Outlining-The Intro

Any time I start a new project I have to make the decision whether or not I am going to outline the first draft. Because I hate outlining. I hate it with a fiery passion. I am, what is commonly referred to as a “Pantser” I just write and see where it goes. But, much as I love to do that because it works best for me to keep me writing and help me discover stuff I didn’t know about my characters (and that I don’t discover until I am writing a scene, outline or not) sometimes it means I also hit a wall.

After my last post about losing the voices I was going through documents in my Google Drive and found a story I have tried starting over and over but I’m never happy with how it begins. I have the basic idea where it’s going to go (It’s going to be four books. All revolve around one central character who meets a new secondary character integral to the ending in each individual book)

Where I am mentally right now I could write book 2, 3 and 4. I have a very clear idea of those characters my main character is going to meet, what they are going to teach him and how they are going to do it. I know how to transition between books, I can see the settings in my head (I really want to write book 3’s secondary character)  I even know how the fourth book is going to end.

What I can’t seem to get a handle on is how to get from page 1 to book 2 because the first character he meets is not someone I have as fully flushed out. I feel like he should stay because he is going to take my main character to his second teacher. He is the one who is going to take him out of his small town and teach him about where he came from.

But because I don’t have his ultimate lesson figured out book one has come on sluggishly. I’ve gotten as far as fifty or sixty (maybe more, actually) pages into it and then I went back and started again.

Then I started it again.

Then I started it a fourth time.

So this is where I decide okay: I’m going to Outline. I’m going to break this down, chapter by chapter until I figure out what I need to know so I can write this damn book. (I don’t want to write book 2, 3 or 4 until I write book 1. Book 1 will have major character development and if I skip ahead to where I think my character will be at the beginning of book 2 then I just know I’m going to mess it all up and have to start from scratch again anyway.)

Now I have to figure out the best method of outlining.

Which is what my next several posts will be about.  Different methods of outlining and how they worked for me when I tried to apply them to figuring out this book.

Yay.

Should be lots of fun.

So tell me, how do you outline? What’s your favorite method? Head over to my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EKUauthor and let me know so I can give it a try.

-M-

 

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Update Number 1

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It is November 2nd and here is my first NaNoWriMo update:

I am at a little over 5300 words. I ended up with today off and had a great deal of inspiration hit me when I was worried I would be blocked. (I am still worried that after I get through this part i won’t know what comes next but we will deal with that when it comes)

Currently I am completely “pantsing” it as they say. I had an outline all ready and everything. Chapter synopsis, character profiles(i have a hard time remembering what color I make people’s eyes and hair if it isn’t plot significant) And then I woke up on November 1st and decided to write a COMPLETELY different novel. The same novel, in fact, that I had decided not to do for NaNoWriMo because of the amount of research that I have to do to complete it.

But, we write the stories that speak to us and this is a story I have wanted to tell for a long time. It’s a hard story to tell because it is dark and just gets darker and darker as the story progresses with only slight breaks of humor from a different character. But Medusa(the main character) wants her story told. And so I am telling it.

I am glad to be ahead of the goal right now. I have some busy days coming up and I am worried about hitting my word count on those days. I will still try, naturally, but it will be less stressful if I am unable. Less discouraging because I won’t be falling behind.

That is my first piece of advice for those of you who are new to NaNoWriMo. Make your word count goals. Exceed them if possible but if not keep writing until you have hit the 1667 for the day. Because 1667 is not overwhelming to try and write in a day. But if you fall behind it’s really easy to give up because it’s very difficult to catch up once you are a day or two behind. So keep writing. Don’t worry about if the words are “good” or not. If you are passionate about what you are writing and you are enjoying the process than that is enough. December is for editing. Make your words pretty next month. This month just get them down.

How are you all progressing on your daily word counts? Any novel excerpts you are particularly proud of that you want to share?

Remember that if you want to keep in contact with me daily “Like” my page at www.facebook.com/EKUauthor. I would love to hear how your novels are coming along and I will be updating my own word counts daily on that page and posting inspiration I find.

Outlining Makes Me Sad

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I hate outlining. I hate it so very much. i’m not good at it. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it. When I had to write papers in high school I never used an outline and I always did really well. Especially on Fiction. When an outline was required I would make one up and turn it in.

Now, as an adult, the way I do outlines would make my High School teachers cry. It’s not consistent throughout the outline and it’s not always the

I.

        A.

                1.

format. I don’t even know how you write clear ideas like that. My brain just doesn’t work in a logical line I guess.

My outlines look more like:

Chapter One-Important Points:

                 -introduce town

                  -introduce main char.

