Are you plotter, or a pantser? A sitter or a stander? Do you type your stories or dictate them? Would you believe, in this day and age, there are writers, Clive Barker, for instance, who still write their novels longhand, and do an edit when they’re inputting it into a computer?

And they’re absolutely right in doing it that way. So are the writers who wouldn’t dream of writing longhand. So are the ones who dictate their work into their phone. So are the ones who write while walking on a treadmill desk.

They’re all correct in their approach to writing, because they’re doing what works for THEM.

I know how confusing it can be, when you’re starting out, to figure out what works for you, and you’ll try a dozen different methods before landing on the ONE. And I’ve been through many of them. I’ve written longhand, I’ve plotted and pantsed. I’ve never written standing up, but I’ve often taken walks and thought about what I was going to write. I still haven’t dictated my words, and I don’t see that happening. It’s just not how I work. But if you want to try it, that’s your choice.

You’re going to go through a number of different approaches, and every time you learn of a new way, you’re going to want to try it. That’s an excellent idea. Try them all. But never insist there is only ONE way to write, to compose, to paint, or whatever. There are as many approaches as there are art forms and every one of them works for SOMEONE.

So don’t feel hindered by one way of doing things just because that’s how “best selling author” does it. That works for them, do what works for YOU.

 

Sometimes we dream too small and it leads us nowhere.

I had a week off work, 7 days with nothing to do but write. If that’s what I wanted.

Now, I didn’t want to spend the ENTIRE day writing–a lie, I really did, but I also had other stuff I wanted to get done on my week off–but I did want to use that time to do something AMBITIOUS.

So I did. Normally my writing routine is to work on one thing at a time, rotating between projects every week. But this time I figured I’ve got the week off, why not work on ALL of them this week? Could I do 1000 words a day–my usual daily word goal–on all four current works in progress? Sounds tough, but not impossible. And anyway, if I pull this off, I’ll have proved something very important to myself: that I could do it.

See, some days those 1000 words come easy, but some days they’re like pulling teeth with no Novocain and it’s all I can do to eek out exactly 1000 words. Some days I don’t even make that. But this one week I was determined to do it. And if I missed it one day, as long as, at the end of that week off I had 20,000 new words written, I would consider it a success.

Know what happened?

I made it. It took writing the last 2000 words on Saturday, a day I had originally planned to give myself off, but I did it. Twenty. Thousand. Words. In SIX days instead of five, but I still got it done.

For someone like me who also has a day job–night job; I work second shift–to even consider writing so many words in a week feels impossible. It feels like the kind of thing you say “yeah, one day,” but then one day never comes because, holy crap there’s no way.

As artists, creators, the day we stop indulging in our ambitions, that’s the day we might as well stop creating at all. It was our ambitions that led us to picking up the pen in the first place, or the keyboard, or the instrument, or the microphone. It’s ambition that guides us every day when we sit down to work on our art.

We must learn to trust those ambitions and indulge them when they speak up, because it’s those ambitions that show us what we’re capable of. I never would have believe I could do 20,000 words in a week. If told I could do it, I’d have said something like, “Oh, yeah, I could make a good start of it, but I don’t see being able to maintain it for a whole week.” But then once I got the idea, and let it grow and grow over a couple of weeks, the ambition grew, the goal began to form, and by the time I got to that week off work, I knew I was going to do it. I’d built it up so big in my head by then, I knew I HAD to. Why? Because I learned years ago to trust my ambitions, listen to them and let them guide me to where I’m supposed to be.

Hell, if I’d listened to my head back in high school, I would have continued in my computer programming classes and MAYBE gotten a decent job in computers. But at the time I already knew my heart wasn’t in it, that I was just taking those classes because I’d heard programmers made good money and, at the time, there was really nothing I wanted to do with my life.

Then one day I got the idea to try writing this story that had been in my head for a few weeks before, and soon the idea turned into an obsession and that obsession turned into an ambition: to be a writer.

I followed that dream and I’m still following it and I honestly can’t imagine having taken any other path in life.

So live ambitiously, dream of things you never thought you’d do, and then do them.

For the longest time, YEARS, every time someone found out I was a writer, the next question was always, “Oh? What do you write?”

And like a wimp, I always shrugged it off and gave a vague, evasive answer. Oh, you know, little bit of everything.

Which wasn’t a lie. In addition to horror, I write reviews, I have written poetry. I have several comic book scripts, and even a play tucked away in a safe place away from prying eyes. But horror has always always always been my first and most important love. If I was told I could only write in one genre for the rest of my life, there wouldn’t even be a hesitation: horror.

But I always dodged the question and gave a very … ambiguous answer. A little bit of everything.

