Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Insecure Writer and the Blank Page


Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I'm staring at something I haven't seen in over a year.  The dreaded Blank Page.

During the past year, I've worked hard to have something ready every month for my critique groups. For the most part, I succeeded, (yay!) but I was helped by the fact that all the scenes and chapters I submitted had mostly been written some time ago.  I may have had to completely revamp them (sometimes more than once) before I presented them to my CPs, but the basic structure was already in place.

Unfortunately, I've now reached the point where I have no more previously written chapters to submit, which means it's time to start drafting again.    Now I don't mind writing first drafts, I usually find them to be the most fun part of writing, but I barely had time to finish chapters for my crit groups when they were mostly already written.  How am I going to keep up when I'm starting with a Blank Page?

Oh, by the way, my next submission is due tomorrow.  :(

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On a happier note, let's move on to someone who fought the battle of the blank page and won.  Last month, Misha Gerrick released her new book, Endless, and while in the throes of her resulting euphoria, agreed to let me interview her.



Misha, how long have you been writing?

Fourteen years in May. (Although I'd been writing without being serious about it for longer and creating stories since before I could write.)

What inspires you to write? 

99% of the time it's a character walking into my head insisting that I write him/her. If I'm intrigued by the character, I'd go write the most difficult story imaginable to see what happens. 

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

Part time. Mostly, I'm constrained by time. Especially this time of year.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

I wanted to write a fast paced book with lots of voice and snark. Succeeded there, I think.   

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  

I actually don't. I read very widely, and see merit in any genre, so when I start with a story, I don't really pick the genre until I'm already drafting. Sometimes even later. I don't say. "Hmm. Today I'm going to write Urban Fantasy." I rather think in terms of: "I'm writing about an immortal with amnesia." And then see where I'm going to get. 

At one stage, I thought that Endless would have a bigger thriller element, but my characters didn't let me do that.  

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

The writing wasn't hard at all. Once I had the idea and knew where I wanted to go, the book basically wrote itself. But the hardest thing to perfect in edits was Ryan's voice. 

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing Nick and Vince. Both are tortured, but both cover it up with some heavy doses of dark humor and snark. I love it. 

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn't so?

I remember when I was writing the story, someone asked me what I was working on. I said that I was working on an urban fantasy that wasn't about angels, demons, vampires, werewolves or fairies. And almost everyone in the comments said it couldn't be done. 

Well...

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I believe in "to each his own" for both readers and writers. But as someone who studied business and economics, I think the trade publishing industry needs to overhaul the way they see writers or else they will continue to create their own competition. 

Writers aren't a commodity and trade publishing isn't the end user. Trade publishing is the middle man (and highly inefficient at it). The faster they realize they should approach writers as clients instead of acting like they're doing us a favor, the better off everyone will be. 

Personally, I'm steadfastly on the self-publishing track at the moment because I just can't see myself jumping through a million loops just for the "favor" of losing 75% of the book's income for a dwindling basket of services in return. (Currently: No marketing, less and less editing, cover design that's really not that expensive, shrinking advances, print runs that actually count against the writer if the book doesn't sell, a growing unwillingness to take a risk on books -- I ask you: If my book is a 90% risk free deal where I'm certain that it'll make thousands of dollars with minimum input, WHY would I sacrifice the largest portion of my income?). 

However, the moment I see the basket of services actually expanding in a way that benefits me to the point where sharing the income is justified, I would definitely hop onto the trade publishing track again. 

How do you find or make time to write?

Probably going to be anti-climactic as an answer, but I make time by not doing a lot of other stuff. I actually see writing as my second job, so I'll start writing as soon as I leave the office. I also wake up two hours earlier to write before I go to work. I only watch TV or do other things once I finished my writing session for the day.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

I pants my rough drafts and plot my rewrites. (I have to rewrite to get my rough drafts onto my computer.) 

What projects are you working on at the present?

I'm writing the sequel to Endless and editing the sequel to The Heir's Choice from my Epic Fantasy series. Then I'm working on a historical romance, a contemporary romance, a dystopian and two YA Urban Fantasies. Amongst other things. I have about fifteen projects in the pipe-line at the moment, revolving every month depending on what needs to be done and what needs to rest. 

Thanks for stopping by and answering my questions, Misha.  Good luck with Endless.



About the Author

Misha Gerrick lives near Cape Town, South Africa, and can usually be found staring at her surroundings while figuring out her next book.