                 -sees meteor/meets oracle

                           *oracle description:

Kind of just basic references.

Outlining just about bores me to tears. If I have a clear vision of what i want to write then I want to *write* it. I don’t want to write about writing it.

BUT-I know that I have to for NaNoWriMo. If I want to write 2000-5000 words a day I need to have a vision of each plot point ahead of time if I’m going to avoid getting stuck. I will, in all likely hood, not follow my outline. When NaNoWriMo starts I will probably not even look at it. Because the characters take me where they want.

But I have (begrudgingly) found that at least writing the outline-whether or not it gets used-puts enough ideas into my subconscious to roll around and work on while i’m doing other things or working on other parts of the story.

The first year I did NaNo i had an outline. I didn’t look at it but I had it and I won. Last year I did not have an outline and I stopped about 70 pages in.

So that’s what I’m going to be doing today. I’m going to hate it. A lot. But I guess you do what you have to.

Do you outline? What do your outlines look like? What do you do to prep for November?

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(My cat is a goofball)

For motivation you won’t find on my blogs don’t forget to like my Facebook page

10 Ways to Unblock Your Creativity

Sometimes you just want to write/draw/paint etc…

But when you put your pen to paper/keyboard nothing flows. But the urge to create is still itching in your fingers? What do you do?

Well here’s a list of what I do!

This is mostly aimed at writers but any of the “tips” can be modified to fit visual artists as well. Some of these are really simple and some of them less so.

 

Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve written about this here, but this is an updated version.

1) Search for writing prompts

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This might seem silly at first but let me explain:

A lot of times when we sit down to write, we sit down and work on something we already have in the works. Either an idea we have had in our heads that we just haven’t started yet or an ongoing novel/short story etc…

And sometimes those ideas just don’t want to work the way we want them to right at that moment. It’s not flowing and it feels unnatural. Sometimes you can push through it-and you should try because just on the other side of struggle is genius-but sometimes you can’t. If you try too long you might just start to hate your stories. And no one wants that.

So I advocate visiting prompt blogs, googling “writing prompts” etc…until something strikes you that you think you could write a page or two on. If nothing else it can get you warmed up for the real work you have to do.

This is a good place to start perusing for prompts.

P.S. The above also has image prompts for artists like “Make a wanted poster for your favorite fictional character” and such.

 

2) Search for Image Prompts

Image Prompts

 

This kind of goes into the tip above but is also not quite the same.

For me, sometimes images will set loose a stream of ideas in my head that form into a story.  Sometimes my brain comes up with these images all on its own and sometimes it needs some help along.

When that is the case and Google-ing”writing prompts” isn’t working for me, I will take a minute and think about the kind of story I am in the mood to work on. Is it a vampire story? An epic fantasy? A sappy romance? And I will search for images that might set something off.

One thing I will advocate, however, is be very careful in your search terms. I like looking at Fantasy-esque photos but try typing Fantasy into Google with safe search off. I doubt the images that arise will be the images you are looking for.

 

3)Change how/where you’re working

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Something that doesn’t occur to me as often as I would like it to but that usually helps me to unblock my pent up creativity is to either change where I’m writing from or to change what I’m writing with.

If you are typing most of your work-which I think a lot of people do now-try picking up a pen and paper. If you are a big paper writer try changing the size or type of pen you are working with. I personally tend to prefer extra fine ball point pens so sometimes I will pick up a thick pen to work with.

If what you are writing on is portable then move from your normal spot. Instead of sitting at your desk, sit on your bed surrounded by blankets.

What works best for me, usually, if I’m typing and I am in the mood for typing but it’s not working out is that I will save whatever I am working on to Google Docs (I usually write in Scrivener) and then pick up my iPad and go for a walk somewhere and then open Google Docs and continue from there.

The ways in which you can change how and where you are working are virtually limitless so experiment!

4)Journal/Free-Write/Blog

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I don’t know about you but usually when I write the first thing it occurs to me to try is fiction. I will try all sorts of stories and such before it will ever occur to me to write non-fiction.

But sometimes, in my experience, the reason I am blocked is because something is stressing me out that I haven’t properly dealt with yet.

I deal with things in writing so do keep that in mind.

I think keeping a daily journal is a good idea because it keeps your mind clear, but that’s not always easy and it’s something I am phenomenally bad at. But, if you have the time to write right this instant than you have the time to journal.

