It’s been weeks since I last posted. I’d intended to write a post last week. And the week before, etc. Still, I suppose it’s an improvement from going months between posts. I think trying to post a YouTube video and a blog post on the same day. I’m still going to keep posting here on Wednesdays mainly because I love alliteration. I’m moving my YouTube videos to Thursdays, so watch for those.
I wish I had better news on the writing front, but the truth is, progress over the last couple of weeks has been almost at a standstill. I’m still trying to force myself to write even when I don’t feel like it. Some days I’m successful. Most days I’m not. Still, I suppose a little progress is better than none at all. Last week, I was able to write 1,500 words. The week before it was only a thousand, so I guess I’m improving. It’s still frustrating to not be as fast as I used to, but I have nobody to blame but myself.
I’m also working to adjust my schedule. In the summer, Shannon changes from working afternoon/evening hours, to working in the morning. Needless to say, when her schedule changes, I try to adjust mine to match. I do my best writing when it’s just me and the cats. Besides, that gives me more time to spend with her. Although, since she’s working on finishing her master’s degree, hopefully she’ll yell at me to get back in the office so she can get her homework done. Lol
Other than that, life has been very lifey. We are still trying to get her dad’s house cleaned out. A week ago Saturday, we were expecting to get the majority of the work done. We even had a crew of people ready to help. Unfortunately, when we got there ready to “git ‘er done” as they say, the dumpster that was supposed to have been delivered on Friday was nowhere to be found. Of course, even though they listed Saturday hours, our calls went unanswered. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised as it was Memorial Day weekend, but it id kind of ruin our plans.
Fortunately, it was delivered last weekend and although we took Saturday off to celebrate my mom’s birthday with a nice drive in the hills and lunch at The Alpine Inn, we got quite a bit of work done on Sunday. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to being done with the house so that I can pay some attention to our own house and perhaps get a little writing done.
That’s about all I have for today I’m afraid. I wish there was more, but until I’m truly back on track, I’m not going to have much exciting news for you.
I do have a decent FFF idea, but I can’t promise I’ll have it ready by this Friday. Maybe next week. Then again, I could surprise you. You never know.
Hopefully, at the very least, I’ll see you next week.
First off, I’ll spare you all the usual groveling and the possibly false promises to do better this time. For the record, I really am trying to establish a regular blogging schedule. To be perfectly honest, I’ve come to miss my weekly confessional. I think it really does help to do a weekly purge of some of the thoughts running around my head. Let’s just call this my own little digital pensieve. Yes, I’m a nerd. You should know this by now.
As for where I’ve been, I’ll cover that in the meat of the post, along with a bunch of other stuff. Speaking of which…
Where I’ve Been
You may have already guessed this, but my latest unplanned hiatus had everything to do with my old nemesis, Crippling Anxiety. Now for what brought it about this time.
As you may already know, I’d planned to go to this year’s Thrillerfest & Pitchfest in NYC. I was really excited to go. Partly because one of my literary heroes is going to be there, George R. R. Martin. Mister Game Of Thrones himself. I was really hoping to get a chance to talk to him and pick his brain.
More importantly, I was looking forward to showing up to pitchfest with a dynamite manuscript and having all the agents fighting over me, putting me on the path to becoming someone else’s literary hero. (Shut up. It’s my fantasy and I’ll dream it how I want.)
Unfortunately, finances being what they are, I was going to have to do my trip on a shoestring. That’s when I came up with an oh so brilliant plan. Rather than pay a fortune for a hotel and airfare, I would take the van my mom had given me and turn it into a camper which I would then drive to New York, park it somewhere away from Manhattan (probably Brooklyn), and use it in lieu of a hotel room.
And that’s where the trouble started.
You see, I’ve only ever been to New York twice. The first time was a school trip when I was in middle school, and the second was a couple of years ago and I never left Manhattan. I’d planned to park in one of the other boroughs and take the train into the city. the problem was, not having actually been there, I could find out where I was allowed to park, but I couldn’t figure out where I should park.
I had no idea what was a bad neighborhood and what was a good one. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Harlem is actually somewhat high class now. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time trying to plan my trip. The more I tried to come up with a plan, the more anxious I became. Add to this the fact that I was going to be on an extremely tight time schedule. I was going to have to leave as soon as I got off work two days before and figured I would arrive well after dark. Then I would need to find a branch of my gym, take a shower, then find a decent place to park so I could be up bright and early the next morning to pitch my book. Needless to say, that’s where mean ol’ Mr. Anxiety crept back in.
