Setting the atmosphere
If you’re like many people, you have trouble focusing when you sit in front of your computer in the stillness of the morning as your mind wanders and you doze off… again. (Or are startled awake by the begging of the children to come play.) You stare at the screen again and hate the pathetic feeling of inadequacy as you realize yet again that your attempt at writing does not even meet your standards, let alone that of the novels written by authors you secretly dream of readers comparing you with.
In this depression, you lack the words to describe the epic-ness you know your story could hold. How do you get in the mood for the scene? How do you set the atmosphere for it?
A prophecy: Emperor Valens would burn
As mentioned in part 1, though Emperor Valens ruled the eastern Roman Empire, his strangeness led to a paranoia that the world was against him. He had more in common with his enemies the Goths (especially the shared Arian religion) than with his own people. As a result, many Catholics predicted that he would burn.
What led to the burning?
Valens made two mistakes.
Actually, they are one—underestimating.
Planning to recruit Goths into the army, Valens allowed the Tervingi clan (one of the two largest Gothic peoples) to immigrate. Though sources differ on exactly how many Goths crossed the Danube to live in the empire, they all agree that Rome was not prepared. Some guesses are as high as a hundred thousand people. Valens must have underestimated their number, for the empire could not provide to feed them all, let alone give them land. The Goths were placed in what we would now call concentration camps, holding areas where they were cheated and abused. The price of meat? They could purchase a dog carcass by selling a child into slavery.
1. Stay focused
Powerlifting includes three events: squat, bench, and deadlift. The goal is to lift a lot of weight, not to have variety. Unlike body builders, who have multiple forms of exercise for each muscle, powerlifters generally train these three exercises, using others as necessary but not at the expense of these. In this way, they work the entire body and show results without wasted effort.
As a writer, what are your goals? Write 1-3 of them. To be well-rounded, have one about progress on your current book, one about networking, and one about steps to publication or post-publication marketing. Focus on other areas as needed, but never at the expense of these goals.
But what about your daily flash fiction, your blog, revisions, and sending to agents; Facebook, Twitter, and Instamatic; surfing for answers online, reading similar books, and going to conferences? Each of these can be helpful, but only do them if they help with your three goals. Aim for variety in your writing, not your writing habits.
Stop reading — write those goals now.