Don’t think too hard about this one. Just write. Write everything that comes to your mind. Write about the fact that you have nothing to write about. Write about that guy you saw on the bus who you think smiled at you. Write about how stressed you are about money. It doesn’t really  matter what you write about. Just write. The more and the longer you write the more you may find buried. You might unearth some stresses or thoughts you weren’t even consciously aware of having until you saw it down on paper.

You can also take this time to reach out into the blog-o-sphere. If regular writing prompts don’t work try finding blog prompts. Something non-fiction you can write about with some sort of ease. The point isn’t to write a masterpiece. It’s to unblock your mind.

5)People Watch

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For this you won’t be actively writing, which may or may not appeal to you at any given moment.

One of my favorite things to do is go somewhere-a park, a ride on the bus, outside a cafe etc… and watch people. Sometimes I’ll sit with a notebook and sometimes not, but I’ll watch people. I’ll watch them in their cars and with their friends and imagine who they are and why. I will picture what their house looks like and then ask myself questions about them.

Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they like to do when they think they are alone? What secrets do they have? Do I think they had an easy life or one filled with obstacles? Why?

Find someone who fascinates you-for whatever reason-and then write about them. You aren’t giving them a plot or anything. You’re just creating a character from someone you see.

Hey, maybe they’ll show up in your next novel?

 

6)Change your playlist

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I think we, as artists, occasionally underestimate the influence the world around us has. It’s easy to get lost in our own little minds and tune out what else is happening.

But even if most of you is tuned out, not all of you is. Part of you is picking up the sounds around you and while it might not be hurting you, it might not be helping you either.

I don’t usually write with music until I’ve lost myself in what I’m working on but when I start the impact that changing my playlist has on my writing has shocked me every time.

I like loud rock music. I just do. Evanescence is one of my favorite bands to listen to because I know every song by heart and can sing them at the top of my lungs without actually thinking about what I’m doing. I rock back and forth in my chair and write and write and write.

But, strangely enough, Evanescence isn’t always the right music to listen to. Rock music isn’t always the right music to listen to.

I know. Shocking.

Try using Spotify and making an unlikely playlist. Fill it with piano music or folk music or game soundtracks. Just try something new. Do a search based on a song you like but don’t normally listen to. You might be surprised at what comes up.

The reason I advocate Spotify and not Pandora, by the way, is because you can actually make playlists or listen to full albums on Spotify which  makes it easier to control what you are listening to but, for all intents and purposes, Pandora could also work for changing up your music habits and depending on how you work it might even work better.

You never know what new music might unleash in your brain.

7)Try something new

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So you want to create but your regular medium isn’t working. You’ve tried everything you can think of and still you find yourself unable to create even though you know something is itching to come out of you.

Try changing your medium.

If you write, try and draw. Don’t focus too much on quality, just on kind of creating something you see in your head.

I am awful at anything visual related. I can’t learn by watching things, I can’t draw a tree to save my life, I can’t paint. I can’t do anything relating to visual art. But, sometimes, I want to give it a shot.

Think of something you want to draw(or print out something you want to trace, even) and work on that instead of focusing on trying to write. Let a different, and yet adjacent, part of your brain work out the creativity for a while.

8)Write outside of your genre

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Usually I write Fantasy of some sort. I write in all different genres of Fantasy-Epic, Urban, Angelic(which I just made up but it’s the only description I can come up with for one of my stories) etc…I like Fantasy. I read a lot of Fantasy among other things.

Which, obviously, means you might occasionally find yourself in a rut.

For this, I advocate stepping outside of your normal genre. It doesn’t even have to be far outside of your genre. If you normally write adventure epic fantasy, try writing an Urban Fantasy short story.

If you read in a lot of different genres-which I think all writers should-try writing in something else. I have a novella that I am working on that is Sci-Fi. It’s not something I’ve ever attempted but I’m having a lot of fun researching and creating new technologies.

Try something new. You might have something better in you than you ever thought!

 

9)Research

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This is another tip where you are not specifically writing, but the act of doing something related to writing but not actually writing might help you along.

Research things for your story. Research the mythos your world is based on.If you are creating your own mythos research lots of myths throughout history to get a good, rounded baseline.

Research historical characters who share traits to your characters.

Research something wholly unrelated to what you are working on but something you are interested in. (One of my in-progress stories came about when doing research on Greek Mythology just ’cause)

Learn something you didn’t know about a person, culture, place etc…that you didn’t know. Delve deeper and deeper. If nothing else, you now have baseline knowledge for something in the future.

10)Take a story you hate and re-write it

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Chances are pretty good that if you are a writer than you are also a reader. And chances are equally good that if you are a reader you have picked up a book with an awesome premise that is just badly done. It happens a lot.

