Finding Time to Write

Telling people you’re a writing a book is hard. It can sound really pretentious and it triggers a certain amount of anxiety surrounding the follow up questions. Most people follow up with asking what it’s about, which is tough because I’m bad at explaining what my books are about and I haven’t perfected my elevator pitch. So I end up blurting out a bunch of words like “Western fantasy with mages and wizards and sentient wolf monsters.”

The response that is hardest to react to is when someone tells me “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’ve never had time.” Sometimes these people will ask me how I find the time, or about my planning and organizational skills, or my daily writing practice, and I can’t tell if they’re honestly trying to ask how I fit writing into my day or looking for some undiscovered block of time that I have access to and they don’t. Sometimes they just sort of stare at me, and I have to craft some kind of response. I usually say something lame like “Yeah it’s hard,” or “I get that,” because I’m awkward and I have a stash of stock phrases I use to work my way through conversations.

But I want to yell at them. I want to shake them. Because I don’t have time either.

Let me explain, and let me preface this by saying my life is awesome. I have a loving wife, two amazing and healthy children, a house where we can keep our horses, a job I love, and a second job teaching political science to college freshmen. But all those things take time, and there are only so many hours in the day.

So I don’t have time to write. At least not in the sense of being able to sit down at a table with a laptop for an hour and bang out a few pages. Most of my writing I do late at night after the kids have gone to bed, or on my lunch breaks. I wrote most of this blog post in the waiting room of a vet hospital.

There are things I’ve given up for that time. My World of Warcraft characters have been sitting in Northrend for years, I haven’t even opened my copy of Twilight Princess, and I haven’t watched Stranger Things. I’m two or three seasons behind on Vikings, Game of Thrones, and The Last Kingdom, and I haven’t even started Knightfall. There are a lot of people that will write, somewhat pompously, that giving up video games and television are necessary for a writer. I am not one of those people. I miss video games and television, and occasionally I take time off just to do a little catching up.

The point of all this is, I don’t have time to write. I sneak my writing in wherever I can, and I’ve had to cut some things out. Writing is fun for me, and it improves my mental health more than anything else I’ve tried. So it’s not a hard choice to make. But finding that time doesn’t make me a better person than someone who can’t find that time. Do what makes you happy. If that’s writing then by all means figure out a system that lets you write as often and as much as you can. If it’s buying and reading debut fantasy books then go ahead and subscribe to this blog so we can keep you updated on what’s happening with Ranuin’s Gate.

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On Perfection and Purpose

Blogging gives me ulcers. It shouldn’t, because it’s just writing, and I wrote a book that’s getting published this year. But the thought of blogging kills me. I want to blog. I’ve started a few different blogs on subjects ranging from parenting to photoshopping my friends into historical photos. I’ve never been able to make them last past a few posts.

I’ve been working on a post for over a month now, and that post is just a couple pages long. Nothing ever takes me this long to write. I can bang out a chapter or a properly-cited legal brief with just a few hours of concentrated work. But this post, which is on finding time to write when you have kids, is killing me. As more time went by, it got harder to write. As it was harder to write, it was easier to push it off to work on easier things. The sequel to Ranuin’s Gate is definitely farther along because of this issue. But it was frustrating to me. So why couldn’t I do this?

I’ll write more in depth about this later, but having a mindfulness practice is so important to my writing. So I sat down, cleared my mind, then thought about trying to finish that blog post. My stomach tightened, and I could feel my fingers starting to twitch. It was making me nervous, but why?

It might not be perfect. It might not even be good.

I don’t know why this has been my hang up, but as soon as I thought about it I recognized it as the problem. I don’t have this problem in anything else I write. My first drafts of my books are ugly piles of shit covered crap, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy with that, because my only goal with the first draft is to tell the story to myself and Sean. Its job is to be shitty. Legal briefs follow a pretty set formula, so it’s easy to crank them out.

This blog is about my work as a writer. Its job is to update my readers on where we are in the process of publishing Ranuin’s Gate and writing its sequel. As we expand into other projects there will be updates about those.

My favorite blogs are The Oatmeal and Hyperbole and a Half, and so I have been comparing my posts to theirs. But those blogs are the main body of those creators’ work. This blog is a glorified newsletter, and I need to remember its purpose.

Paladins, Gunfighters, and Wizards. An Introduction to the World of Ranuin’s Gate.

I’m going to be straight with you here. Our book has an odd assortment of classes and characters. We think it’s good, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent it to anyone and a publisher wouldn’t have picked it up. But it’s got a bunch of elements you don’t often see together. So as an introduction I want to introduce you to a few of those elements and explain a bit about why they were chosen.

Paladins

My grandpa loves old westerns. There’s no need to specify which of my grandpas this is, because it’s true of all of them. And so my first memories of the word “Paladin” are from the theme song of the show “Have Gun, Will Travel.” I later read The Song of Roland, played a Paladin on World of Warcraft, and read every bit of fantasy literature I could get my hands on. But, even as my world expanded and I encountered every kind of Paladin imaginable, the word still conjured the image of Richard Boone as Paladin.

In the early stages of writing this book I knew I wanted to write about that version of a Paladin. As a sort of knight-errant who was loyal to a belief system, but who hadn’t necessarily received any special dispensation from a deity or church because they were especially pious or pure.

Gunfighters

This book probably owes its biggest debt to the paperback westerns of Louis L’Amour. Before I found Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Alagaesia, or Temarant, I explored the American West with the hard-eyed gunslingers that populated L’Amour’s books. They were, in many ways, the first knight-errant characters I would grow to love.

But even more than this, L’Amour’s style is one I’ve always been drawn to. His writing is descriptive and immersive, but not so much that it interrupts the flow of his stories. It seemed natural to set this book in a setting inspired by those novels I grew up with. It’s not exactly a western, but it’s got a lot of western elements, and gunfighters are one of those elements.

Wizards

It seems to us like no fantasy story is complete without wizards of some kind. In this book the main antagonist is a wizard, because wizards are always kind of jerks. In the Harry Potter series the wizards pretty much ignore everything awful that happens to muggles. In Tolkien’s universe one of the wizards is actually evil, one just talks to animals, one is noble but never tells anyone what’s going on, and two just sort of wander out of the story so the author doesn’t even know what happened to them. Wizards are jerks, and so our antagonist for this book is a wizard. Deal with it.