Why did I do that? Was I ashamed of being a horror writer? Surely not! Was I?

To be fair, I only said this when a normie would ask me that question. If it was a horror fan, I had no problem admitting the dirty truth. I’m a horror writer. But just someone off the street?

I was out to lunch with my ex wife one day–we were still married at the time, so it wasn’t weird–and I was wearing my “I’d Rather Be Writing” t-shirt. I’ve had this shirt for years, didn’t even give a second thought to wearing it out to lunch. This guy gets up from his table and, as he’s leaving, stops by and asks, “What do you write?”

A little bit of everything.

DAMMIT! I did it again.

When it would have been so easy to just say, “I’m a horror writer.” It’s even easier to say; it’s one word less than my usual answer.

And I wonder how many others out there do the same thing. What kind of movies do you make? What kind of music do you play? What do you write?

Oh, you know, this and that, little bit of everything.

I’ve gotten over it and now I don’t hesitate to say I’m a horror writer. And I admit it took some time and courage because outside of the horror community, the genre just has such a … cheap feel. But still, man, there’s nothing I’d rather write for the rest of my life.

When you’re trying to make a name and a life for yourself with your art, ambiguity is not your friend. And yeah yeah, there’s always that one that has to claim I love ALL genres. Sure you do. We all do. But if it came down to it and you could only work in one genre and God said pick? That’s your genre. Own it.

An audience who doesn’t know you is going to find you because they like a particular thing. I have found dozens of horror authors I fell in love with, because I love horror and was looking for horror. I just happened to find these authors I never would have heard of otherwise because they were in the horror section. So don’t shy away from the thing you love and want to do. Embrace it.

Make a show of it. You can see it on the homepage of my website, C. DENNIS MOORE–HORROR AUTHOR. I may have spent the majority of 2018 writing a serialized super hero story and not a lot of horror at all, but it’s still my number one right up front.

I’m proud to be a horror writer. But in my years writing, I’ve come across a number of horror writers who insist that’s not what they do. They do “a little bit of everything.” I’d list their names for you, but you’ve not heard of them. And you probably won’t because in their quest to distance themselves from this wonderful genre, or from ANY genre, they’ve released a mish-mash of stories that confuses readers.

Chances are VERY good if you’re reading my fiction, it’s most likely horror–last year’s production notwithstanding. Chances are very good if you read a Stephen King novel, it’s going to be a horror novel. Chances are very good if you read an Ed Lee novel, it’s going to be a horror novel. Not that I’m equating myself with those guys, they’re masters of the genre.

But, when I want to read some horror, I know who to go to because the authors I read aren’t wishy washy when it comes to what they do. They write horror. And I don’t want to turn this into a discussion about the validity or pitfalls of genre-hopping, I love genre-hopping. But at the end of the day, no matter how many super hero stories or love poems I write, I am a horror writer.

Period. End of discussion.

Yes, I want to play in every genre there is, I want to write in every style, I would love to be known as a great writer no matter what comes out of my head. But first and foremost, I want to be known as a great HORROR writer.

And so that is where my focus lies, and where my current goals are leading. How specific are your goals? Are you just hoping to be a great filmmaker, or do you want to make the funniest comedies ever released? Or the most exciting westerns? Do you want to make music, or do you want to record the best heavy metal tunes around?

If there’s a genre you like, don’t deny it. Genres are how our audience finds us, especially when we’re still unknown to the general populace. No one saw STAR WARS because they were after the next George Lucas movie at the time. They saw science fiction space opera and that’s what drew them in.

Find your genre. Own it. Live it. And then make in synonymous with you.

Let me ask you something, when you set your goals, how high did you aim? I know, I always say to set realistic goals, but when you did it, did you go for realistic in the sense that you’ve performed at that level before so you already know you can? Or did you set realistic goals that you know you CAN meet, but it’s going to take a little work and, in the end, you’re going to come out of the process a stronger, more confident person?

I’m gonna guess it was the former. And there’s no shame in that. We’re fragile creatures, we don’t react well to pain, and setting a goal we know we can’t reach, and then living with the inevitable disappointment of being right, that can hurt.

But what if you set that higher goal and you met it? My God, what a world that would be, huh? I’m not saying set impossible goals, we’re still determined to set goals we know we can reach. But if there’s a goal you know you could hit, but it would be a struggle … imagine hitting that one?

That’s the thing with people, sometimes our vision is higher than our aim. We can SEE that lofty goal, but nah, that would be too hard, we’ll just settle for this mid-range goal instead. That’ll be good enough, right?

Well, sure, it WOULD be good enough. If you want to be like everyone else.

