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The Importance of Staying Focused.

When you're writing, it's easy for me to get distracted.

I'm not just talking about the Internet and family and work and everything else that can come up while you're at your notebook and keyboard, although that's also a danger for distraction.

I'm talking about with other stories.

I'm currently 30k words into my new novel. It's a fantasy epic and I'm probably not even a third of the way through the book. I know there's a lot of hard work coming to get it finished and there's a lot of words I'm going to need to write. I'm still passionate about it and I love it. The setting is fascinating, I'm really happy with the characters, and as far as story and action it might be the most exciting thing I've ever written.

But I'm a writer. I have lots of ideas. Ideas tumble out of my head a dozen a day, at least. And some of them are, I think, really good. Some of them are so good I get really excited about them. And now, as I'm slogging through the hardest part of a novel for me, the middle, my mind is starting to wander about possibilities about other books in completely different settings. I'm writing fantasy, so naturally my brain would rather be writing a science fiction story. I'm writing prose, so I brainstorm a screenplay I want to write. There are a lot of projects I can work on, but the trick is learning how to stick to one until it's done.

Neil Gaiman said, "You have to finish things. That's what you learn from, finishing things"

And I think that's 100% true. I've learned so much every time I finish a project, because I know what to look for the next time I'm starting a story and not make the same mistake twice. So even though my mind is wandering, I have to force myself to stay focused on this project in order to finish it. There are writers who can write only when the fancy strikes them and they'll do okay, but I'm not one of them. Mickey Spillane was one of them.

I interviewed Max Allan Collins about Spillane's process, he talked about how Spillane could only work on things in the white heat of passion and would abandon it if it couldn't keep his attention. He left scores of manuscripts behind for people like Max Allan Collins to finish, which is fine if you're Mickey Spillane, but no one will want to come back and finish my manuscripts after I'm gone. So I have to finish everything.

So how do I cope?

This is why I write in my notebook every morning as a warm up to my prose writing. I put all these ideas down on paper so I don't lose them. And when I don't write them down, I DO lose them, no matter how good they are.

This process allows me to modestly explore the ideas, fuel more creativity, and put them down in a place that will allow me to explore them later.

Maybe it's not the best system, but it's certainly effective in keeping me on track.

As for my writing, I've been hard at work on two different mystery projects that I'm not allowed to talk about yet. And I've been plugging away on my fantasy novel. I've been working on revisions for the Aeronaut as well. I think it's finally getting there. Calculating it out, I've written every day for last 45 days and have averaged 1,626 words per day across each of these projects. It's the most consistently prolific I might have ever been and I hope to keep this pace up in perpetuity.

I was also interviewed by Holly Frey from Stuff You Missed in History about my book in advance of our live event. It's about "A Children's Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination" and you should watch it:



Then we have our regular reading event at the downtown Salt Lake City Library tomorrow night. Write Out Loud! is a chance for writers to get together and read their own work and get a little bit of constructive criticism, but it's also a place for readers to gather and have stories read to them.  Here are the details.

If you haven't already picked up a copy, this is a reminder that I have a new short story in the Silence in the Library Anthology "Contact Light." It's now available in paperback as well as digital. 

I've also had a new piece come out for StarWars.Com. This time I take a look at how Charlie Chaplin and his film "The Kid" had an influence on Star Wars, in particular my favorite Gungan, Jar Jar Binks. Read that piece here and be sure to let me know what you think, so long as you remain civil.

That's it for this week.  As far as my work outside of all this: I'm keeping busy for Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith. 

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