So re-write it. I wouldn’t suggest ever submitting it for publishing(at least not until you have re-worked it seven or eight times  into something wholly your own) but you probably already have a base plot line down in your head, right? As you were reading the story you were probably thinking “They should have done this. How come they did that instead?”

So do it your way. It’s therapeutic and gets you writing even if it serves no other purpose.

You can also do this with movies, by the way. Any story with a premise you love with story-telling you hate.

 

Hope you find at least some of these helpful.

-M-

The Essential Guide For Writing Fantasy

I have found the Holy Grail of Fantasy writing; a book I think anyone who wants to write in any of the Fantasy Writing Genres (or even someone who loves to read Fantasy) should own.

It is a book called “The Tough Guide to Fantasyland” by Diana Wynne Jones and it is amazing!

It is structured like a travel guide you might find at tourist stops or in airports. A guide to all of the stops and creatures and things you might see or wish to see on your travels.

“Tough Guide” starts out by asking the reader to imagine that every single fantasy book featuring kings, dragons, quests and magic all takes place in one realm called “Fantasyland” and then it takes you on a “tour” so to speak of Fantasyland. You will never read Fantasy the same way again. Nor will you write it the same way again.

It has recommendations such as where to find a map and features passages such as:

HEROES. These are mythical beings, often selected at birth, to perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against huge odds. The Rule is that the Hero is always Out There. If you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely) Tourists, too, may perform amazing deeds and quite normally end up SAVING THE WORLD, but cannot qualify as Heroes because they are not Out There.

and

LEGENDS are an important source of true information. They always turn out to be far more accurate than HISTORY. Listen and attend carefully if anyone recounts you a Legend. The person telling it may be an old HERBWOMAN, a BARD, a bad KING, one of your COMPANIONS, or just someone in an INN. But no matter how improbable the story, it will always turn out to be the exact truth, and only by following it accurately can you hope to succeed in your QUEST. The Management will never allow anyone to tell you a Legend unless it is going to be important for you to know.

The reason you should read this if you intend on writing Fantasy is for one of two reasons:

1)So you know how to avoid the typical Fantasy tropes present in so many Fantasy novels

and

2) So you know how to embrace the tropes you want.

Fantasy cliche’s aren’t always a bad thing if they are done well. There are books I’ve read fully wanting the whole Fantasy cliche element. And then there are times when it is wearing on the reader if they feel like they have read this book before.

Tropes are only bad if you are unaware that you are following a formula that has been laid down since Fantasy became a commonly read genre. (Probably around the time of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”)

So get this book, decide what you are going to embrace and what you want to stay away from and, if nothing else, get a few laughs because “Tough Guide” is scarily accurate.

-M-

p.s. It’s Dark Lord Approved so how could you possibly go wrong!

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Writing doesn’t make you a better writer…

Every day when my boyfriend gets home from work lately he asks me a question.

“Did you edit today?” He’s talking about my NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote in November and am now editing in two and three page stints because editing makes me stir crazy.

I was talking to him about this the other day when I had an epiphany:

Writing doesn’t make you a better writer.

Hear me out.

If you are writing-whether it be the same story fifteen times or fifteen different stories-writing itself doesn’t make you a better writer. If it did there are a great deal of people who I know write A LOT who should be giving Charles Dickens a run for his money by now. Yet they remain as incomprehensible as ever year after year after year.

If your goal is to be a writer, you will-theoretically- improve incrementally as you write because hopefully you catch some of the mistakes you are making along the way and make an effort to not do those things anymore. That’s part of our job as writers and part of what makes editing later easier.

But what I have found makes a writer actually better at writing is editing.

I hate editing. I hate it with a fiery passion that would burn out the sun if it came to close. I like the creative part. The making stories up and putting them down on paper part. But as a writer you HAVE to edit. You have to suck it up and deal with it because that’s where the most painful lessons about your writing happens. Things you didn’t even know you do will suddenly catch your eye and you’ll think “Wow. I do that a lot I should stop that.”  Or, when character writing, you might find that even though all of your characters sounded distinct in your head, when put on the page they don’t sound all that unique. Things like that you are most likely going to catch when you go back and edit your piece.

If you wrote fifty pages a day for the next year, your writing would improve. That’s not what I’m saying. Most people will learn as they go. But you learn more by making it your mission to find your mistakes and fix them-which is what editing is in its essence after all. Finding as many mistakes as possible-whether it be prose, grammar, spelling, plot holes etc…-and fixing them for the greater good of the piece.

