Friday, August 11, 2017

Weekly Writing Tip - August 11

Create a ritual before you write.

Okay, I know this sounds hokey, but I've recently incorporated this into my writing process and it helps me get focused much more quickly.

What do you mean, James? Create a ritual?

Great question. What I suggest is that you do something to lead into your writing practice. When I coach soccer, I always start with a warm up to get everyone's muscles loosened up and get their minds focused. When I run I start slowly and build up my speed gradually. When I go skiing I put on my skis...okay that's not a great example, but I think you get the picture.

When people write, they like to just plop down and start writing. There's no warm up, no transition from other activities, no warning to the mind and body that now we're going to be creative and disciplined at the same time. I've heard some writers like to say a prayer before they write, others meditate, some read over the writing from the day before. (I personally think that last one can be a time trap. I can't tell you how many times I've been sucked down the rabbit hole of revising my work from the day before rather than moving the story forward.) For some writers this ritual might just be moving into their writing space, the spot they retreat to in order to lay down those words. This could be an office, a quiet corner of the house, or a shed out back. The point is, you're moving from ordinary life into your creative life. Give your mind and body a chance to prepare with a small ritual. I think you'll be surprised how this helps jump start your writing practice.

Over and Under,
James

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I'm Back - August 2, 2017

Writing Tip for the Week - Use A Timer

Every time I sit down to write I set a timer. Sometimes I set it to 15 minutes, sometimes 20, sometimes I set it to 30 minutes. It all depends on the time and energy I've got to work with on that particular day. My standard is 30 minutes and that's what I aim for most of the time, even if it's 10:30 at night and I'm exhausted.

Once I start the timer I'm not allowed to get up from my writing. I can't go get a glass of water, I can't get a snack, I can't check my phone. To prepare, I'll get that stuff ready before I start the timer. I'll have a glass of water or a cup of tea beside my writing, I'll have a little snack handy, I'll move my phone to some other room and turn it on silent. I'm like a sailor, prepared to go on a miniature journey.

Until the timer buzzes, I'm in lock down mode. Even if I'm not writing anything, I force myself to sit there staring at the screen or the empty page. And you know what I've found? When I do that, my mind gives in. Eventually, usually after a couple of minutes, it figures out that I'm not going to check Instagram and I'm not going to grab more chips and I'm not going to wander around the house aimlessly muttering to myself. It gives in and it starts helping me write.

Nine times out of ten, by the time the timer buzzes, I'm on a roll and I don't want to stop writing. That happens at least 90% of the time, I keep going even after the timer has gone off. Eventually I'll get up and stretch and get some more water and replenish my snack, but by that time I've got something down, I've moved the story forward.

Using a timer has been a massive help to me as a writer. Give it a try and see how it goes. I'd love to hear if it worked for you too.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

In the Trenches - Five Creative Writing Lessons I've Learned

Five lessons I’ve learned from writing five books

1. Time is a writer’s most valuable commodity: It’s hard to write when you’re tired. When I teach creative writing classes I tell my students that I write every day, which is true, but that doesn’t make it easy. When I sit down at 9 o’clock at night, after a long day, and try to continue a story that I’ve been writing for three months, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. It would be easier to sit down and watch an episode of Stranger Things, or read a book, or go for a walk, or bake a cake. It would be easier to do just about anything than write the next part of that book. So if you’re out there, and you’re struggling because the only time you can find to write is at night or at 5 in the morning, I feel your pain. Try to find time, time when you’re fresh. Fight for that time and don’t feel guilty when you take it. People fight for time to exercise and they fight for time to make money, it’s perfectly legit to fight for time to write.

2. Do the work every day: You’ve no doubt heard the quote by Ovid, “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” Well guess what, that’s not just a hokey inspirational quotation, this actually holds true with writing. If you can move your story forward a little every day, even if it’s only one sentence at a time, there will inevitably come a day when you write those amazing words, “The End.” That’s how you slay the dragon and become a hero. That’s how you finish what you start.

