Writing tips

Writing the final book.

betrayed by the ocean teaser

I was going to write this as a Facebook post because that's just my platform of choice, but then a nagging little voice in the back of my head started whispering, "If you have something to say, blog it!" So that's what I'm doing.

If you follow me on some form of social media you probably know I'm working on the third book of the Ocean series. The final book. The book that says goodbye to all those characters I've spent so many years with. Really, it's going on eight years since I first "met" them in Heart Like an Ocean

I've heard plenty of authors say that the third book in a trilogy is the hardest. I just smiled, nodded, and told them to finish writing so I could read it. Those authors found very little sympathy with me, especially if I had been waiting for their book lol.

But now I find myself in those shoes. The ones you walk in to say goodbye to friends who have been in your life so long. Part of me wants to set the book aside and just never write it. Let the characters live on, whispering their stories in my ears as I fall asleep at night, or fold the laundry, or muck out the barn. If I don't finish, they'll stay. 

And then there's the paralyzing fear that I won't do right by them. I actually wrote 50,000 words of this book before, about 2 years ago, and scrapped every single word. I've never done that before. I know it was the right decision, because that story was junk, but it was also incredibly hard to just throw away that many words, that many hours of work, that entire journey that I had these characters take that was just... wrong. (Don't worry, the file is still on my hard drive in case I find a use for it. No written word is a waste).

So now I'm sitting here. Second try at writing this book. It's been dragging on for way too long and all I can think about is that the story isn't good enough. I'll never get the goodbye just right. I don't want to say goodbye.

And then I think, "Stop thinking, start writing."

Yes, that's my motto for first drafts, and it's time to start treating writing that terrifying and heartbreaking final book the same way. Yes, even that book.

So if you need me, I'll be in my writing cave. I've got writing to do.

Got Writer's Block? My Favorite Free Tool to Bust Through The Wall

image from: http://www.freeimages.com/browse.phtml?f=view&id=527839

image from: http://www.freeimages.com/browse.phtml?f=view&id=527839

If you've ever written anything, you've probably had a run-in with that pesky thing called writer's block.

For the past few weeks, I've been laid up with a badly sprained ankle and deep soft tissue bruising. With all this time to sit on my butt, you'd think that I'd be able to get all this writing done. But instead, the exact opposite happened. I felt blocked, actually, I kind of still do. 

It's no secret that everyone works better with deadlines. Often, when no deadline is present and I have nothing but time, I tend to feel something many people call "writer's block", but I call it a lack of motivation. Here is where you can debate the actual existence of this malady--I know a few authors who say it absolutely does not exist. LOL.

That lack of motivation can quickly eat up all this time I had to write, and replace it with me scrambling to get things done. If you're anything like me, you don't enjoy that feeling.

That's where this handly FREE tool comes in. It's an online program called Final Deadline, and it's what I use to kickstart my motivation and force myself to bust right through that supposed "writer's block". 

Final Deadline is a fairly simple concept. It's a text box where you type, and you can set your "taskmaster" to a set amount of time that you have to write for, and a permisible idle time before the taskmaster starts to get after you by way of blaring horns and sirens out of your speakers. I like to set mine for 20 minutes of non-stop writing, with an allowed idle time of 10 seconds. Once my 20 minutes is up, I copy and paste it down into my word document and either call it quits for the day, or take a short break and then start another 20 minutes.

final deadline christine steendam

Maybe you're wondering how beneficial this is. Well, here's the thing. Sitting around and waiting is not going to break through your writer's block. There are many different ways to do it. Sometimes getting busy, taking a walk, going for a drive...etc... will let that story get flowing again. But what happens when those things don't work? That's when the "job" aspect of being a writer comes in and you force yourself to just SIT DOWN AND WRITE. Final Deadline is just that annoying person who tells you to keep writing when you get distracted.

This is for first drafts, and it's a great tool that falls under my writing philosophy of "stop thinking, start writing"...

There are a lot of other ways to utilize Final Deadline, including project goals and reminder emails...etc... So I definitely recommend exploring the site a little.

Check out Final Deadline HERE and let me know what you think in the comments below. Or, comment with your favorite writer's block busting technique or tool. I'd love to hear from you :)

You can follow my adventures through my newsletter, where I share exclusive sneak peeks, stories, and giveaways. Think of it as the VIP club: http://eepurl.com/UKdW9

Thanks for reading,

Christine Steendam




Stop thinking, start writing: The End

Image from: http://www.freeimages.com/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1078432

Image from: http://www.freeimages.com/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1078432

This is the start of my "stop thinking, start writing" series. I was on Facebook a while back (okay, I'm always on Facebook) when a friend of mine posted about thinking about stories. So I commented "stop thinking! Start writing!" Now you might think this is a counterintuitive piece of advice, but I disagree. Yes, we need to think while we write, but the thinking I'm referring to is being stuck in a rut of thinking, thinking, thinking and never really writing your story.

I take the stop thinking, start writing approach in my own writing. I do what I call mind mapping to get a general sense of the story, and then, once I have an outline, I start writing. I don't allow myself to sit and think anymore. The story just needs to get out on paper and I'll revise after it's all done.

And that brings me to endings, or 'The End' as I call it in the title of this blog post.