Or you could aim higher and really accomplish something. Set those goals, and set them so you can achieve them, but don’t make it easy on yourself. Sidney Sheldon said “It is an unfortunate fact that too many writers–like too many people in other fields–are satisfied with less than their best.”

Ain’t it the truth? So many people are happy to live a C average life. But what’s the fun in that?

Aim high, then do what it takes to achieve that level, and WHEN you reach it, believe me, you’re going to feel so much better about yourself. In fact, it could very well change everything. Like Tyler Durden said, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

Also, “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.”

Suck it up, aim higher, and go kick some ass.

An affectation is defined as “behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress.” And we’ve all been guilty of it. Luckily, for most of us, we only did this in the beginning, before we found our voice.

I remember a time, in my first year of writing, when I would scour the thesaurus, looking for the word that made me look like I knew what I was talking about. I once used “stentorious” in a story because I thought it sounded impressive. It didn’t. Eventually I replaced it with “loud”, which means the same thing and doesn’t require a dictionary to be in the reader’s back pocket. Also, it made me look like less of douche.

Avoid affectations in your art at all cost. So what if you don’t think your work measures up to the masters in your field yet. Neither did they when they started, but they got there, through hard work, commitment to the art, and discipline. I see this in a lot of cooking shows, especially ones with Gordon Ramsey’s name on them. These young chefs trying to impress the master with fancy plating or weird ingredient combinations but missing the most IMPORTANT ingredient: them.

Affectations are nothing more than you trying to be someone you’re not. And everyone else can tell when you’re doing it, whether it’s writing the most “extreme” horror you can imagine (which is usually not very imaginative, to be honest), or putting on a cheap smile in the face of impossible conditions and hoping a good attitude will see you through.

I see this particular one a LOT in my daily life. You should see the number of people at work who smile and say “it’s not so bad” when we end up working that “emergency 12 hour shift” or the guy who says he’s going to bid out because he doesn’t like the conditions when two weeks ago he was angling for that team lead job he didn’t get.

Rejection sucks, we can all admit it. But the thing to do with rejection isn’t to pretend it doesn’t bother you, that you’re perfectly content when your book didn’t sell in the numbers you’d hoped it would or connect with an audience as quickly. Instead we have to, not necessarily embrace rejection, but definitely admit it. I’ve got over twice as many rejection slips for my fiction as I do acceptance letters. And they all sucked. But I didn’t pretend it was all okay. Instead I took that, accepted it and admitted that it hurt, and I used that to help me try to write a better story next time, while resubmitting the rejected one, sure that somewhere out there was an editor who would appreciate it.

Believe me, it’s ok to care, and it’s ok to be yourself. Because in years to come when people know your name and audiences are waiting for that next release, YOU are the person they’re coming back for, and in the long run YOU are the only thing that is sustainable in your art. I used to try to copy Bradbury or Barker in my prose, but that becomes exhausting because it’s not ME. Eventually I had to learn to put away those affectations and just write as myself; it was the only way I could keep writing day after day. When you strip away those affectations and be the best YOU that you can be, that’s when you’ve found your voice, and THAT is when your art really starts to shine and people start to notice.

Last week we talked about adjectives. YOUR adjectives, more specifically, and what words you wanted people to use when describing you. This week we’ll take a look at the other A-word: adverbs.

Everyone says you shouldn’t use them, but everyone does. And sometimes adverbs can work to your advantage. Obviously, I’m not talking about in your writing. I mean in life. In goals.

Adverbs can help to add a little flavor and mood to your goals if, instead of saying, “I will finish my new novel in 90 days,” you say, “I will EASILY finish my new novel in 90 days.” Or, “I will HAPPILY write 1000 words every day.” Or “I will eagerly get on that treadmill every morning.”

Sometimes stating what you’re going to do isn’t enough and you need to give yourself a boost. What other adverbs can you use to motivate yourself everyday and keep on top of your goals?

Effortlessly is great one. I will effortlessly learn a new song on the guitar in February.

I will gladly put away some of my check into a savings account every payday.

Enthusiastically. Readily. Cheerfully. Whatever word it takes to help you face those goals every day without letting the weight of them tear you down. Use them, that’s what they’re there for. Whatever it takes to achieve your goals, use the tools at your disposal. Even adverbs.

When you think adjectives, what comes to mind? I don’t mean like a RED house or PURPLE rain or AMAZING Spider-Man or FANTASTIC four. I mean personally, I mean for you.

When you think of yourself and your work, when you think of your goals and the life you want to build, what adjectives do you see being associated with that person?

Personally, I’d like to see myself described as “committed,” “devoted”, “determined.” But the only way anyone will ever associate these words with me is if I live up to them.

