Friday, April 5, 2013

Guest Post by Sean Sousa

Finding the Right Writing Regimen

The life of a writer often involves a balance of two things: a creative mind free to wander into exciting story ideas, and a disciplined attitude that harnesses that creativity.

Often, these two qualities seem opposed to each other. If you wait to be creative, you may never get words on a page - but if you diligently choose a day and time to write, can you be creative on command?

In truth, the right kind of discipline is not limiting, but actually freeing, to our creativity. Here are several ways to finding the right balance in your writing schedule:

1.    Writer, know thyself. The more we understand how we’re wired, the less anxiety and confusion we feel when writing. When are you at your most relaxed and creative? Are you a morning person, a night owl, or something different? Answer those questions and you’ve got yourself a built-in time each day to write. If your daily schedule varies, you can be flexible, but keep your writing time as consistent as possible.

2.    Time is on your side. Now that you have a time of day nailed down to write, how long should you write for? This differs from writer to writer, but a good place to start is one hour. It allows for a solid chunk of time each day, but not so much that it crowds out other important things like rest, fun, social activities, exercise, etc. 

Limiting yourself to one hour works both ways – if your creativity is overflowing, you can finish your hour with something left in the tank for tomorrow. If it takes all you’ve got to slog through writing, the end of that hour is sweet relief!

Again, this can change if you can consistently write on more/less time – use it as a guideline and adjust to fit your style, just so long as it keeps you disciplined.

3.    The 20-Mile March. So you have a time of day and length of time picked out – but how much should you write in each session? I would recommend somewhere around 3 single-spaced pages, and here’s why:

In the early 20th century, two guys attempted to be the first to reach the South Pole in Antarctica – Amundson and Scott. Whereas Scott pushed his team to the limit on clear days and stayed put in inclement weather, Amundson instituted the “20-Mile March” – no matter the conditions, his team would travel 20 miles every day. On good days, they would finish with energy to spare, which came in mighty handy when they suffered through the 20 miles in blizzard conditions on other days. Both men made it to the South Pole, but only one made it first, and survived the trip back: Amundson. 

Just like limiting yourself to 1 hour, a 3-page limit is also a great daily goal. Why? Because on good days you avoid burnout, and on bad days you can see the end in sight. If you absolutely can’t contain your writing excitement, feel free to write 6 pages on a given day – but that doesn’t mean you can take the next day off. Three pages, every day, within that hour block, will leave you feeling accomplished.

4.    Working for the weekend? Generally, you would want to write three pages, in one hour, for five days a week. If you hit your writing stride and want to finish your literary work faster, you may consider including weekends on your regimen. However, weekends are generally meant for rest, and for good reason. If you start feeling stretched thin from writing 7 days a week, stick to weekdays. It may take a little time, but writing is a marathon, not a sprint: pacing yourself will make the process much more enjoyable for you and those around you.

5.    Feed your creativity. As important as it is to write – books, blog entries, articles, personal Haiku, etc. – it is vital to note that the richer your life experiences are, the better your writing will be. You may have heard the mantra, “write what you know,” and the more you live life, the more you’ll be able to draw from when you write. In addition to weekends, consider building chunks of time each day where you do things that recharge your batteries, so to speak.

Take a walk in the park. Go to a movie. Undertake a home improvement project. Chill with friends at a coffee shop. Sit in a chair and stare at a wall. Sleep like a hibernating bear. All of these things are a must to protect against the last point of this post...

6.    Be present. When we’re excited by stuff and spend a lot of time doing/thinking about it, it’s often hard to unplug from it while we’re carrying on with the rest of life.

For example, it might be cool if you were an astronaut and went to space for an important mission, but how enjoyable would it be for your friends and family if that’s all you ever talked about? They’d want to shoot you back into space.

You may have the best writing idea ever, and you may put it in the public’s hands and become the Bestselling Writer of Awesome, but what you accomplish isn’t as important as who you become in the process. Don’t be obsessed with, or defined by, your writing. Instead, be a respected, well-rounded person that just so happens to be a great writer.

Start with these suggestions, figure out how best you operate as a writer, and see just how liberating it can be when you set the right kinds of discipline for yourself. Happy writing, and as always, expect greater things ahead!

Sean Sousa is the author of The Forever Saga: Flash, an action & adventure/science fiction/fantasy novel. It currently has an rating of 4.7 and Sean was kind enough to share an excerpt with us.

                    Book Description:

Long ago, the first reign of Grigori Geist nearly destroyed the Earth.

Returned from exile, Geist is secretly rebuilding his kingdom beneath Antarctica, assembling his robotic Vaucan race to war against mankind. Only one obstacle remains: the war hero known as Brian Renney.

Yet Brian is losing a battle against his fears. Scars of heart and mind linger from his days in Vietnam, fueling his failures as husband and father. This embitters his youngest son, Jason – a star athlete torn between pursuing the love of his life, and meeting the demands of a father who is far from the storied army captain he once was. 
And all the while, Geist is coming for them.