Editing doesn’t just make what you are already working on better, it makes your next story, essay, blog etc…better because you will have learned things about your writing that you can use as you move from piece to piece. Editing will never be fun and there will always be things you learn about your writing style with every new thing that you write. But, hopefully, if you are editing properly you won’t find yourself making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Now, I’m going to make a couple of character profiles for my next novel in Scrivener, and then I am going to go edit.

-M-

P.S. If you have been following a long with my Christmas short stories written by Cornelius the Elf, look for the next installment “Frosty the Snowman” tomorrow afternoon.

Final NaNoWriMo Update

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Morning guys,

I am off to a day of decorating my house, Christmas music and George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol. Before I do, I wanted to give you my last update for NaNoWriMo because it is the last day of the “contest”

I finished my book last week. The final word count sits at around 90,000 words before editing. Editing starts next week when I can get it printed (I don’t have a printer)

I’ve left my novel alone since I finished it because I want some space from it before I go back into editing. I can’t let it sit for a year before editing like some authors do. I’m just not that kind of writer. I’m not nearly patient enough and it would eat at me and make feel guilty if I tried to stick it in a drawer for that long. I may do a second draft, send it to beta readers and then let it sit for a month before revising for the final, but from first to second drafts I like to move quickly.

Getting a bit of distance from it though has clarified some things. For example, I have a story-line I elude to near the middle/end of the book that I was going to clarify on later. I decided it’s a story-line that adds nothing to the overall characters so I’m cutting out the whole thing. I have some extra chapters to write after I finish editing what I have, and then my boyfriend will read it and then I will send it out to my beta readers.

Here are the last couple of things I have learned this month:

1) The last couple scenes are the hardest to write. I spent days knowing exactly how it would end but not actually finishing it. I love my book, rough though it may be. And I have enjoyed the month I have spent with my characters. It was hard to end it. But finishing it-writing those last two words “The End”-was strangely satisfying. Like a weight had been lifted from my chest. It hadn’t been an unpleasant weight, but it was there. Now it is gone. Ready to sit on me again as I move into the next phase of my work, but I have a few days to breathe freely at least.

2)When I decide to sit down and write, if it’s not the first thing I do, I will dread it all day. Not because I don’t want to write or don’t know what is coming next. Just the imposing feeling of not doing something you know you should be doing. The longer you go without starting, the harder it is to do and the smaller word count you will end up with.

3)More than anything else, I have enjoyed the thrill of getting up every morning, making my BulletProof Coffee or drinking a Monster Ultra, and facing down the next 5000 words of my book.The day melts away and, by the end of the day, part of me feels like I wasted the day. The dishes aren’t done, the house is a mess, but I hit my personal word count goal so I feel successful and good about myself.  When I was finished with my book it was satisfying to spend a couple of hours and deep clean my house. I had not realized how bad it had gotten in it’s poor neglected state.

4) I love having a finished first draft. I haven’t completed a full length novel in a while. I write short stories all the time.(last year I wrote a short story collection of Re-Told Christmas stories…I will be sharing some of them over December so follow me for those updates) I love writing short stories. I’m really good at short stories and writing tragic short stories is cathartic for me. But I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. Yet, I would always hit that point in the novel where I would tell myself “this is the worst thing in the whole world, why do I want to be a writer, this is stupid, I’m stupid, it would be better if I just deleted the whole thing and started all over” I hit that point in my NaNoWriMo novel as well but I knew if I deleted it, I would lose. And that wasn’t an option for me. So I pushed through. I got to the other side of the self loathing(more or less) and finished. It was a tremendous help to have the pep talks and to follow NaNoWriMo on Tumblr and Facebook where they were sharing that they were having the same problems I was having and still managing to stick it. And I’m proud of myself. What I wrote, even by the third draft, might not ever be something I want to have published (it might be…I’m thinking about it) But I finished it. Now I know that I can. Now I know how to push through the writer-ly depression that I hit at a certain point every time I write over 40,000 words. Now I’m ready for all the other novels that are calling my name.

What are some things you have learned doing this month? Who won? Let me know in the comments!

-M-

p.s. look for my new and improved selection of “What’s In My Queue” coming tomorrow, and if you are looking for some creative inspiration check out my guest blog I posted yesterday here

You Will Always Be The Villain in Someone Else’s Story

I was writing a blog the other day, ranting, because someone I consider a friend had accused me of something completely out of left field. I don’t know that he meant it to be offensive but, to me, it really really was.

This came on the heels of someone else taking something I had said and completely misinterpreting it. They told other people their interpretation of what I had said and I was met with a great deal of hate from people who never even bothered to ask me if what this other person had said was true.

