Posted in Writing

You Take the High Road and I’ll Take the Low Road

high-road-low-road

People often ask me how old I was when I started writing. To be honest, I’m always a little hesitant about answering that particular question.

The truth is, I’ve been writing/storytelling since before I actually could, well, write. I’m 99.99% sure I was born with a pen in my hand (although my parents swear I wasn’t). I used to force my mom to sit down so I could dictate my stories to her. She was like my own personal Dragonspeak program… Momspeak.

Why am I reluctant to answer the aforementioned question? Because I’d hate to cause anyone to to feel insecure when I tell them I’ve been writing since the ice age. 

I know many writers; some are like me, born with the affliction, other take awhile to bloom.

Guess what?

It doesn’t matter when you started or start writing. What matters is that you love it!

Everyone has a different road to travel. A different creative journey. My road is not your road, and vice versa.

When I tell newer writers how long I’ve been at it, I usually sense:

  • Intimidation
  • Jealousy
  • Awe
  • That they think I’m an elitist
  • That they think I’m full of crap
  • A weird combination of any/all of the above

Of course, there are times when the other writer is like “TUBULAR, DUDE!” and then we high-five and run off into the sunset with brightly colored surfboards in hand.

(I’ve never been on a surfboard in my entire life. I’d probably die.)

Here’s the thing:

Your passion and dedication are not measured by how long you’ve been writing, how many times you’ve been published, or how many likes you got on your latest social media post.

I’m all for writers. All of them. Regardless of age, regardless of chosen genre, regardless of how long they’ve been at it. Writing is hard. Writing takes effort. Writing takes heart. Writing is a HUGE sacrifice of time. And yet we still choose to sit here and do it. 

We need to stop comparing ourselves to other writers.

Every single writer’s journey is unique.

YOUR journey is unique.

It’s way too easy to look at other writers (or creative people in general) and start keeping score.

Well, Susy Lemmon’s latest post got 200 likes and mine only got 30.

How come Arnold can write 5,000 words in a day and I can only write 2,000?

Angie got a PUBLISHING DEAL! I’m still querying agents! I’m useless!

Why can’t I be that inspired?

Why can’t I outline like that?

This manuscript is amazing. My books will never be this great.

I will admit that I’ve done it. We all do. It’s easy. It’s easy to let that evil little voice inside of you tell you that you can never live up to everyone else.

I submit to you:

Let it MOTIVATE you, but don’t let it DEFEAT you!

A little competition never hurt anyone. 

Make a goal. 

You want to up your average words per day? Practice.

You want to get a publishing deal? Keep on it!

Why can’t you be that inspired? Go for a walk! Read someone else’s book! Take a break! Let your mind rest and rejuvenate and try again!

The completed manuscript is better than your WIP? If you’re holding a published book, do you know how long it took to prepare it for publishing? Do you know how many editors and changes its probably been through?

Bram Stoker didn’t write Dracula until he was 50! Mind you, it wasn’t his first novel… but 50!

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of The Little House on the Prairie series, didn’t actually start writing until her 40s. Talk about late blooming.

Millard Kaufman, author of Bowl of Cherries, didn’t get published until he was 90 years old. Let me say that again – 90 years old.

On the flip side of the coin, you have young authors like Amelia Atwater-Rhodes who signed a publishing deal at the early age of 14.

All the authors noted above have had varying degrees of great success, and they all walked their own roads to get there.

Sometimes the journey will be long and hard. Sometimes it’ll be uphill. Hell, sometimes it’ll be hailing and you’ll have no umbrella. You’re going to run into roadblocks that the person next to you doesn’t have to face. Sometimes you’ll look over and wish you were walking their road, but trust me, their road is filled with struggles, too.

You take the high road.

I’ll take the low road.

I’ll bring snacks in case one of us gets hungry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

what's the worst

You’ve finally reached the scene. The one you’ve been waiting for.

You’re sitting in front of your computer, coffee on one side, cookies on the other, writing so fast you can barely see your fingers.

Your characters are doing the thing! The thing that will change the very course of your story or novel! The thing you’ve been planning since the very beginning.

You type furiously for hours. You lose track of time. Someone has probably texted you, but you don’t care.

No, you’re a writer. You are one with the words. The words are one with you. Nothing can interrupt this perfect moment.

When you finally finish your fated scene, you high-five yourself, let out a heaving sigh, and that’s when the panic hits you.

You have no idea what happens next.

~

I recently completed my July NaNoWriMo project, a novel titled The Alabaster Heir. I wrote a little over 88,000 words in 17 days, and people keep asking me, “Do you ever get stuck? How on earth do you recover so quickly?”

The answer?

I ask questions.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a foolproof way of salvaging every plot, but it’s gotten me out of quite a few holes that I joyfully dug myself into.

What are the questions, you ask? There are several, but my all time favorite is:

What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh, aliens? A dinosaur attacks the village? Starbucks goes out of business?

Okay, cool.

Make that happen.

Keep yourself on your toes.

Generally when I get stuck, it’s because I’m bored with the story or I have no idea what happens next.

Someone told me once, “if you’re bored writing it, your readers will be bored reading it.”

I’m an extensive planner when it comes to my novels and stories, but sometimes I still have to drop in the unexpected to get the plot moving again. Even if that means wandering away from my outline for awhile.

What’ll happen if you try this out?

  1. It’ll get your plot going again, hopefully.
  2. You may end up with super interesting content that you didn’t expect.

Also, keep in mind that whatever you write, you can always go back and change later.

~

Let me give you an example of how you can use questions not only to get yourself unstuck, but to build a basic (or maybe not so basic) plot.

Allow me to set the stage.

Meet Gregory Williams. Gregory is at work. It’s Friday night and he is dying to get home and see his wife. It’s their first wedding anniversary, you see, and he bought her the most glorious bouquet of white roses, which just happen to be her favorite.

The clock finally hits 5 PM, and Gregory is out the door in a flash.

Now at this point, you can ask, “what’s the BEST thing that could happen?”

Gregory gets home in one piece, the bouquet hasn’t been damaged, his wife tearfully accepts the roses, surprises him with a home-cooked meal, and then they spend their evening enjoying some good ol’ Adult Hanky-PankyTM.

I guess if you’re writing a warm and fuzzy feel-good story/novel, then that could work, but I generally ask myself the first question so I know exactly what I’m trying to prevent.

So, let’s ask another question.

What’s the WORST that could happen?

Gregory’s car breaks down, Gregory drops the bouquet, Gregory gets an emergency call from a family member.

Or even, “what’s the most BIZARRE or UNEXPECTED thing that could happen?”

Gregory is abducted by aliens, Gregory gets stalked by a vampire, Gregory meets his doppelganger and they have a death match in the alley.

Poor Gregory. Whenever he figures out how to overcome the obstacles you drop in his way and FINALLY gets home, you can ask the questions again, or you can figure out how to tie things together and end the story.

What happens to Gregory? Up to you. Personally, I kinda dig the doppelganger idea.

The point is, keep yourself interested in the story, and the words will come to you. Let it flow, take a chance, ask yourself questions if you get stuck, then act on the answers.

Besides… what’s the worst that could happen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Befriending My Self-Doubt

NO CAPES

Every creative person wears a cape of doubt. It hangs there, constantly weighing at our backs, flip-flopping when the wind isn’t quite right, and trying its best to trip us up.

Whenever I voice this doubt, the (amazingly supportive) people in my life tell me, “Morgan, you can’t do that to yourself. You’re a wonderful writer. Don’t doubt, just create.”

I do appreciate the encouragement, but sometimes I have an incredibly hard time ignoring my doubt. In fact, ask any creative person and they will probably tell you the same.

I’m sure all of you have heard the saying that goes, “you are your own worst critic.” Sometimes I shrug off the actual meaning of the saying because I hear it so often, but there is a frightening and resonant truth to it that I can’t ignore –it’s me. I’m the one letting the doubt drown out my hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I control the volume.

Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

So here’s the thing: I had a thought! Maybe, just maybe, we should be looking at our doubt, our “capes”, from a different perspective.

Stick with me here!

I’d like to introduce you to Susan — Susan is a wonderful person. She spends her free time running three children to various school activities and loves keeping up with the latest celebrity gossip, but she claims that she isn’t creative. When she sees you, creative person, she’s jealous. You have something she doesn’t; a pretty cape.

Little does she know how heavy that cape, that doubt, truly is.

Susan can’t see your struggles, nor the inner-editor that constantly nags at you. All she can see is your passion, your talent, and your ability to create something from nothing.

Your cape, to her, is one of the the most beautiful things she’s ever seen.

~

I decided several months ago that I needed to start looking at my doubt in a different light; that I needed to let it stoke the fire as opposed to snuffing it out.

Ever since I made that decision, I’ve been more productive. I’ve written, planned, edited, and even read more.

I’m not saying this is an easy battle. There are times when I want nothing more than to rip off my cape and tear it to shreds, but then I remind myself that my cape is a gift… a gift that not everyone receives.

Some days are easy. Some days are hard. Some days I require ice cream and drinks that you can’t purchase from the soda aisle.

I’m slowly learning to befriend my self-doubt.

And from now on, I’m going to (attempt) to do this cape justice (sorry, Edna).

Join me, fellow writer, fellow creative person.

Don’t give up on yourself.

You are truly amazing and talented and your dreams do matter.

Turn down the volume on your doubt and march forward.

Your ideas are worth it.

You are worth it.

 

 

 

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Looking at the World Through Writer Glasses

Kids-Wearing-Sunglasses

The other day I went to go see a movie with friend A, we’ll call her Rose, and friend B, who we’ll call Jeremiah (the names have been changed to protect the innocent).

After around two hours in the dark, cold theater, we waltzed out into the sun and began chattering about what we’d just experienced.

“The main character was so hot,” gushed Rose.

“And the graphics were badass,” said Jeremiah.

Then both of them turned to me.

Now, I don’t see movies with Rose and Jeremiah very often, so they were unaware of the fact that most of my close non-writer friends have stopped asking me what I think about movies or TV shows, for fear I’ll go all “crazed writer” on them.

Rose and Jeremiah’s expressions quickly transitioned from curious to stunned deer-in-the-headlights as I dove into my explanation about how I thought the plot could have been different, how I felt the characters needed more development in their relationship before X, Y, and Z happened, how character N had inconsistencies, or how the dialogue in scene 39 was rushed.

It’s not that I try to over-analyze plots and characters, it’s that once you look at things from a writer’s perspective, it’s kind of hard to just… turn it off.

It’s not like a light switch, people! It’s like a raging, consuming fire!

Even if I’m watching or reading something and fully enjoying it, I’ll generally still pull apart the plot in my head and/or try and figure out where the writer (or writers) slipped in certain elements of the story; foreshadowing, character development, etc. I learn a lot from studying the flow of other stories, both what to do and what not to do when it comes to my own writing.

The whole “can’t turn it off” thing can work in our favor, fellow writers (just don’t go around scaring friends – I speak from experience).

You know how they say, “you’re seeing something through rose-colored glasses”?

It’s a similar ailment, except we’re looking at things through writer glasses… forever.

We’re not trying to annoy you, beautiful non-writer souls, we’re just diseased.

Diseased with the curse, blessing, and absolute need to write.

Sorry we pick apart your movies, books, and TV shows.

Love you.

Disclaimer:

I’ve written 45k for my NaNoWriMo project over the last 7 days, so I apologize if I missed something during edits. My brain is high on words and low on editing power.

I’m going to go find more caffeine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Write What You Don’t Know

calvin-and-hobbes-write-what-you-know

Every time someone tells me, “write what you know,” I have the inappropriate urge to slap them.

Don’t follow my example. Write what you know is good advice. Actually, it’s great advice. Also, you probably shouldn’t go around slapping people and telling them I encouraged you to do it.

Write what you know = write what you’ve experienced. Fear, jealousy, trauma, loss. Write what you know. Write what you feel.

The reason the term irks me is because people tend to use it incorrectly. Someone asked me a few months back what my current novel was about. I mumbled a broken explanation (or something like one, I’m terrible at explaining my plots verbally), but I’m pretty sure she got the gist of it – that it’s about a post-apocalyptic circus. She blinked at me and said, “Ooooh, but you’ve never worked in the circus!” Yeah, and I’ve never experienced an apocalypse, either.

Now that I think back on it, I should have spun some grandiose story about my former circus days, but in the moment I wasn’t so clever. I confirmed her suspicions, and then she shrugged, told me I should “write what I know,” and sauntered off.

I was honestly quite stunned for a moment, but then I shrugged it off and moved on with my day (okay, maybe there was a little more rage, but I kept it to myself).

It did get me thinking, though. With the sometimes blatant misuse of the term, why not coin a NEW term?

Write what you DON’T know!

Besides, what fun is it to stay stagnant in your writing?

Why not write about a political diplomat who gets involved in extreme origami competitions? Even if you know nothing about politics or (extreme) origami! Research is the spice of life.

I know so many random things that I never would have cared about before I had the need to research them for a story. This also leads to me having an extremely interesting Google search history… which we just won’t talk about.

Writing is about discovery. Writing is about freedom. Writing is reaching. Writing is creating something bigger than yourself, so why should you think small?

Discover. Dream. REACH!

Write what you know AND what you don’t know!

The sky’s the limit.