Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Category: writing (page 1 of 5)

Hitting the wall

brick wall

Exposing the wall under the plaster – hits a little too close to home

I didn’t think it would happen to me. After all, I’ve been writing for around fifteen years, I’ve “won” Nanowrimo eight times, I led/taught a writing group for two years, and I regularly give talks on “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days”. Heck, I published a book! I’ve got this writing thing down.

Um, yeah, no.

Not entirely sure what happened. I started some flash fiction stories back in July thinking that would be a simple, quick kick in the butt for getting some stories written. Come on— five stories running 500 words each. Piece of cake!

Um, yeah, no.

Each of those stories went longer than 500 words. Some a little longer (1400 and 1800 words), a couple longer than that (3000 and 3200 words), and then the Big Kahuna at 8200 words.

And I don’t think I was longwinded.

Then I went to Japan and that took me way off course between the planning, packing, and coordinating with friends over there. Had a great time (despite catching a monster head cold), and was looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing things. After all, November is National Novel Writing Month, or as I was thinking, “National Short Story Writing Month”. I’ve completed the Nanowrimo challenge enough to know that I can do it, so I set a goal of writing 30 stories in 30 days. It would be a stretch for me, but I read about other people who had done it and had amazing experiences. I wanted those experiences, too!

Well, I certainly got an experience. Just not the one I was expecting.

See, I hit a wall. A very big wall. The wall writers (usually the inexperienced or not-completely-dedicated) will bemoan. The dreaded Writer’s Block.

I thought it couldn’t happen to me. I was smarter than that, more dedicated than that. From everything I had seen, “Writer’s Block” was just an excuse people give for not being able to sit their ass down and write.

That’s true, but I think there may be something more behind it.

And that would be Fear.

Ah, yes. Hello, dear friend Fear. It has been awhile.

So I am working my way through this, and will share that process as I figure it out.*

Photo source: Gabriele Diwald



*Really. If I can help others who are struggling with this, then it will have been worth it. Painful, but worth it.

Happy release day! OUT OF TIME is now available!

"Out of Time" bookOh, this has been sooooo long in the making, and I’m so excited! “Out of Time and Other Very Short Stories” is now available.

This is a collection of very short stories (500-1000 words each) that range from talking dogs and zombies, to stranded time travelers and surfers—all coming from some part of my personal experience.* I like to think of this as a Smorgasbord of Tales**, a wide-ranging sampler of stories to try.

Speaking of stories to try, I posted two stories from the collection. Take a look!

Links for the ebook:
Amazon (print available too!) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks/Apple and more

And now, back to our regularly scheduled writing . . .


*Well maybe not the zombies.

**Perhaps “Sushi Bar of Stories”? There is definitely a much higher Japanese content than Scandinavian in the book.

***Fun, and maddening and joyful. It’s hard to describe, but let’s leave it at “fun”.

Face palm

Man with head buried in hand

This says it all

So it’s been two months since the surgery, and I expected that I’d get behind some with the writing, but I figured it would pick back up as I felt better.

I didn’t expect that I’d fall this far behind.

Between life, a mini-vacation (which was lovely), and, well, life, I lost track of where exactly I was with the writing and publishing. In fact, I got so lost that I floundered, to the point that the creativity spark fizzled and went kaput.

Insert freaking out about “I’ve lost that creative feeling”* and desperate attempts at recovering my creativity. Because OMG I MIGHT NEVER WRITE AGAIN.

Yes, well.

So I went back to basics. I started writing morning pages** again. I read books about creativity. I wrapped myself in guilty pleasures (you know, the usual: Jane Austen, vampire and/or werewolf romance books, historical scifi-fantasy-romance TV, kid action-adventure novels, space operas, ). I reminded myself that healing takes the time it takes, and that whenever I have tried to force something to happen, the results were Never Good.

Essentially, I journaled, I read, I immersed myself in fun, silly entertainment.

Then I saw a post by Dean Wesley Smith about his process of finding story titles and then writing the story. I gave it a shot, and just finished a 3,200 word story.

Then I saw a post by Chuck Wendig with another flash fiction challenge to write a story mashing up two randomly chosen genres***, and I got started on another story.

With a little momentum behind me, I went back to the publishing and tried to figure out where I left off. Oh right, review the websites with the book and make sure everything looked okay. Which it should, since I have been over this book a zillion times by now.

On the preview, IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THE FIRST STORY, right there in front of me, was a spelling error.

On the freaking preview.

<face palm>

So back to the ebook mines. I fixed the problem, finding other minor problems as well, and then uploaded the corrected files. And now I wait for the sites to process and approve them. Which means more time to wait.

It’s progress, I think. Just very very slow, 2 steps-forward-1-step-back progress (i.e. the new normal).

Hopefully this just means a week or so delay, and then I can post links to the book and get on with my publishing life.




*It’s funnier to me if I say it to the tune of “You’ve lost that loving feeling”.

**See Julia Cameron’s classic “The Artist’s Way” for more info.

***I <3 these challenges. They are brilliantly inspirational.

Getting close

swimming to the wall

Just. A. Little. Further.

I’ve finished the print and digital versions for my flash fiction collection (at last!), and am now in the home stretch. Accounts are set up with digital (and print) purveyors, so it should* just be a matter of getting the files uploaded and hitting “Publish!”