I did tie it back to art, as I will here, but I chose not to post it because I was afraid it sounded too much like a rant and not enough like constructive advice. So it went into my drafts where it will likely die.

After I had put that blog in my drafts I found a picture-I think someone posted it on Facebook-that said something a long the lines of “with the right storyteller, anyone can be the villain” (I tried to find the original but I couldn’t. Google has failed me. But I think you get the gist of what I am trying to say)

Finding that quote I found myself thinking about my two experiences.

Which leads me to my headline.

You will always be the villain in someone else’s story.

There will always be someone around-whether you know them personally or not-who will hate everything you ever do just because it’s you doing it.

There will always be people telling you what your motives are. They are usually wrong, but they won’t hesitate to tell you what you really think about something. Regardless of what you have said you think about it.

There will always be people telling you that what you are doing is wrong or stupid or useless or repetitive or pointless or cruel or…you get the point.

People in the world have set up hate sites for Mother Theresa.

No one is immune. It is the price of living in the computer age. If you are going to put yourself out publicly in anyway, if you dare to bare  your soul to the world SOMEONE is going to hate you for it.

So do what you were going to do anyway. Make art that makes you happy. Write and draw and sing and take pictures and do beautiful things that bring you joy and bring joy for the simple reason that it brings you joy.

Screw everyone else. If you’re going to be the villain you might as well get some enjoyment out of it.

-M-

As NaNoWriMo Draws Closer….

November 1’st is a mere ten days away at this point. Now sets in panic mode. The fear that 50,000 words is way more than you can manage. You don’t have a strong enough plot…you don’t have a plot at all. You have a plot and characters and dialogue but what if it is terrible? 

Shh. Breathe.

Now is the time when I see a lot of posts going around about how “real writers” write their stuff. It is tempting, at this point for us lay people, to give in to those voices and give up. Well, I’ll never be Neil Gaiman or George R.R.Martin or Hemingway. I don’t write the way other people say I have to write so I must be terrible what’s the point?

I am here to offer you a very different kind of advice.

It’s all fine. You are fine. Whether you are the greatest outliner in the world or you’ve never done an outline in your life, you are fine. Gaiman doesn’t do outlines. Brent Weeks outlines religiously. They are both fantastic authors. Gaiman hand writes the first draft of whatever it is he is working on. Stephen King doesn’t. (At least not as far as I could find)

Writing isn’t science. Writing is art. There are, and always will be, an abundance of people willing to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you should be doing it instead,

“If you want to be an author,” they’ll say, “you have to have a writing degree.” If you want to be an author you have to read books like an author. You have to dissect language, characters, plot devices. You have to spend hours thinking about why the author wrote what they wrote rather than enjoying it.” “If you want to be an author,” they’ll yell from their soap boxes where they are decidedly NOT writing “you have to do three outlines. If your story changes you change the outline.” “If you want to be an author you have to do it my way or you won’t be any good.”

What they are really saying, however, is that THEY are an author(whether they are published or not-and usually they aren’t) and so you have to think like them. Their way is the only way, It’s an ego thing. It might make them feel good but telling other people that they don’t think like you so they can’t be what they say they are is useless and harmful.

I shutter to think about the number of amazing books none of us will ever get to read in our lives because someone who wanted to be an author was told “what’s the point. The greatest books ever written have already been written. Why bother?”

I have no problem with people who outline every single plot point in their novel. I have no problem with people who read books specifically to dissect the authors intentions. I have no problem with people who do character profiles for every character as the characters come up.

Neither do I have a problem with the writer who sits down at the computer with the first line of a novel in their head and just writes. 

My last book came about that way. I had a line in my head. Next thing I knew I had 30,000 words down and counting. 30,000 words I am proud of, by the way. I know the characters that are and that will be. I know how it will end. I don’t know every detail of how it will get there. But I don’t want to. That’s the fun part.

The only requirement, if you ask me, to be a writer is simply that you sit down and write. Whatever your process is, you are good. Don’t let the naysayers bring you down. Don’t let the people who tell you 50,000 words in a month is impossible and even if you do it they won’t be good.

They don’t have to be. It’s your story. It’s your first draft. No one ever has to see your first draft. They get to see the polished perfect piece at the end. 

What’s important to remember is that if you want to write, write. Screw everyone else. Your process is your own and it’s nobody else’s business. 

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is telling you that if you don’t follow certain rules then you can’t be a writer remember two things:

1. As Robert Downey Jr. said: 

“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.”