If you’d like to see what Misha’s up to at the moment, you can find her on these social networks:






About the Book

First, do no harm.” Blake Ryan swore that oath to become a doctor. Ironic, given that he spent most of his thousand year life sucking souls out of other immortals.

Things are different now. Using regular shots of morphine to keep his inner monster at bay, Ryan has led a quiet life since the Second World War. His thrills now come from saving lives, not taking them.

Until a plane crash brings Aleria into his hospital. Her life is vibrant. Crack to predators like him. She’s the exact sort of person they would hunt, and thanks to a severe case of amnesia, she’s all but defenseless.

Leaving Aleria vulnerable isn’t an option, but protecting her means unleashing his own inner monster. Which is a problem, because his inner monster wants her dead most of all.



Excerpt

This had to be what dying felt like. Floating outside my body, waiting for that final link to my life to be severed, only vaguely aware of indescribable pain. More screams than I could count rose up around me. Hundreds of footsteps beat against tiles. I couldn’t open my eyes if I wanted to. Not when it was easier to listen and wait. People shouted for a doctor or an IV, or a thousand other things that made no sense. I listened to all the chaos, trying to untangle it in my thoughts.

Soon, I could go. The peace around me was so relaxing, completely out of place in the clamor I heard. I wanted it. To rest forever in that peace. Why not? There was a very good reason, but I couldn’t call it to mind.

A numb buzz shot through my body and shattered my serenity.

It happened again. Only this time was more of a sharp pulse. The third time jolted like lightning. The fourth…Hell. Suddenly, the screams were coming from me. My heart’s relentless thundering added to my torment.

Pain.

Everywhere.

My chest burned like fire. It hurt to breathe. Cold air drove down my throat and into my lungs, amplifying the inferno in my chest. My skin felt scorched. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t right.

I had to see. I had to understand why pain dominated my existence like this. My eyes were fused shut. My breaths grew shallow, trying to draw air when there was none. I tried to clench my teeth. I bit hard plastic. A pipe. Cold air suddenly forced back into my lungs, out of time with my own breathing. This was wrong. It wasn’t safe. I had to see. The best I got was a little fluttering of my lashes.

A high-pitched beep shot through my head. It repeated again and again. I wanted to reach over and slam my fist into its source. My arm wouldn’t lift. Something kept it trapped. A scream rose up from the depths of my soul, but the pipe jammed inside my throat stifled the sound. I only managed a whimper, trying my best not to gag. More air blasted into my lungs against my will. What was going on? I was trapped in my own body, but why?

I needed to move. I had to move. Now. Before… Even… Even though… Panic gripped me. The beeps increased at a frenetic pace. I needed to move. To be gone. Didn’t matter where. Just not here. Not defenseless. Not trapped.

The air sucked out of my lungs. I gasped, choking on nothing, strangled by invisible fingers. I tried to convulse my body. To twist myself free of what’s holding me.

Nothing.

The air rushed back in a cold flood. Seconds later it left, only to return in the same amount of time.

There was a rhythm to the air. In… out... in… out… The breaths were slow—sleep-like. I concentrated on this rhythm, striving to clear my head. If I wanted out, I needed to think. Calmly. Clearly. Eventually, those irritating beeps slowed. I tried to focus past the sound.

Voices buzzed about me, adding to my need to see, to do something to protect myself. No one seemed to pay attention to me. Good. I could use that to my advantage.

I centered my every thought on moving my little finger. It finally jerked, but collided against something solid. So the thing trapping my arm was physical and too heavy for me to lift. It was better to be trapped than paralyzed. With luck I could escape my restraints. I tried my other hand, but it was cemented stuck as well. Right leg. Left leg. Damn it! Both trapped. I had to move!

No.

No, I needed to stay calm. I tried to make larger movements, biting the pipe in my mouth against the urge to scream in pain. There was no wiggle room.

Fearing that I might be blindfolded, I focused on blinking. It worked. My eyes opened and the blur faded, revealing ceiling tiles. Why would there be tiles? Where was the canvas of hospital tents? The distant sounds of bombs dropping? The power of their explosions rushing through my blood?

No. That wasn’t right. I wasn’t there.

Where was I, then?