I’ve been writing since 1991 and I didn’t publish my first story until Summer 1999, and I didn’t make any serious money from my fiction until 2013. But I kept going, at my desk almost every day of the year for at least two hours, writing, trying, working.

It wasn’t always easy and, yes, sometimes that urge to just say to hell with it was strong. But I never did it. Because I knew back in 1991 when I wrote my first real story, this was it, this was me, I was a writer. The only thing to do then was to write, and to keep on writing.

Eventually, I believed, something would happen and I would see my fiction in print.

But first I had to commit, I had to devote myself to writing, I had to be determined to make this work.

The problem with this, though, is that, once you start, with the intention of being seen as committed, devoted and determined … you can’t stop. Because once you do, you’re none of those things, you’re a quitter. And who wants THAT word hanging over their head? It’s not even an adjective, Quitter is a noun and it’s no longer a word used to describe what KIND of person you are, it’s now ALL you are.

Him? Oh yeah, he used to write, he seemed pretty committed for a while. What happened? Oh, he quit. He’s a quitter.

This goes for all of your goals, no matter what they are. Once you’ve determined your goals and mapped out how you’re going to achieve them, what adjectives to you want being used to describe you in association with those goals? Committed? Devoted? Determined? Or better still, Successful?

Or are you, in the end, just going to be another quitter? The world is lousy with quitters. Everyone has quit something in their life. But how many people do you know, by name, who are real winners, living the life they set out to live through sheer commitment, devotion and determination?

Be one of those guys. Once you decide on your goals, keep going, one day at a time, one step at a time, until you come through the other end a success.

So you’ve set your goals for the coming year, month, week, your goal for the day. What next? When is it time to start taking action?

RIGHT AWAY!

The very first thing you do when deciding on a goal is to take IMMEDIATE action to meet that goal.

I’m not saying you have to stop everything and devote all of your time and attention to it right now, I’m just saying take a step, one step, ANY step to get you to that goal.

A goal you aren’t taking action on isn’t a goal, it’s a wish. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, isn’t that what “they” say?

Any goal that’s just sitting in your planner or on your white board or wherever you write your goals down (you DO write you goals down, right???) that you haven’t taken any action on is a goal you aren’t going to meet.

Several months ago I decided I wanted to start collecting as many of the comics that came out the month I was born (October 1972) as I could find. That’s a tall order, though, and I wasn’t in a position to order them all right away. But that didn’t stop me from taking a step toward it. I googled “Comic books released October 1972“, which led me to a direct link on MyComicShop.com. I bookmarked the link and now I have a full list of comics cover dated October 1972. It wasn’t a huge step, but it was a step, something solid I could look at and know I was that much closer to reaching the goal because it’s not just a fancy idea flitting about in my head. It’s concrete. I can click on the link and immediately see the list and if I can see the list, I can make a plan. I can look ahead and see what comics are next on the list that I can afford. When I get paid, I can determine if there’s money left over to buy one of these issues.

It will take a while–it’s a LONG list–but the steps are in place and, one by one, I will achieve this goal. Because when I got the idea and decided to make it a reality, I took immediate ACTION.

So when you set your goals, when you decide something is important enough to you to be a reality as opposed to a lofty idea, take one step toward the realization of it, one step to set you on the path to completion. Every journey begins with one step, and that one step can, and will, make all the difference in living the life you dream of.

Voltaire’s line about “One should always aim at being interesting, rather than exact” does not apply to all aspects of life.

In writing?  Sure. I’d rather read an interesting book that fudges some details over one that compromises the plot in favor of realism.

But we’re not about the writing here.  Not about the details of the writing, anyway, the content.  That’s on you. What we do here is help you specify and achieve your goals in a realistic and repeatable manner.  And to do that, we need to be exact.

What was the last goal you set?  Lose weight? Eat better? Save money?

All worthwhile goals, but how do you know when you’ve achieved them?  Skip dinner and you could wake up tomorrow to find you’d lost a pound.  Goal met. Oh, you meant you wanted to lose a significant amount of weight.  Well, what’s a significant amount? What’s “significant” to you might be all in a week’s workouts to me.  Have rice with dinner instead of greasy fries and you’ve officially eaten better. Buy generic instead of name brand and you’ve officially saved money.

But that’s not what you meant when you set those goals, was it?  Who can tell? You weren’t exact. You weren’t specific.

When setting goals we hope to actually ACHIEVE, we have to be as specific as possible.

I want to lose 20lbs.

I will cut out sugar from my diet.

I’ll put 10% of my paycheck into savings before I even see it.

