Welcome to the (un)official site for science-fiction and fantasy writer Bryan R. Durkin!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing Environment

As with so many things when it comes to writing, the sort of writing environment that will work for you will vary for each person. So it's important to keep in mind that when I talk about "what works," I'm speaking from my own experience, and maybe the comments of a few fellow writers here and there. It's by no means universal advice or a set of rules that you must follow.

I'm a guy who's fairly easily distracted. I wouldn't have it any other way. Four years in the Navy, four years as a wildland firefighter, and nine months as a defensive handgun instructor have taught me situational awareness at all times. The slightest noise or flash of movement catches my attention. I may not be 100% focused on it, but I'll know it's there and I'll be keeping an eye on it--whether I want to or not. This habit keeps me safe and aware. It also distracts the heck out of me when I'm trying to write.

Everyone is different when it comes to their attention span and their ability to focus on a particular task. Writing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but when it comes to your writing environment, I believe you sort of have to approach it as if it were homework. Determine what kind of person you are when it comes to attention span and focus. Are you easily distracted? Can you effectively multitask or does doing multiple things decrease the quality of your work? Can you focus 100% on one thing and one thing only, even if bombs are going off in the street?

We all want to write the best we can; that's why I believe it's important to ask yourself these kinds of questions. For many of us, writing may be just a hobby. We've got "real" jobs, and maybe a family to take care of and spend time with. But if we're serious about our writing and we want to make the best end product possible, we can't approach our commitment to that quality lightly. We have to take it seriously. We have to determine what sort of environment works best for us when we're writing.

For me, that means a relatively isolated environment. It means I'm in my room with my door closed. It means I don't have the TV on and I'm not hanging out with friends on a chat channel somewhere. I'm not watching videos on YouTube. I'm not checking Facebook. The only things open on my computer are the files pertaining to the particular piece I'm working on. I probably have music playing, but it's most likely music that inspires me for the piece (we'll get into things that inspire me in another post). This sort of environment is admittedly somewhat boring. But that's the point. It allows me to shift my focus to my writing, which gives me to opportunity to put forth my best effort. And trust me, I can definitely see the difference in my writing between the times I was focused, and the times I was not.

I encourage all my fellow writers to take a moment and look at the environments they're in when they're writing. Figure out what works best for you. Do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Sometimes people claim they just don't know what to write, or they've got writer's block. In my experience, an environment that's not conducive to writing can sometimes be the culprit.

See you next time!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing Productivity Tips

I frequently browse the Absolute Write Water Cooler for a variety of reasons, mostly selfish ones (i.e. I want to learn something new that will help me in my attempt to establish a writing career). But every now and then, I find someone who's been in a situation similar to mine, and I get to offer my two cents' worth of advice.

Please note, I'm not claiming to be an expert here. I'm still VERY much learning how to be a good writer, and I don't really have much in the way of publishing credentials under my belt. That said, I've been writing seriously (working toward the goal of professional publication) for several years now, which is longer than many people.

So, in keeping with the theme I've been trying to establish over the past few posts, here are a few tips I offered someone the other day, when they asked how they could measure their productivity and continue to make forward progress with their work. This is by no means "expert advice," but it's worked for me over the years.

"Each person will measure "productivity" in different ways. As each one of us are different people, so each one of us will be different writers. Our level of "productivity" will vary.

For now, don't worry about "getting published." For every writer who's just starting out (and yes, having just finished your first novel, you're still just starting out), that's a long ways down the road. Realizing that can be discouraging. So don't focus on that. Some tips:

1.) You don't have to write every single day. In fact, I would advise NOT writing every single day. Your brain/mind/imagination needs a break every now and then. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations will burn you out in short order.

2.) With the above in mind, you SHOULD try to formulate some sort of writing schedule. It doesn't have to be super ambitious to start with. Figure out what time of the day works best for you, and allot yourself a certain amount of time to write. Or, you can establish a word count goal. You may not achieve this goal every single time. That's okay. The main thing is, you got SOMETHING done.

3.) Stick to your schedule, as closely as you can with normal, everyday life. If you've already done your writing for the day, don't feel pressured to go back and write MORE. On the flip side, if you haven't done your writing for the day, you really should sit down and hack out at least a couple hundred words. You may not feel like it at the time (I frequently don't), but after you do it, you'll feel better for having done it. Also, you'll likely be more motivated to do it the next day.

Some people disagree with me on this point. "If I don't feel like writing, I can't force it. Whatever I write will be junk." Hey, let's face it, everything we write on a first draft is going to need revision ANYWAY, whether we forced it or we were the most inspired we've ever been. At least now you have it ON PAPER and that gives you something to work with.

4.) Find what motivates you to keep your schedule. For me, I keep track of how long I worked on my WIP each day, how many words I wrote, and how close I am to my final word count goal. Why? I'm motivated by charting my progress. I can SEE that I'm making ground, even when it may feel like I'm spinning my wheels. "Yesterday I was 53% of the way there. Today I'm 55% of the way there." May not seem like much. But don't worry. Tomorrow it'll be 56% or more!

I hope these tips help. They've worked for me. I've finished two novels and am working on a third, not to mention numerous attempts at query letters and synopsis writing. I've also finished a couple shorts. People are reading my stuff, so even though I'm not yet "professionally" published, it's progress!"

That's it for this time. Thanks for reading!