The more anxious I became about planning the trip, the more I began to neglect the whole reason I was going in the first place. I wasn’t writing. The more I failed to write, the more anxious I began to feel. The more anxious I got, the more I couldn’t write. And so on, and so on.
Still, once the snow melted, I decided it was time to start work on the van. The first thing I did was remove all the back seats to make room for my bed. Next, I took it for a little spin to see how it felt to drive it. I figured I’d take it to the grocery store and back. nothing major. Besides, you can fit a lot of groceries in an empty van. Everything was going fine until I got about three blocks away from my house and the van stalled. If I were still in my twenties, I would have pushed it the rest of the way, but sadly, I’m twice that and I’m just not the strong young bull I used to be. I ended up paying sixty dollars to have it towed three blocks, but there was a blizzard coming in and I needed to get it home. At least the tow truck driver gave me some insight as to the problem. It appears to be a problem with the fuel pump.
By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted and questioning everything. I thought I might be able to afford a plane ticket and a hotel and did some research. With the money I had and perhaps a small loan, I discovered I would still be able to make the trip.
That’s when I did the other math.
When I’m writing regularly, I can average about a thousand words a day. I have had two or even three thousand word days, but those are a rarity. Still, I figured on a thousand a day as my goal. Then I counted up how many days I had left until my deadline. My heart sank. If I managed to meet my goal of a thousand words a day, I figured I could probably just reach my word count goal for the book just in time by the skin of my teeth. This would leave me with a very rough first draft to show agents. Unacceptable. Add to this the fact that lately I’ve been lucky to eke out five hundred words a day and I was completely sunk.
For a brief moment I considered going anyway just for the experience, but quickly threw that idea out the window. It would be silly and a waste to spend all that money just to show up empty handed. So, as much as it pained me to admit defeat, I made the wiser choice to save my money for next year when I plan to have multiple manuscripts to shop around.
Once I’d made my decision, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. While I’m still a bit disappointed I won’t be going this year, I’m already looking forward to next year and having all those agents fighting over me.
I gave myself two weeks to relax and not worry about writing, but that time is up. It’s still going to be a long road back to where I once was as a writer, but I’m ready to start the trek home five hundred words at a time.
And that’s where I should end this week’s update. I still have a lot to tell you, but I suppose I should save some for later. I’ll see you next week. Until then…
And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon
Also, Amazon apparently now considers me an influencer, which means that they basically gave me my own Amazon store where I can recommend products. I do get a cut of anything you buy when you click my link. Unless you’d rather all your money go to a faceless corporation. 🙂 You can find my influencer page here. https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter
I’m back for real this time. At least I think I am unless I have another setback. But I really feel that I’m not just able, but eager to get back to work. There are even times when I don’t feel any discomfort in my back at all. It’s probably time to give yoga a serious try.
Anyway, now to the regularly scheduled post.
Based on the title, you might be assuming that I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen lately. Particularly this song.
While Queen is one of my favorite bands of all time, that just isn’t the case. Actually, I’ve been on an 80’s glam/hair rock kick for pretty much the past month. Although I guess you could technically put Queen in that group, (if you’re a dick,) but I’m talking about bands more like Poison and Motley Crue.
Anyway, the point is, I haven’t been listening to Queen lately. In fact, I hadn’t heard “I Want It All” in months. That just happens to be the song that plays on an endless loop in my head whenever my brain is trying to tell me it’s time to really grind. I’m finally feeling good enough that all I want to do is sit down in my office and put some serious words on the page.
It’s a good thing I’m feeling this way, because as of yesterday we are ten months away from Thrillerfest 2018, and more importantly, Pitchfest. I have every intention of actually having something finished by then. Hopefully multiple somethings. I am going to have a manuscript that, when an agent says yes, I can send off right away instead of having to make excuses as to why it isn’t ready like I did in 2016. We’ll call that one a trial run. Practice.