3. Finish what you start: Okay, so I’ve actually written six books in the last six years, but one of those books hasn’t quite made the cut. It’s a good story, with interesting characters, and a distinctive style, but it’s not ready for the world yet. I knew it wasn’t quite right halfway through writing it, but I’ve made a vow to myself that I will finish everything that I start. Why? Because it’s the only way I will figure out what’s wrong with what I’m doing. If I bail on a project because it’s not working, then I never consider why it’s not working. If I walk away I learn nothing. When the wheels fall off you must consider why that happened. Is it the plot? The characters? Is it the point of view? Figure out the problem, fix it, and march on. Once you cross that river, once you start the book, burn your bridges, there is no going back.

4. Finish the first draft: My worst habit as a writer is going back and constantly revising the first half of my book. I’ll write the first 40 pages a dozen times, maybe two dozen times. I tell myself I’m doing this to make sure all my ducks are in a row, but really I’m doing it to avoid moving on. I’ve watched myself waste two weeks (sometimes more) writing one beginning, changing it radically, and then revising myself back to the original beginning. I’m hiding from the ending. I’m resisting writing the next part. Here’s the thing, you probably don’t know how the book is going to turn out until you actually finish the first draft, so revising the beginning over and over doesn’t put all your ducks in a row, because eventually you’re going to have to make changes to the beginning of the book based on the ending, which you don’t know until you FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT.

5. Take some time to plan before you begin: I know some writers say they don’t plan, but I bet they do. They might not lay out their story plot point by plot point, but I bet they mull things over in their head at the very least. I recently watched a video clip in which Stephen King said he’ll tell himself a new story as he goes to sleep before he starts to write it. He seems pretty dead set against planning out his books, but it sounds like he works things out in his head, at least a little, before he starts pounding out words on a keyboard. I like to plan a bit, and I know it saves me time in the end (and time is my most valuable commodity). Ken Follett plans a lot, Stephen King is on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m somewhere in the middle. A lot of young writers don’t want to plan, they want to get their ideas down on paper and they want to do it right away, but in my experience spending some time planning things out will make your story better in the end.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I've been on a blog hiatus for a few months, but I'm planning on starting some new posts in 2016. If you'd like to see what I've been up to, check out the links below:

My website - http://www.jamesleck.com/
My FB page - https://www.facebook.com/writerJamesLeck/?ref=hl
My Tumblr account - http://jamesleck.tumblr.com/
My Twitter account - https://twitter.com/JamesLeck

Have a very Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Trying something new!

Check out my Tumblr account to find out my latest and greatest creative adventures. Just thought I would try sharing in a new way.

Cheers,
James

http://jamesleck.tumblr.com/


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Save what you write!

I'm working on a new book that I'm calling The MacGuffin for now. About two months ago I wrote a scene that took place in a top secret bunker. It was a scene that was easy to write, it was a scene that was action packed and funny, it was a scene that I thought had to be in the book.  Eventually, however, I had to admit it really didn't fit into the flow of the story. So, sadly, I had to cut it out and move on in another direction. That new direction worked much better and the book has been coming along nicely. Yesterday, though, I realized my characters had arrived back at that secret bunker about 100 pages later. It turns out that the bunker scene was a part of the story after all, just in a different spot. So what did I do, rewrite that scene all over again? No way! Luckily, I save multiple versions of my writing, and I'm extra careful to save if I cut out a big chunk of text because you never know when you might need it again.

TIP - Save multiple versions of your work! Sometimes you don't write things in the same order that they happen in your story.

Monday, July 27, 2015

After Dark

One week until my next book, After Dark, hits the bookshelves. Aug. 1 would've also been my dad's 70th bday. The fact that he died when I was 18 is a big reason I pursued writing. Not only did I realize I was going to die, but I also had to face the fact that it could happen at any time and might go down in a pretty bad way. Don't put off those things you want to accomplish today until tomorrow, life is fragile and it can turn on a dime.

A few reviews are already out:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/james-leck-47404/after-dark-leck/