In this dark hour, Brian and Jason encounter a war to end all others... and an unexpected ally who, once meant for evil, shall forever be a force for good.

Excerpt from The Forever Saga: Flash

Prince Ahya laid eyes upon his kingdom for the first time – and was desperate to escape it.

He observed his people – blissful yet enslaved, with no will of their own – and refused to let the same fate befall the Earth. That was why, despite the grandeur of the kingdom before him, the prince could not obey his king, Grigori Geist. It was Dietrich Schmidt, the prince’s only ally, who had convinced him that he could be more than an instrument of destruction; but rather, a freer of the enslaved. It would begin with an escape from the city, the exposure of Geist to the outside world, and the rallying of allies to their cause.

The prince surveyed the city of Regnum Aeturnum, a megalopolis of over one hundred million people, built from a round, basin-shaped cavern excavated beneath the continent of Antarctica. Gleaming towers, temples, ramparts, and terraces sprang from the city floor, while Aether, a second city, hung from the cavern ceiling above. This suspended series of towers comprised a glowing ceiling of blue-white light – imitating the true sky, far above, that Prince Ahya had never witnessed.

Ahya…the meaning of the prince’s name was never given to him, nor could he discern it. Frustrated, the prince stood on an open air balcony on the lower levels of the Great Spire, an hourglass-shaped fortress of gleaming white quartz that lay in the center of Regnum Aeturnum, and the only structure that reached both cavern floor and ceiling. The Great Spire had been the prince’s home for the entirety of his young life.

In the solitude of the balcony, the prince watched and waited for his opportunity. Ahead of him, the Jupiter Terrace – the primary road of the city – stretched out from the base of the Great Spire toward the castle-like Gate of Ishtar, twenty-eight miles away. It was a dangerous gauntlet to run. In his youth and inexperience, the prince was not at the height of his power, nor did he expect Geist to simply let him leave. Despite the peculiar sensation of doubt creeping from his chest to the ends of his limbs, the prince had to try. Until he succeeded, millions of citizens would remain Geist’s puppets.

The prince spoke aloud with resolve in his voice. “Is it time?”

A quiet, slightly hoarse voice answered, heard only by the prince. “It is.”

At this, the prince leapt over the railing of the terrace, falling hundreds of feet below and sliding along the base of the Great Spire as it leveled off toward the ground. Such a fall did not faze the prince, for he was not made of flesh and blood, but of metal and circuitry – his sixty-foot body adorned in shining plates of gray armor, sculpted as like broad human muscles. As the prince sprinted from the Great Spire to the Jupiter Terrace, his glowing red eyes burned with determination – like Dietrich, he wished not only to escape Geist, but to one day defeat him.


Within the prince’s chest, in lieu of a heart, were human quarters, where Dietrich Schmidt sat uneasily in a leather armchair. A ponderous, kind, gentle man on the verge of his seventies, Dietrich appeared the slightly mad scientist at first glance: disheveled white hair and wrinkles spanned a pale face of sagging brown eyes, ears, and nose, his tired body draped with a white coat over a black shirt and slacks. His meager appearance belied the fact that he, not Grigori Geist, was the true architect of Regnum Aeturnum.

Around Dietrich, the room’s sparse furniture and shelving remained still, even as the prince darted amongst shining towers, hoping to avoid the armies now searching for them. In front of Dietrich was a three dimensional image, a map of Regnum Aeturnum; a miniature model of the prince appeared in white upon the display, and Dietrich nervously watched as hundreds of gray dots lit up around their position.

“How many has he sent?” the prince asked anxiously.

“Nearly every Protector-class division.”

Dietrich activated a switch on the chair’s armrest, and as the 3D display dissolved, every surface in his quarters became a projection of the view outside the prince. He disliked the Vigil display – it had always given him motion sickness – and nausea now gripped him at the sight of Regnum Aeturnum.

Unable to watch the rapid passing of scenery, Dietrich focused straight ahead on the Gate of Ishtar, which now seemed even farther away than it was from the Great Spire. He wondered where Geist was at that moment; the tyrant had no doubt waited for the prince to reveal himself, and now he unleashed an army of vaucans upon them.

About the author:

SEAN C. SOUSA never planned on writing a novel – that is, until the idea for The Forever Saga came along. He first conceived it as a video game design concept, then a screenplay, and finally a written work of fiction. His debut novel, The Forever Saga: Flash, marks the end of one six-year journey toward publication, and also the beginning of another: to bring his stories to a worldwide audience.

His dream is to see fiction inspire positive social change in the world, calling attention to issues of social justice and mobilizing his readership to meet the needs of those afflicted.

Mr. Sousa resides in Southern California with his wife, Shelley, and when he is not writing further adventures about the Renney family, he is usually up to socially acceptable mischief with his friends and family.

Connect with Sean:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Amazon