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Writer's block?  Procrastination?  A case of the "Idon'twanna's?"  The Muse that always shows up with great ideas decided to go on strike and demand better wages?  Whatever the reason, we have all been there.

We're stuck.  We don't know what to write.

I've been there.  No seriously.  A lot.  And recently.  Like four days ago.
So what do I do?  (Or more specifically, what DID I do?) 

First off, know this.  I don't pretend to know all the answers, or anything.  I'm trying to figure this thing our just like you are.  However, I do know for certain that in order for us to move forward AT ALL, we do have to ultimately get to the keyboard (or pencil if you're one of those "longhand" weirdos) and just get SOMETHING on the page.  

But what?  I mean, it's really not fun if we are just pounding out something that we know we are going to hate.  You've heard that too, right?  "Just write anything.  It may not make sense or be total garbage, but at least you're writing!"  I mean, I guess that's true.  But I don't want to waste my time, either.  (Says the guy who is probably checking for new reviews on Amazon rather than advancing his story.)
However, that really IS the case.  Just start writing, blah blah blah.  It's hard, but I guess it is true.  And who knows, maybe writing something terrible DOES inspire the greater stuff to start flowing.  

But back to my most recent push through being stuck...

Here was my problem.  I'm working on Book 2 of the Jordy Nichols thing.  I thought I wrote a pretty cool prologue.  Introduced some new characters, but referenced some old ones, etc.  Advanced the mythology a bit.  Check.  Then I struggled with how to get back into Jordy.  I mean, I left a few BIG questions with the last sentence of RedBird -- so how do I address those?  I mean, if I'M hearing the story, I kinda want that addressed sooner than later -- or else I'm distracted with that question while hearing about NEW stuff.  I also didn't want to just have the characters "talk" about it and then move on to something else.  Yeesh.  FINALLY, I wanted to really explore the new relationships that Jordy has with people that he met from RedBird, and have some fun with what that could look like.

Cue my "muse" throwing her Toga over her shoulder and storming out the senate door -- leaving me staring at a blinking cursor.  A cursor at the end of a few sentences that I just didn't like.

So, just rewrite it, right?  I couldn't.  For whatever reason it was intimidating or something.  I felt like I owed something to my characters AND my readers, and I just didn't feel like I could deliver.  So I was stuck for awhile.  

Then I just did something different.  
I started writing something that WASN'T so important to advancing the mythology.  Started writing something that WASN'T about delving into Jordy's future.  Started writing something that WASN'T about the new "BIG" problem that they might face.

Nope.  I just wrote something fun.  I wrote an action scene.  A fight with a different character.  For me, that's fun.  I put on some inspiring music, and just played with a couple of characters grappling for their lives.  For you, maybe it's something else -- like a couple falling in love, or describing a comet racing through space, or the hero exploring a dripping cavern with a sputtering torch.  Heck, maybe you're like Tolkien and you have fun going into incredible detail about the heritage and naming of a sword.  

Whatever it is, have a blast!  For God's sake, aren't we supposed to enjoy writing? 

So I did.  Got a beloved character (by me, anyway) into a real pickle...in fact...I'm not so sure they're going to live.  Heh heh.  I just raised my own stakes and made things exciting for ME!  And that's what it's all about, right?  I mean, I'm approaching the page with a new sense of wonder, awe, and anticipation -- and hopefully that will translate to my readers.  And you know what?  I loved the action so much in that little "writing exercise," that I'm REPLACING my old prologue with that!  What better way to launch into a book?  Right in the middle of some fun stuff!  

So when you're stuck (like I was stuck) just find a way to "bliss out" again.  Write something that made you start writing in the first place.  You may not use it, sure.  But you'll fall in love with your craft again.  And who knows?  You might just show that muse whose boss after all...

Have fun, writers.  I'm stoked to read your stuff.

 
 
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Do what?  I "indie-published" two of my books.


I know, fellow writer, I know.  It's been called things like "vanity" publishing because the author thinks so highly of himself that (s)he just wants to get the thing printed.  I get it.  And yes, you probably heard me make some snide comment about some of the authors that we BOTH know that self-published, and about how that was self-serving.  Guilty.  


But these are the three reasons why I did it.  I'm not telling you to do it, it's just what finally convinced me after years of chasing the "traditional" side of things and trying every trick I knew to get in front of the "right" people.  And you know what?  That actually leads me to my first reason...

1.  I realized I had a misunderstanding of who the "right people" are.
Literary agents, right?  I mean, they are the ones who initially believe in your work, give some helpful advice, then hit the ground running and sell, sell, sell!  They negotiate crazy royalty contracts and get them into the movies and foreign markets.  They do, but that doesn't mean they are the "right people" to see your work.  Then editors, right?  I mean, they pour over every part of the manuscript and make it shiny, crisp, and perfect.  Editors are awesome.  But for me, they weren't the "right people."  Acquisitions people.  Managers.  Podcast hosts.  Bloggers.  All of these are good, but ultimately, who are the "right people" to look at my book?  Readers.  I finally decided that I just had to get my work in front of readers.  I was "saving" the goods for when a lightning bolt would hit and an acquisitions editor would somehow raise my worn manuscript from a slushpile, read it in one sitting, and run -- though tears of joy clouded his eyes -- down the publisher's hallway and burst unannounced into a meeting with the executives.  And he would cry, "Stop the presses!  I've found our next blockbuster!"  No.  So I realized that these first two are just that -- the FIRST TWO.  I have more.  If I get READERS to like the first two, then I'm doing something right.  I'm building an audience.  Then I keep writing and the demand will come.  Then, if enough of the RIGHT PEOPLE pull more out of me -- I can shop agents instead of them shopping me.


2.  I Realized that we have all the tools available to us.
This realization came when watching (or rewatching, rather) J.J. Abram's Ted Talk on the Mystery Box.  It's a good one.  Check it out.  Especially his Star Wars fandom reference years before he would direct Episode 7.  Anyway, he said something very simple.  His premise was that we have no limitations to putting our content out.  What was impossible to do even ten years ago in filmmaking (because of the lack of cameras, editing equipment, visual effects, etc) is now ALL possible.  Anyone can create anything and show it to...well...everyone.  Ding.  Sorry, that was a light bulb sound over my head.  Yours may sound different.  Some weird flicker-buzz.  I don't know.  Anyway, that simple truth in film is the same with publishing.  This may sound like a Createspace commercial...but dude.  Seriously.  I uploaded files.  Slapped a cover together that I thought looked cool.  Approved it.  Now it's PRINT. ON. DEMAND.  Are you kidding me?  Janet Worthington in Topeka Kansas orders ONE copy of Redbird, and it gets printed just for her?  That's freaking crazy.  So to get my books to the "right people," I have a free channel to distribute that costs me nothing.  Yes, writing is hard, and yes marketing is hard, blah blah blah.  I just think it's amazing that I have the means to get my work to my audience without waiting for a publisher to stop selling Amish Romances for enough time to take a chance on a Y.A. Adventure book with a weird and fantastic twist.  So thanks, Createspace.  You'll end up on an acknowledgement page someday.


and finally...


3.  I realized I was being a chicken.


Rejection sucks.  We all know it.  I think I was probably just afraid that if I went ahead and put my stuff out there, people might not like it.  I guess I wanted the "traditional publisher" to be some kind of validation that my work was good enough.  Something like that.  I don't know.  So when I actually convinced myself that I would just go ahead and publish -- I did this:  Started with e-books.  Went outside my circle a little bit.  You know the circle -- Mom and a couple of people who always think you're awesome.  (Don't think I don't appreciate it, Mom.)  Anyway, I got the e-book into some hands that I could trust to give me REAL feedback.  Even a couple negative reviews.  Asked them to tell me when they got bored.  When they put it down.  When they didn't care what happened to the characters.  When finding out who Jordy's dad really is no longer mattered.  (No spoilers here, sorry.)  They told me.  I did some tweaks.  Got a few more pieces of feedback.  Then, based on some trusted people telling me that I really DID have something there and that they would actually buy the book and recommend it...I stopped being a chicken and put it on paper and slapped a binding on it.


Now the journey really begins.  


You know what, writer?  This will hopefully work for me.  Not sure if it will work for you -- but please.  For the sake of all that is holy.  Don't sit on your stuff because of the reasons I did.  Get it to the right people somehow, because we really have the ability to.  And don't be a chicken.  I'll bet you're a better writer than you give yourself credit for.


*****


If you're interested in getting Jessub's books, you can get them HERE.