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Posts Tagged ‘failure’

The Hardest Part of Writing

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

To a non-writer the act of sitting down and writing thousands of words seems more than a little daunting. I can remember the groaning of fellow students even in my MBA classes at the thought of having to write 500+ word essays. Heck, I’ve got a co-worker who once offered to pay me to write his quarterly company newsletter articles and those are only a couple of paragraphs! And no, I didn’t take him up on the offer, but not because I’m afraid of writing.

As any writer knows, writing the book is actually the easy part. What comes after, the publishing and marketing, is a far more grueling and difficult task. It’s not a matter of “if you write it, they will read.” Sure, we’d love for that to be the case, but if nobody knows it’s out there how could anyone possibly read it? That’s the tricky part. Tricky and, depending on how you go about it, expensive.

But all of those things still may not be the hardest part of writing. I’m sitting on a very complicated dilemma at this very moment while I’m finishing up a self-edit of my most recent fantasy novel, Child of Fate. I hope to finish the self-edit today then send it off to Lisa Shalek for content editing, then my proof reader, Faith Williams. And of course my favorite cover artist, Willsin Rowe. As excited as I am to get that book going I’m having a bit of a rough time. You see, in the back of my head I have two books fighting each other for the right to be heard, or at least read. Do I jump into the sequel for Child of Fate right away while it’s still fresh or do I step away and undertake another long overdue project?

What long overdue project? Well I’m glad you asked! It started out with some plans my wife and I have to go to Vegas without the kids in a couple of weeks. We’re meeting some friends out there and the plan is, for a night or two, to go clubbing. Now when I think of the word clubbing I flash back to either romance in the caveman era or being mugged in a dark alley. My wife corrected me and pointed out that I needed to be on my best behavior because if I let my irritation show on my face while waiting in line or in the club, I could very easily be asked to leave. I was thinking about this Friday night while my wife and I were out with a different couple (yes, we’ve got at least four friends). My wife and her friend were out dancing while the other guy and I were sitting there watching them. It was entertaining. Her words flashed into my head though, and that started an unexpected moment of inspiration.

I have a character in the books I’ve written that shares some traits with me. In him they are amplified to levels that are admirable. Sort of like the movie Braveheart where William Wallace is considered an uncompromising man and it’s a good thing. Well Carl, of Wanted / Ice Princess fame, would be just as annoyed or more so than I would be in such a situation, and he wouldn’t be upset to show it. Add in somebody putting their hands on him to escort him out and, well, it would get messy.

So with that scene in mind I chuckled, then I realized I might be on to something. Was this, at last, the segue into the third and final book in the Wanted series? I dug deeper and soon it just started pouting into my brain. I had a plot and a premise. I had scenes. I had ideas. Now all I need to do is write it out!

But I’m indecisive. When I wrote Wanted I got hung up for a long time on it. I ended up cutting back and dropping around 15,000 words at the end and rewriting the ending. My original plans lay shattered for the trilogy and I considered leaving it at just one book. Eventually I found inspiration to do Ice Princess, but I had a rough time with that one too throughout it. So now I’m nervous that the third one would be equally troubling. I’ve come a long ways as a writer since those books, but that doesn’t stop the fear of failure from creeping in.

Nonetheless, I think I’m going to proceed with the third Wanted book. Like I said, I’ll be in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks so what better time to write it then when I can do live research on the place where I plan for most of the book to happen in? Granted, it’s a very different Las Vegas. The third book will take place several years after Ice Princess has ended. The United States government has moved back in and reclaimed the western states from the neo-anarchy that plagued the world for several years, but their presence is limited and quite often quite martial. With all the sparks from that kind of environment going on what could be more fun than adding in a little gasoline?

Stay tuned, I’ll be sure to post progress as I get started on it. I’m not sure if I want to title the book “Sin City”, “Vegas”, or something else altogether. Not to worry, I’ll figure it out!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Fearing Failure

Many years ago one of those goofy email quizzes came my way where you’re supposed to answer these generic questions then send it on to x many of your friends to get to know them better. 99% of the time  sent them straight to my trash bin, but my wife (girlfriend at the time) sent me that I decided to do. The question that sticks out was what was my worst fear. It didn’t take much time to answer it honestly: I fear failing. My steadfast belief is that I’ll never fail anything in life for lack of trying.