This has been so long in the making that I can’t even say. The good news is that while the learning curve for indie publishing has been nearly vertical, with any luck future books shouldn’t** take nearly as long to get out into the world. Why? Because I’ve learned a whole slew of skills:

  • interior book layout and design
    • front matter
    • back matter
    • pagination
    • headers and footers
    • readable and embedded and copyright-free fonts
  • cover creation
    • definition of “royalty-free” and why you should pay for it
    • writing jacket copy
    • pricing
    • ISBN and BISAC
  • formatting a book for print
  • formatting a book for digital consumption (epub and mobi formats)
  • contracts and net royalty calculators
  • which companies are worth dealing with

And that doesn’t even get into the hours spent learning the page layout software and creating the book template, learning the image manipulation software, learning the e-book editing software, learning the e-book conversion software, and studying how others have indie published good-looking books.

There is definitely something to be said for paying a professional; at the same time, I think it’s invaluable to have a functional knowledge of how these things work, even if I end up hiring professionals in the future.

Hmmm. That might also apply to other life situations, come to think of it.



*”Should”. There I went and jinxed myself. Because I think that this process will only take another week at the most, it will most likely take another three months. Wait for it.

**Doh! I went and did it again. Argh.

Lessons from a gum graft

Day 7

So I had gum graft surgery, and life is returning to a new normal. This means eating foods from a blender, trying not to make any facial expressions, and not talking. I hadn’t realized how much I talked until I couldn’t.

Some things I’ve learned as a result of the surgery:

  1. Don’t think and/or worry about things you cannot control.
  2. It’s okay to let others take care of you and help out.
  3. Just focusing on this moment is a Fine Thing.
  4. The blender is a blessed tool. And is not just for frozen mixed drinks.
  5. Sometimes you just need to take the day off and do nothing. And that’s okay.

As for writing, I did my fifteen minutes today, not expecting much to come of it. However, I got some ideas for a creativity project which I can use, so I’ll call that good.

As with everything it seems, it’s all about small moves. Very small moves.

And so it begins

Day 6

Tomorrow I go under the dentist knife (literally), which I’ve been dreading for years. Well, time to put on the big girl panties and do the Adulting thing, which I’ve come to understand as “things you do so life doesn’t suck even worse in the future”.  Things like retirement accounts, house repairs, and now gum grafts. Meh.

Spent my fifteen minutes of writing time going over what I’ve written so far with this new story, and found a number of Easter Eggs*, which has me tingly with excitement**. You would think that I would remember what I had written (it’s only been a week), but I seem to only recall the Big Things like major plot points, and not the nifty details that create the World and assorted Conflicts. So yeah, found some nifty stuff that I’m pretty pleased about.

As for the daily Writing Practice Month challenge, well, at this point I’m not even planning to try to write over the next few days. With any luck***, I’ll be back at the writing table next week.



*Like the “Easter eggs” in DVDs or video games—hidden cool things that the creators put in that you hunt for. Only in this case, Muse has kindly dropped them for me to find. Muse is awesome.

**Or maybe that’s the surgery anticipation.

***Luck = minimal lingering pain. My fingers are crossed!

Even littler steps

Day 5

Got ten minutes of writing in, which is a fine thing given the chaos that was today. Tomorrow looks like it should be a bit calmer, thankfully.

On the book recommendation side, the graphic novel Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden is a fascinating look at one person’s experience in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq in 2010, as she traveled with independent journalist friends interviewing Iraqi refugees.

Time to get some sleep.

Little steps

Day 4

Got the fifteen minutes in and 359 words. Nothing exciting, but felt a little like playing, which is a good thing. It’s also a decent distraction from the upcoming Dental Havoc (a nice bonus). I’m doing what I can to stay in the moment (“How am I feeling right now?” “Can I focus on what’s in front of me, and not think about the upcoming potential Heaping Helpings of Pain?”), and performing multiple recitations of the Bene Gesserit litany against fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Okay, so it’s a bit dramatic, but it feels reassuring to say.

Sometimes the old ways are the best ways

Day 3

I had (mild) intentions of getting fifteen minutes of writing in yesterday (3/4), but housework and socializing were higher priorities. That, and resting and watching more 1990’s comedies (that Dharma is such a sweetheart!). What was it the immoderate Greeks said about moderation*?

Anyway, I’ve been frustrated at the slowness of writing the past few days, and realized part of that was due to 1) writing by hand and 2) constantly doubting myself and overthinking**. If the new ways aren’t working, maybe it’s time to try the old ways. So I sat down for 15 minutes with Writemonkey*** with a 250 word goal and started writing. I came up for air after 25 minutes and discovered that I had written 648 words. Much better! Now I have something to work with, and I wrote at a reasonable enough pace that the words aren’t a complete crazy jumbled mess (i.e. shouldn’t require editing). Hurrah!

Which brings us back to the concept of using whatever works. The key being: it has to work.


*”Everything in moderation.” I’m not sure which Greek said it, though.

**And this due to trying Dean Wesley Smith’s recommended “pantsing with class” writing method (he calls it “Writing into the Dark”), where you write without a premade outline and write the first draft like it’s the only draft—none of this “fix it in post/rewrite it later” nonsense. At the same time, he recommends not seeing one’s words as precious, and to keep practicing. So yeah, I was perhaps fretting too much about my words being good enough for a final draft.

***I really loves me the Writemonkey. <3

Is this progress?

Day 2

Got my fifteen minutes of writing time in, and managed again around maybe 100 words. This feels incredibly slow, since I tend to average closer to 300 words in that time period (even 500 when I’m hot). I feel like I have so many questions that I want to resolve before I can go any further with the story, and with that, constant self-doubt: where do I want this story to go? Who are these characters? Where is this story even taking place—is this historical, fantasy, sci-fi?

Of course, it’s not like two paragraphs should be causing such confusion. Like a lot of times, I think I’m overthinking it.


So, it’s going slowly, but hey! Two days in a row of putting new words down. Gotta start somewhere.

And in other news, I watched a bit of “The Voice” last night on TV. Apparently I’ve been missing out!

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