomorrow morning.
These are 5 tactics I rely on when I get bored, lost, or stuck in the middle of a book. They’re each useful at at different times and in different situations, but these tactics made the list because I return to them time after time.
Perhaps you have already felt bored, stuck, lost, or at a complete dead-end when you’re working on your book.
This is a signal that you’ve reached the soggy middle.
I try to keep my insane, nearly fanatical, love of writing tools contained—at least in public and on this blog—but I have to take a moment to share how excited I am about the Scrivener 3 update that’s coming out on November 20th.
That looks pretty similar to the current version of Scrivener, with some minor aesthetic tweaks. But wait until you see what’s inside.
One particularly awesome feature for all writers, no matter what genre or subject, is the Linguistic Focus mode. You’ll now be able to highlight specific parts of speech within the visible part of your manuscript, like dialogue, or adjectives.
This is particularly useful to fiction writers for whom some of these elements of speech could be used as crutches, and need to be rooted out and eliminated. I can also see myself using this when I’m doing a pass at a long manuscript with a particular aim. Say, for example, I just wanted to do a pass to improve the dialogue. Linguistic Focus mode will allow me to be more efficient by helping me ignore any irrelevant text.
Another feature I’m really excited about is wordcount history. Currently, Scrivener 2.x only supports cumulative word count for the manuscript, and word count for the day. The new version can apparently log word count per day over a period of time, which is something I used to have to do manually in a spreadsheet, if I wanted to see how productive I was over time.
Now, it seems, all that will be done automatically! Fantastic.
This should fix the Look Inside issue on Amazon that was troublesome to so many authors.
Literature and Latte says that….
Scrivener 3 can export to Epub 3 format.
Its Kindle export is also much improved, and should now work fine with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
The internals of Epub 3 and Kindle files are tidier, containing only a single CSS file.
And the exporter will now also have a place to edit the CSS yourself.
So all this sounds great to me, and it’s easily worth the small price they are asking for the upgrade. New users will be able to get a 30 day free trial of Scrivener 3. If you’ve never tried it before and you like to write at all, it’s worth checking out.
I wrote a how-to book on Scrivener 2 that will still be 99% applicable to Scrivener 3, although perhaps missing a few of these cool new features. You still may find it useful.
Today marks the 30th day in a row of blogging here on mgherron.com!
I’m celebrating this small victory with my favorite cider…
Ahhhh, yeahup. That hits the spot.
Blogging every day for a month was a good challenge. Here are a few things I already knew, but which the challenge brought to the forefront and clarified for me.
1. Streaks don’t tolerate excuses
Inevitably, if you try to do anything worth doing for 30 days in a row (writing, exercising, getting enough sleep) there will be days when you won’t feel like doing that thing.
Just the way it goes. The sun can’t shine forever. Clouds will roll in. Such is life.
Does that mean you get to take a break? No way, buddy. Don’t even think about it.
Having a 30 day blogging streak means that I posted when I didn’t want to. I even posted when…
I didn’t know what I was going to say
I didn’t feel like writing
I was tired
I was on vacation
There were even days where I nearly forgot, and didn’t post until close to midnight.
But I didn’t give in to the excuses.
It helps when you set the bar low, and can always reach for some low hanging fruit. With blogging this means being able to post a photo or a quote and call it a night. With fiction, try setting your goal so low that it’s laughable. How’s 50 words? Five minutes? Surely you can manage five minutes a day. And when you’ve got that down pat, make it fifteen.
Piece of cake. You’ve got this.
2. Daily words add up over time
Even better is to see how many words it all adds up to in the end.
I totaled the number of words in all 31 blogs.
Total (including this blog): 7,250 words
And this took about fifteen minutes of effort per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
7,250 words is the length of 1 – 3 short stories.
Or 2 – 3 epic blog posts.
Of course, in that time period I also wrote about 15,000 original words of fiction 😀 But that’s my life, not yours.
Set your own standards.
Stay calm, write every day, and it will eventually add up if you can learn to be patient. This works with any kind of writing, whether that’s fiction, nonfiction, blogging, or your memoirs.
It’s amazing what’s possible with consistent practice over time.
3. The more you give, the more you have
This concept is hard to put into words. It’s even harder to explain to beginning writers in a way that they are inclined to believe because it’s counter intuitive. But I’ll try.
Take this example:
The more ideas you brainstorm, the more ideas you will have.
Don’t believe me? Try to brainstorming 10 new ideas a day. If you do that for a week, I’ll bet that you’re bursting with ideas at the end of the week. At the beginning of the week you won’t be able to imagine what those seventy ideas would even be. By the end you’ll be writing in the margins of the page because you’re running out of room. Ten won’t be nearly enough!
That’s because your creative brain gets used to the idea, gets better, and comes up with more ideas. How? By teaching it to come up with ideas in the first place.
Same with writing. The more words you write, the more you will be able to write. You build your muscle by using it. At first, fifteen minutes of writing will exhaust you. You’ll be able to increase the amount of time you spend writing given practice.
A lot of people (myself included) started out by thinking that creative energy is some kind of finite well. That you can use it up, or run it dry.
But that’s not true. Writing isn’t a well. It’s a muscle.
And how do you make muscles stronger? By using them.
I’ve overcome this hurdle so many times that I thought I was past it entirely. And yet when I undertook this challenge, one of my first thoughts was, “I’m going to need more ideas. I don’t have enough blog ideas for 30 days. What am I going to write about?”
That’s the well trap. When you see yourself speaking negatively like that, saying “I can’t” or “I don’t” or “I never,” cut it off at the root. Creativity is not a well. It doesn’t dry up…unless you don’t use it.
I don’t always know what I’m going to write in the day’s blog post. Most of the time I have no idea.
But the more I did it, the easier it became.
Having a daily practice even took the anxiety out of it. If I don’t post for a long time, I feel a huge pressure to make the next post great, perfect, wonderful. If I post every day, there’s another chance tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
If I’m in the mood, I can write long posts like this one. If I’m not, there are other options. Half the fun is coming up with creative ways to maintain the streak with the minimum amount of effort.
I guess you could call me lazy. I call it smart.
I’ll try to keep up the daily blog, at least for now. It’s a good challenge, and fun. Hope you stick around.
Special thanks to Jason H. Abbott, BookDragonGirl, jenniereads, todaysechoes, Christy Esmahan, and Jason Knight for reading and liking and sharing. I see you, and I thank you.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written here in the past 30 days, would you chime in with a quick comment to let me know what you’d like to see more of?
At some point in every draft of every novel I’ve ever written, I’ve had to give up on the idea of perfect and get out of my own way.
Like many artists who want their work to be considered good, the words that end up on the page often fail to match—sometimes barely even resemble—the shape of the story that exists in my head.
Such is the nature of the beast.
No reason to fight it. Just the way it is. People aren’t perfect, and neither are the things they create. I’m certainly no exception. I just do the best I can with what I’ve got.
Still, perfect is one of those things that I struggle with. It stops me up from time to time.
Today, as I sat down to write, I finally identified the problem. Not being sick (though I was) or busy (that too) or distracted (guilty), but just being a damned perfectionist and stubborn to boot.
So I kicked perfectionism to the curb. Once I did, the words began to flow faster.
I got out of my own way by giving up on perfect.
Don’t know why this happens, but it’s one of those things that always seems to come at me again from a different angle. As soon as I recognize it, I remember how to get past it. It takes a mindset shift more than anything else. Just being able to accept that rough drafts are rough, and keep typing.
I got 1000 words before lunch, a good pace for me. They might need some polishing, but that’s the best part of writing—you get lots of second chances.