These are specific, achievable goals.  But the work’s not done.

Because once you set the goal, you have to come up with a plan, a SPECIFIC plan, to meet it.

HOW will you lose that 20lbs?  What steps will you take? Working out?  Eating less? How quickly do you want to lose it?  Give yourself a deadline, deadlines are so important with goals.  Otherwise you could just keep going forever. I’m going to lose 20lbs.  When? Eventually.

This also applies to writing.

When you set your writing goals, BE SPECIFIC.  How specific? As specific as you can. How many stories do you want to write this year?  How many days can you devote to writing? How many words a day can you write?

The most effective way to make sure you achieve your writing goals is, oddly enough, with math.  People use this approach every year when they participate in NaNoWriMo. You’ve got 30 days to write 50,000 words, so how many words do you have to do a day?  1667. Or 12,500 words a week, however is easiest for you to measure.

I know from experience that sometimes that daily word goal gets away from you, so setting a weekly word goal can be even more helpful as it eases some of that daily pressure when life starts intruding on your writing time.

12,500 words a week for four weeks and you’ve got a novel.  And if you write 7 days a week, that’s 2000 words for six days and a measly 500 the last day.  But first you have to set the goal.

Now, obviously your goal isn’t going to be to write a novel a month for an entire year, so that 12,500 words a week word count is actually going to work out to something a lot more realistic.  Say you want to write a first draft in three months. Over 12 weeks, that means you’ve got to do 4167 words a week, or 834 words every day for five days.

Holy crap you could probably do that before you’ve even had coffee.  Think about it. 834 words a day. My daily goal when I’m writing new words is at least 1000 and anything over that are bonus words.  834 is cake. So if I set myself a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in three months, and I started on January 1st and wrote my usual 1000 words a day, even at only five days a week, I finish that first draft the first week of March, not the last week.  Goal not only met, but CRUSHED.

But first I have to SET the goal and be specific.  Telling myself, “My goal is to write a novel” means nothing if I don’t give myself the parameters within which to reach the goal.  I need a deadline and a plan. I’m going to write THESE days every week, at THESE times, and in that time on those days I’m going to write THIS many words.  That means that, within that allotted writing time, I’m not checking emails, I’m not taking phone calls, I’m not answering texts until that day’s words are done.  Maybe even use those emails and texts as a reward for having finished the day’s words. I’ve got a DVR full of shows I want to watch downstairs, but I’m not letting myself do it until I finish this blog post because I had written on my calendar for today “movie review and blog post.”  I finished the movie review a while ago, all I have left is this post and my day’s work is done.

The gist here is this: it’s not enough to tell yourself you’re going to do something.  Going to and DOING are two different things. Yeah, you’re GOING TO, but what action have you taken TODAY to move yourself closer to that goal?  Nothing? Then shove your “going to” up your anyway the important thing to remember when setting writing goals is this: BE SPECIFIC.

“I’m going to write a novel” means nothing.  “I’m going to write a novel in this amount of time”, now you’re talking.  Now you’ve got a serious goal you can reach, because you know how much work you have to get done within that amount of time.  From there it’s just the simplest of math to set yourself on the path to achieving this goal. Never set a vague goal. You won’t reach it.  Be specific and take action.

The most difficult goal in the world becomes  just a little easier, a little more feasible, when you’re specific.

(originally posted 11/1/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

Recently, in my efforts to make myself a better person, better artist, more productive and all around happier, I read Og Mandino’s books THE GREATEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD and THE GREATEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD II: The End of the Story. In it, Mandino lays down his “rules” of success. In the book, the reader is supposed to spend a month on each “scroll”, reading it three times every day for the entire month, before moving on to the next one, but the scrolls are actually longer than just their topic. Mandino goes into more detail than here, but I’m not going to copy word for word his books. Instead I decided to adopt a “version” of his lessons and use them as daily affirmations. And so far they’re working wonderfully.

So your assignment as a creative is to integrate these twenty affirmations into your morning ritual. You DO have a morning ritual, don’t you? If not, you better get one (contact me here and I can help you with that). They are as follows:

Today I begin a new life.

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

I will persist until I succeed.

I am nature’s greatest miracle.

I will live this day as if it is my last.

Today I will be master of my emotions.

I will laugh at the world.

Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.

My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible. I will act now.

Who is of so little faith that in a moment of great disaster or heartbreak has not called to his God?

Never again will I pity or belittle myself.

Never again will I greet the dawn without a map.

Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm.

Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul.

Always I will seek the seed of triumph in every adversity.

Never again will I perform any task at less than my best.

Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand.

Never again will I wait and hope for opportunity to embrace me.

Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day.

Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator.