Tag Archives: Writer Resources

Mood Swings


by Lillian Csernica on May 9, 2013

Over the years I’ve discovered that I write the best when I’m in either a really high mood, or the absolute abyss.  Am I bi-polar?  No.  Does my mood vary like this on a daily basis?  The short answer to that one is no.  Most of the time I’m chugging right along in that combination of happy about some things/worried about other things/gonna kick somebody’s ass about that one thing.  This means I’m thinking about too many different things at once, which makes it hard to get my energy together in that mental space called the “creative trance.”

Am I advocating jacking up your mood or getting really depressed?  Of course not.  For centuries writers have tried doing that by artificial means, and while some of them produced some lasting pieces of really memorable writing, many of them destroyed their talent, their minds, and their lives.

(Yes, there’s a fine line between creativity and mental imbalance.  Sometimes they go hand in hand.  We’ll talk about that another time.)

There are some things you can do to get yourself in the mood for writing that are not dangerous to your physical or mental well-being.  Music is the first example that springs to mind.  When I was writing my very first novel, a fantasy novel where I alternated chapters between the two main characters, during the writing of the one character’s chapters I blasted “The Best of Berlin” over and over again.  When I was writing a section of SHIP OF DREAMS where Alexandre contemplates all the losses in his back story that made him turn pirate, I kept playing U2’s “With or Without You.”  And for those days when I’m feeling sluggish and don’t want to apply myself, I crank up Pat Benatar and in minutes I’m so wired I can’t type fast enough.

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned chocolate.  Oh yeah.  Please see What Fuels My Writing for my thoughts on chocolate as the writer’s friend.

What does it for you?  What puts you in the mood to write the sad standing-by-the-casket scenes?  What gets you all happy and jazzed so you can write that intense chase scene?  What helps you shut out all the tedious little daily distractions so you can be fully present in your writing mind?  Think about it.  Keep a mood journal.  There’s nothing like tracking habitual data in an empirical format that will show you patterns you didn’t know existed.  This could help you pinpoint your best times of day, noise levels, quality of light, all these details.  Figure out the environmental factors that support your creativity and productivity so you can recreate them at will!

Wannabes think, “Oh, I have to be in the mood to create.”  Serious writers and artists figure out how to put themselves in that mood and make the most of it.

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Filed under Depression, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Writing

G is for (Writer’s) Group


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2013

G is for (Writers’) Group

If you’re thinking of joining a writer‘s group, ask yourself these questions:

Is this group designed for the type of writing I want to do? Is the critique format based on a professional model (i.e. the Clarion method) or is everybody there to just cheer each other on?

Is the level of experience among the writers in the group close enough to mine for us to help each other, yet they’re far enough ahead of me so that I’ll be learning as I go?

Is this group committed to serious effort at production and improvement, or is it really just a social occasion? Worse, do any of the members try to turn every meeting into some kind of group therapy session?

Allow me to illustrate the different kinds of group dynamics you might encounter by describing three writer’s groups I’ve experienced:

Group #1: Ten members, some with novel sales, some with short story sales, some at the small press level. This was a good group for me. We were all working toward greater professional achievement, we used the Clarion method, and I learned a lot from the other writers. We had a few personality conflicts, but those didn’t become serious obstacles to the critique process.

Group #2: Just four of us, women writers who’d met through each other at SF conventions. We all have at least two types of writing in common, so we all bring something useful to each critique. We meet for the weekend when our schedules permit, talk shop, work on our stories, eat too much and stay up too late and enjoy the fact that we’ve become best friends. Thanks to each other’s help, we continue to make sales.

Group #3: Ten members, the emphasis on nonfiction and writing memoirs. What am I, the writer of fantasy and historical fiction, doing in this group? That’s a good question and a long story. I’m the youngest by at least ten years, but I have the most professional sales. While I defer to my elders, they defer to me about formal writing technique. In recent months the woman who organized this group has become very controlling and dictatorial. I really enjoy the people in this group, but my time could be better spent working at home. I now have to decide if the convenience and pleasure of meeting these people once a month is worth putting up with the control freak behavior of our Fearless Leader.

A writer’s group represents a serious investment of time and effort. Activate your social network for references, recommendations, and possible warnings. You want to find the group that will provide the best return on your investment according to your writing goals.

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Filed under Blog challenges, Fiction, Writing

How to Make Writing Progress Every Day


by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2013

As the mother of two special needs teenage boys, there are many days when I am just not in the mood to write.  I’m too tired, I’m too stressed, I’ve had to be out at appointments or making phone calls or sorting out scheduling problems with the nurses and aides.  All I want to do is flop down on the couch with a bag of microwave popcorn and let my higher brain functions take a vacation while I watch some trashy action movie on Netflix.

That doesn’t get the day’s writing done.

How do I get myself to churn out the day’s writing regardless of mental fatigue, emotional turbulence, and family demands?  I keep two lists:  Process Goals and Productivity Goals.

Process Goal: This is an activity that will contribute to the overall completion of a particular writing project.  I have a new short story underway.  I brainstorm more plot complications to see if I can raise the stakes and make the story more exciting with greater suspense.

Productivity Goal:  This is the write-the-actual-words goal.  A thousand a day?  Two thousand?  If I want to get a five thousand word short story written in first draft form in one week’s time, then I have to hit my target of a thousand words per day.  If I write more, great!

There is always something I can accomplish, no matter what my frame of mind might be.  If I want to be successful as a writer, both on the personal and the professional levels, then I have to get the story or novel written, clean it up, and get it out to market.  If I keep my sights set on today, I won’t feel so overwhelmed.  Today plus today plus today adds up.  A thousand words per day five days a week for twenty weeks or five months equals one hundred thousand words, which is a four hundred page novel.

Keeping those lists of Process goals and Productivity goals is my way of making sure that no matter what kind of mood I’m in, there will be something I can muster up the motivation to accomplish.  Once I’ve overcome the inertia of not being “in the mood,” I can build some momentum and get the work done.

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Writing