Hello, my wonderful followers!

Due to absolute craziness in my life (A.K.A my best friend getting married and my brother starting a business), I will not be posting this Friday like I usually do.

Tune in NEXT week for more crazy rambling and (hopefully) coherent encouragement. šŸ™‚

You are all incredible, talented, and amazing. Thanks for sticking with me!

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Posted in Writing

The Importance of Distractions

Last week I sat down with the intent of editing one of my short stories, but instead found myself sucked into the endless pit of social media.

I wasted away the next two hours scrolling through multiple sites, learning about Becky’s lunch adventure with her fiance, that Jordan’s kid finally decided to start walking, and that Michelle got a new car (the names and very exciting life events have been changed to protect the innocent).

By the time I’d had my fill of social media, it was time for me to go to bed.

To put it simply, I was quite put out with myself.

I’d had so many goals for that evening, and I’d pushed them aside to fill my mind with the goings on of the world instead (it was obviously very important for me to read about Becky’s lunch).

Here’s the thing though – it wasn’t a terrible thing for me to do. The next day I was well-rested and made a ton of progress on my short story.

I guess my point is this: don’t be afraid to be distracted… sometimes.

Balance is super important if you’re a writer or do anything that has to do with creation and inspiration. Don’t punish yourself for being distracted, reward yourself by allowing yourself to be distracted… and thennnnnn whip yourself into shape and write those 10 story ideas that have been circling around your brain for months.

You have to keep yourself on a diet of distractions. Allow yourself 1200 calories of distractions a day for the best results. Letting yourself rest and think about something other than your looming projects is good for your health, blocks potential burnout, and makes you more attractive (maybe just because your hair is less frazzled).

Don’t burn out.

Let yourself rest.

Embrace your distractions… at least for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Break the Rules, Politely

guidelines

Many moons ago, when I first started getting serious about writing, I was completely and totally consumed with the idea of doing everything according to the rules. I rushed to the library at every free moment, to pore over guide-books and how-to books and stuff my straining book bag with style guides and any book I could find that mentioned writing.

I don’t regret the hours that I spent reading and re-reading these books. I don’t regret the hours I sat in front of my computer looking up articles about writing (between hopping off the internet so my mom could use the phone — I don’t miss dial up). I don’t regret learning the rules, the structure. The thing was, the more I studied the rules, the more stagnant and dry my writing became. I got so concerned about structure, that I forgot about art, I forgot about flow.

I realize now that the very structure I was trying to commit to was the same sort of structure that pissed me off so badly when I took art in college. My instructor would constantly nit-pick at little details in my work, and while I appreciated her eye, I never fully agreed with her. I don’t think you can ever truly grade art, just like I feel like you can never truly grade writing (I’m not talking to you, kids in school! Listen to your teachers)! Art and writing are about freedom. Why would I want mine to look like everyone else’s?

There are important things to be mindful of when you write. You know, like, grammar for one (although even GRAMMAR is sometimes a stylistic choice). But really, truly, we as writers should strive to politely break the rules. Why politely? So that we can remain friends with the rules… eh, maybe distant acquaintances. Besides, you just can’t go around breaking things like a bull in a china shop. No, you at least say hi to the owners first, THEN go on your rampage.

Isn’t it funny that the the more you write, the more “experts” you run into? People who tell you things can only be done one way, who rant and yell if you go against their sovereign wishes?

To help you along the way to writerly freedom, I’ve prepared some practice answers to common disdainful comments:

Disdainful person: “That’s an overused trope!”

You: “Your face is an overused trope!”

Disdainful person: “Don’t use that many adverbs!”

You: “I am quietly and happily ignoring you.”

Disdainful person: “This sentence is way too descriptive.”

You: “I apologize for disturbing your sensitive and unique sense of elaborated descriptors. How ever will I go about making this up to you, my genius and all-knowing counterpart?”

Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible for injuries received after use of the above comments. Please learn to run fast or laugh like you didn’t mean it before slinking away and hiding under you desk until the coast is clear.

There are rules that I do agree with. I’m not a huge fan of adverbs. That doesn’t make them wrong. That also doesn’t make them right.

Learn the rules, yes. Rules are important. Befriend the rules. Good. Now, keep the rules at a distance. Bend them. Learn how to dance around them. Laugh at them. Give them chocolate once in awhile to keep them quiet.

The wise Pablo Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

And the wise Captain Barbosa from Pirates of the Caribbean said, in regards to the pirate code, “They’re more like guidelines than actual rules.”

Cheers and high-fives to you, Pablo and Barbosa. You guys got this figured out.

Here’s my point:

Misbehave.

Know the rules.

Then break the rules.

I won’t tell mom.

Pssst. Your writing will thank you for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Break a Leg!

arrow to the knee

Before Gregory leaves for war, he’s a happy, upbeat boy. He loves singing and drawing and hanging out with his little sisters. He’s active and chipper and never misses an opportunity to make someone laugh.

Gregory leaves for war.

Gregory returns 5 years later.

Gregory hasn’t changed. He’s still a happy, upbeat boy. He loves singing and drawing and hanging out with his little sisters. He’s active and chipper and nev-

HOLD IT!

STOP THE TAPE!

Is it just me, or is there something completely and totally WRONG with what I just wrote?

Let’s try again, from after our hero, Gregory, returns:

Gregory is no longer a boy. He doesn’t talk much, he doesn’t sing, and when he tries to draw, all he can picture are images of his dead comrades; his dead friends. He still hangs out with his little sisters (who are much bigger now), and even though he tries to make them laugh, they notice that his smile doesn’t last as long as it used to.

Phew.

I’m feeling much better now, are you?

Poor Gregory (what is up with me torturing Gregory in my blog posts?) has been through the ringer and we can clearly see that, because of his experiences, he has changed and developed as a character. 

One way any book can make me a cranky-pants (who leaves lengthy, impassioned reviews on Amazon) is by not realistically portraying  a character’s development or by not forcing characters to face consequences. 

Here’s the dealio:

Characters need consequences.

Characters need development.

Also, shit happens.

Break a leg! A character’s leg!

Character arcs are important.

If 6 beloved characters roam into a war-zone, I honestly wouldn’t expect all 6 to come out unscathed or unaffected, or ALIVE even, in some cases.

Innocent Gregory isn’t going to waltz into battle and walk out the other end the same Gregory he was, you know, unless he’s insane, and then our wonderful Gregory has other problems to deal with.

How would you have felt if Frodo got home after his traumatizing hike across Middle Earth and just… went back to normal as if nothing had happened? Even if he had stayed in the Shire, the people who knew him would have been faced with a new Frodo. Yes, still the Frodo they knew before, but a Frodo with some weight on his shoulders.

PSA: I’m not against happy endings! I’m nit-picky about happy endings that portray the character as unaffected from all the crap a writer just put them through.

I’m gonna name-drop two series that I think do the whole consequences and character development thing really well:

Game of Thrones –

Seriously. If anyone is a master at letting his characters face consequences for their choices and actions, it’s George R.R. Martin. As much as I hate it sometimes (and cry over it and throw things), he really knows his stuff. Don’t read the next part in this section if you don’t want potential spoilers.

One specific character that comes to mind is Oberyn Martell. He duels a man he has a vendetta against, and when he thinks he’s won, he begins boasting. The big surprise for Oberyn? The “defeated” man darts up, grabs him, and basically pops Oberyn’s head between his gargantuan hands in a scene that will haunt my dreams for the rest of time.

Now that you have that image in your head, let’s move on to…

The Hunger Games

Okay, not my favorite series ever, but Suzanne Collins does a fantastic job of showing Katniss’ slow journey to her breaking point.

The point is this – at the end of your story, your character should not be the same as they were when you started out. You don’t have to break their leg. It could be a positive change. Maybe they learn to love. Maybe they learn how to sew (hey, I have no idea what you’re story is about). Maybe they learn to be a soldier.

If your character is stagnant, you lose the opportunity to connect with your readers. You lose the opportunity to make them go “OH MY GOD WHY IS GREGORY DOING THAT THING?”

A stagnant character does not an emotional connection make.

Break a leg, or, you know, teach your character how to swing dance or make a really tasty pot of tea.

Give them something they didn’t have before… or take something away.