The sands in my life’s hourglass have poured long enough that I’m either getting wiser or more cynical. I had a touch of a personal epiphany while writing Devil’s Icebox a couple of weeks ago. What I came to realize I posited as coming from the main character – and at the time it did – but it came from me as well.  I wrote about fear and personal limitations. Tonight in the gym I believe I ran head first into that very same inhibiting wall.

In my “prime” (before I tried to rip my arm off at the shoulder), I could bench press over 400 pounds. RAW. That means without assistance from a shirt. I never had the chance to prove it in a power lifting meet due to the aforementioned incident while attempting multiple reps at 415. My best squat was 475, again without a squat suit. These days, a little over two years later, I fluctuate between being able to bench 315 and 350lbs (I did 365 with my assistive bench shirt). I can still work up to my max in the deadlift (550), and I’ve come close to 475 in the squat, but that factors into what’s stopping me these days.

My head is stopping me, I think. Having been through a catastrophic injury I have a sense of mortality about my joints / muscles / bones / whatnot. I am afraid of doing the same thing or worse to myself. I’ve come a long ways but I can’t trick my brain into recruiting 110% like I used to. Without that extra oomph, I can’t get where I want to go. I can’t even make the same kinds of gains I used to make. Is it wisdom gained from mistakes that stops me, or is it fear that’s holding me back from achieving what I want to?

Whatever it is, it’s upsetting and disappointing. Perhaps it’s a flavor of what the high school football star who turned into a used car salesman feels. The flip side of the coin is that it only applies to extreme weight lifting and not my desire to branch out and try other things (case in point my wife wants to make sweet potato black bean quesadillas in the near future and thought it sounds rather unpleasant to me, I like to try new things). I’m afraid of tearing muscles in my legs so I don’t squat as hard as I should. I’m afraid or ripping a pec so I don’t push myself on the bench. I’m afraid of losing my balance and falling so I don’t power clean as much as I probably could. Quite honestly, it sucks. But at the same time, I’m still walking without a regular limp.

For tonight at least it’s back to writing. We’ll see what the gym brings the next time I bring it to the gym.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Expecting the Unexpected Journey

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

While The Hobbit wasn’t the first fantasy novel I read, it was near and dear to my adolescent heart. I think I’d even read the book at least 14 times before I was old enough to vote. Scary, I know, but it gets worse: I read The Hobbit to my daughter in a series of bedtime story episodes before she was three years old! We’re working our way through The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan, at the moment.

The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, was a bear for me – it was slow and boring. I think I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Silmarillion, first – and that betrays all common sense! If you’re not sure why, try reading it sometime and it’ll make sense.

I watched the cartoons for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings too. It’s a wonderful world with loads of opportunities for the imagination. With The Hobbit, Mr. Tolkien really nailed it, in my opinion. Good pace, a fun book, and he introduced many people to the possibilities of fantasy. He wasn’t the first to write such things, but he had the biggest market share at the time.

It’s ironic that Peter Jackson created The Lord of the Rings movies before The Hobbit. Tolkien did the same thing, but nobody would publish LoTR. So he wrote The Hobbit, which was accepted and published. With the groundwork laid out, The Lord of the Rings was a sequel, and sequels meant money. As much as the publishing industry is changing these days, some things stay the same. I have to admit, I’m excited at the prospect of watching The Hobbit next December. After watching the preview I’m even more stoked by it. Thorin Oakenshield even looks a little like a close friend of mine from childhood. In fact, if you’re reading this, Hi Dave!

For the writers out there that like to pick up bits and pieces of useful data from my blog, J.R.R. Tolkien is a fine example of a writer who went through the process so many of us do. He wrote something and failed at it. So he wrote something else and tried again. In writing the next book he took to heart what he’d learned from his failure and crafted a very enjoyable story. Enjoyable and successful. In my opinion anything he put out after The Hobbit was at best almost on the same level as The Hobbit was. His name had been elevated to the ranks of instant sales though, so he could have written an essay on how to repair plumbing, sprinkled in a little Sperethial (the language of the elves he created in Middle Earth), and had it published. I see a couple of lessons to be learned from studying Tolkien: Never give up and we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.

I’m trying to take that to heart and to learn as much as I can when I succeed as I do when I fail. It’s hard, but that’s why if we want to be successful in the business of writing we should always be trying new and different things. Never rest on your laurels, the wolf on the top isn’t nearly as hungry as the one climbing the mountain.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.