Posted in Writing

Shake it Off

shake it off

You waited all day to show Bobby your short story. Bobby doesn’t know it, but you’ve been editing the piece for weeks. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into every single word, and your stomach is fluttering with excitement at the thought of his reaction.

Finally, the fated moment comes when you slip your 10-page story over to him, fighting not to bite your nails or jump up and down as he…. glances at it, says, “I’ll read it later,” and goes back to scrolling through Facebook on his phone.

I’m sure you’ve all dealt with a similar situation – there you are, completely and totally thrilled about something you’ve created, and there someone is, not really caring about it.

It’s not that they’re trying to hurt you or downplay what you’ve done (unless they have some weird vendetta against you for stealing their Cheetos), it’s that they don’t get that you essentially just handed them your baby.

It’s easy to end up feeling hurt in these situations – like they don’t care about what you’ve done, or they don’t respect the work you’ve put into it.

The thing is, if they don’t write, if they don’t do whatever creative thing that you’re passionate about, they can’t possibly get where you’re coming from.

Here’s the truth: Just because someone may not be as excited as you are about a piece of your work does not make it:

  • Bad
  • Useless
  • Terrible
  • Lame

In the end, one opinion matters: yours.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize if you’re writing for an audience or an editor, things get trickier, but if you end up stressed because you’re trying to please everyone else, you lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. You lose sight of writing because it’s a passion, because it makes you happy. Don’t let writing become a chore because you’re jumping through everyone’s carefully placed hoops.

Write for you.

Edit for others (if need be).

And when it comes to showing off your work, find a critique partner. Find someone who will be as excited about your work as you are, or at least who is willing to give you constructive criticism. Someone you trust.

In the meantime, shake it off.

Hold your head high.

Walk on.

Write on.

If your writing is important to you, that’s what matters.

If that short story is important to you, that’s all that matters.

You matter.

Your writing matters.

Your dream matters.

And don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?