2. The greatest artists that have ever been-writers, musicians, painters etc…-did not get that way by following the rules. Someone else trying to fit you into their box is just them afraid to try new things. They follow a formula that they think equals success. Some of them may end up being published. Some of them may even end up famous.

But none of them will be remembered for doing something great. Following the rules doesn’t lead to greatness. It leads to uniformity. Uniformity is boring in art.

 

If you are looking for inspiration over the next couple of days (or even over the month of November as you try to hit your daily word count) I suggest these:

 

Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plWexCID-kA

Neil Gaiman’s Journal: On Writing

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2004/02/on-writing.asp

Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers (from the Nerdist Podcast)

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/09/11/neil-gaiman-advice-to-writers/

Brent Weeks does (when he’s not terribly busy) blogs on world building. This is one. I suggest reading them all if you are stuck in your world at all.

http://www.brentweeks.com/extras/writing-advice/2-writing-fantasy-tools-techniques/

Brandon Sanderson’s complete Creative Writing Class from BYU. Some of it may be helpful. Some might not. I like what I’ve seen though.

http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/brandon_w2012/

Sanderson also has blog posts on his author site where he writes about laws of creating magic systems. He isn’t finished. I believe he is up to law 3. Here is the first one:

http://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-first-law/

 

That’s probably good for now.

 

I’ll be in the zone (theoretically) during November. Which means one of two things: either I will be posting a whole lot more or I won’t post at all. If I can pull my head out of my notebook or ipad I will try to give you updates on my word counts and stuff I am learning during my first NaNoWriMo.

If you have your own places you get inspiration for writing, link in the comments!

-M-

 

 

 

 

So You Have Writers Block

Written August 20, 2013

 

I don’t do a lot of writing advice on my blog. I don’t tend to think that it is my place to dole out advice. I get irritated when people who are, essentially, nothing but people who like to write tell other people how they should write-especially when they take the attitude of “you do it this way or you are a terrible writer”

But this isn’t advice-per say. This is just me telling you what works for me.

Writers block is a terrible thing. It is particularly painful when you want to write. You feel that itch in your fingers to sit down at a keyboard or pick up a pen and paper and then you get there and…

the blank page taunts you.

There is something that you have to say but you can’t figure out what it is or how to phrase it.

Gah!

Here is what I do. Most of this I have discovered accidentally on my own, but some of it came from reading my favorite authors.

1) Make Playlists

Spotify is great for this. If you have a PC especially. If you don’t then the $10.00 a month is worth it to listen to make and listen to your playlists wherever you go, though the interface isn’t quite as nice for browsing.
The playlists themselves should consist of music you love but that you can tune out. I have two different playlists for writing because sometimes I need heavier music and sometimes I need mellow music. The heavier playlist consists of Evanescence-whose catalog I own completely and can sing to without actually paying attention to what I am singing-and bands like Stone Sour, Disturbed, Tool and A Perfect Circle. The Mellow Playlist is mostly piano and acoustic stuff that is easy on the ears even when I turn it up loud to tune out my own thoughts. The Mellow Playlist consists of bands like Go Radio, J. Wride, Kurt Scobie and Avian Sunrise.
Another good reason to have Spotify is to discover music that helps you write and artists you never would have found otherwise. I had never heard of three of the four above bands in the Mellow playlist but I like a couple songs but Kurt Scobie so I started a radio based on his music and added music that I really liked to my playlist. I accidentally found out that it helped me write when I wrote ten pages three days in a row with the playlist on and couldn’t quite concentrate when it wasn’t playing or if I switched music.
It might take some time to discover what helps you write but when you find something that clicks, go with it.
Video game music is a great place to start because it is actually designed to be stimulating without taking away your concentration.
Podcasts or television shows you can listen to without listening to are great things to put on when you want to hear people speak rather than sing. I listen to Hollywood Babble-on with Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin or I watch something like King of the Hill or Eureka.

2) Keep a Journal

This is a long term commitment and, admittedly, not something I have always been great at. I hate taking the time out of my day to write about myself most days. I’m boring and I tend to dwell on embarrassing moments that happen in my life-even though most of them only happen in my head. But I have also found that it is sometimes easier to write when I am consistently keeping a journal.
I think the reason for this is because sometimes things in our lives that are unresolved can cause blockages-for me at least. Most of the ways that I resolve things that are bothering me is to write them down. Make them concrete and then deal with them on the page. I don’t have great social skills and most of what comes out of my mouth when I speak is sarcasm. I don’t like that part of me but it’s been a defense mechanism I have been unable to overcome. But I can write it out and usually come up with ideas even as I am writing down the problem.
Relieve the problems-imagined, real or otherwise-in writing every day and you will have less of an issue. Or, at least, I do. When your brain is clear the muses can talk to you so to speak. 
You can even write about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write about. I do that all the time.

