Happy Birthday, H.G. Wells!

Science Fiction pioneer H.G. Wells was born September 21, 1866, 150 years ago. Although he died in 1946, his works live on and inspire us today.

The novels of his I’ve read include The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, and The Sea Lady. Most of those remain classics today.

h-g-_wells__c1890
H.G. Wells

As readers of my blog know, my main author-crush is with Jules Verne, but Wells gave us several archetypal story themes and ideas that Verne did not explore.

The two authors approached their writing differently, too. Verne strove for scientific plausibility and accuracy, but Wells concentrated on telling a good story and gave only a passing nod to the science.

After Verne read The First Men in the Moon, which includes an anti-gravity substance named cavorite, he wrote, “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”

Despite my preference for Verne’s stories, I have to say, “Lighten up, Jules. If a scientist does invent an anti-gravity mechanism, your criticism will look antiquated. Further, you knew your gunpowder cannons couldn’t really launch men to the moon when you wrote From the Earth to the Moon, so you’re not a paragon of accuracy, yourself.”

As discussed by Steven R. Boyett, this dichotomy between scientific exactitude and telling a good story with a smattering of sciency stuff persists today in the arguments between hard and soft science fiction.

Returning to Wells, you do have to overlook his personal life and philosophy as you read his books. A believer in socialism, anti-Semitism, and eugenics, he also led a sex life that was, well, complicated. Fortunately, his early, less philosophical works don’t give hints of any of this.

afterthemartians5My readers know that Wells’ The War of the Worlds inspired my own story, “After the Martians,” so I owe him a great debt.

So, happy birthday, Herbert George Wells! Your legacy is looking great after all these years. Your works remain classics today, read and enjoyed by millions, including—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Mission Statements and Strategic Plans

Businesses have mission statements and strategic plans. As a writer, shouldn’t you have them also? After all, writing is your business. Let’s see if these tools are right for you.

First, what are they? A mission statement is different from a strategic plan. A mission statement is a written declaration of what your business is striving to be, a vision of its intended future. It embodies the goal and vision of what the business seeks to become. It is bold, imaginative, and inspiring.

author-mission-statementA strategic plan is a detailed blueprint of how to achieve that mission. It assigns intermediate actions to complete, and dates when each action is to be done. It is a logical progression of steps toward the goal. It is achievable and actionable.

Why are these things useful to businesses? Sometimes, in the rush of things, it’s possible for someone in a company to make a decision or take an action contrary to what the company is all about. A mission statement focuses everyone in the company on the single goal. In the moment of decision, a glance at the mission statement might keep an employee from taking the wrong path.

The strategic plan takes employees out of the lofty, pretty world of grand visions and gives them a practical, measurable way to work toward the goal. It breaks down the seemingly impossible vision into concrete tasks they can accomplish.

Fine so far. It’s easy to see why businesses find mission statements and strategic plans useful. For one thing, most businesses have more than one person in them, often hundreds or thousands, and sometimes millions of employees. A mission statement helps to keep all these people focused on a single goal, and the strategic plan helps them all achieve it.

Still, one person can have a mission statement. Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, advocated personal mission statements for individuals.

But, as a writer, do you need these tools? Authors such as Shannon from Duolit, Allen Watson, and Joanne Phillips cite good reasons why you do.

I don’t know.

If we were to ask the most successful authors today (use whatever definition of ‘successful’ you like), I bet few of them bother with mission statements or strategic plans. They might tell you their credo from memory or come up with one on the spot, but they haven’t written it down, let alone tacked it to the wall above their computer.

Still, just because they achieved success without these tools doesn’t mean you will. Perhaps you’d find them useful, even necessary.

Particularly if you’re the kind of writer who just wants to write, and detests the messy business side of it. Perhaps you don’t even like the word, ‘business.’ Sorry, but if you want to sell your work to readers, then your writing is a business.

Realizing that still doesn’t mean you like the idea, though. For you, a well-crafted mission statement could connect the fun writing side of it to the imagined best-seller/movie-deal/mansion-and-sports-car side of things, and remind you that dealing with the business part is your path to achieving that future.

For you, a strategic plan might be just the thing to break down all that intimidating business stuff into manageable chunks. Even though you have no staff, no other employees, a list of small tasks to accomplish can make those unpleasant business goals more achievable.

Depending on your attitude toward business, marketing, and sales, a mission statement and strategic plan could be beneficial to you. Just a couple more items in your writer toolbox, courtesy of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Are All the Good Story Ideas Taken Already?

You’d like to write a story, but every time you think of an idea, you realize someone else wrote that one already. You figure all the good story ideas are used up. That’s it. There are no more. The last original novel has been written.

I don’t think so. New books, movies, and TV shows are coming out all the time.

no-story-ideasNo, you protest. Those aren’t new. They’re just rehashes or remakes of old ideas, with some new flair added. They’re just old stories brought into modern times, well-used story lines put in a new setting, or known plotlines with the main characters’ genders reversed.

If so, that’s great news for you. It means you don’t have to think of something completely original, either. If rehashes or slight twists work so well, then you can succeed with that method, too. That’s the message Melissa Donovan delivers very well in this post.

I think what you’re really telling me is, you’re stuck for an idea, and every time you think of one, you recognize you’d be copying what someone has already done.

There’s a particular genre you enjoy reading, and you consider yourself knowledgeable about that genre, and you’d like to see if you can write a story yourself. But you see that field as being well-plowed already. For every story idea, you immediately think of the existing, published story that used that idea.

You’re just in a mental rut, that’s all. It’s possible to climb back out.

Here are some suggestions for coming up with story ideas. These might work for you, or they might spark thoughts about other ways to accomplish the same thing:

  1. Do Internet or Twitter searches for trending key words. Combining seemingly unrelated key words might result in the nugget of a story idea. I’m convinced that’s how Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird came up with the idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  2. Search websites in your genre for words or thoughts that are trending. Those might suggest story ideas.
  3. Try the Suzanne Collins method. She came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while flipping TV channels. That turned out all right for her and might work for you.
  4. Pick two books at random off your shelf at home and see if you could combine the two in some way. If not, pick two other books.
  5. Try the generational/nostalgic method. Look for what was popular 25-30 years ago, and update it. First you have a new audience who wasn’t around when the original came out. Second, the older folks in your audience will appreciate the nostalgic trip down memory lane.
  6. Take a song you like (either instrumental or voice), and think of the story that might go along with that song.
  7. Take an interesting picture or image from anywhere (web, your own life, magazines, etc.) and think of the story behind that image.
  8. Take a favorite character from a book or movie, and consider what you enjoy about that character. What if that character was completely different in appearance? For example, if that beloved character was a handsome, young, athletic man, what if you wrote about an older, plump woman with the same abilities and faced with similar conflicts?

Your next story idea is out there. Be open and receptive, and let it find you. Oh, and be sure to send a comment thanking—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Do You Know the MacGuffin Man?

What is a MacGuffin, do you want one in your story, and if so, how do you incorporate one? Read on to find out about this literary term.

MacGuffinSimply put, a MacGuffin is the protagonist’s goal. It can also be the goal of the antagonist as well. Perhaps they’re both pursuing it, or seeking to prevent the other from having it. It can be a tangible object, or an abstract idea.

Examples of MacGuffins in literature and film include the falcon figurine in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the witch’s broomstick in the film “The Wizard of Oz,” and the Golden Fleece in Apollonius Rhodius’ epic poem “Argonautica.”

Some stories have more than one MacGuffin, and characters seek them in sequence, one after the other. This is common in fantasy stories and fantasy games. Multiple MacGuffins are termed plot coupons.

A character’s goal (the MacGuffin) is different from a character’s motivation. As author Starla Criser explains, a goal is what you want. A motivation is why you want it. We’re mostly talking about the goal here, but it’s important that you convey to the reader that your character has a good reason to pursue that MacGuffin.

There remains some confusion over the term MacGuffin. In the Wikipedia article, director Alfred Hitchcock seems to dismiss it as unimportant—“The audience don’t care.” Director George Lucas disagrees, saying viewers should care about the MacGuffin as much as they do the main characters.

Author Michael Kurland resolves this confusion well in his article about MacGuffins. He says it’s important for the writer to establish why the MacGuffin is vital to the character early in the story. Regardless of the reader’s actual feelings about the MacGuffin, it’s vital that the reader understand its importance to the character. After that point, writers should emphasize the plot and the characters to give life and vitality to the story, and the MacGuffin can fade in significance.

The Wikipedia article states that the protagonist’s pursuit of the MacGuffin often has little or no explanation. I can understand little explanation, but none? The reader has to know the reason for the character’s hunt; otherwise, why should the reader care about the character at all?

Now you know the answer to the question I posed in the title of this blog post. Yes, you do know the MacGuffin Man. He lives in Literury Lane, of course! Address all complaints about bad puns to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

What Is It With Authors and Their Pets?

Many authors have pets. I thought I’d speculate why that’s so.

File:Cat August 2010-4.jpg by Alvesgaspar
by Alvesgaspar
dog
by Habj

 

 

 

 

 

I did a little online research and came up with the following table of authors, their pet type and breed, and the pet name or names, if known. For the data in the table, I’m grateful to the bloggers here, here, and here.

Author Pet Type-Breed Pet Name(s)
Michel de Montaigne Cat
Samuel Johnson Cat Hodge
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Dog – Cocker Spaniel Flush
Edgar Allan Poe Cat Catterina
Charles Dickens Bird – Raven

Raven
By Quinn Dombrowski
Grip
Jules Verne Dog Follet
Mark Twain Cat Bambino
Edith Wharton Dogs Mouton, Sprite, Mitou, Miza, Nicette, Mimi
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette Cat
Gertrude Stein Dog – Poodle Basket
Hermann Hesse Cat
Virginia Woolf Dog Pinka
William Carlos Williams Cats
Raymond Chandler Cat Taki
T. S. Eliot Cat
Edith Södergran Cats Totti (favorite)
Dorothy Parker Dog Misty
Aldous Huxley Cat
William Faulkner Dogs
Jean Cocteau Cat
E.B. White Dog – Dachshund Minnie
Ernest Hemingway Cats (23) Snowball, Uncle Willie
Jorge Luis Borges Cat
John Steinbeck Dog – Poodle Charley
Jean Paul Sartre Cat
Wystan Hugh Auden Cat Rudimace
Tennessee Williams Cat Sabbath
William S. Burroughs Cats Fletch, Spooner, Ginger, Calico Jane, Rooski, Wimpy, Ed
Tove Jansson Cat
Julio Cortázar Cat Theodor W. Adorno
Doris May Lessing Cats El Magnifico
Charles Bukowski Cat
Ray Bradbury Cat
Patricia Highsmith Cats and snails

Grapevinesnail_01
By Jürgen Schoner
Jack Kerouac Cat Tyke
Kurt Vonnegut Dog Pumpkin
Truman Capote Cat
Edward Gorey Cats
Mary Flannery O’Connor Peacocks (~40)

Peacock_Plumage
By Jatin Sindhu
Manley Pointer, Joy/Hulga, Mary Grace
George Plimpton Cat Mr. Puss
Peter Matthiessen Cat
Maurice Sendak Dog Herman
Philip K. Dick Cat Magnificat
Jacques Derrida Cat
E.L. Doctorow Dog Becky
Joyce Carol Oates Cat
Stephen King Cats and Dogs Clovis (one of the cats)
Neil Gaiman Cats Coconut, Hermione, Pod, Zoe, Princess

Obviously, the most common pets on the list are cats and dogs. However it’s notable that Charles Dickens had a raven; Patricia Highsmith kept snails; and Mary Flannery O’Connor make peacocks her pets.

Before conducting my research, I assumed authors would have clever or literary names for their pets. After all, they know how to choose words carefully. That’s why, in my table, I included pet names where known. However, for the most part, authors name their pets the same things most people do. Maurice Sendak named his dog for Herman Melville, but that’s the exception.

There are websites now for today’s authors to post entries about themselves and their pets—notably here, here, and here.

Why do authors keep pets? Likely for the same reason other people keep pets—companionship. Pets can serve other functions, of course. Dogs can protect a home or assist the blind. Cats can rid a home of mice.

Still, I think certain aspects of pet companionship appeal to authors in particular.

  • Writers spend considerable time away from others, and prefer silence or soft instrumental music while writing. Human voices (even singing) can be a distraction. Pets will lie or sit quietly for long periods.
  • A pet will provide a relaxing break from writing. Often the pet determines these intervals. But it’s thought animals may sense human emotions, and sometimes the pet might detect that the writer needs a break.
  • A writer can use a pet as an unbiased and uncritical sounding board. A pet will listen patiently while being read to, and provide no feedback. The writer has the benefit of an audience, with no need to feel self-conscious about the poor quality of a first draft.
  • A pet can serve as inspiration for a writer who is writing a story about a similar animal. The writer can observe a pet’s movements, habits, and general personality, and incorporate these in the story.

There must be other reasons as well, and I urge you to comment and offer some.

As for me, I do not have a pet. Some years ago, I kept several fish in a nice aquarium, but I gave that up. I’m allergic to animal hair, but some dogs and cats are hairless, so that’s not a real barrier. Who knows, someday a pet might offer its own special companionship to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Yes, You Do Have Time to Write

You say you’d like to be a writer, but you’re too busy; you just can’t find the time. I think I can help you find some time, but maybe that is not your real problem.

First, let’s look at your schedule. No, don’t spend a month or even a week writing down what you do; this is a mental exercise, so we’ll do it from memory. I see each of your days has 24 hours, and each hour has 60 minutes. That’s good, and those numbers aren’t any smaller than for all the greatest authors in history. In fact, those are the same numbers for everyone. So far, so good.

Find Time for WritingSure, you say, but those great authors don’t do anything but write. Writing is their day job. That may be true for many of the great authors, but few of them started great. Most had day jobs until their books sold well.

Leaving the greatest authors aside, few regular authors make all their money from writing. Most have day jobs, families, and all the normal demands of life. Still, they find time to write. How do they do that?

If we mentally compare their schedules to yours, we see they squeeze writing into any available niche. They set aside specific periods when they can—at night when the kids fall asleep, or in the morning before everyone else wakes up. They write during their commute on the train or subway. They use a voice recorder when driving alone in their car, (though never in dense traffic). They write at work during their lunch period. Some of them—gasp!—write in the bathroom!

Even when they’re not writing, they think about writing in idle moments, when they’re preparing a meal, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, etc. That way, when they do sit down to write, they’ve already mentally planned the next scene. That’s making the most of their available time.

Again, putting their schedule side-by-side with yours, we see they have fewer time-wasting activities than you do. They spend less time watching TV, less time bantering on social media, and less time playing computer games. When they are tempted to do any of these, they ask themselves if their time would be better spent writing, and they drop the time-waster and write. They feel a little guilty when they’re not writing.

I suggest you make it a priority to find writing time in any or all of these ways. Try writing to see if you like it. If you do, time will become less of a problem. Although budding or beginning writers complain about not having time, I’ve never heard a real writer—a person with passion for and love of writing—say they can’t find time to write. They lament not having enough time, but they always find some.

That’s what I meant when I said your problem might not be time at all. You may just not have fallen in love with writing yet. When and if you do, you’ll make time for it. You won’t really have much choice.

Other writers have posted great blogs on this topic, including Janice Hardy, Melissa Tydell, Dr. Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Linda Lafferty, and—if you steel yourself for some tough truths—John Scalzi.

You’d like to be a writer, but can’t find time. As I’ve explained, the problem is the word ‘like.’ Once you love writing, finding time won’t be your problem. When you follow the suggestions in this blog post, you’ll see some new writing time has been provided to you by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Shunning the Shaggy Dog Story

Someday you might get a comment back from your critique group or an editor declaring your submitted manuscript to be a “shaggy dog story.” What is that, and is it good or bad?

Wikipedia defines a shaggy dog story as a very long tale, with drawn-out explanations of irrelevant events, culminating in a pointless ending. If you’ve written what others consider a shaggy dog story, that’s not a good thing.

Shaggy Dog Story
No Shaggy Dog Stories

The shaggy dog works slightly better, if at all, in joke form. There’s a rhythm to long, story-type jokes, and listeners are willing to settle in and follow along. After the long build-up, when the punchline is a non-humorous anticlimax, that twist on the typical joke format is supposed to be the funny. It usually doesn’t work.

As an example, when I was a boy I enjoyed telling the Bavarian Cream Pie joke. There are variations of this joke on-line, here, here, and here. In my version, a man seeks the best Bavarian Cream Pie (BCP) in the world. He travels very far, meeting people who tell him where to get the best BCP. Finally, he’s told he must climb the tallest mountain in Bavaria, which he scales. He finds a small restaurant on top, goes in and orders Bavarian Cream Pie. The waiter says they’re all out. The man says, “That’s okay, make it an apple pie.”

I’ll pause here to let you finish laughing. Oh, you’re done already? As you can see, the shaggy dog story emulates a story in many respects (character, setting, style, theme), but there is a silly or stupid resolution of the plot. The story says nothing about the human condition, unless the message is that human existence is pointless. Even existentialist literature doesn’t go that far.

You would think it would be easy to avoid writing a shaggy dog story. Here are some ways you might well fall into the trap:

  • As you’re writing, you think of new and interesting events to include, events unrelated to your plot.
  • Somewhere along the way, you forget something about your main character—an internal conflict she or he must overcome, or even what the character’s goal is.
  • You can’t think of a suitable ending that effectively wraps up the story, so your tale just peters out.

Those pitfalls suggest methods to keep from veering toward shagginess:

  • Kill your darlings. Cut out events and even entire scenes that do not advance your plot.
  • As you write, maintain the idea that your story must have a point. There are conflicts, both external and internal, your protagonist must resolve.
  • There are two ways to avoid the pointless ending problem. First, you could write (or at least outline) the ending first, and then back up and write the story that aims toward that ending. Alternatively, if you don’t want to know the ending before you write the rest, check to see if the ending you finally write does, in fact, resolve the conflicts. If it doesn’t, rewrite it.

Remember, no shaggy dog stories. Shaggy dogs themselves, however, are fine. I certify that no dog, shaggy or otherwise, was harmed, nor was its character impugned, in the writing of this post by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Building Your Author Website

You’ve heard authors need websites, but you don’t know how to create one. Read on, and learn.

First, it’s not true that you need a website. You do need an online presence that shows you to be an author. That can consist of accounts on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. However, I’d guess most authors have their own website.

Building author websiteA website does at least the following things for you:

  • Tells readers who you are and what you’ve written
  • Tells readers where they can get your books
  • Tells potential publishers and editors that you’re a serious professional
  • Provides interesting, even exciting, content linking what you’re selling to what readers want

I’ll presume you know, or can easily find out, the mechanics of setting up a generic website. There are a variety of hosting services out there and they have video tutorials and instructional blog posts on how to do that. I’m focusing on making an author website, as distinguished from other types of sites.

First, think about grabbing interest. Think like a newspaper cartoonist. One such cartoonist wrote that people view a political cartoon for about three to five seconds. That’s it. Readers buy the newspaper for the articles, so they’re prepared to read a few of them, if the headlines attract. But the cartoonist must seize attention in just a few seconds.

The same goes for your website. Your potential readers are surfing the web for free, so they only linger on a site if it grabs them right away. You only get a moment to show them enough about you for them to stay awhile and explore your site.

That means you don’t want long blocks of text. Also, break up your text with appealing, welcoming images. The images and text you choose on your home page may be giving the first impression visitors have of you. At a glance, they should get a good idea of the type of books you write, and some notion of the type of person you are.

Set up your site to appeal to your potential readers. Use words and images selected to attract them. Your site then becomes a suddenly impactful ‘story’ of you and your books.

Unless you have a good reason not to, you should include a picture of yourself. Although it shouldn’t matter, readers like to see what their authors look like. (Yes, I know, I don’t have my own pic on my website, except for a couple of blog entries here and here.)

Assuming the visitors to your site now have their curiosity piqued, your website should also tell them where they can buy your books and where you may be appearing so they can meet you.

A blog can draw visitors to your site, especially once you have a number of blog posts under your belt. Internet searches for your blog post topics can guide surfers to your site.

If you decide to blog, know this—it will eat into your fiction writing time. Before you start blogging, I recommend you write down twenty topics or so. Not the whole post, just the topic. Commit to posting on a regular periodicity and stick to it. It can be daily, weekly, every other week, etc., but you should adhere to the schedule. As new ideas for future blog post topics occur to you, add them to the bottom of your topic list.

For other ideas about building your author website, check out the websites of your favorite authors, and others. Also look at other blog posts on the topic, such as this one, by Thomas Umstattd.

Once you launch your website, be sure to tell the world that you learned how to do it from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

The Hero’s Journey, Oversimplified

The Hero’s Journey is one of the most basic plot types in literature. In 2013, author John Green discussed the hero’s journey in his commencement address at Butler University. In my view, he presented an incomplete view.

Simplified Version of Campbell's Hero Journey
Simplified Version of Campbell’s Hero Journey

In 1949, Joseph Campbell introduced his analysis of the hero’s journey in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell’s analysis was a complex one, with no less than seventeen stages of the journey.

At the Butler commencement, Mr. Green said that most people consider the hero’s journey to be from a state of weakness to a state of strength. He contended the opposite was true, that heroes begin with strength and end with weakness.

“The real hero’s journey is the journey from strength to weakness…Many of you, most of you, are about to make that journey. You will go from being the best-informed, most engaged students at one of the finest universities around to being the person who brings coffee to people, or a Steak n Shake waiter…That is the true hero’s errand–strength to weakness. And because you went to college, you will be more alive to the experience, better able to contextualize it and maybe even find the joy and wonder hidden amid the dehumanizing drudgery.”

I get what Mr. Green was trying to do in the context of a college commencement. He was preparing the graduates for an upcoming period of weakness. Further, he was telling them they would be better people for having thus suffered. Granted, that’s a valuable teaching point.

Let’s take a moment to define what we mean by “strength” and “weakness.” The most obvious connotation is physical. But we can also speak of strength and weakness in the following areas: mental, spiritual, emotional, overall character, and others.

In most hero’s journey tales, the hero will pass from strength to weakness in at least one of those planes. He or she will reach a place of utter weakness and vulnerability of some kind (or multiple kinds) at some point in the story. Either the antagonist or the environment will bring the hero down.

One Possible Hero's Journey Path
One Possible Hero’s Journey Path

But the story never ends there, does it? It’s not a very heroic tale if the bad guy wins. The hero must pick himself up from the bloody boxing ring mat, or she must summon all her courage from somewhere in misery’s abyss, to rise above the situation. The hero must achieve, through personal toil, a kind of strength at the end.

That final strength can include nuance, of course. The defeat of the antagonist can come with a new understanding of the world’s complexities—the bad guy might have had some valid point among his faults, a point deserving exploration. Or perhaps the hero, having sailed his ship through the perfect storm, might come to a realization that he would never do such a thing again.

Such nuance doesn’t constitute a return to weakness, however. On balance, the hero must end in a position of strength.

With respect to the author of The Fault in Our Stars, Mr. Green should not have stopped at weakness in his address. What a gloomy view of life he gave those graduates! He should have bent the curve upward at the end, should have said heroes move from initial strength to weakness, and on to final strength. He should have told them what happens after the “dehumanizing drudgery.”

Sorry, Mr. Green, but hero’s journey tales have to end with strength. That’s the opinion of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Note: You’ve gone and done it now. You’ve waited until the very last day of the Smashwords ½ price sale. Tomorrow my books return to full price. Today is your day to be a hero. Pick yourself up from the depths ofswlogo procrastination and, with your last ounce of strength, surf here, click on a book or two, and use the code they give you at checkout to get the discount.

In the Mood, Revisited

Some time ago, I posted about how to get yourself in the mood to write. Today I’ll come at it from a different slant and suggest you should write even when you’re not in the right mood.

We’ve all been there. There’s a task (say, writing) you should do, and it’s now the allotted time for it. However, you’re not in the mood. Something else has happened to put your mind in the wrong frame.

Typically, it’s some strong, negative emotion like anger or sadness. Someone or something has upset you and left you too distraught to do any writing. You can’t bear the thought of writing, can’t imagine sitting down at a keyboard, not at a time like this.

Writing in the MoodYour mind is filled with raw feelings, and you have no room for anything else. You can’t be creative, not now. You can’t get in the mind of a character right now, can’t be bothered with rules of English, or with choosing the right words. Besides, your novel is a comedy, and you’re feeling the opposite of funny.

I suggest that this is a fine time to sit down and write. Why?

  1. It’s important to preserve the discipline, the habit, of writing. As we know, bad habits are easy to form, and good habits are easy to drop. If you skip a day of writing based on your bad mood today, it’s that much easier to make an excuse for not writing tomorrow.
  1. You might just write better. That raw emotion you’re feeling will find its way into your prose, and might well give it power, lifting its quality above your previous best.
  1. Writing might give you fresh perspective on the cause of your mood. Writing may calm you down. Perhaps the massive problems your characters face will make yours seem less by comparison. As you push your heroic, fictional character to save the world while subduing monstrous evil, the hero you create might just create a hero inside you, a real person who can resolve the problem of the day.

Of course, there will be days when life legitimately prevents you from writing. Sometimes that event that soured your mood requires you to take action. You have to act, to deal with the problem. Writing is important, you know, but it’s a lower priority today.

I get that. But note a key difference. If you must act, do so. If you have nothing to do but sit and stew, then write instead. In other words, legitimate high-priority tasks can be an excuse for not writing, but a bad mood shouldn’t be.

Thanks to Jocelyn K. Glei, since her post with her interview of Seth Grogan about his contribution to the book Manage Your Day-to-Day inspired my own post.

How about that? I’ve just increased your writing time. Now you can write even when you’re in a rotten mood, as does—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Note: there’s a week left in the amazing Smashwords 1/2 price sale, where you can get 14 of my books for half price. Remember, they’re listed there at the full price, but when you click on any one of them, Smashwords gives you a code to use at checkout to get the discount.