Now before you get too excited, keep in mind that this blog post is the first bit of actual writing I’ve done all week. I know it’s still a form of procrastination, but I just had to get my office back in order. Most of the last month has been spent flat on my back on the couch in there bingeing Supernatural. Needless to say, it was a disaster. I’m proud to say that, as of yesterday, I’ve gotten it back in ship shape and I’m ready to get to work. Now I just have to talk myself into spending my time at the hotel as productive as I plan to be while at home.
I have to. Especially since I’m considering adding yet another project to my inbox. I’ve never tried to write a murder mystery, but I’ve read plenty and I have a great main character in mind. Any murder/mystery/police-procedural fans out there?
Now for a bit of bad news. As much as I know you guys seem to like them, I can’t promise to put out a Flash Fiction Friday every week. (Not that I really made good on that promise anyway.) Don’t get me wrong. I will try to write them as often as possible, but I have to really focus on getting my novels and longer shorts done so I can submit them.
I think I’m going to give journaling a go yet again. I’ve tried it several times over the years, but I’ve never been able to stick with it. I’m considering making it part of my writing time each day. Jut a little warm up while I drink my “morning” coffee to get the brain working. I have an awesome leather-bound journal that’s just going to waste. I might as well use it.
I know it’s probably too early in my career to even think about this. I’m not sure I even have “fans”. But I’m considering tarting a Patreon page. Would anyone be interested in supporting me? If so, what kind of rewards would you like to see? I’m thinking maybe exclusive access to short stories months before they’re seen anywhere else. Maybe a free signed copy of my book when it comes out, but I’m open to suggestions. I hate to seem like a greedy bastard, but the money sure would help and it would give me more time to write. Please let me know what you think in the comments.
Anyway, I think that’s about all I’ve got for you this week. I’m probably forgetting loads of stuff, but there’s always next week.
I will try to put something up on Friday. Just don’t hate me if I don’t get around to it.
I realize that even though I may want it now, it’s going to take some time. Still, wanting it now means that I need to do my damnedest to get it done as soon as possible.
This past week has been interesting to say the least. After spending the first part of the week recovering from con and everything that happened there, we still had the house to contend with. Truth be told, we had kind of let it fall into a bit of controlled chaos as we prepped for the event. I did what I could during the week to get things in order while Shannon was finishing up her summer semester’s classes, but I didn’t get very far. What’s worse, what I did get done seemed to get undone almost immediately. This was particularly true in my office where chaos still has a firm foothold.
So due to the condition of the house, our need to spend a weekend mostly relaxing, and the fact that it’s been stupid hot outside, we spent most of the weekend indoors. Friday was spent with friends doing our usual thing of watching YouTube videos. I even dusted off the old xbox to play some party games.
Then Friday night came. When we decided to turn in for the night, I felt like I would sleep pretty well. I even took something to try and knock myself out. Alas, just as I was nodding off, something both wonderful and frustrating happened. I had a huge breakthrough on one of the books I’m working on that has had me stuck for longer than I care to admit. Now, I don’t think I need to tell you why this was wonderful, but you may be wondering where the frustration comes from. I was just about asleep when the solution to all my problems in this particular book suddenly occurred to me.
Now I don’t know about you, but as much as I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, I knew if I didn’t jump up and get it all noted down, it would be gone like so many dreams by morning, so jump up I did. I have to admit, it was pretty exciting to finally have that roadblock out of my way. In fact, by the time I had noted everything down, I wanted to jump right into it and start writing. Fortunately, my more reasonable side convinced me to go back to bed and give the new ideas a few days to simmer, so I went back to bed.
And that’s where the frustration set in. Try as I might, I simply could not get back to that sleepy state. Even worse, my restless legs set in making it impossible to even get comfortable. So that meant I spent my Friday night in a state of not being able to sleep, but too sleepy to get anything meaningful done.
Luckily, the rest of the weekend went better and we were able to get the house into some sort of order. We even got enough relaxing in for me to feel ready to deal with work on Sunday night. Of course this meant that my Sunday night, by way of it being not only summer, but Fourth of July weekend, went much worse than anticipated. Still, I made it through, only to get home and discover that my water heater had broken sometime in the night. I expected that, being a new homeowner, I’d have to fix things once in a while. I just never expected everything to break in the first year. Naturally, we couldn’t get anyone to come out on the Fourth without charging us a huge convenience fee, so we set up an appointment for this morning. Please help us pray that it won’t be too expensive of a repair.
The Fourth was even hotter than it had been over the weekend, so Shannon and I hung out at the house for most of the day before treating ourselves to a nice dinner out. She even had time to break out her coloring books for the first time in weeks. I tried to get some sleep, but the fireworks made that difficult.
Now I’m about to get off work and praying the plumber doesn’t cost us our first born. I’ll let you know next week.
When it comes to my writing, I’ve always had a bit of a dilemma.
Like a lot of writers, I have a fantasy in my head of being the modern era’s Hemingway or Faulkner. Perhaps sitting in a small cafe in Paris, dutifully punching out literary masterpieces that will be cherished throughout the ages. After all, isn’t that at least part of why people write? So that while we may pass from this earth, at least our thoughts and feelings might become immortal.
Still, while I do love reading the classics, I have to admit that my favorite books have always been in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres. Particularly fantasy. It probably won’t surprise most of you to find out that I’m a big nerd. I love nothing more than reading fantastic tales of swords and sorcery. Maybe I’ve always dreamed of being the valiant hero who saves the damsel in distress, (please forgive my chauvinism,) or maybe I just long for a time when courage and chivalry counted for something. Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved medieval history both factual and fictional. I still hold out hope that some day, an archaeologist will discover evidence of dragons. I’m such a fan of the genre, I’ve even taken up amateur blacksmithing as a hobby.
Because of this, I’m afraid I’ve developed a bit of a split personality when it comes to my writing. I switch from being the serious author who wants to immortalize his thoughts and feelings in print, to the writer who just wants to play and step into the shoes of his characters to live out the lives of people he will never be.
I’ve been doing some serious thinking about this recently and have come to a conclusion. Who says genre fiction can’t also be literary? Why can’t one piece of work be both entertaining and meaningful? Of course there are examples of books that, were they written today, would be pigeonholed into a specific genre but have still managed to become literary classics. Books such as The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, and Robin Hood. The question is, Can it be done today?
I guess there’s only one way to find out.
So I suppose the point of this rather rambling post is this. I’m going to be true to myself and write what I enjoy. Hopefully my more literary personality will be able to reconcile with my other side and I can find some peace. Or at the very least, I’ll be able to finish a project without questioning whether it’s really what I want to be writing.
Of course, the fantasy bar has been set fairly high by certain contemporary writers, (I’m looking at you George Martin,) but I think I’m up to the task.
One other perk of being a successful fantasy writer, if I get popular enough, I might be invited to Comic Con.
What do you think? Can a work of fantasy, sci-fi, or horror also be literary?
First, an apology for being a day late with my post this week. I intended to write a post night before last but things got a little crazy. The motel I work at usually provides a quiet, distraction free place where I can work on my craft with little interruption. Unless there’s an escaped fugitive staying in one of our rooms and the police are trying to get him out. Yes, that was my night. So needless to say, my mind wasn’t exactly on my work. Anyway, here it is now. I know you were all waiting with bated breath.
I have a confession to make.
I haven’t written a thing so far this week.
I’ve thought about writing, I just haven’t actually done any.
I have a good excuse, I promise. Although I still feel guilty.
I was trying to teach myself how to outline.
I know for some of you, outlining is probably second nature, but I’ve never done it. I’ve always just sat down at the keyboard and started writing. This can be great fun. I get to enjoy watching the story unfold and watch the characters develop as I write the story just as you get to when you read it.
Unfortunately, not having a plan tends to result in a half finished story, of which I have written dozens, possibly even hundreds. Occasionally I’m able to finish a story, but more often than not, I write myself into a corner or just reach a point where I have no idea where to go next. Sometimes the story is just dragging because I’m wandering aimlessly trying to find the story like a miner stumbling around in the dark looking for that vein of gold.
I’m trying to find a balance when it comes to outlining. I want enough plot points to keep me going when I get stuck, but I don’t want it to be so tight that I have no room to play. I want my characters to have the freedom to wander off from time to time. Occasionally they may find the real story without me.
Seat of the pants writing can be a blast, but if I really want to make a career out of writing, I’ve got to have a roadmap so I can finish my stories.
Sorry for the short post this week. I promise next week’s will be longer, and hopefully on time. Please visit me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jmkelly60 Or on Twitter @JustinMKelly1
The only way to be a writer is to write. It seems obvious, but I never realized that there is more to this oft-repeated advice than it seems.