3) Talk To Yourself

This one might sound crazy if you aren’t already doing it but…trust me. Just for a second, go with it.
Play out conversations in your head. Not your own conversations that you have had-which I also do-but conversations between characters. Do this when you are not otherwise occupied. The shower or a walk around a marina or through a park is a great place for story starting conversations.
The best part is that you literally don’t have to know anything about the characters. That part comes later. Just think of a sentence. 
“The weather is nice today.”
“I prefer the rain.”
etc…

Or you can start something with drama which I actually think is probably easier to play off of. Sometimes the conversations won’t lead to anything. Sometimes lightning will strike and you will be hit with inspiration. I don’t even always use the conversation I had in my head. But the conversation will reveal something about the character to me that will spark something else. The beginning of a story or the motivation of a character.
One time I was walking to work. I had been stuck on one of my novels for months because I knew what the villain wanted and what he was going to do to get it…but I couldn’t figure out why he wanted it. I knew he had motivation and I knew what he was doing was personal for him. But I didn’t know what that motivation was.
On my way to work I was playing out a conversation in my head with him and his second in command(for all intents and purposes) then she asked him a question and the answer came to me. I knew why he was going to burn the world to the ground and I knew how he was going to do it. I had to stop on my way to work to make a note in my phone so I could recall it later.
The hardest part of this particular tip is letting it flow. I’m a character writer. As such there are always characters in my head saying something so this might be easier for me than for you. Or this might not work at all.
These are all personal tips, you know. And none of them work a hundred percent of the time.
You have to let the conversation flow. Like free writing but in your head. Don’t force it. Isn’t that what has led to your writers block in the first place?

I’m going to make these next three short because I’m tired, it’s late and you have probably heard them before. But they bare repeating:

4) Free Write
It might sound silly and, if you’re like me and are compulsively driven to self-edit, free writing is hard. You want everything that comes out of your pen or keyboard to be perfect and sometimes that’s just not possible. You don’t know what gold is locked away in the brain of yours. Set it free by not thinking too hard about it. Just be. Like meditating with a pen. This is kind of combining writing a journal with talking to yourself. You have to set your brain free from concentrating. Sometimes you will be free writing, not thinking, just doing and sometimes something wonderful will come out. Something you can’t even believe you came up with will flow from your fingers.

5) Write something else
I often get stuck when writing long novels that I have been working too hard on. Either because I get bored or because when you work too hard on something you lose perspective of it and suddenly everything that you write is terrible and you start to hate yourself as a writer. Don’t worry. That’s normal.
When you get that urge to write and it’s just not flowing and you know that free writing won’t work because you are itching to be creative change what you are writing.
Googleing “Writing Prompts” can sometimes work wonders. Pay attention to the links though. A lot of them are for elementary school kids and won’t necessarily do you a lot of good(Though they might…it never hurts to look) When Googling prompts doesn’t work, Google images of stuff that can get the creative juices flowing. If you want to write fantasy google things like “Vampire” or “Dragons” or even “Fantasy”(though for that one I recommend having the safe search on) Google Images for stuff you want to write about. Some of the art is amazing and you might find a scene that you want to write the story behind.

6) Don’t Get Discouraged
This is the hardest of all of the tips I have for you tonight. Some days you can go through all of the above and still not feel anything creative. Or you can write fifteen pages in your book and not a single page is worth keeping except for maybe some of the base ideas on them. You can want more than anything else in the world to create but everything that you touch turns to crap.
Set your pen down and walk away. That’s not easy. That’s sometimes the hardest thing in the world. Especially when you feel like a junkie who needs a fix; but your writing won’t be at all improved by self deprecation. It just won’t. Every artist in the world hits a phase of their writing when they feel like they are the worst artist in the world. Don’t believe me? Go watch Back and Forth the Foo Fighters documentary and go through some of Neil Gaiman’s old blogs. Some days are going to be terrible creatively. But if you love it and it makes you happy it doesn’t really matter if you do suck at it. You could be the worst writer in the entire world but if writing brings you peace that doesn’t matter. But find solace in the fact that while there will always be a better writer than you, there are definitely people in the world who are worse than you and a lot of them get published.

Hope this helps someone out there. If it does, let me know. If you have other tips let me know as well. I always like to try new stuff when I get blocked. Doing new stuff can help too ;D

Love you all

-M-