Endings are particularly hard for me. I know where the story has to go for it to end, but I tend to just keep writing and writing and writing until finally I hit that point. The problem is, there is a lot of fluff. This isn't necessarily bad for a rough draft, though. It enables me to write every nuance of the story, close up every loose end, and answer every question. But it can't stay that way; it's rambling and doesn't leave the readers with any conclusions to draw on their own.

This falls under the "Stop thinking, start writing" idea. To finish a story, you need to stop thinking about that perfect ending and just start writing every nuance of the story. Once that's all done, then you can really look at it, really think about it, and figure out what needs to stay and what needs to go. I call this "going surgical". But that's a topic for another day.

In Heart Like an OceanI cut out 10,000 words from the ending in the final draft.

In Unforgiving Plains I cut out nearly 5,000 words.

Obviously this approach isn't going to be right for everyone. Some people plot everything out and think out the entire story, some people are going to be more like me. The point of me sharing this process is to let you know that you don't always have to plot out the  perfect story before finishing it. Finishing is the most important step, perfecting it comes second.

And as an example of a first draft ending and a second draft ending, here's a short story. Now both of these are rough, but the first one is the "stop thinking, start writing" approach, and the second is "going surgical". These aren't two different approaches to writing an editing, rather think of it as step 1 and step 2.

Pain shoots through my head, and it feels like it's going to split open. But pain is good, right? It means I'm alive.

I open my eyes to the blinding desert sun.

"Don't sit up."

I turn my head and my vision goes white. Too fast. I close my eyes and stretch my eyebrows up as I open them again to see Alex sitting there.

I know her name!

Alex, my girlfriend.

"I reach up, touching the bandage on my head where she'd shot me.

"Care to explain?"

"We were caught breaking into the facility."

I nod slowly. "Yes, I remember now."

"You let them take you so that I could get away. I kept an eye on you though, Jim. I needed to make sure you were okay."

"What did they do? It's like I lived two lives..." I trail off.

"You did. They implanted you with the very software we were trying to get rid of. They gave you a new name, new life, and new memories."

"Bob, 30 years old, single, pet dog," I rattle off. I know these facts all too well. I've been living them.

"But I'm not Bob."

Alex shook her head.

"I'm Jim. So how did I end up here?"

"I think you've known, for a while now. The visions of the hall. They were haunting you. I've heard you call out at night, call my name. It's like you could remember while you were sleeping, like your memories were fighting to come free."

"You watched me sleep?"

"I monitored you." she reaches out and takes my hand. "Well, I hacked into their monitors. They know everything about you. Your pulse every second, your brain activity, everything you say or do. They know it all, and so I knew it all."

“They knew I was dreaming about the hall, about the night they took me,” I breathe out.

She nods. “I tried to get you out, but I couldn’t get to you fast enough. They must have drugged your food or something. Next thing I know, you’re in the desert of banishment and they’re putting out a call for hunters.”

“You shot me.”

“I had to! I had to destroy the part of the brain that was Bob. He needed to die so that you could live.”

“it’s not over though, is it?”

She shook her head.

“They’ll know I didn’t die. They’ll know you failed.”

She nodded.

“There must be others, like me.”

“I think so.”

I sit up, supporting myself with my hands pressed against the sand. “We have to go.”

“Go where? We need to run, Jim. We need to get out of here. There’s places we can go, places we’ll be safe.”

“We’ll be safe, and how many others like me, with fake memories and a past that the government doesn’t want remembered?”

“It’s not our problem.”

I smile, standing up. “It is now.”

I turn around, looking up into the sky. Arcadia is to the east, and the sun is just rising to my left. I place one foot in front of the other and begin to walk.

The second pass, the surgical approach, is much shorter, but it also doesn't tell the reader so much. It has more oomph to it and leaves the reader thinking about the story, and who this Jim/Bob person is.

Pain thuds through my head in sync with the beating of my pulse. But pain is good, right? It means I'm alive.

Memories seem to flash before my eyes like a movie in fast forward. I see the hall, the hunter, people from a past life. I’ve been in this desert before… I’ve been banished before…

I blink a few times, the bright morning sun binding me. As my vision clears, the Hunter comes into focus. She stands over me, holding out her hand. My heartrate remains steady.

"Are you ready?"

I nod, accepting her hand and letting her pull me to my feet.

Gone is the fear and confusion. I'm left with calm and determination. I know who I am, and I know what I must do.

We turn in the direction of the rising sun, the Hunter and I, and I place one foot in front of the other.

* * *

I stand in the hall, the hall that has haunted my dreams, both waking and asleep. It stretches before me, white and sterile. The lights flicker overhead just as I remember, giving the place an eerie feel; like it’s not quite in this worlds, but not quite out of it either.

I look over to the Hunter and she gives me a nod. My hand grips the cool metal of the gun on my hand and raises it.

No one will ever take my memory again. No one will ever change who I am.

Footsteps echo through the corridor, approaching us, but we stand our ground, feet planted hip width apart, firm and unmoving.

The footsteps come closer, until a body appears around the corner. He seems to stop at the sight of me.


“Bob is dead,” I grind out, my finger squeezing the trigger. “Jim has been resurrected.”


“And I’m coming for you. I’m coming for you all.”

So, which one do you like better?

You can follow my adventures through my newsletter, where I share exclusive sneak peeks, stories, and giveaways. Think of it as the VIP club: http://eepurl.com/UKdW9

Thanks for reading,

Christine Steendam