35 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Misha!
    She's someone who definitely conquered the blank page. And you will too, it happens and you'll be shocked by the stories that follow! (I even swished my magic wand across this page for you) :)

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  2. Not knowing the genre might be liberating, Misha. Congratulations.
    Ken, just start writing anything and see what happens!

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    1. Yes it is. It also inspires me to think out of the box more.

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  3. Yay for Misha!!!

    I wish I could help you with the blank page. Writing under pressure usually kills my mojo, so I've got no answers for you. If you need a week off, take a week off. They'll understand. And then use that week to get something new done, eh?

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  4. When I belonged to an active critique group, we would always state the type of feedback we needed, so if someone brought in a first draft they would say they didn't need feedback on grammar or sentence structure, but the overall tone, characters, and so on.

    Misha's take on traditional publishing is interesting. I never thought I would take the self-publishing route, but now that my (small) publisher released my short stories back to me this year, I am.

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    1. Self publishing is cool when you're okay with getting tied up in the nitty-gritty of book publishing. Or if you have enough money to out-source yourself.

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  5. Staring at a blank page is no fun, hope you find the time and inspiration to fill the page with wonderful words soon, Ken.

    Congrats to Misha.

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  6. Congrats, Misha.

    Ken, you can do it. Let your fingers loose and see what happens. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  7. Great interview and congrats, Misha!

    And I hope you figure out what to write, Ken. That blank page can be mighty daunting, but you can do it!

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    1. Thanks Loni. Glad you enjoyed the interview. :-)

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  8. It seems you have some writing to do today. Here's wishing you the best of luck with that.

    And congrats to Misha.

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  9. Best of luck with the blank page blues! Just take it one step at a time.

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  10. Ken, I hope the words flow for you and soon you'll reached the last chapter. :)

    Congrats to Misha on her release!

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  11. Lol - the dreaded blank page. But don't you have something to get written for tomorrow??? Raising an eyebrow. (Retired teacher - once a teacher - always a teacher)
    Tweeted.

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  12. Good luck filling that blank page, Ken. You'll do it!

    And congrats to Misha. :)

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  13. I'm sending thoughts of a smashing success for Misha and Endless! May she have a plethora of sales and great Amazon reviews!

    May 2016 IWSG Co-Host
    May the 4th Be With You
    Stephen Tremp’s Breakthrough Blogs

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the good wishes. :-)

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  14. The blank page is my enemy. I do NOT enjoy first drafts. I much prefer revising. But I am finally coming to the end of my WIP, so soon I will be passing out of the blank page mode and into "How can I make this story something worthwhile" stage

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  15. Ah Ken I hear you about the blank page. I am trying to get my first draft finished. I am about 50% if the way through.

    I really enjoyed that interview. Well done, and it was the interview that sold me on the book, before I even read the blurb just so you know. It was this question with this answer:

    What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn't so?

    "I remember when I was writing the story, someone asked me what I was working on. I said that I was working on an urban fantasy that wasn't about angels, demons, vampires, werewolves or fairies. And almost everyone in the comments said it couldn't be done.

    Well..."

    I went straight to the book blurb and read and grabbed my copy. Nicely done.

    Wishing you much success both of you.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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    1. Yay! Thanks so much for your support. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I loved writing it. :-)

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  16. First, major congrats to the talented and awesome Misha.

    2nd, today at work I read... let me go check the title... The 8 Minute Writing Habit... and it actually helped me a lot. I feel unstuck and as if I'm finally moving forward.

    I find it helpful to sketch out the bare bones of the chapter first: goal, obstacle, cymbal crash (how chapter will end). Then I start filling in the rest. It helps the blank page problem.

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  17. Great interview! I'm the same sort of writer as Misha. Pantsing the first drafts after the characters take over my head. :) And I agree with Alex, Ken. Just start writing and see what comes.

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  18. Waaaa!!! The dreaded blank page... I'm afraid...

    Hey, again, congrats to you, Misha!!

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  19. Ken, I hope you got over your blank page in time. Next time you face a blank page, try closing your eyes and typing whatever comes into your head. Doesn't have to be your WIP. That process of just writing anything can help get past whatever is keeping you from writing. Best wishes.

    Thanks for introducing us to Misha. What a great interview. I agree about self-pubbing for the same reasons. Why let the pub take 3/4 of our money when we do 90% of the work? Good luck with your new release.

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    1. Thanks Diane. Glad to know I'm not the only one thinking about trade publishing in this way. :-)

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