Yes, it’s true. If you never write anything, then you can never really be a writer. But there’s more to it. My biggest excuse for not writing as much as I should have over the last several (please don’t ask how many) years is that I had no good ideas. Or that I would get halfway through a story and run out of ideas. It’s very frustrating to suddenly not be able to do something you were once so good at. Especially if it’s the only thing you’ve ever felt you were really good at.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve finally started taking my writing career seriously. That means not just writing when the “muse” was with me. It means forcing myself to write when I’d rather be doing just about anything else. It means ignoring that new Facebook notification, not checking to see what’s new on Netflix, or giving in to any of the other millions of distractions the internet presents. It means devoting myself entirely to being a writer.
Most importantly, it means not giving up when I hit that wall but instead finding a way over, or around, or even, if need be, smashing right through it.
What I’ve found is that forcing myself to write even when I don’t feel like it, even when what I’m writing seems like complete crap, leads to new ideas. Sure, you may have to throw away some parts that took you forever to write but sometimes you have to clear away all the dirt to get to the gold.
I can’t say I don’t still have moments where I just don’t feel like writing. I can’t say I don’t still sometimes feel uninspired. Still, more and more, I look forward to my time at the keyboard. The ideas are flowing once again. I look forward to my fingers flying across the keys just so I can see where the story goes.
Writing really is like a muscle. If you want it to perform, you have to exercise it on a regular basis.
First things first. I actually have a good reason for my absence this time. As a result of my appendectomy last October, I developed a rather large hernia at the site of my main incision. As a result, I had to have it repaired and have been recuperating. I still have another month before I’m considered fully healed, however, I can finally think straight enough to catch you guys up with what’s been going on.
Now for the meat of my post.
Lately, I’ve had a real problem with writer’s block. I haven’t been completely blocked, I can start a story as well as I ever could. The problem is, once I get about fifteen minutes into the story, I just hit a wall. I can’t think of what to do next. So instead, I sit there staring at the screen.
Tonight, I decided to really analyze what happens. It seems, I can work for about fifteen minutes straight before I get distracted. That’s right, I apparently have developed an attention span only slightly better than your average goldfish. I begin thinking about food, or Facebook, or the fact that I haven’t posted to Twitter in a while, or made a post here for that matter. In short, social media and the like have ruined me as far as attention span goes.
Or maybe it’s just that my subject matter isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention.
No, I’m blaming Facebook. After all, the reason I started making up stories in the first place is to keep away boredom. In this digital age, there’s no time for the mind to be bored.
I’ve decided that there’s only one remedy. I have to quit social media all together… Yeah right. Like that’s ever going to happen. Seriously though, I have to severely limit my access to it. I’ve been working out a schedule to devote more time to writing. I’ve also decided to severely limit my internet time. I’m thinking maybe a half hour when I wake up so I can see what happened while I was sleeping, then maybe another half hour when I get to work. Finally, the last hour of my work shift (that isn’t spent doing actual work) I can spend on blogging, updating my professional Facebook page (ahem https://www.facebook.com/jmkelly60), and posting to Twitter (ahem again @JustinMKelly1), or perhaps even updating my website (http://justinmkelly.com/) which, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t touched in years.
Wish me luck. If all goes well, I hope to start finishing a couple shorts a week in addition to making progress on my novel. Some of the shorts will be submitted to magazines while others will be put into small e-books and made available for purchase on Amazon.
I love writing. Feeling the words flow out of me to create a story that didn’t exist before is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to true magic.
So why then do I go to such extremes to keep myself from writing? Just now, I wrote a paragraph before getting distracted by the fact that I needed to add an appointment to my calendar. When I finished with that, did I go back to writing? Of course I didn’t. I logged on to Facebook. Then I realized I hadn’t updated my blog in a while so here I am. It wasn’t until I was here, trying to think of a topic, that I even realized what i was doing.
So I ask again, is there something fundamentally wrong in my brain? Am I afraid of the magic? Am I afraid of succeeding? If there is something wrong with me, it much be a common ailment among writers because I see many of my writer friends doing the exact same thing.
Leave a message if you have any thoughts. Also, I’m going to try using twitter more often so follow me at justinmkelly1.